Often the unsung hero of the promotion, UFC matchmaker Joe Silva deserves plaudits for the UFC 116 fight card which was a roaring success on Saturday night.
Leading up to the event all the attention was focused on the headline bout, a dream heavyweight match-up between two giants in Brock Lesnar Vs Shane Carwin.
A blockbuster fight like that practically sells itself, with expectations of around the one million pay-per-view buys prior to the event. Therefore the rest of the UFC 116 card was noticeably lacking in star-power, with some of the company’s other big guns being kept back for future events
That led to a little criticism leading up to the event from fans and some media pundits, but, as I noted in my pre-fight preview for the event on Friday, the main card bouts they did have in place may not have been the most glamorous on paper, but they were carefully matched to provide great entertainment.
For instance even before the action got underway it was clear there were already at least a couple of potential ‘Fight Of The Night’ encounters in George Sotiropoulos Vs Kurt Pellegrino and Chris Lytle Vs Matt Brown.
At first glance a rematch between Stephan Bonnar and Krzysztof Soszynski might not have seen like a meaningful main card attraction, but their previous encounter had been a three round war, and though neither may be a genuine contender at 205lbs, they both are known for leaving it all in the cage.
Bringing in Chris Leben as a late replacement for the injured Wanderlei Silva to face Yoshihiro Akiyama was also a master stroke by Joe Silva.
I was surprised that some people seemed a little down on the change initially. Perhaps they were just disappointed at Silva being out, but if the concept behind the main card was to provide entertaining fights, then Leben was the right man for the job, bringing a similar energy and commitment to the fight as Wanderlei would have.
Of course the icing on the cake was the main event. After all the good work done by the other fighters on the card it would have been a real disappointment if the main event had been a flop. Far from it though, it provided yet more edge-of-the-seat entertainment, and ensured that this was one event in which everyone went home happy.
For me the event highlighted one of the things that I think is so great about MMA, and that you don’t need to have stacked cards with only big stars, title fights and No.1 contenders to have an exciting night of fights.
If you’ve got good fighters who are willing to put it all on the line and a matchmaker that knows which fights will bring out the best in them then great events like UFC 116 can happen.