This morning’s write up will be a complaint article, and complaints should never over-extend their welcome lest they grow immediately boring. Yet, even with an absolute effort toward avoiding all superfluous adjectives, there is absolutely no chance this article is more concise than last night’s 15-second main event (watch it).
Yair Rodriguez was stupid fast last night. He landed three kicks in the blink of an eye, then slashed some presumably very sharp fingernails across that very same eye. Jeremy Stephens is inhumanly tough, but the grizzled veteran could do little except look miserable for five consecutive minutes as we all hoped for a miracle.
No such wish was granted, and an excellent main event died in its infancy.
Look, losing a main event is never fun. It’s not going to make the night better. But it also doesn’t have to result in a pissed off crowd pelting the Octagon with recyclables. Barring truly disastrous circumstances that see half the event wiped out, a single fight ending in a “No Contest” should not make the entire night feel like a waste of time.
UFC is setting itself up for bad situations such as this by building cards poorly. I understand financially why there is no real reason for the promotion to make an event on ESPN+ too desirable. The goal here has always been to get our collective $4.99 per month for as cheaply as possible, and paying a dozen top-ranked fighters each weekend is going to hurt the bottom line.
At the same time, a boatload of angry fans in a market that UFC has been pushing to grow for years cannot be seen as a positive. Indeed, scenes like this are a terrible, ugly look:
I understand fans at #UFCMexico were disappointed when the main event was called off after 10 seconds due to the ‘away’ fighter getting injured due to an eye poke, but to then launch bottles, drinks at him is disgusting.— Adam Catterall (@AdamCatterall) September 22, 2019
Many of the “Fight Night” main events over the last few months have served as the sole reason to watch the event. The rest of the cards may feature some great action — and there were some great fights last night — but nothing that draws the eyes of casual fans or really impacts divisional title pictures. In a world as absurdly unpredictable as mixed martial arts (MMA), that is not sound strategy.
Last night’s “No Contest” was not the worst-case scenario for UFC — at least Rodriguez and Stephens actually made it to the Octagon. Had Stephens tripped on a cable and shredded his knee a few days earlier, however? Imagine the fallout. No one relevant at 145 pounds would have been able to make the weight on such short-notice nor would anyone smart want to fight “Pantera” at elevation without proper training.
If UFC “Mexico City” had lost one of its main event athletes before the Octagon doors closed, that arena would have been empty. More likely, the entire night of fights would’ve been canceled (vis a vis UFC 151). NOW we’re talking about a real hit to the promotion’s bottom line, as well as screwing all the fighters who spent exorbitant amounts of money to prepare for Mexico City’s punishing altitude.
Simply booking a stronger co-main event would work wonders. At the very least, booking one bout with a high-level fighter of the same weight class as the main event is becoming more commonplace, but it should be standard. My request is not one of complete restructure, just a simple back up plan for when weirdness occurs.
It does not seem necessary for a major, well-funded promotion to take such major risks — leave that to those inside the cage!
For complete UFC Fight Night 159 “Rodriguez vs. Stephens” results and play-by-play, click HERE!