This feels a bit like UFC 101. UFC 100 was, and basically still is, the most successful UFC event of all time. Most forget, however, UFC 101 was a blockbuster show as well. It, too, either cleared a million pay-per-view buys or came exceedingly close. The show featured Anderson Silva clowning Forrest Griffin, B.J. Penn dominating Kenny Florian and more. UFC 190 can't match the card quality, but there is a similar dynamic in play. UFC 189 was a blockbuster show, arguably the best the organization has ever held. And despite the thinness of UFC 190's card or the squash-match quality of the main event, there's still a 'bigness' to the entire thing. It's been quite a while since there was a one-two pay-per-view punch quite like this in terms of shows that lure casual fans and dominate headlines.
That's a good thing, but not the most important or the only sort of measurement that matters. But it's also good to see. I've always believed MMA is often more fun when more of the sporting community or the rest of the world cares. It's a preference, but I've found it to be true for me not because the casuals are there, but because something special has to be there for them to turn their heads. There's plenty of special events or moments happening when they aren't looking, but I sometimes hate keeping all of that magic to ourselves. "People should see this," I've often thought. This time, I'm glad they are.
At stake: everything, really. This one is fairly straightforward. Rousey can continue to shape her image and legacy as the best women's fighter ever, one ahead of her time, capable of dispatching foes in the time it takes you to yawn. That is the likeliest outcome. On the other hand, Correia can score one of the biggest upsets in MMA history, thereby making her name impossible to get when recounting the biggest moments in the sport's history. That is highly unlikely, but one never knows. In any case, if Correia loses, the question is what becomes of her afterward. Tate's never even come close to defeating Rousey, but didn't fade into obscurity after losing. One wonders if Correia will be able to do the same.
Mauricio Rua vs. Antônio Rogerio Nogueira
At stake: one last turn of the screw. I'm not saying it's their last fight, although for Lil' Nog it might be. One could argue it should be. Frankly, Shogun isn't far from that kind of conversation either. But ok, they're facing each other, not some young contender out to make an example of them. There's some romanticism about this match-up from their PRIDE days, but there's not much lasting about the Chute Boxe vs. Brazilian Top Team rivalry that partly made their first meeting what it was. Shogun also used their first encounter as a coming out party. There's nothing like that going on this time.
Still, there's some value. Nogueira could exact a measure of revenge and prolong his UFC run. Shogun can certify his dominance and inspire the same sort of fan enthusiasm that has shaped much of his career. And with that, maybe another reasonably big fight. But the dawn is coming for them both. If they're going to add anything else to their impressive resumes, they have to do it now.
At stake: not a whole lot. The winner might become more than a footnote in MMA history, but that won't be determined today. That only happens later on. As for tonight, certainly a win helps. It's a nice thing to have, but if we're talking about the stakes, a loss isn't necessarily hugely consequential either. Get the win, sure, but the victors here should recognize this is just a pre-step on the road to anything beyond casual viewership visibility.
At stake: what's left to give. Struve is young, but has battled serious heart-related health issues. Big Nog has had one of MMA's most legendary careers, but isn't just past his prime, but dangerously so. Despite arriving at this fight from very different positions, both necessitate us asking whether there is any future for either. There likely is for the winner, especially if it's Struve. If his health predicament is sorted out, he's young and talented enough to still achieve some things. For Nogueira, a loss has to mean the end of his career. That's particularly true if it's by stoppage. Even with a win, however, the UFC and athletic commissions should be extremely prudent if not outright reluctant to allow Minotauro to keep fighting even if we all have deep admiration for his career achievements.
At stake: a spot from which to move. Silva's fallen on hard times. He's not just losing, but getting stopped rather easily. For a fighter who once handed out a world-class beating to Fedor Emelianenko, it's a fall from grace, albeit a gradual one. He's nowhere near title shot territory even in the heavyweight division, but he still has enough of a name that with enough wins, he can command a place on bigger fight cards or better place on lesser fight cards. Losing here, however, could change that.
As for Palelei, he's done surprisingly well in his UFC run, but not against fighters with a name like Silva. Even in a diminished capacity, a win over Silva still means a lot. It's torch passing-ish. A victory for Palelei wouldn't exactly be turning the corner, but it could represent a place from which to truly earn bouts against the division's bigger names.
At stake: divisional place. Both are too good for this to be a referendum fight. Whoever loses here has very real bounce-back potential. That said, the stakes are high. The winner could easily claim a title shot against the current champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Gadelha has a case that she should have already been given the nod against her. Aguilar also has a lot to prove. She's been feasting on lesser fighters while claiming she could beat the more elite if given the opportunity. If there's is any moment to prove that, it's right now.