As some promoters would have you believe, UFC 168: Silva vs. Weidman 2 is the biggest event in UFC history. It’s so stacked, in fact, that some unnamed executives at Zuffa decided to raise the price of the card $5, in a one-time-only mini-gouge. (Dana White’s explanation for this? “Cuz.” Ladies and gentlemen, your UFC president.)
The price bump carries the implication that UFC 168 is not just a great pay-per-view event, it’s more valuable than every single UFC show that came before it. But is it? Let’s take a quick look at the pay-per-view lineup — i.e., the five fights they’re asking you to pay for:
Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva (for UFC middleweight title)
Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate (for women’s bantamweight title)
Josh Barnett vs. Travis Browne (HW)
Jim Miller vs. Fabricio Camoes (LW)
Dustin Poirier vs. Diego Brandao (FW)
To me, we’re talking about three big fights. The shocking ending of Silva vs. Weidman 1 gives their rematch a great narrative (horrible marketing aside), and it’s safe to say that most UFC fans are curious to see how the sequel will turn out. Rousey vs. Tate is compelling simply because all Ronda Rousey appearances are compelling, but there’s nothing to suggest that her second meeting with Miesha won’t end in another first-round armbar. And Barnett vs. Browne? Yep, I’m on board for that.
Beyond that, we have two solid contender fights that you could find on any other UFC main card. This kind of arrangement would place UFC 168 in line with past mega-shows like UFC 92 and UFC 100, which also followed the “two huge fights, one really good fight, two pretty decent fights” format. The difference is, the UFC never tried to jack up the prices of those shows, and there’s a reason for that. In 2008-2009, a UFC card with two big-name title fights was a special occasion. These days, it’s a ultra-rare fluke — and this might be the last time you see it.
My interpretation of UFC 168′s five-dollar price-bump is simple: The UFC has no idea when it will be able to put on another blockbuster event, and the promotion is trying to cash in while it can. Next year will be marked by the absences of former PPV king Georges St. Pierre as well as currently-injured champions Cain Velasquez and Anthony Pettis. But despite the reduced star power on its roster, the UFC will have even more main event spots to fill on its ever-growing broadcast schedule. The idea of stacking two title fights on one card is a luxury that Zuffa can no longer afford.
When the UFC announced Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler for UFC 171, Dana White originally stated that the welterweight title fight would be on the same card as Jon Jones vs. Glover Teixeira. But plans changed (again!), and the date and venue of Jones/Teixeira are TBA once more. Clearly, the UFC realized that putting on two PPV events that do 300k buys each is better than one that does 500k — especially as the promotion struggles to find strong headliners for its pay-per-view shows, which will be a bigger challenge than ever in 2014.
(Semi-related rant: On this week’s episode of the CME, Ben Fowlkes floated the idea of having the UFC’s vacant welterweight title be decided by a four-man single-night tournament. Would any UFC fan in the world argue with that idea? The UFC may have buried multi-fight tournaments in the interest of turning MMA into a modern sport, but if it wants to regain some of the fading interest among its fans, the promotion should start giving people more of what hooked them on MMA in the first place. Namely, crazy shit.)
So, is UFC 168 a great lineup? Sure it is. (I guess now I can break kayfabe and admit that I was half-trolling with this article’s headline.) Is UFC 168 the greatest lineup in UFC history? Of course it isn’t — and if you were a UFC fan five years ago, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. But hey, you might as well enjoy it while you still can.