According to the newest issue of Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer and other sources, UFC 98 reportedly has trending estimates that are putting the pay-per-view buyrate in the area of 635,000 buys for the event. This isn't a final number, but this is a huge surprise for a card that featured Lyoto Machida vs. Rashad Evans and Matt Serra vs. Matt Hughes.
If the trending estimates are true, it suggests that Lyoto Machida could very well be a major drawing fighter in the future for the UFC. Unlike Anderson Silva, Machida seems to be a much more enticing draw for the casual fanbase, but maybe we shouldn't be too surprised. After all, the chants for Machida were ringing loudly at UFC 98 as Evans tried to work any type of gameplan to damage the Shotokan karate master.
Matt Serra and Matt Hughes undoubtedly had a factor in the buyrate as well, but the hype that the matchup had produced during The Ultimate Fighter reality series could have pushed the number a tad higher had the fight taken place earlier. Hughes is still a draw for casual fans as he has been in the spotlight for most of his career, and casual fans have watched Matt Serra over the past couple of years.
The most interesting factor here is that Anderson Silva has a hard time breaking over 300,000 buys while Machida as a main event attraction along with a solid matchup in Hughes vs. Serra produces well over two times that amount. Most fans would chalk this up to the fact that Machida can actually speak better English than Anderson and the light heavyweight division has more interesting matchups, but I think it goes a tad deeper than that.
Is it the fact that Anderson Silva simply squashes all of his opponents? It may have something to do with it, but it could also be the fact that the UFC has been unable to hype up Anderson's opponents to their full potential. Rashad and Machida had an ongoing war of words involving how each fighter would strategically dismantle the other fighter with Machida making these epic monologues about how his "mind is a sword". Generally, Anderson Silva acts like the almighty while his opponents state cliche answers that nobody really believes will happen.
Ultimately, I think it comes down to the matchups. The middleweight division doesn't have the prestige that the light heavyweight division has right now. Anderson Silva's opponents have all been easily dismantled or toyed during his title defenses, and the division doesn't exactly offer over-the-top characters in their contenders. Dan Henderson is comparable to Chuck Liddell in interviews, and there wasn't a whole lot of hype for Patrick Cote, Thales Leites, or even James Irvin at light heavyweight. Silva doesn't exactly help the hype machine either as he can't speak English without a translator. I don't think he truly understands that the biggest PPV draws in the fight game have had that mixture of promotional marketing and self-promoting.
Machida has a huge advantage in being the top fighter in a division that is absolutely stacked from top to bottom. He can also speak decent English, and he's still learning. He definitely has the personality to talk a little trash here and there, and he's also becoming a finishing fighter whereas Anderson Silva has dropped off the map due to... boredom? In any case, this is encouraging news for the UFC. They have another huge drawing fighter in the light heavyweight division who can potentially help them draw fans as Chuck Liddell now leaves his legacy behind.photo via newsday.com