Spoiled mixed martial arts (MMA) fans have not been shy about their collective disappointment with the upcoming offering from Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) this Saturday night (November 5, 2011) at the LG Arena in Birmingham, England. Not only does the UFC 138: "Leben vs. Munoz" fight card lack a significant amount of star power, but it also in the airs in the United States on Spike TV via six-hour tape delay.
It's far from ideal, but it's better than nothing.
"Leben vs. Munoz" is sandwiched between what was expected to be one of the promotion's most successful pay-per-view (PPV) events, UFC 137, before Georges St. Pierre went down with a knee injury, and arguably the biggest event in the history of the sport, UFC on Fox 1, which is scheduled to air on network television next weekend.
And the week after Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos throwdown on primetime television, Dan Henderson and Mauricio Rua will collide in an old school battle of Pride FC veterans in the UFC 139 main event.
With all the mouth-watering match ups on the horizon, it's super simple to lament a main card that features seemingly nameless fighters such as Papy Abedi, Renan Barao and Edward Faaloloto, among others. However, where the main card and programming may fall short, the promotion is banking that the main event will deliver in spades.
That's the reason it booked one of the most colorful character's on its roster, Chris Leben, to headline the show. "The Crippler" has built a reputation on balls-to-the-wall, come-from-behind heroic toughness. His leaded left hand has bailed him out of bad spots in the past, and the promotion is hoping it can do the same on fight night.
"We both throw bombs," Leben said at the final UFC 138 pre-fight press conference. "This is a main event you're not going to have to worry about. Sometimes, we put these main events together because of their names and it sucks. We're going to get in there and we're going to do it. I promise you a great show."
Leben went a step further, attempting to brand the 185-pound match up a number one title contender eliminator match. UFC President Dana White wasn't on hand to give his traditional, "the winner will be in the mix" vanilla support, so Leben laid out his case independently on the dais.
"I'm stoked for the match up," he said. "I'm stoked to be in the main event. In my opinion, this fight with Mark decides the number one contender. He's been on a roll. I won four out of my last five [fights]. I put Wanderlei Silva away in 27 seconds. This is the fight that decides who gets that title shot. I had to come over here for it."
Whoever wins this weekend between Leben and Munoz will more than likely have to get in line behind Chael Sonnen, as well as Michael Bisping if he can topple Jason Miller in their December showdown. Nonetheless, it's a significant fight that does have future implications for the 185-pound title contender picture.
It also happens to be the first five-round, non-title fight in the promotion's history, which has to count for something even if Leben has historically struggled to be a 15-minute fighter. Not to worry. UFC 138 will likely not go the distance because Leben is willing to let it all hang out inside the Octagon each time he steps inside it, win, lose or draw.
"I've been watching a lot of fights lately where the champions seem like they're fighting not to lose," he said. "For myself, I'd quit if that's what I started doing. I fight to win. I fight to finish my opponent. I don't fight to not lose. And that's what you're going to see."
Now that's something worth cheering about.
Is UFC 138 the best card the UFC has ever produced? Of course not, but as MMA Nation's Thomas Myers argues, it doesn't deserve the criticism fans and pundits have been giving it either.