Solving a Puzzle at 205

Posted: August 3, 2012 in Marketing, PR, UFC

From Getty Images/UFC.com

I’m incredibly confused.  The UFC is one of the best marketing machines I’ve ever seen and rarely do I question the organizations pushes…but I am very perplexed at what the fallout of UFC on Fox: Shogun vs Vera could mean for the light heavyweight division.  UFC President Dana White has stated a stand out performance by either of the co-main events could result in a shot at the winner of Jones-Henderson.

What?

Taking away the sheer numbers of who “deserves” a shot, I am looking at this from a strict marketing/PR/Sales perspective.  How do you sell that fight?  Should Jones beat Henderson, tying Liddell for 4 straight title defenses and moving closer to Tito Ortiz’s record 5  defenses – who will he face:

  • Brandon Vera: A fighter with 1 win in 4 years and someone who was steamrolled already by Jones 2 years ago.
  • Shogun Rua: A beast and fan favorite, but a fighter who is now plagued with injury. There is no way to know which Shogun will come to a fight, the beast who went toe-to-toe with Lyoto Machida and took the crown, or the injured Rua who was picked apart by Jones and was just able to survive against Dan Henderson.
  • Ryan Bader: The Darth one has an impeccable record with only two losses – one to Jones and another to Tito Ortiz. Although Bader is likely the most deserving in this pack, the intrigue of the fight was ruined by the earlier meeting with Jones.  At the time of their fight, the two represented the “future” of the LHW division and I wish their battle had been put on hold in order to further develop both their skills.  Although this rematch would be more challenging for Jones now that Bader has learned from his losses, from a fan perspective it is a tough sell when you know Jones won the first encounter.
  • Lyoto Machida: The Dragon’s mystique is gone. Although a skilled fighter with much to offer fans, after his choke out loss to Jones it will be hard for fans to tune in to see if the Dragon can change history the second time around.

I am not ruling out the fact that these gentlemen could be facing a new LHW champion in Dan Henderson. In fact you have to wonder if the UFC is banking on this reality with this title shot decision. Henderson is a work horse and a skilled fighter – if anyone can beat Jones it is him. Should that happen, Vera is now the only “non-draw” for the title fight.  From a marketing perspective with Rua there is a throwback to  Pride and a rematch of a fight of the year contender; with Machida there is a battle of champions angle; and, of course – with Bader there is the classic young lion, old lion battle.

As I type this out, the more this makes sense.  Only if Henderson dethrones Jones will any of these fights provide value to fans.  Should Jones continue his dominance, we may only hope his next fight is headlining a free fight night on FX and not a PPV….

From Getty Images/UFC.com

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