UFC uses brains to fill out fight cards
Published 3:50 pm Friday, June 12, 2015
By David Estrada
News MMA Columnist
The UFC has a simple formula to help ensure the success of events they hold domestically and internationally. They pepper fight cards with fighters who have roots in the area.
Case in point: UFC Fight Night 68 held last Saturday in New Orleans. It was to be headlined by Lafayette, La., native Daniel Cormier before he was plucked to fight in UFC 187 for the vacated UFC light heavyweight title. Nevertheless, UFN 68 in the Big Easy had several Louisiana fighters participate to create instant hometown appeal for the crowd. Lafayette native Dustin Poirier, former LSU football standout turned mixed martial artist Shawn Jordan, and New Orleans-born Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis gave fans people to cheer for.
Another example is the Dallas-held UFC 171 event that was headlined by Dallasite Johny Hendricks, who had clear home-Octagon advantage over Robbie Lawler before a crowd of 19,000.
International events are no different. Events in Canada and Brazil have been headlined by Canadian Georges St-Pierre and Brazilian Anderson “The Spider” Silva, respectively. These fight cards, as well as others held in Europe and Asia, are always filled with fighters from the country or continent.
UFC 188 being held in Mexico City on Saturday will follow this tried-and-true recipe for success. The card from top to bottom is filled with Mexican, Mexican-American, and other Hispanic fighters to cater to the Mexican fans. The UFC hopes to tap into this historically boxing mad market with its second appearance in the country.
Disaster struck the UFC’s first foray into Mexico last November. Mexican-American heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez was set to headline against Brazilian Fabrício Werdum for the title at UFC 180, but three weeks before the event Velasquez had to bow out due to injury. The high-profile champion was on a whirlwind media campaign to promote the Mexico City event which made his absence even worse.
Werdum took on late replacement Mark Hunt who he obliterated to earn the interim UFC heavyweight championship. Some good may have come from this. With Cain Velasquez back, this bout with Werdum will consolidate title belts.
Velasquez vs. Werdum style-wise is very intriguing. Cain’s base is wresting with strong power standup and ground and point. Fabricio’s forte is his world-class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but he’s recently added striking to his arsenal.
As mentioned before, UFC 188 is packed with a who’s who of Hispanic mixed martial artists. Oohs and ahhs were abound when the co-main event was announced. Mexican-American Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez is slated to fight Puerto Rican-American Eddie Alvarez. Alvarez with his strong boxing skills earned top three worldwide lightweight rankings despite not fighting in the UFC, instead electing to fight for Japanese promotions and UFC rival Bellator. Melendez, who trains with the infamous Diaz brothers, simply brings it every fight. He and Diego Sanchez lit up Houston’s Toyota Center at UFC 166 which many feel was the best fight of 2013.
The Ultimate Fighter 17 winner and Spanish-speaking Kelvin Gastelum is also on the card tabbed to fight Nate Marquardt. Golden Triangle fans may remember Gastelum for defeating Port Neches-Groves’ Brian Melancon which ended up being our hometown hero’s last MMA bout before retiring.
Rounding out the card are fighters with Mexican roots such as The Ultimate Fighter Latin America featherweight winner, Yair Rodríguez; The Ultimate Fighter 8 lightweight winner, Efrain Escudero; and the USA Olympic Freestyle Wrestling gold medalist, Henry Cejudo.
Filling events with fighters from a particular state, country, and continent may gratify those in attendance, but the enjoyment of good combat is universal.
David Estrada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.