Barring injury (ha!), fall schedule looking up

For all the recent hand-wringing we’ve been doing over the UFC’s continuing injury troubles and slumping summer pay-per-view numbers, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the company appeared to simply shrug its shoulders over the weekend and make its upcoming UFC 136 show into something of a blockbuster.

The confirmation of not only a lightweight title do-over between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard, but the expected featherweight championship bout between Jose Aldo and Kenny Florian greatly bolstered a card that was already shaping up as pretty good. Aside from the two title fights, the Oct. 8 show in Houston will include middleweight bad boy Chael Sonnen making his return against bona fide war hero Brian Stann, another decent 185-pound scrap in Demian Maia versus Jorge Santiago and appearances from two of the promotion’s most exciting of-the-moment comers in Melvin Guillard and Anthony Pettis.

Must be nice. In tiny offices all over the continent, independent MMA promoters are likely contemplating their own rosters and then turning a deep, tasteful olive color with envy.

Even as the removal of Rich Franklin versus Antonio Rogerio Nogueira from the UFC 133 card early this week reminds us of the frailty of best-laid plans, there’s reason to be hopeful about the fall PPV lineup. Next month’s UFC 134 card kicks off a string of five consecutive shows where at least one belt will be on the line and everybody knows slapping some gold on a poster is one of the most reliable ways to move units.

It also doesn’t hurt that this run is scheduled to include appearances by two steady-eddy PPV draws in Anderson Silva (UFC 134) and Georges St. Pierre (UFC 137) as well as a pair of emerging stars in Jon Jones (UFC 135) and Cain Velasquez (UFC 138). Not to mention that St. Pierre’s welterweight unification fight against Strikeforce champ Nick Diaz stands to be one of the bigger bouts of the year and Junior dos Santos will streak into his heavyweight title match with Velasquez fairly fresh from a run on season 13 of “The Ultimate Fighter” and subsequent destruction of Shane Carwin at UFC 131.

Add all that up and it’s a good possibility the UFC could see a strong rebound in its buy rate by the time we get to December’s UFC 140 in Montreal and the promotion’s planned return to Japan in February. So the future looks pretty good, at least on paper.

Now all the company has to do is hold this lineup together for the next few months. No sweat … right?