We all know UFC is the premier MMA event in the world: the event which brought MMA to the mainstream and houses the greatest collection of MMA talent ever assembled. Its greatest critics owe Dana White and company a measure of respect.
As former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre described last month in a Bacardi Canada media appearance, “Dana White is probably the best promoter in the world… any fighter who makes money in the (MMA) world right now — it’s because of Dana White.”
Still, lately the UFC has been frustrating its fans, too.
In addition to the recent loss of the popular welterweight champion St-Pierre, who evinced frustration that UFC President did not take his side in his quest to improve the sport’s drug testing protocol, the UFC also lost its longtime middleweight champion Anderson Silva to injury last year.
With its success in recent years, UFC events have been more frequent, scattering the MMA world’s talent and making the sport a struggle to follow for even the most diehard fans. Rather than loaded events of the past, PPV events like last month’s UFC 170 feature only one bout between two top-ten ranked fighters with one title bout in the main event.
To make matters worse, the introduction of UFC Fight Pass represents a “cash grab” to many MMA fans. Its programming, like The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil and preliminary bouts of major PPV’s, were often previously free — but are now only available with a subscription.
Yet, now and then, we’re reminded why we’re fans of the UFC. We see what White and Co. are capable of.
This upcoming Saturday night’s UFC 171, to be broadcast on PPV from Dallas, TX, looks like one of those nights.
Not only has ZUFFA stacked the show with talent, they have maintained a compelling theme: offering a showcase for the best of the new-look welterweight division, now absent of its old star in St-Pierre.
UFC 171’s main event features a pairing of arguably the two best available athletes in the division: the resurgent Robbie Lawler, and the man many felt earned a victory over St-Pierre last year, Johny Hendricks.
On the undercard, former interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit faces an explosive top ten-ranked opponent in Tyron Woodley. Woodley and Condit are coming off impressive victories over longtime welterweight contenders in Josh Koscheck and Martin Kampmann, respectively. It was announced yesterday that with a win, Condit will receive a title shot against the winner of Hendricks vs. Lawler.
The division’s “X-Factor,” Hector Lombard, is featured as well. Lombard, who struggled in his first appearances in the UFC’s middleweight division after a dominant career at Bellator, appeared to be finally living up to his promise in his last UFC bout, making short work of Nate Marquardt in his debut at welterweight. He looks to continue the momentum against another longtime contender, former title challenger Jake Shields, who is coming off a victory over another contender in Damien Maia.
Rounding out the show is an old favorite of the division, Diego Sanchez, in a bout against an interesting prospect in Myles Jury, and a light heavyweight attraction besides.
It’s a lineup that’s star-studded, and simply put, makes sense. Saturday we’ll get a good look at what the welterweight division offers: past, present, and future.
Mr. White has earned our money this time. Sure, we miss St-Pierre, and we’ve had our differences. But UFC 171 is a night where even ZUFFA’s biggest critics will be watching.