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Posted on August 27, 2012 by Jack Thurman
Barring any further changes in the chaotic situation involving the cancellation of UFC 151 and change in Jon Jones’ opponent for his next title defense his fight against Vitor Belfort will headline UFC 152 to be held at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre on September 22, 2012. The event could become another in the recent series of train wrecks for the UFC–at one point Canada was assumed to be a market that would support any UFC promoted event but with the exception of fights involving national hero Georges St. Pierre that’s no longer the case. In fact, the UFC’s last Canadian promotion (UFC 149) was not only among the worst PPV cards ever (and that covers a lot of ground) but the fans in Calgary underscored the fact that they weren’t happy with the product as they booed the main event amid chants of ‘REFUND!’ and other jeers too offense to recount here.
Even if it avoids the ignominious fate of UFC 149, the upcoming card in Toronto won’t do much to help the promotion’s plummeting PPV buy rates and perception among objective observers that the wheels are off at Zuffa. In fact, it could do significantly worse than UFC 150′s 190k buyrate. UFC 150 had at least one thing working for it–a lightweight title match between Ben Henderson and Frankie Edgar that looked like a ‘can’t miss’ fight heading into the card and lived up to the billing. Of course casual fans don’t gravitate toward the lighter weight classes and with the UFC slowly alienating even more hardcore fans even a great fight did nothing for buyrates.
UFC 152 doesn’t have even one ‘can’t miss’ fight on the card and especially one that will resonate among anything other than the most devoted hardcore fans. The semifinal bout between Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson for the newly created UFC Flyweight Title could be an exciting fight. Benavidez has moved to flyweight and should win this fight–his only two career losses are to current bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz. Johnson is something of a question mark–he beat Ian McCall in the ‘semifinal’ to earn this talent shot but McCall isn’t much more than a ‘garden variety’ fighter. Benevidez is a -300 UFC betting favorite so this could be a mismatch. At any rate, a flyweight title fight between fighters that could walk down the main street in most cities without being recognized won’t sell any additional PPVs.
Also on the main card is a matchup between tough but limited Brian Stann and perpetual contender Michael Bisping. Bisping has never been able to step up in class successfully, but the UFC wants to keep him ‘strong’ due to his popularity in the UK. Stylistically this is a made to order matchup for Bisping–his superior boxing skills should prevail over the less refined striking of Stann. Stann–a former US Marine decorated for bravery in combat–is as tough as they come and won’t be an easy out. This could be an entertaining slugfest but neither Stann or Bisping will bring in a larger PPV audience. Neither fighter is viewed as a ‘star’ by MMA fans, let alone more casual followers of the sport. It’s also typical of another serious problem with the UFC’s matchmaking–it’s a fight that doesn’t ‘mean anything’ in a broader context. The idea of either fighter being a legitimate contender for middleweight champion Anderson Silva (or, for that matter, light heavyweight champion Jones) is laughable. Fight promotion 101 dictates that for anyone other than the most ardent devotees to be interested in a bout it has to involve a) one or more combatants with ‘star power’ or b) has to mean something whether it’s a ‘feud’ between guys who don’t like each other, a title fight or a top contender eliminator. Even if one or both of these conditions are met that’s no guarantee of interest among more casual fans but without a ‘hook’ to get them in there’s no chance that they’ll pay $60 to tune in.