For UFC matchmaker Joe Silva and the rest of the gang at Zuffa, the last three months have been among the worst since the company bought the promotion from Bob Meyrowitz in 2001. The bad luck has been unprecedented. Injuries up and down the roster, along with a few contract disputes and miscellany, have left the UFC struggling to fill their next two cards.
It may have started with welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, who injured his groin in his UFC 100 triumph over Thiago Alves, costing the popular champion six months of training time. But more accurately, it should be dubbed “the curse of Cain.” Ever since the UFC pulled heavyweight contender Cain Velasquez from his scheduled fight with Shane Carwin at UFC 104 ( a fight for a shot at the UFC champion Brock Lesnar), things have gone a bit awry for the boys in Vegas.
Lesnar is out, at first possibly forever, then indefinitely, then six months, with an injury that morphed from cancer to the swine flu, to mono, to hepatitis, before finally settling on irritable bowel or something. Losing Lesnar, their top star, would be bad enough. But he was just the highest profile. Heavyweights, not coincidentally Velasquez’s weight class, were the hardest hit. Todd Duffee pulled out of a fight with Paul Buentello at UFC 107 with an undisclosed injury. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira got staph. Shane Carwin decided to rest a bum knee. And Gabriel Gonzaga, set to fight Nogueira’s protege Junior Dos Santos at UFC 108, also fell victim to staph.
The heavyweights weren’t the only ones falling victim to the wrath of Cain. Teammate Jon Fitch, originally fighting Ricardo Almeida at UFC 106, saw his opponent change from Almeida, to Thiago Alves, to Mike Pierce in a matter of weeks. The Ultimate Fighter Finale card lost Kurt Pellegrino. Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva is waiting for his elbow to heal (and for an opponent and a price he likes). Light Heavyweight challenger Quinton Jackson, unhappy with his pay check, has escaped to the movies. Tito Ortiz had to fight Forrest Griffin before he was ready at UFC 106 when Mark Coleman injured his knee.
It’s carnage out there, but a short staffed UFC could have it much worse. Originally a show was scheduled for Dublin in January. That one was wisely cancelled, a prudent move for a promotion facing a talent crisis. But there was no real consideration given to combining UFC 108 and 109 to provide fans with a single card worthy of the UFC name.
Instead they will trot out Rashad Evans-Thiago Silva at UFC 108 and Randy Couture-Mark Coleman at UFC 109 and pretend they are real main events, instead of merely attractive feature bouts for the second from the top slot. If these shows flop, don’t blame the matchmakers. It’s the curse of Cain that caused the chaos.