A huge mistake on July 19th.
Originally rumored to be headlined by Wanderlei Silva or Brandon Vera or Wanderlei Silva AND Brandon Vera, Zuffa has thrown together a card featuring the 205 lb. debut of pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva. The card will also showcase Brandon Vera, a lightweight bout between Hermes Franca and Frank Edgar, and a heavyweight fight with prospects Jake O'Brien and Cain Velasquez.
The questions is, "Why?"
I've heard people touting this card as the "Affliction Killer" and any chance Affliction had at success has been wiped out faster than Rich Franklin in the Thai plum.
Except that the Affliction card wasn't going to succeed in the first place.
Depending on who you get your information from, the BodogFight PPV featuring Fedor Emelianenko and Matt Lindland did anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 buys. I think it's pretty reasonable to assume that Affliction 1) will market the show better than Bodog and 2) has a card that is a lot more appealing from top-to-bottom. With that said, Afflction probably has a ceiling around 50k buys, and a more likely (but still generous) estimate between 30k to 40k.
In response, the UFC throws together a card more irrationally than a divorced wife demanding the kids, house, and car.
First, what's the end game? Sure, there will be casual fans that tune into Spike instead of splurging $40 to see some Russian cyborg. How many of those fans planned on buying the Affliction PPV in the first place? The same can be said for segments of hardcore fans. There will be a handful who watch the Spike show on free TV and "acquire" the Afflcition show via underhanded means later. Again, how many of those fans were going to shell out the money in the first place? Really, how many fans are going to actually be pulled away from the Megadeth and overpriced T-shirt bonanza?
The other point of contention involves the matchmaking. To be fair, the undercard looks pretty solid so far. I may even go as far as saying all four undercards fights are pretty perfect matchups. Unfortunately, the main event sells the card and this main event fails in its short-sightedness and potential for disaster.
By all measures, Anderson Silva should have no problem handling James Irvin. If we accept the opening line at Bodog (and do a little rounding), Anderson will take this fight 9 times out of 10.
The risk doesn't justify the reward though. As stated earlier, this card won't affect Affliction's bottom line much. You aren't going to be stealing many PPV buys from a show that didn't have much chance from the get-go.
From a fight standpoint, Anderson gains nothing from a win and loses so much from a defeat. Sure, he's still your middleweight champion, but how much luster disappears in the event of a loss? Anderson Silva can be a top draw for the UFC soon. However, his epic encounter with Pride Champion Dan Henderson did just north of 300k buys. His star is rising, but it isn't all the way there yet.
You're left with a show that's being put on in short notice, will probably lose money, will not really accomplish your objective of gouging your competition (because they were screwed from the onset), and you have the potential for a huge trainwreck if you're superstar middleweight loses to a middling 205 journeyman.
I'll finish with this quote from MMA Payout's Robert Joyner:
The decision to counter program Affliction seems to be made more on the basis of personal animus than the Affliction show's actual business impact on the UFC. Affliction is very much between the Zuffa crosshairs because of their ties with Randy Couture and Zuffa's belief that Affliction played a role in Couture's departure. Dana has decided that Affliction are the enemy and to quote Dana from the Rolling Stone article from last month:
"If you try to hurt me, that's a whole other ballgame, and you couldn't have picked a worse f*cking enemy ever. Ever. I am going to f*cking hurt you."
When you are running a company that generates in the hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues and Forbes has valued at close to a billion dollars, sound strategic planning has to win out over marshaling your corporate resources to settle grudges. For this reason I think running this show will ultimately hurt the UFC's cause.