UFC President Dana White will finally announce the main event for the promotion's debut show on Fox. That means my window for baseless speculation is closing quickly. We know the UFC will want to get out of the gates quickly. A bad rating could quickly derail the momentum, building quickly since the Fox announcement last month. That means something big - the kind of bout that would be second from the top on a good PPV or the main event of a foreign card. Simply put, the UFC needs a win. What will it be?
UFC Announces Heavyweight Championship Bout Will Headline Fox TV Debut
The promotion will want to put a mainstream name out there, a fighter your uncle or curious cousin might have least heard of. But that's a tricky calculus. They don't want to use a current drawing card - after all, the UFC is still a pay per view driven industry and only a handful of fighters (most notably Brock Lesnar and Georges St. Pierre) can make a difference at the box office.
What the UFC needs is a former legend who has lost some of his luster, but none of his mainstream luster. The kind of man who sets ratings records on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) and on Spike TV for his single live televised fight. Luckily they have a man like that, former light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz.
Tito Ortiz vs. Rich Franklin: Ortiz, the former UFC poster boy, saw new life breathed into his career when he tapped out top prospect Ryan Bader this year. A loss to Rashad Evans on short notice doesn't do much to dampen his post-Bader glow. Franklin, the former middleweight champion, is now a fringe contender at light heavyweight. A product of the TUF era, Franklin has name recognition and the kind of media savvy that could help the UFC show new fans that cage fighters aren't just mindless barbarians.
Tito/Franklin vs. Dan Henderson: Henderson's stock has never been higher. A knockout win over Fedor Emelianenko made it clear the 41 year old fighter was far from finished. Hendo has been very publicly negotiating a new contract with the UFC. He's hinted that he would be interested in the Fox show. If he's signed, these are fights that make sense for him. Because Henderson has already beaten Franklin, the Ortiz fight is more likely.
Mauricio Rua vs. Dan Henderson: Rua had an easy night at UFC 134 in Brazil, dispatching Forrest Griffin quickly. Looking for a slingshot back into title contention, a win over Henderson on national television might be just what he needs. The is a more competitive fight than Ortiz vs. Henderson, and if the "sport" crowd gets its say, could be the first Fox main event.
Alistair Overeem vs. Frank Mir: Rumors are flying that the UFC has reached terms with Overeem, the Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion. But while the Dutch fighter has great potential as a draw, he's a virtual unknown outside of hardcore circles. Would the promotion really want to risk their reputation by throwing out a fighter America doesn't know and hasn't embraced?
Brock Lesnar: Is the former champion done, as some speculated yesterday? Or is he on the comeback trail? Brock is still the UFC's biggest star and would certainly make their Fox debut a smash. I wonder if the UFC would really give up "Brock on PPV" level money just to ensure this show's success. Coupled with Lesnar's lack of training time and I think the answer is pretty likely "No."
Moving an already advertised main or co-main event: The UFC would take a PR beating in whatever market they screwed over by moving a main event after tickets have already gone on sale. That's bad for business and besides, the UFC is nothing if not fan friendly.
Tito Ortiz vs. Chuck Liddell III: The UFC built this fight with a season of The Ultimate Fighter, only to have it fall apart when Ortiz suffered an injury. Though Liddell is officially retired from the sport, he would undoubtedly return for a fight with his arch nemesis. Chuck is still one of the sport's top stars. Ortiz-Liddell would do big numbers - but it would also compromise the promotion's integrity as a "sports first" league and might give new fans the idea that this is an old man's game. There is risk hidden just behind this potential mega rating.
Vitor Belfort: The UFC loves Belfort. A potential bout at middleweight or light heavyweight against Henderson could be a fight that interests UFC matchmakers, although Henderson seems wary about a return to middleweight.
We'll know for certain who will main event the UFC's first network main event by this afternoon.Will it be one of these bouts? Or something I didn't even consider? We'll have all the details right here on MMA Nation.