A little over one month ago at UFC 133 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, fans were enjoying the sight of Vitor Belfort bombarding Japanese judoka Yoshihiro Akiyama in the co-main event of the evening. It was Belfort's first win since being knocked out by current UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva six months prior at UFC 126. As many fans expected, Belfort evaded Akiyama's advances and found a home for his heavy hands, dispatching of Akiyama in only one minute and fifty-two seconds.
In the aftermath, it was difficult to foresee who the UFC would throw at Belfort next. Chael Sonnen was scheduled to face Brian Stann on October 8th, Mark Munoz against Chris Leben on November 5th, and Michael Bisping against Jason Miller on December 3rd. That left Yushin Okami on the table, and he was fighting Anderson Silva for the title at UFC 134 in three weeks. Either Vitor was in line for a long layoff until the division's upper crust settled, or the UFC had a surprise for us.
If someone were to say that Strikeforce veteran Cung Le were a possibility, there isn't a word that conveys the absurdity of that statement. Why would the UFC suddenly decide that a 39-year-old Sanshou fighter, who hasn't fought in over a year, would make the perfect opponent for Vitor Belfort? I didn't have the answer then, and I struggle to understand the answer now after the UFC did exactly that... announced that Belfort would face Le on November 19th at UFC 139. The kicker? The fight has been crowned as the main event of the evening.
Many fans have conveyed their satisfaction with what the fight brings to the table. It's a fun fight, and by no means a fight that is meaningful to the outlook of the division. It's a bout that we can all sit back and enjoy for what it is. A stand-up fight between two fighters who can finish a fight quickly on the feet.
I don't buy the reasoning however. The fight is meaningful in that it will derail Belfort for some time if he happens to lose to Le. For Belfort, the fight is a lose-lose situation. If he beats Le, he should have won in the first place. If he loses, it's a major upset that will hinder Belfort's chances at fighting Anderson Silva once again. Is it really a meaningless fight? No, no it isn't, and it's only purpose is to keep Vitor busy.
That isn't the most puzzling logic exhibited in the decision to create this match-up. That would lie solely on the decision to make this fight the main event of the evening at UFC 139 in San Jose. Not only is Belfort far from a pay-per-view drawing power, but Le might as well be dead to the casual fanbase. He hasn't fought since June of last year, and he only drew 341,000 viewers when he headlined Strikeforce: Evolution six months before that fight.
The only logical conclusion I've been able to come up with is that the UFC is pressing to sell out the HP Pavilion in San Jose after decided not to put dos Santos vs. Velasquez on the card. It is, after all, Cung Le's home base, and it acted as the home base for Strikeforce for a number of years. He has the ability to draw in local fans with his name, swelling the live gate numbers enough to cover the payroll and some of the costs.
There is also the possibility that one of three movies that Le has been involved in this year will attempt a marketing push alongside his debut with the UFC. That could add some interest for casual fans looking to see a Hollywood mixed martial artist perform in a non-staged fight.
Those aren't convincing reasons to pit Le in the main event against Belfort. Put aside the idea that this fight may be competitive on the feet for a moment. How is the UFC going to get the eyes there to watch it? They won't. It's baffling to see this fight take the main event spot at UFC 139. Unless the UFC swoops in with something better, this might be one of the worst buys on pay-per-view this year for the UFC.