The onslaught of pay-per-view (PPV) and televised mixed martial arts (MMA) is great for fight fans. We're a far cry from the days of PPVs every three months and not a whit of mainstream coverage for the sport.
But with at least one PPV per month, along with as many or more televised cards on the rotating network shows, standards are definitely getting watered down. UFC 148: "Silva vs. Sonnen 2" last night (July 7, 2012) in Las Vegas, Nevada, was a perfect example, where we were basically paying a premium price to watch a top-notch main event and an undercard that was garbage in two entirely different ways: it was brutally devoid of top-10 talent, and the action was dreadful.
If you can even call it that.
If you disagree, you'd be hard-pressed to name another PPV card that, outside of the main event, only had one top-10 fighter in his division competing. For UFC 148, that was Chad Mendes, whose blowout knockout of the hopelessly over-matched Cody McKenzie lasted all of 31 seconds.
And despite lack of elite talent, the fallback for a card like this should always be in meaningful action itself. That's a big variable where the UFC can make up for a shortage of meaningful contender vs. contender bouts. But UFC 148 seemed to get the worst possible run of outcomes:
There was an injury fluke (Demian Maia vs. Dong Hyun Kim), two ho-hum decisions (Cung Le vs. Patrick Cote and Mike Easton vs. Ivan Menjivar) and the underwater catfight that was Forrest Griffin's decision over Tito Ortiz.
Maybe it's just the double-take any reasonably informed fan had off the heels of UFC 147, where we were treated to a pair of faded stars in Rich Franklin vs. Wanderlei Silva as the "main event." Yes, we know Franklin replaced the injured Vitor Belfort. Yes, we know it was a card focused on the Belfort vs. Silva pairing in The Ultimate Fighter Brazil. But in a way, it's probably good that Belfort got injured, because he was quite likely to blitz out the once-great but faded Silva as badly as he did in their first meeting in 1998. Franklin, ever the loyal soldier, stepped in and gave a credible, five-round performance en route to taking a decision win.
But that was hardly main-event caliber stuff.
Silva vs. Sonnen II was high drama and a huge event. But the whole point -- and once, the eminently reliable fallback position -- of solid match-ups and meaningful contender bouts were a kind of supplement to main events that didn't pan out, often stealing the show and helping build new stars in the process. But it's getting to the point where, in deciding to press the "buy" option on my menu, I contemplate the upcoming Fox/FX/Fuel cards, which are often better than PPV, and if it sucks, I can turn the channel and go back to the tape later, something only a sadist would do with pay-per-view.
Jason Probst can be reached at email@example.com or twitter.com/jasonprobst.