I have been extremely critical of Dana White and the UFC brass over the last few months. Primarily because they keep moving forward when they need to retrench. Instead of cancelling two cards in the face of the plague that struck their marquee fighters and 4/5 of the champions in the fall and winter of 2009, they only cancelled one card -- and a UK card at that.
The result of that was a series of events after UFC 100 that did not feature marquee worthy headliners: UFC 102, 103, 105, 106, 108 and now 109. Contrast that with the small number of events with big-time headliner fights: UFC 101, 104, and 107.
And yes, UFC 109 has one of the poorest excuses for a headliner of any of those events. And it's the Super Bowl Saturday card, traditionally one of the biggest of the year. Couture vs Coleman would be a fine co-headliner on a stacked card but it's not a main event. But look at the plague of ill-luck that hit just this one card, per Wikipedia:
A Middleweight Championship bout between Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort was confirmed by UFC President Dana White, though it was contingent on Silva's successful recovery from elbow surgery. Subsequently, the fight was rescheduled due to Silva's continued slow healing from surgery. The Silva vs. Belfort bout is to take place at UFC 112.
Antônio Rogério Nogueira had to withdraw from his bout against Brandon Vera due to a fractured ankle It was announced that Vera will face Jon Jones on March 21, 2010 at UFC on Versus 1: Vera vs. Jones.
Regardless, and not just in an "other than that Mrs Lincoln, how was the play" sense, UFC 109 top-to-bottom is an incredible night of MMA fights and one I can't wait to see.
- Randy Couture vs Mark Coleman is a classic senior league tilt. Sure it's not headline caliber, but past their prime bouts are a staple of fight sports -- am I glad that Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard finally fought even if it was years too late? yes, yes I am. And these two guys are both Hall of Famers and wrestler vs wrestler tends to make for a good stylistic scrap. Won't be anyone laying and praying in this one.
- Nate Marquardt vs Chael Sonnen is a true #1 contenders match between two fighters on hot winning streaks, both coming off impressive demolitions of top contenders in Maia and Okami. Marquardt is a likely winner, but Sonnen is dangerous to anyone in the division and might present a more formidable stylistic challenge to champion Anderson Silva than Nate the Great.
- Mike Swick vs Paulo Thiago is a collision between two top ten welterweights -- #8 and #9 respectively on the USAT/SBN Consensus MMA Rankings -- with a grudge angle. Thiago has gone 1-1 against Swick's AKA teammates Fitch and Koscheck and looked good even in his loss to Fitch. Swick presents a very different sort of skill-set from his cohorts and Thiago is improving rapidly. It's called intrigue and this bout has it.
- Demian Maia vs Dan Miller is another bout between top contenders. Maia is the #4 ranked middleweight in the world on the USAT/SBN Consensus MMA Rankings and even though Miller isn't ranked in the top 25, he really should be and could easily paste several fighters in the top 15. Maia should take it, but Miller will be a true test in every sense of the term.
- Matt Serra vs Frank Trigg is another great senior league match. Both guys are epic shit talkers and they haven't disappointed in the lead-in to this one either. Neither guy is really a contender, but they have both earned the right to fight on the main card and I can't wait to see them go at each other.
And that's just the main card. Literally every bout on the undercard features at least one fighter I'm interested in, and often two: Melvin Guillard, Ronnys Torres, Mac Danzig, Phillipe Nover, Rob Emerson, Phil Davis, Brian Stann, Chris Tuchscherer, Rolles Gracie are all fighters I care about and can't wait to see fight. A card like this leaves absolutely no doubt as to who is the world's undisputed #1 MMA promotion: the UFC.
And here's to Dana White and Joe Silva, for all my frequent criticisms of them (well of Dana) they are obviously the best at their respective roles that this sport has yet seen. Thank you gentleman, I can't wait to enjoy your work tonight!