UFC 123, headlined by Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida, will take place this Saturday in Auburn Hills, Michigan. The event will be the second UFC show in a row where a title belt will not be on the line. Jackson versus Machida is an intriguing fight and "Rampage" is a big draw in his own right, but despite those facts, should MMA fans have to shell out $50 for a PPV where nobody will be fighting for a strap?
Although the UFC stands for Ultimate Fighting Championship, more often than not, the organization’s champs seem to be sitting on the sidelines during PPV shows. In the last year, there were 16 UFC events (not including Versus or Fight Night shows). Eight of those were headlined by non-title bouts. And of those eight, only two were aired free on basic cable. Should bouts like Randy Couture vs. Mark Coleman have really headlined a pay-per-view event?
Obviously fighter injuries, like 205-pound champ Mauricio Rua's knee, can really throw a wrench into the title-picture schedule. By the time that Rua heals up, it will likely be almost a year until light heavyweight belt is up for grabs. And who could forget Brock Lesnar’s diverticulitis scare that triggered an interim heavyweight championship bout between Frank Mir and Shane Carwin at UFC 111.
Fortunately for MMA fans, it’s clear that the UFC wants to do more for the fans in regard to championship bouts. The merger between the WEC and the UFC recently announced by Dana White couldn’t have come soon enough. Starting in January of 2011, UFC fans will get to see two additional championship fights (bantamweight and featherweight) showcased at upcoming events. And if White, who has expressed the desire to see 125-pound fighters compete, decides to pull the trigger on adding a flyweight division, expect there to be a title fight at pretty much every show.
As for buying UFC 123? Even the UFC has been unclear regarding what a win would mean for Jackson-Machida and Hughes-Penn. The victor of the main event could get a title shot, but Dana White has been non-committal at this point. Without clear stakes on the line for the headliner, many fans will simply take a pass on Saturday’s show with an eye towards purchasing UFC 124 which will feature welterweight champ George St. Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck.
But for those like me, that merely want to see four former UFC champions/MMA legends (including one UFC Hall of Famer in Matt Hughes) perform in the Octagon, spending our hard earned money on UFC 123 is an easy decision. Couture vs. Coleman…not so much.
Quinton Jackson vs. Lyoto Machida
Matt Hughes vs. B.J. Penn
Tim Boetsch vs. Phil Davis
Maiquel Falcao vs. Gerald Harris
Undercard on Spike TV
Dennis Hallman vs. Karo Parisyan
Edson Barboza vs. Mike Lullo
Paul Kelly vs. T.J. O'Brien
Nik Lentz vs. Tyson Griffin