There's been a good deal of concern lately about Dana and Joe Silva's match-making and promoting, what with the very public collapse of this fall's Chuck Liddell/Wanderlei Silva match.
But two bits of news today made me think they are thinking a little bit more strategically. First off, they're feeding Roger Huerta a can at UFC 74. Yes it's grossly unfair to call the undefeated Alberto Crane a can. Then you look at see that he hasn't fought in two and a half years. Then you notice that his 8-0 record comes against a crew of opponents with a combined 38-43 record. So welcome to the UFC Alberto. Maybe you'll be the next Houston Alexander. Regardless, it's better than the match I was thinking they'd make -- putting Huerta in there with BJJ monster Thiago Tavares. Let's save that match for when both guys are big stars.
The other smart bit of news is the rumor from Frank Trigg radio that Shogun Rua will be making his UFC debut against Forrest Griffen rather than Lyoto Machida. Good call!
Sure Machida/Rua is a better match up -- Machida is undefeated after all. But from a marketing perspective you'd have to be nuts to put on that bout. Shogun is the #1 Light Heavy in the world. He's a lock to challenge for the title eventually and potentially could be the most exciting foreign star in UFC history.
Putting him in against Machida for his first fight is literally risking the franchise. Machida has fought twice in the UFC but neither fight has been aired and he is as boring as hell -- and I'm a huge fan of his! To the average fan a Rua/Machida match would pit two Brazilians they've never heard of and would likely result in Machida's counter-fighting style dragging things to a decision.
Now Forrest Griffen might try to run and peck with Shogun too, but he doesn't have the speed or skills that Machida has. Forrest is also a huge star in the US. When Shogun knocks him out, that will set up Shogun nicely for a title shot or a #1 contender fight.
Hard core fans can bitch all they want, but it's vital to the business success of the UFC that they put the fights in context so the big matches mean something. The average Spike TV viewer can't be expected to prowl the net for rumors and clips of obscure fighters.