For the very first time, the UFC will be heading to Manitoba, Canada. More specifically, the MTS Center in Winnipeg. And it feels like nobody cares. UFC 161 is a card that has been broken and put back together again, rather shoddily. As a result, the enthusiasm for this event is somewhat non-existent.
This event and its original line-up wasn’t the strongest of pay-per-views to begin with, so once it lost its main event and a prominent main card bout it became a card more suited to a Fuel TV slot.
May 21 was the beginning of the end for UFC 161. It was the day that Renan Barao pulled out of the main event, an interim bantamweight title fight against Eddie Wineland. It would have been Barao’s second defense of his title and the fight was the event’s main source of credibility. With the fight scrapped, a lot of the drawing power of UFC 161 was lost.
After this, in a bid to reinforce the main card, the UFC decided to remove Soa Palelei from his fight with Stipe Miocic and replace him with Roy Nelson. A fighter with a much bigger name and fan base.
The final nail in UFC 161’s coffin came just twelve days before the event was due to take place, when it was announced that Antonio Rogerio Nogueira had to pull out of his rematch with Shogun Rua due to a back injury. Rather cruelly for the much suffering Western Canadian fans, a potential Sonnen vs. Rua fight was dangled in front of them only to be taken away because of Sonnen’s alleged visa issues. That fight will now main event the UFC’s inaugural event on Fox Sports 1 in Boston.
These changes decimated the card. The fight that has now been bumped up to the main event is Rashad Evans vs. Dan Henderson, both of whom are coming off losses. Hardly what you would expect from the main event of a pay-per-view. In fact, in the main three fights, five out of the six fighters are coming off losses. Only Roy Nelson is riding a winning streak. To call this pay-per-view fight card shallow would be kind.
To say that this event ‘doesn’t really matter’ is obviously hyperbole, but hyperbole that has its base in truth. UFC 161 will not feature a title fight nor will it even feature a fight to determine a number one contender, very unusual for a pay-per-view event.
Other than pride, there isn’t much else to fight for on Saturday night. Very few of the fighters involved are ranked high enough to cause an impact upon their division with a win and the majority of those that are actually ranked in the top ten are coming off a loss. The only fighter who is in the top ten of his division and is carrying some momentum is Roy Nelson. However, he is facing someone he is expected to dispose of handily. Miocic has only been fighting professionally a little over three years and was knocked out in his last outing; a win over him will do little to advance Nelson’s standing in the heavyweight division.
So UFC 161 will have little to no effect in the big picture, that isn’t to say it won’t be fun though. Both Evans and Henderson suffered lackluster losses in their last fights, the loser in this fight is finished as a contender. This should prompt an exciting fight, an impressive win is the only way to ensure one of them stays relevant. The card also features two heavyweight bouts, the other being Barry vs. Jordan, in which all four fighters are aggressive strikers. It’s almost certain that both those fights will end with someone on their back dazed and confused. Alexis Davis will fight Rosi Sexton in only the fourth women’s fight in the UFC and if they follow the example set by the last three, they will most likely steal fight of the night.
So UFC 161 will likely be a fun night of fights with very little consequence. Which sounds perfect for an event on Fuel TV, but this won’t be shown on free television. The UFC are expecting fans to pay for the privilege of watching this card and that may prove to be a very difficult task for an event that ‘doesn’t really matter’.