UFC 178: Alvarez, Cerrone, and McGregor, Oh My
UFC 178 may be the first UFC pay-per-view sold entirely on the power of its undercard. (Since there was some confusion on Twitter, by “undercard” I’m referring to the main card bouts below the main event. Prelims are called…prelims.) The closest comparison I’ve heard is UFC 81, which featured Brock Lesnar’s debut in support of a card headlined by Tim Sylvia vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in a heavyweight title match. Which, yeah, without Lesnar that card does not do the estimated 600,000 pay-per-view buys, but Sylvia and Nogueira also aren’t pulling in the Mendoza Line that Demetrious Johnson and Chris Cariaso would draw without a solid supporting cast.
THE UFC’S INFAMOUS ANNUAL AUTUMN EQUINOX SHOW
This event should do OK numbers even with a sham of a main event between Johnson and Cariaso. (By OK, I’m thinking north of 200,000 and south of 300,000. Anything over 350k is a Borat-style great success.) But this event was supposed to kick off the UFC’s sprint toward 2015.
After months of posturing, the UFC and Jon Jones finally came to terms on July 5th, leading the way for the promotion to schedule Jones in a rematch against Alexander Gustafsson for this card. Less than three weeks later, Gustafsson injured his knee and pulled out of the fight. As unfortunate as that injury was for Gustafsson and his fans, it happened far enough out from the event for the UFC to find a suitable replacement. That replacement would be Daniel Cormier, who doesn’t have the same merits at light heavyweight as Gustafsson but far exceeded the latter’s ability to create interest.
And Jones and Cormier would create interest. Within two weeks of the fight’s announcement, Jones and Cormier faced off at a press conference. Jones pressed his forehead against Cormier’s, the latter taking exception and responding with a shove that lead to a wild brawl. The backdrop collapsed, a whole mess of people had to separate the two, and UFC PR man Dave Sholler took a nice pro wrestling bump for his troubles. Days later, video surfaced depicting Jones and Cormier exchanging trash talk off-air between and series of media interviews. Jones and Cormier, just under two months out from their fight, had people forgetting both the canceled UFC 176 event and an anemic UFC 177 at the end of August.
But we can’t have good things in MMA, and Jones suffered an injury of his own less than a week after all the hype shenanigans. The UFC moved Johnson and Cariaso, which had been put together last-minute to offer co-main support for T.J. Dillashaw and Renan Barao, from UFC 177 to the main event slot of UFC 178. (Johnson cheekily quipped that 178 finally had a real main event.)
It’s unfortunate for both the promotion and fans. Jones and Cormier capping this undercard offered one of the few truly mega-events since the UFC signed with Fox. Some people suggested the event would bring in a million PPV buys, which seems optimistic given the current climate, but it seemed like a lock for 700,000, which is a number that has only been exceeded by Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva since 2011.* Instead we’re left with the rare UFC event worth every cent of $55 despite a completely forgettable main event.
* – Jones brought in an estimate 700,000 against Rashad Evans at UFC 145.
THE PARTS UNKNOWN LIGHTWEIGHT CHAMPION
Eddie Alvarez should have fought Donald Cerrone in a UFC cage two years ago. Alvarez’s Bellator deal expired after his October 2012 fight against Patricky Freire. He signed with the UFC a few months later, agreeing to set of terms that included points on pay-per-view numbers. Bellator exercised their matching rights, which set months of litigation in motion, mostly centering around two questions: 1) Could Bellator match the overall value of the UFC’s contract without a PPV model? And 2) Would it matter in a court of law?
Alvarez and Bellator reached an agreement in September. Essentially, it was a two-fight deal giving Alvarez the option to leave Bellator win-or-lose after fulfilling the second fight. He beat Michael Chandler in a closely contested rematch last November, and appeared on his way out following a trilogy fight scheduled for the following May. Alvarez had to pull out of that fight due to a concussion suffered a week out, and then in August Bellator, now in the hands of Scott Coker, released him from his contractual obligations.
It’s unfortunate for Alvarez, who lost two years of his prime that could have been spent in the premier mixed martial arts organization in the world. It appears that the UFC has him on the fast track, however, and at 30 years of age, he’ll need to take advantage of that if he wants to fight for the title in what has traditionally been a young man’s division.
-It seems everyone has a complaint about the UFC has handled Conor McGregor. They’re pushing him too fast. They’re devoting too much attention to him. They’re not devoting enough attention to him. He should headline his own pay-per-view in Ireland. Bollocks. His fight with Dustin Poirier is a perfect next step for him, and the idea to put him on the undercard of what was originally planned as a mega-event was inspired.
-For all the gladhanding in regards to recent developments in drug testing, some sobering words from Tim Kennedy (via ESPN):
“I tried to get [the NSAC] to test. I made requests, ultimatums, everything. It reached a point of no response. I just didn’t hear back. So, here I am, a week out from my fight and I could have been taking anabolic steroids during my entire camp. It’s a problem.”
-Dominick Cruz has his first fight since October 1, 2011. (And, thankfully, in a reasonable tune-up against Takeya Mizugaki.) To give you an idea of how long it’s been, here’s the UFC’s list of champions at the time:
Heavyweight: Cain Velasquez (first reign)
Light Heavyweight: Jon Jones
Middleweight: Anderson Silva
Welterweight: Georges St-Pierre
Lightweight: Frankie Edgar
Featherweight: Jose Aldo
Women’s Bantamweight: Did not exist
Mike Fagan is a weekly contributor to MMA Owl. He also hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter.
- Alexander Gustafsson
- Conor McGregor
- Daniel Cormier
- Demetrious Johnson
- Dominick Cruz
- Donald Cerrone
- drug testing
- Dustin Poirier
- Eddie Alvarez
- Jon Jones
- Michael Chandler
- Mixed Martial Arts
- Scott Coker
- Takeya Mizugaki
- Tim Kennedy
- UFC 178
- UFC 178: Johnson vs. Cariaso
- Ultimate Fighting Championship