Over the past few weeks, the UFC has been slowly announcing fights for its upcoming Fox card in San Jose on July 26th. At this point, we know Anthony Johnson will attempt to continue to climb the 205-pound ranks when he squares off with Rogerio Nogueira; Josh Thomson will ply his trade in front of his hometown crowd against the surging Michael Johnson; and Clay Guida will attempt to thwart the rise of exciting prospect Dennis Bermudez. What we do not know is which fighters will receive the main event slot on network television.
This is odd, as the UFC generally announces it's main events first and then follows that announcement up by slowly releasing the remaining matches. While this fact could be attributed to the UFC playing around with a new marketing style, I believe it's more likely due to the fact that the options for the main event of this show are slim.
Take a look at the UFC rankings. All the champions and big name fighters are either booked or injured. With that in mind, the UFC appears to have two options, generally speaking, as to the main event for UFC on Fox 12.
The first is to showcase a middleweight contenders' bout. Joe Silva and Sean Shelby can pair together any of the available top contenders and sell it as the main event. This essentially means any combination of Vitor Belfort, 'Jacare' Souza, Luke Rockhold, and Cung Le. There's also the possibility of featuring Tim Kennedy, although that seems as though a lesser possibility than the others.
Belfort, despite all the controversy surrounding his previous TRT use, is still one of the bigger names in the sport and is arguably on the hottest win streak of his career. He's done more than enough to earn another shot at UFC gold, but timing is not on his side. If he waits for the Weidman-Machida winner, it could be nearly a year between fights for the 37-year-old. He may be against taking a non-title fight, but it might be in his interest to do so, and it is definitely in the UFC's interest as the company needs a main event for the San Jose show. If he could be convinced to take the fight, the former UFC champ would have to be at the top of the list for main event consideration.
Souza and Rockhold have both looked like championship material in their most recent outings, and each man only really needs one high profile win to be considered a number one contender for the belt. The 41-year-old Le may not technically be a top contender in the UFC's middleweight division, but his name value, exciting skill set, and hometown hero-status make him a legitimate choice to main event this show. On top of that, if he were to actually defeat one of the aforementioned fighters, he would likely only be a win away from a title shot. As for Kennedy, his personality and back story are perfectly fitted for network TV, but his in-cage style is the type the powers-that-be generally do not want to showcase on Fox. Sure, he could always catch someone with an exciting knockout like he did against Rafael Natal, or engage in a fun striking contest like he did with 'Jacare' and Rockhold in Strikeforce, but there's always a strong chance of winding up with a grapple-heavy affair like his matches with Roger Gracie and Michael Bisping. For that reason, I have to think Kennedy is a long-shot to main event this show.
The second option the UFC and Fox could pursue would be to showcase the big men in the main event slot. It worked at UFC on Fox 11, as Travis Browne vs. Fabricio Werdum turned out to be an outstanding match-up, which followed an exciting undercard. The fight this time would have to be Alistair Overeem vs. Josh Barnett. Both men are still hovering around the top of the division, but are each at a crossroads. When you combine their ages with recent losses, it would seem that both Overeem and Barnett are in desparate need of a win. A loss for either man would signal the end in terms of fighting at an elite level, and possibly the end of his UFC run. On the other hand, a win for either Overeem or Barnett could result in a title eliminator the next time out, possibly in the co-main event of the upcoming Velasquez vs. Werdum title fight in Mexico. The big question mark to booking this fight would be Overeem's health. He recently had elbow surgery at the beginning of April and early reports indicated he would need at least three weeks of recovery. However, it's unclear as to what his current status is or if he would be ready by July 26th.
All things considered, it will be very interesting to see who the UFC books for the main event at its upcoming San Jose show.