This archived piece was originally posted on my old blog Rudomania.com on October 28, 2013 (http://rudomania.com/ufc-posters-tell-a-history-of-main-event-changes/)
On the eve of the UFC’s twentieth anniversary, I decided to dig a little. It’s no secret that the world’s premiere MMA organization has seen its share of peaks and lowlights in recent memory, especially as it pertains to the injury curse that seems rear its ugly head whenever it damn well pleases. My initial idea for writing this piece was to dig up maaaaybe half a dozen pre and post revamped UFC posters from those cursed events, but as I dug deeper and deeper, the list grew unfathomably larger than expected. So here it is: a near-complete history of UFC main event changes, as told by the posters. Enjoy.
Disclaimer: All UFC event poster images in this post are copyrights of Zuffa, LLC. They are used here for the unique purpose of providing informative entertainment.
UFC 33: Tito Ortiz (LHW Champ) Vs.
Vitor Belfort Vladimir Matyushenko
The earliest account of main event fuckery happened not long after Zuffa purchased the Ultimate Fighting Championship from SEG for the modest sum of $2 Million. UFC 33 was set to feature three championship fights with the Huntington Beach Bad Boy set to defend his light-heavyweight crown against the Phenom. Unfortunately, the ambitious booking took a major hit after Belfort was forced to bow out of the main event due to an arm injury sustained during training. Instead of matching two of its most marketable stars, the promotion was forced to cast journeyman Vladimir Matyushenko into the fold as the challenger. The end results turned out to be one of the most sleep-inducing main events since Ken Shamrock Vs. Royce Gracie II. To this day, Dana White is still quite bitter about that night and has gone as far as citing that “UFC 33 is the only one I can remember where every fight sucked”.
UFC 63: Matt Hughes (WW Champ) Vs.
Georges St-Pierre BJ Penn
Within a year of making his UFC debut in 2004, an undefeated GSP challenged then-perennial pound-for-pound great Matt Hughes for the Welterweight title at UFC 50, but fell short after getting caught in an armbar with only one second left in the first round. Two years after their initial encounter, UFC 63 set the stage for their highly anticipated rematch. Those plans wouldn’t pan out since St-Pierre suffered a groin injury one month before the event.
Enter BJ Penn to save the pay-per-view card.
Having previously defeated Hughes for the welterweight title in UFC 46, and coming off a highly contested split decision loss to GSP just a few months earlier, Penn came into this fight with guns blazing. This time around though it was Hughes who secured the victory via TKO in the third round. This fight became an instant classic that would be voted as UFC’s #1 Greatest Fight by Sports Illustrated. In the post-fight interview, a young GSP was invited into the Octagon where he famously told Hughes “I’m not impressed with your performance.”
UFC 72: Rich Franklin Vs.
Martin Kampmann Yushin Okami
Martin Kampmann was on an eight-fight winning streak but his middleweight title hopes were dashed when he suffered a knee injury. Perennial middleweight contender Yushin Okami replaced him in a losing effort against the former champion Rich Franklin, who upon victory earned a chance to face Anderson Silva in a grudge match.
Brock Lesnar (HW Champion) Vs. Frank Mir II Rashad Evans (LHW Champion) Vs. Lyoto Machida
UFC 98 was supposed to the night when Brock Lesnar would finally get to remove the proverbial horseshoe from Frank Mir’s ass. Instead, the horseshoe removal was pushed back to UFC 100 which was projected at the time to be the biggest draw in promotional history. UFC 98 would instead be focused on a light-heavyweight championship fight between Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida, with a co-headliner pitting two former welterweight champions, Matt Hughes and Matt Serra. Hughes won the bout via unanimous decision, and Machida defeated Evans via KO in the second round to usher the short-lived Machida Era.
Karate is back!
Brock Lesnar (HW Champion) Vs. Shane Carwin & Tito Ortiz Vs. Mark Coleman Forrest Griffin
Where do I even start with this one…
Heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar was supposed to collide with the undefeated Shane Carwin in an epic battle for the ages, but a case of diverticulitis sidelined the champ for an indefinite period of time. The co-main event between Mark Coleman and Tito Ortiz was also scrapped after the former injured his knee. Forrest Griffin stepped in and defeated Tito Ortiz in a match with no title implication.
Rodrigo Nogueira Vs. Cain Velasquez & Rashad Evans Vs. Thiago Silva
When Brock Lesnar was diagnosed with diverticulitis prior to UFC 106, there was some hope within the UFC that he would recover fast enough in time to face Shane Carwin at UFC 108. That didn’t happen and neither did the main event that was set to feature Big Nog and Cain Velasquez. The elder Nogueira brother had to pull out due to a staph infection. With no heavyweight bout to anchor the card, the co-headliner between Rashad Evans and Thiago Silva became the main event.
UFC 109: Randy Couture Vs. Mark Coleman,
Josh Koschek Vs. Paulo Thiago Nate Marquardt Vs. Chael Sonnen & Rogerio Nogueira Vs. Brandon Vera Matt Serra Vs. Frank Trigg
*Shrug* I don’t feel like elaborating on this one. Next…
UFC 119: Frank Mir Vs.
Rodrigo Nogueira II Mirko Cro Cop & Ryan Bader Vs. Rogerio Nogueira
This card was supposed to feature both Nogueira brothers in the co-main events. When Big Nog pulled out, Cro Cop was added to the mix. Cro Cop and Mir spent much of their three round affair circling each other and not engaging, much to the dismay of the thousands in attendance who were bored beyond civility. With the crowd voicing its displeasure, Mir mercifully ended the bout by knocking out Cro Cop with a knee to the face.
In the end, no one cared.
In fact, Dana White was so appalled by the fight that he flat-out refused to award the Knockout of the Night bonus to Mir even though he was the only fighter to score a knockout that night.
UFC 122: Yushin Okami Vs.
Vitor Belfort Nate Marquardt
Vitor Belfort was originally set to face Okami to determine the number one contender for the 185 Lbs title, but those plans were changed after Belfort was awarded a title shot. Okami ended up facing Nate Marquardt whom he defeated via decision.
UFC 125: Frankie Edgar (LW Champion) Vs. Gray Maynard &
Shane Carwin Vs. Roy Nelson Jose Aldo Vs. Josh Grispi Chris Leben Vs. Brian Stann
UFC 125 was set for new years day 2011. The main event grudge match between lightweight champion Frankie Edgar and challenger Gray Maynard was never in question, but the co-main event went through several changes.
UFC 128: Shogun Rua (LHW Champion) Vs.
Rashad Evans Jon Jones & Urijah Raber Vs. Eddie Wineland
UFC 128 would go down in the annals of MMA history as the night Jon Bones Jones officially ascended to greatness after swagger-jacking Rashad Evans’ title shot and winning belt from an outclassed Shogun Rua. The story goes that Evans injured his knee when a a member of his team accidentally rolled over him during training.
UFC Fight Night Seattle:
Tito Ortiz Vs. Rogerio Nogueira Vs. Phil Davis & Dan Hardy Vs Anthony Johnson
A month prior to the fight, Tito Ortiz received a big cut on his forehead while sparring. He was replaced by Phil Davis who raised his stock at 205 Lbs by defeating Lil’ Nog.
Frankie Edgar (LW Champion) Vs. Gray Maynard III, Rampage Jackson Vs. Matt Hamill, Frank Mir Vs. Roy Nelson, Stephen Struve Vs. Travis Browne, Brian Stann Vs. Jorge Santiago
Injuries to both Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard postponed the conclusion of their classic trilogy until UFC 136.
Brock Lesnar Vs. Junior Dos Santos Vs. Shane Carwin
UFC 131 was supposed to pit the two coaches of The Ultimate Fighter 13, but following the recurrence of diverticulitis, Brock Lesnar was forced to bow out; he was replaced by Shane Carwin. JDS used his technical striking to batter Carwin on his way to a decision win. Most people were unaware at the time but this would be Shane Carwin’s final MMA career fight.
UFC ON Versus 4:
Nate Marquardt Vs. Rick Story Anthony Johnson & Cheik Kongo Vs. Pat Barry
On the day of the weigh-ins, Nate Marquardt couldn’t be cleared to fight due an elevated level of testosterone from undergoing Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT). Dana White was so infuriated that he immediately released Marquardt. Kongo Vs. Barry was pushed into the main event spot and provided one of the most amazing coming-back-from-the-dead victories the sport of MMA has ever seen.
UFC 133: Rashad Evans Vs.
Phil David Tito Ortiz II, Rich Franklin Vs. Rogerio Nogueira & Vitor Belfort Vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama
The original plan was to have Jon Jones defend his light-heavyweight title against former training partner Rashad Evans, but a hand injury to the champ put a temporary halt to those plans. Phil Davis was tapped for the main event but had to pull out. At first, a rematch between Machida and Evans was considered, but the Dragon apparently showed his greedier side by only agreeing to fight under the condition that he would be paid “Anderson Silva Money”, to which Dana White scoffed back: “Are you f’n kidding me? I’ll tell you what. You tell Machida he achieves what f’n Anderson Silva has achieved, then maybe he’ll make Anderson Silva money. Have a nice day.”
Tito ended up taking the main event spot and he lost.
Georges St-Pierre (WW Champion) Vs. Nick Diaz Carlos Condit & BJ Penn Vs. Nick Diaz
At first it was Champion Vs. Champion. Then, when the enigmatic Diaz no-showed his media duties, uncle Dana replaced him with Carlot Condit and it became Champion Vs. Killer. Still, even for all his misgivings, Diaz was given a co-headliner gig against BJ Penn. The change seemed like a win-win for the fans, but then disaster struck: GSP was sidelined with a knee injury.
In the end, it was simply Penn Vs. Diaz with a tagline that read Expect the unexpected.
UFC 146: Junior Dos Santos (HW Champion) Vs.
Alistair Overeem Frank Mir, Cain Velasquez Vs. Frank Mir Big Foot Silva & Roy Nelson Vs. Big Foot Silva Brian Gonzaga
This was just a case of Overeem eating some tainted horse meat. ‘Nuff said. Moving on…
Vitor Belfort Vs. Wanderlei Silva II Vs. Rich Franklin II
A highly anticipated rematch between Wanderlei Silva and Vitor Belfort that was 14 years in the making did not take place. Belfort had to bow out because of a broken hand. Rich Franklin replaced Belfort and bested Silva via unanimous decision.
UFC 148: Anderson Silva (MW Champion) Vs. Chael Sonnen II &
Dominick Cruz (BW Champion) Vs. Urijah Faber II Vs. Renan Barao Forrest Griffin Vs. Tito Ortiz III
Jon Jones (LHW Champion) Vs. Dan Henderson CANCELLED
Much digital ink has been spilled about this event. Here’s a shorthand account of what happened: Hendo got injured -> Sonnen offered to fight -> Jones refused -> Event was cancelled -> Jones became the LeBron James of the UFC. Fin.
UFC 152: Joseph Benavidez Vs. Demetrious Johnson, Michael Bisping Vs. Brian Stann
& Rory MacDonald Vs. BJ Penn Jon Jones (LHW Champion) Vs. Lyoto Machida Vitor Belfort
Following the UFC 151 debacle, Jones was rescheduled to fight on the next card. Machida was reportedly tabbed to be part of the main event, but in the end it was Vitor Belfort who came through.
UFC Rio 3 153:
Jose Aldo (FW Champion) Vs. Erik Koch Frankie Edgar & Rampage Jackson Vs. Glover Texeira Vs Fabio Maldonado, Jon Fitch Vs. Erik Silva, Phil Davis Vs. Wagner Prado (bumped), Anderson Silva (MW Champion) Vs. Stephan Bonnar & Rodrigo Nogueira Vs. Ed Herman
Too many changes to elaborate…
Renan Barao (Interim BW Champion) Vs. Eddie Wineland, Rashad Evans Vs. Dan Henderson & Shogun Rua Vs. Rogerio Nogueira & Roy Nelson Vs. Stipe Miocic
UFC 163: Jose Aldo (FW Champion) Vs.
Anthony Pettis The Korean Zombie, & Lyoto Machida Vs. Phil Davis & Damian Maia Vs. Josh Koschek
When Anthony Pettis injured his knee prior to his title bout against Jose Aldo, Chan Sung Jung The Korean Zombie stepped in. Aldo retained the featherweight title via TKO.
In a sign that TKZ may actually well be a zombie, Jung attempted to pop his own dislocated shoulder back into its socket in the final moments of the bout before he was TKO’d.
UFC 164: Benson Henderson (LW Champion) Vs.
TJ Grant Anthony Pettis & Frank Mir Vs. Josh Barnett (bumped)
Pettis leapfrogged himself into lightweight title picture after TJ Grant suffered an injury. In the end, Showtime brought it to the champion and took away his championship gold for a second time in their careers
, becoming the first fighter to ever submit Benson Henderson.