UFC looks to retain public interest after cancellation of UFC 176

The UFC suffered a rare setback this week when it announced the cancellation of UFC 176, only the second cancelled pay-per-view event in the organization’s history. Featherweight titleholder Jose Aldo, whose championship defense against Chad Mendes was set to headline the event, was forced to withdraw from the fight last week with shoulder and neck injuries. With the August 2 date less than a month away, UFC elected to cancel the event rather than rush to find a replacement main card, partly thanks to the lack of recognizable names on the undercard. They simply couldn’t justify hosting the event when the biggest draw in a night of relatively low-key fights was no longer in play.

Aldo-Mendes II will have to wait

Aldo-Mendes II will have to wait

The Aldo-Mendes title fight looks like it may be rescheduled for the already-planned PPV event at the end of October in Rio de Janeiro, the site of the grapplers’ first meeting in 2012 in which Aldo KO’d Mendes in the first round. The Ronaldo Souza-Gegard Mousasi bout – a matchup of former Strikeforce champions which was reportedly nearly promoted to the main card of UFC 176 before the event was officially canceled – will become the headliner for UFC Fight Night Connecticut on September 5. Bobby Green will now fight Josh Thomson on the undercard of UFC Fight Night San Jose in two weeks, while Green’s scheduled opponent Abel Trujillo will square up with Ross Pearson at UFC Fight Night Bangor on August 16. The remaining fights on the card will be distributed among several upcoming events, in addition to those fights already scheduled:

UFC Fight Night Bangor – August 16
Gray Maynard vs. Fabricio Camoes
Jussier Formiga vs. Zach Makovsky
James Vick vs. Walmir Lazaro

UFC Fight Night Tulsa – August 23
Tony Martin vs. Beneil Dariush

UFC 177 – August 30
Danny Castillo vs. Tony Ferguson
Derek Brunson vs. Lorenz Larkin
Shayna Baszler vs. Bethe Correia

The news comes at a tough time for the UFC, which has lost huge draws like Georges St-Pierre, Anderson Silva, Cain Velazquez, and Rashad Evans to injuries this year. Jon Jones, Chris Weidman, and Ronda Rousey can only fight so often, after all. Yahoo! Sports’ Kevin Iole has a great analysis of why these fighters haven’t yet discovered how to command the attention and the dollars of the injured superstars, and what they can do to change that.

Rousey in particular is an interesting case. The women’s bantamweight champ has only one drawback: she’s TOO dominant. She’s head, shoulders, and torso above every other woman in her class, as evidenced by the 16 seconds it took her to knock out Alexa Davis in her fourth straight title defense at UFC 175 last week. Rarely do her fights last much longer than one minute. Simply put, she’s boring to watch because nobody can compete with her.

Which is why UFC head honcho Dana White is now focusing on throwing some real competition at his new money maker. After signing boxer and undefeated MMA fighter Holly Holm, who many people think will be the first real challenge of Rousey’s career, White claims to be close to inking a contract with the legendary Gina Carano as well. Carano, of course, is the women’s MMA pioneer and idol of Rousey who hasn’t fought professionally since 2009. A Carano-Rousey matchup playing up the storyline of Carano’s return to the octagon would predictably launch PPV buys and ticket sales through the roof. While we impatiently await the returns of GSP and Silva, and the appearance of a real competitor for Jon Jones, the women’s division may soon put a rear naked chokehold on public interest.