As Danga pointed out yesterday, injuries and surprise drug tests have led to all five of UFC 146‘s main card bouts being altered since they were first announced, which puts “Dos Santos vs. Mir” right up there with MMA’s most cursed events of all time. But let’s be fair — the UFC originally promised us ten aggressive heavyweights bashing the hell out of each other, and they’re still giving us just that. So is UFC 146 a rag-tag bunch of scab-fights, or a compelling lineup in itself? Let’s break it down…
Original main event: Junior dos Santos vs. Alistair Overeem
Current main event: Junior dos Santos vs. Frank Mir
Advantage: Even. Luckily, our schizophrenic contributor Josh Hutchinson has already presented both sides of this issue, and I’m leaning towards the idea that Mir as a main-event replacement isn’t a total disaster. At first, we had the two best heavyweight strikers in MMA slugging it out for supremacy. Now, we have…well, who knows? Mir’s brilliant ground game opens up a whole new set of outcomes for this one. And isn’t MMA at its best when it’s chaotic and unpredictable? (I know, some of you just watch for the big muscles, but I’m a true fan, okay bro?)
Original co-main event: Cain Velasquez vs. Frank Mir
Current co-main event: Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva
Advantage: Original. And I only say that because Velasquez vs. Mir felt like less of a squash match. Bigfoot really could have used a softer landing in the Octagon; making his UFC debut in a pay-per-view co-main event against a juggernaut ex-champ like Velasquez smells like serious trouble for the Brazilian, who already failed a chin-test against Daniel Cormier in September.
Original main card bout #3: Roy Nelson vs. Antonio Silva
Current main card bout #3: Roy Nelson vs. Dave Herman
Advantage: Original. See above; Nelson vs. Silva made a lot of sense as a matchup, and I was looking forward to it. Plus, after his February loss to Stefan Struve, I’m not sold on Dave Herman as main-card material.
Original main card bout #2: Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Shane Del Rosario
Current main card bout #2: Stipe Miocic vs. Shane Del Rosario
Advantage: Current. Unless you’re a big Gabe Gonzaga fan (?), this match just became a lot more relevant. Miocic and Del Rosario are both undefeated up-and-comers with a combined finishing ratio of 94.7%, and the winner of this fight follows in the footsteps of Travis Browne and Lavar Johnson as the hot-shot heavyweight prospect to watch. Personally, I think Miocic is going to emerge from this one as a rising star.
Original main card bout #1: Stefan Struve vs. Mark Hunt
Current main card bout #1: Stefan Struve vs. Lavar Johnson
Advantage: Even. Look, I’m almost as depressed about Mark Hunt’s injury as Mark Hunt is. Plus, if I’m not mistaken, Struve vs. Hunt represented the greatest height differential in UFC history (13 inches!), which would have been awesome to see, just on an anthropological level. But I think we’re simply replacing one awesome Cinderella story (Hunt’s) with another just-as-good one (Johnson’s). Johnson came to the UFC riding back-to-back losses in Strikeforce, which followed nearly getting shot to death. Few expected him to make an impact in the UFC — and yet he’s already scored first-round knockouts of Joey Beltran and Pat Barry, picking up $130,000 in bonus money in the process. Now he’s re-entering the cage with just a three-week layoff between the Barry fight and this one. Do you believe in miracles?
Final analysis: If the original card was a 9 out of 10, the current card is at least a strong 7.5. Yes, we lost Alistair Overeem, and yes, we gained Dave Herman. But in terms of entertainment value, UFC 146 hasn’t given up a whole lot. Agree or disagree? (Sorry Hutchinson, you can’t do both…)