It’s pretty much the general consensus that Rob Broughton vs. Travis Browne and Ben Rothwell vs. Mark Hunt were the low point of UFC 135. Unfortunately, I was watching this card with some of my friends who aren’t really big MMA fans. As the MMA ambassador in my group, I felt embarrassed as these sluggish behemoths threw lazy punches at each other while my friends pulled up Youtube on their phones.
I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say these fighters are at the mid to lower end of the UFC heavyweight division. So why were they on the main card? The short answer is that 135 didn’t really have anything else to put on the main card. The two prelim fights were great and they were perfect for Spike. Neither would make much sense on the main card. After that we had: James Te Huna vs. Ricardo Romero, Takeya Mizugaki vs. Cole Escovedo, and Junior Assunção vs. Eddie Yagin. No main card potential in any of those. There was a definitely a steep drop-off in fight quality after the main event. If you compare the talent on 135 to the ultra stacked 136, (where Pettis is fighting Stephens on the prelims), you will notice a large disparity in quality. It seems UFC was banking on Jones vs. Rampage shouldering the full value of this card.
So are heavyweight fights generally given the bump to the main card (when all other things are equal)? I had the general feeling this happens often, but surprisingly I had to go back to UFC 131 to find another example of this in Jon Olav Einemo vs. Dave Herman. Not a bad fight at all, in fact, it won fight of the night. In this case we had two heavyweights who were willing to engage and throw some bombs. Coming up on 136 we have Dave Herman again on the main card vs. Mike Russow. I agree that this fight belongs on the main card although 136 has a ton of quality fights that could arguably be there in its place.
Heavyweight fights are a gamble. UFC hopes to win with a brutal knockout fight like Congo vs. Barry. On the other hand, UFC loses big time with a fight like the aforementioned ones from last Saturday (where I started to wonder if I was watching some deleted scenes from TUF season 10). A lot of heavyweight fights end up with both fighters respecting each other’s power and taking a conservative approach. You don’t make it to the UFC by being stupid and standing in front of a 230lb+ guy. I get irritated when people say certain heavyweights have bad chins. I don’t care how good your chin is, it’s not like featherweight where certain guys can hit you all day and probably not knock you out. Any given guy in the heavyweight division could knock his opponent out. Because of this, it is natural to see some heavyweights taking a more conservative approach.
Another argument is that these fights took place in friggin Denver where it takes longer just to make Rice-a-roni because of the high altitude. Naturally, a couple 260lb dudes are gonna be huffing and puffing by the second round. Perhaps Joe Silva would have been wise to save these fights for another card altogether.