Few sporting events can bring the kind of hype as a UFC pay-per-view these days. Don’t get us wrong, Fight Night and UFC on Fox always bring a good show, but Dana White and his matchmakers Sean Shelby and Joe Silva (who is reportedly retiring soon), generally do a great job of stacking the PPVs and saving the other events for up-and-comers and developmental fighters.
Comparing UFC pay-per-view events to other sports too, the comparison can be made, but a great UFC event is comparable in anticipation to a Super Bowl. Yes, I’m serious. Obviously the fanbase is far bigger for something like the Super Bowl, but in terms of excitement, UFC 200 for example, produced mayhem in the MMA community. Similarly, the rumor at the time of writing is that Georges St-Pierre may be returning to competition for the fight. The rumor on top of the rumor right now is that GSP’s opponent may be Anderson Silva. Dana White has denied that this will happen, so it very well might, because any MMA fan who knows the promotion knows that Dana White is a master of deception.
Most events however, at least somewhat live up to the hype that gets built up prior. But with that said, the UFC has some serious black eyes when it comes to their historical pay-per-views. Some have been so bad that they have left a lasting impact on the fans, and some have caused people to stop watching the promotion altogether. This is a list of those fifteen events and fights that embarrassingly failed to meet the hype they built up.
15. UFC 151 and 176
This was an easy choice for the first couple of events to list here. We wanted to focus primarily on fights and events that actually took place rather than fights that never actually happened. It plagues almost every card, that training is rough and guys sustain injuries all the time, and it leads to cancelled fights. But with regard to UFC 151 and 176, we had to include these two because they were the two instances when the main event fell through and the entire card got scrapped.
For those who don’t know the story, Jon Jones was slated to defend his belt against Dan Henderson in September 2012. Just over a week before the event, Hendo suffered a knee injury and pulled out of the fight. Jonny Bones then refused to fight Chael Sonnen on the advice of trainer Greg Jackson. Dana White has said that this event was destroyed by Jones and Jackson, but others have said that Henderson is partially to blame because he was injured for weeks prior to actually pulling out of the bout. Critics of Dana White have suggested that his poor management of his fighters was to blame for the card falling through. This all happened a week before the event was to take place.
UFC 176 in August 2014, was less controversial and was set to see Jose Aldo defend his Featherweight belt against Chad Mendes. Aldo was injured and the UFC was unable to come up with another title fight to set up as the main event on a month’s notice. They Just scrapped the card and shuffled the would-be fights among the upcoming events.
14. UFC 24: The Ironically Named “First Defense”
UFC 24, in March 2000, had one of the most bizarre non-finishes the sport of mixed martial arts has ever seen. Future UFC Champions Jens Pulver (Lightweight) and Dave Menne (Middleweight), fought on this card and the event wasn’t terrible (a few knockouts and a couple of solid submission) but the headlining fight never took place. The event was called “First Defense” for a reason. It was supposed to be Kevin Randleman’s first title defense after winning the Heavyweight belt in late 1999. His opponent was Pedro Rizzo
Before he made it into the octagon, Randleman was warming up and slipped, hitting his head on a concrete floor and going completely unconscious. He was taken to hospital, diagnosed with a concussion and could not fight. The fight was rescheduled for later in 2000, and Randleman won.
13. UFC 177
When it finally did take place, UFC 177 wasn’t an absolute nightmare, but there is a reason it is referred to as the “cursed event”. The fight was originally supposed to be a rematch between Jon Jones against Alexander Gustafsson for the Light Heavyweight Championship. That fight was pushed back a month to UFC 178, but ended up never taking place at all. The co-main was supposed to be Demetrious Johnson defending the Flyweight belt against Chris Cariaso, but that was pushed back with Jones vs Gus, and ended up taking over as 178’s main event.
The main event ended up being a one-sided scrap between then-Bantamweight champ T.J. Dillashaw, in which he finished Joe Soto in the fifth round after dominating him for four. The biggest problem however, was that two fights were cancelled and the event ended up seeing just eight fights. Henry Cejudo had some medical complications from his weight cut and spent the weigh-in at the hospital, and his fight against Scott Jorgensen was scrapped. Similarly, a heavyweight bout between Ruslan Magomedov and Richard Odoms was also cancelled after Odoms was injured training.
12. Anderson Silva VS Patrick Cote
On paper this sounds like an amazing fight. It took place at UFC 90 back in 2008. Patrick Cote, a Canadian fighter with a reputation for being able to take an incredible amount of punishment, took on the man most of us call the GOAT today, back when he had held his Middleweight belt for about two years. Silva won the first two rounds but failed to actually rock Cote despite landing some impressive and devastating strikes. While some had predicted an upset and others had wanted to see the Spider score a highlight reel knockout, it was a knee injury that ended the fight. Cote threw a punch in the first minute of the third round, and an old knee injury come back to haunt him, falling to the canvas, causing an end to the fight.
11. Stephan Bonnar VS Forrest Griffin II
Don’t misunderstand the reason for Forrest Griffin vs Stephan Bonnar II being included on this list. It was an okay fight. Griffin took both fights, but the second was a far simpler choice. The reason that ‘The Rematch’ between these two warriors didn’t live up to the hype was that the finale of TUF 1 was one of the greatest fights of all time. It was three rounds of exciting exchanges and a decent back and forth.
It would have taken something truly special for this rematch to have been as exciting as the first. It wasn’t bad, but with the first fight having been the greatest fight of all time (it might still be, a great topic of debate), the rematch saw a more convincing win for Forrest Griffin and while the action wasn’t disappointing when the fight is considered on its own, it has always lived in the shadow of the first bout.
10. Tito Ortiz VS Ken Shamrock II
Much of what we said about the rematch between Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin can also be said of this fight. But there are some significant differences. Griffin and Bonnar never had the kind of animosity as Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock. After Tito’s vulgar t-shirt (“Gay Mezger is my B*tch”), which he put on as a post fight insult to Shamrock’s Lion’s Den, there was nearly a brawl. The police had to be called.
They ended up fighting at UFC 40: Vendetta, and after three rounds, Shamrock’s corner threw in the towel. He held his own for most of the fight, but ultimately couldn’t compete with the younger Ortiz. Furthermore, Shamrock claimed to have been fighting on a damaged ACL. Despite the early finish, this was considered one of the best fights in history at the time (and is still considered an all-time classic). Additionally, UFC 40 was considered a turning point for Zuffa as a company, as there were vastly more PPV buys than previous events.
The rematch between these two at UFC 61: Bitter Rivals was hyped up like few other fights ever have been. The fight looked like it would be great, as punches were thrown and there was a takedown in the first minute. But it was stopped at 1:18. Ortiz took Shamrock down and landed some nice elbows while in guard and the fight was stopped after Herb Dean thought that Shamrock had been knocked out. Shamrock was enraged by this early stoppage and Dana White indicated there would be a rematch shortly after the fight.
9. Randy Couture VS Vitor Belfort II
Vitor Belfort and Randy Couture had three UFC fights between 1997 and 2004. Their first meeting was a great eight minute showing by both men which ended with Couture finishing Belfort via TKO. Years later they met in the octagon again at UFC 46, with Belfort challenging Couture for the Light Heavyweight belt. In the first round, Belfort cut Couture’s eye with a hook (part of his glove damaged Couture’s actual eye) and the fight was stopped by the doctor with under a minute of action. This was monumentally disappointing, especially for those who had seen the first fight and watched Belfort’s early career.
8. Anderson Silva vs Demian Maia and Thales Leites
We already included one of the Spider’s title defenses for the fact that it ended with a wrecked knee rather than… you know, anything other than an injury. The stories around Anderson Silva’s fights with Demian Maia and Thales Leites are essentially the same. Fans got excited about his fights because of his brilliant striking. He is the G.O.A.T. after all and UFC fans fell in love with him at first sight, when he tuned Chris Leben up in under a minute in his UFC debut.
Fast forward a couple of years to these two title defenses. These two fights took place after his win over Cote and while fans and Dana White almost unanimously hated them, there really was nothing wrong with what he did. He did more of what he did during the first two rounds against Patrick Cote. He danced around, goaded his opponents and countered when they came in to attack. It was his game for his entire career, but he took it to an extreme in these two fights to the point where fans booed and Dana White apologized both times for Silva not putting on a good show.
These were Silva’s only two UFC wins by decisions and while it is worth repeating that there really isn’t anything technically wrong with his dodging and only waiting for counter opportunities, he overused this strategy and these fights ended up being barely watchable, despite featuring the greatest knockout artist in the sport’s history.
7. CM Punk’s Debut
There is only one way you were satisfied with CM Punk‘s mixed martial arts debut. That is of course if you like seeing a man in his late thirties get punched in the side of the head for two minutes. We have to respect Mickey Gall, whose performance was flawless. He’s a gifted BJJ practitioner and scored a textbook takedown and performed well on the ground. But the problem was that we all know how hard Phil Brooks works and given that he had over a year and a half to prepare for his debut, we were all expecting something more. We mean no disrespect to the man and the guts it takes to step into the octagon, but CM Punk’s first fight was disappointing.
6. Lesnar VS Hunt and Cormier VS Silva: UFC 200
To call UFC 200 a complete abomination of an event would be unfair. The Prelims were all pretty darn good, featuring first round TKOs by Jim Miller, Gegard Mousasi and Joe Lauzon; three long time UFC fighters with impressive careers. The FS1 Prelims were nothing to call home about but the T.J. Dillashaw vs Assuncao fight was entertaining and the others weren’t terrible.
Looking at the main card though, the fact that Jon Jones failed a drug test, just a few days before the fight against Daniel Cormier shook things up, after Conor McGregor had already caused drama through what many considered to be a retirement Tweet (and was subsequently removed from a potential spot on the card). Amanda Nunes and Miesha Tate took over as the main event, and Nunes tore Miesha apart and put on a clinic doing so. Also on the main card was an Interim Featherweight Championship bout between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar, which was 25 minutes of solid scrapping. They put on a war.
The Brock Lesnar fight with Mark Hunt and just the thought of a fighter like Daniel Cormier stepping into the octagon with Anderson Silva; both fights had so much promise and failed to deliver. There’s nothing wrong with a good grappling match, but these two fights were not entertaining. Cormier laid on top of Silva for fifteen minutes and Lesnar did the same to Hunt. We can’t say this enough, the problem with these two fights had nothing to do with the grappling, but with the fact that they were incredibly boring and one-sided while on the floor.
5. Frank Mir VS Mirko Cro Crop
Frank Mir, a two-time UFC Heavyweight champ, and one of the finest submission experts the sport of mixed martial arts has ever seen, took on Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic back in 2010. Both are still fighting today and both started competing in the early 2000s. It is noteworthy that Mir has been with the UFC longer than any other fighter on the roster. Mir’s list of victims at the time included Tank Abbott, Tim Sylvia, Brock Lesnar and Antonio “Big Nog” Nogueira. Mirko’s notable wins included Josh Barnett (three times), Kevin Randleman, and possibly most impressive, “the Gracie Hunter” Kazushi Sakuraba.
Between Mir’s ability to grapple and submit guys, and Mirko’s striking (some of the finest kicks the martial arts community has ever seen), this could have been a great clash of two styles. Granted, both of these guys were not at the peak of their careers, but this had the feel of something special.
Mir and Cro Cop had other plans, apparently. They danced around a bit, had a few minutes of monumentally uninteresting clinch-work, threw some strikes to make sure the crowd wouldn’t forget they were at an MMA event, but there was only one impressive moment in the entire fight. Mir landed a great knee to the head late in the third round and that ended it.
4. UFC 149: Mostly Lombard VS Boetsch
Back in 2012, this event was the first time the UFC came to Alberta, Canada. The undercard was actually pretty fun to watch, with a close decision, a submission and two knockouts, including one by Ryan Jimmo (who was killed earlier this summer) which remains the second fastest knockout in the history of the promotion.
To the dismay of Dana White, who said he felt like he was back “at UFC 33”, the main card of the event was terrible. White commented that one of his main problems with the main card included Cheick Kongo and Shawn Jordan clinching for three rounds and the ref doing nothing to get them to actually fight. Furthermore he said that the main event, which saw Renan Barao pick apart Urijah Faber for five rounds, was very technical and while he didn’t hate the fight, he could see why fans were booing. But the biggest disappointment of the night was Hector Lombard’s performance against Tim Boetsch.
At the time, Lombard had won his last 24 fights. He had held the Cage Fighting Championships Middleweight belt, and held the Middleweight Championship in Bellator. His UFC debut was not only a boring fight overall, but also a complete disappoint to anyone who had followed his career up until that point.
3. UFC 33
We’ve seen it constantly through this article; fights and cards that look great on paper but then turn into garbage inside the octagon. This card looked like it would be incredible. It took place in September of 2001, at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The main card saw three title fights to end the night, involving Tito Ortiz and Vladimir Matyushenko for the Light Heavyweight title, Jens Pulver and Dennis Hallman for the Lightweight belt and Dave Menne against Gil Castillo for the Middleweight Championship. The other two fights on the main card included the likes of Matt Serra and Chuck Liddell, fighting Yves Edwards and Murilo Bustamante respectively.
The problem was, while all these fights looked promising, they all ended up being boring and going to decision. The final bout of the night was particularly bad, with Tito Ortiz having his way with Matyushenko. The fact that some providers stopped airing the event halfway through that main event didn’t help things either, as Dana White has used UFC 33 as the measuring stick for a poor event ever since, such as UFC 149.
2. Conor McGregor VS Jose Aldo
There are two ways to look at the Featherweight Championship belt between Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo. On the one hand, the Irishman set a new record for the quickest finish in UFC Championship fight history and delivered the first and only knockout Aldo has suffered in his career. But on the other hand, their caliber of smack talk that preceded this bout was unbelievable, and a thirteen second fight did not deliver. Fans wanted to see a war, and unfortunately that’s not what they got. This isn’t to take away from McGregor’s ability or performance, but given how much these guys clearly hated each other, enthusiasts thought that they were going to see five rounds of mayhem.
Don’t get us wrong, it is an impressive knockout, but even the McGregor fanboys who knew nothing about MMA, except for their favorite smooth-talking, well-dressed Irishman tearing up the Featherweight division weren’t looking for a 13 second finish. Aldo expressed his desire for a rematch several times, but recently requested a release from the UFC after not being given that rematch.
1. UFC 9: Severn VS Shamrock II
This event nearly didn’t happen back in May 1996. It was the first UFC event that did not take the form of a tournament, and instead featured seven fights; six on the main card, and then the Championship, which would be a rematch between legends Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock. At UFC 6, just a year earlier, Shamrock had submitted Severn to win the UFC Championship, and while that fight was short and sweet, the fans were drooling for a rematch. The problem was, a frightened busybody from Arizona named Senator John McCain, was on a rampage trying to destroy the UFC in its infancy.
To make a long story short, after a brief legal battle, this event in Detroit was only allowed to take place if headbutts and closed fist strikes were not used by fighters. All six of the main card bouts involved copious punching and all finished by TKO. But the final fight of the night, that rematch between Severn and Shamrock, was just a travesty. There were a couple of open handed strikes thrown by Shamrock, a few punches by Severn, a couple of takedown attempts, and some time spent in the clinch, but when all was said and done, most of the thirty minutes was spent dancing in a circle. When the commentators point out how bored they are, your fight has a problem.