2011 saw a significant dip in the number of overall pay-per-view buys for UFC events. Everything from an over-saturation of events to some significant injuries to top drawing fighters played a part in this.
Today news broke that Georges St. Pierre's ACL was blown and that he'd be out for at least ten months. With St. Pierre representing one of the few stars in the UFC that can reliably draw big PPV numbers, it places an extra emphasis on the rest of the top stars succeeding and the UFC making all the right moves.
We've spent a good amount of time this week talking about Jon Jones and how it appears that he still isn't a huge name in terms of drawing power. I still think that this goes back to a general mishandling of the Rashad Evans situation. Jones needed a true rival to help build up his name and Evans was set to be that man.
After Jones won the title from Mauricio Rua, the fight with Rashad was set and filled with bad blood and the kind of storyline that would have sold and made the winner into a star. Instead, a hand injury forced Jones out and the two men ended up fighting a little over a month apart.
Now, we're about to see the same thing yet again but with Rashad having pulled out and now Jones fighting this Saturday and Rashad fighting at the end of next month.
With St. Pierre out, the UFC needs major fights in 2012 and Evans vs. Jones fits the bill.
That means that Saturday night's title defense for Jones against Lyoto Machida carries a lot of importance. While Machida is a good fighter and a former champion, he lacks the same kind of starpower that Jones may be capable of with the right fights.
And Evans has to do his part in a very tricky Fox fight in January with Phil Davis. I like Evans to win that fight, but Davis isn't an easy out and could bring the whole Jones/Evans thing crashing down. And, I'm sorry, but Jones vs. Davis is not a major fight.
Brock Lesnar remains a superstar even after taking some beatings in his last two fights (one of which he won). If he loses at UFC 141 at the end of the month to Alistair Overeem, it's yet another star down. Lesnar vs. Junior dos Santos can make for a big PPV main event, but dos Santos vs. Overeem will need a strong co-main event or to be put on Fox to avoid a bad buyrate.
Fox is bringing good attention to the UFC but in the wake of a hugely successful debut we've seen a UFC 139 card that did well under 300,000 buys and now a UFC 140 card with Jones that isn't selling well and seems to lack any major buzz.
Fox is in no way a bad thing, but it is not going to serve to be the lone saving factor for a big 2012.
Even the major rematch between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen, one of the few seemingly sure things for 2012, could fall apart if Sonnen loses to Mark Munoz at the January Fox show. In that case Silva would likely get matched up with Michael Bisping, but Bisping has to win on the Fox card as well (vs. Demian Maia).
Basically, 2012's loss of GSP could be the first step in a bad year for the UFC. Jones may beat Machida, Evans may beat Davis, Lesnar may beat Overeem, Sonnen may beat Munoz and Bisping may beat Maia. The UFC should hope so anyway because:
Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans
Brock Lesnar vs. Junior dos Santos
Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen
Silva/Sonnen Winner vs. Michael Bisping
Sure looks like a lot more money than:
Lyoto Machida vs. Phil Davis (or Jon Jones vs. Phil Davis/Jon Jones vs. Dan Henderson)
Alistair Overeem vs. Junior dos Santos
Anderson Silva vs. Mark Munoz
The fate of the UFC's 2012 may all hang in the balance over the next 2 months.