Injuries are part of the game in mixed martial arts (MMA), and lately, half the matchmaking battle for the promotion seems to be filling decimated cards with guys willing to take fights on short notice. UFC on Fox 4: "Shogun vs. Vera," which took place last night (Sat., Aug. 4, 2012) from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, was a masterpiece of that art.
The card was riddled with six pullouts and a kind of musical chairs that happens so fast, even the most hard-core fans can barely recall the latest iteration of a card given the rate of substitutions.
What's amazing is that nobody will remember it because the night of fights hit on all cylinders. The evening was one of the most memorable in UFC's history, particularly in the context of being offered on free television. Nothing will ever quite match the circumstance and scope of the boost Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar part one did for the sport, but nights like this go a long way toward strengthening MMA's foothold on the sporting landscape.
Originally slated to headline with Hector Lombard vs. Brian Stann, that bout was scrapped when Stann was injured, with Lombard moved to UFC 149 and a bout against Tim Boetsch, where he lost a dreadfully boring affair. Other pullouts on the card included Travis Browne vs. Ben Rothwell getting scratched due to Rothwell's injured ankle, and another heavyweight tilt in Rob Broughton vs. Matt Mitrione snuffed out when Broughton withdrew.
Terry Etim pulled out against Joe Lauzon, who instead took on late substitute Jamie Varner in what turned out to be "Fight of the night." Throw in Chad Griggs and Pablo Garza getting scratched for scheduled bouts against Phil Davis and Josh Grispi, and the card that actually aired had no resemblance whatsoever to the one originally intended.
I've always believed that a big reason for the UFC's success has been its ability to provide reasonable fill-ins when pullouts occur, especially at the top end of a line-up. Saturday night showed a capacity to hit on all cylinders despite numerous challenges, in a sport where pullouts due to injuries and a host of other reasons is increasingly the norm.
Jason Probst can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/jasonprobst.