At first, I was one of many people that did not want to see Anderson Silva fight Jon Jones. However, I have come to see the error of my ways. Three things convinced me. First, a very good recent fanpost suggested to me that the fight might be much more competitive than I had previously thought. Second, I came up with a way for the fight to be a win for all parties involved: the UFC, Jones, Silva, the MW division and the LHW division. Finally, the difference between the crowd size and crowd reaction at the bars where I watched 148 and 149 helped me understand that the UFC needs superfights.
There a few things that have to be done to make the Silva vs Jones superfight a win-win-win for all parties involved in a business sense, regardless of the sporting outcome of the fight.
First, the fight absolutely cannot happen for anyone's title. It needs to be a five-round, catchweight main-event. I would suggest 200 lbs, since it's a nice round number and I doubt Jones can make it to 195 without endangering his health. But the actual weight doesn't matter. What matters is that the fight can't be for the LHW title, because a Silva win would screw up everything in that scenario.
Third, the card itself needs to be stacked with future contenders to Silva's crown at MW. Remember that, regardless of the outcome of the fight, Silva will retain and defend his title as will Jones. So this superfight should be used, not just to attempt to break the record for UFC PPV sales, but also to build up the MW division for the future.
Here is the card I would suggest:
Main Event: Anderson Silva vs Jon Jones, catch-weight super-fight
Co-Main: Rashad Evans vs winner of Bisping/Stann, MW #1 contender fight
Hopefully everyone can see what I'm doing here. The winner of Rashad/Bisping/Stann should be a very sellable return fight for Anderson when he comes back to defending his title. That should be a big money PPV for him even if he loses to Jones. Not only that, but you have the two best up-and-comers at MW fighting on the same card, getting exposure.
This is how you build a division. Right now, the only two stacked divisions in the UFC are LW and WW. That is pathetic. And while I believe that MW has the potential to become the number three division, that won't happen if Silva just keeps knocking off contenders one by one (and stealing their souls in the process).
But all this is the easy part. The tough part is to explain how Jones and Silva come out ahead even if they lose in the superfight.
What if Silva loses?
At first I had believed that a Silva loss would cost him in terms of future ppv buys and endorsement deals. But a review of BJ Penn's career showed me that I was simply wrong. Penn's draw seems to have actually increased after losing to George St. Pierre, and in fact his willingness to take fights at higher weight classes was probably always a big part of his drawing power back when he had some. The truth is, he didn't really start to decline in the imaginations of fans until after the second showing against Frankie Edgar.
I also know that there is some concern that Silva might get "Roy Jones Juniored" if he tries to move up and down in weight. But I feel that a one-fight event at a catch-weight should alleviate those concerns. It should be made clear before the fight that, no matter what, there will be no rematch. Both champions will remain champions and return to their divisions. With this set-up, Silva won't put on any new muscle or change much of anything; he'll just cut less weight at fight time. He should be alright. And besides the fact that he will make a small fortune of the super-fight ppv, he will also have a stream of future marketable contenders at MW.
Even if he loses the fight, he wins in a business sense.
What if Jones loses?
I admit that a Jones loss would be a bigger problem for Jones than a Silva loss would be for Silva. However, this is where Chael Sonnen comes in. See, if Jones loses, then Chael moves up to LHW and proclaims that suddenly Anderson Silva is the greatest fighter who ever lived. "And Jon Jones and I, we're both undefeated outside of our losses to Silva." And so on and so forth. I don't care how the title shot gets manufactured, but Jon Jones' next challenger should be Sonnen. Sure, a Jones loss will hurt a little, but Jones is young. He'll recover. And a fight with Chael would be just the big-selling ppv to get him back on track.
Those of us who have loved the LHW division since the Pride days need to admit something to ourselves. The division is on life-support right now. If Jones gets past Hendo, then yeah, having Machida coach against Shogun on the Brazilian ultimate fighter will be fun. But it isn't going to change the fact that the division has painfully aged. And right now, I just can't see Gustafsson, Texiera, or Davis being ready to challenge Jones. They need time to at least be built up into marketable contenders. The Jones-Silva superfight gives them the time they need.
So there you have it. How to make Jones-Silva a win for everyone involved.