UFC Fight Night 32: Belfort vs. Henderson takes place this Saturday in Gioania, Brazil, and will be live and free on Fox Sports 1. It is the UFC’s second free card in a week’s time, but with the addition of so many free cards to the UFC’s already packed schedule, is the quality of their product suffering?
The main event of the night is as good as it gets for a non-title bout in the UFC. Two popular veterans of the sport, who have both obtained championship status, locked in a rematch years in the making. Vitor Belfort has looked like an animal lately, knocking out both Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold in his past two bouts. Dan Henderson has looked less than impressive, losing back-to-back split decisions against Lyoto Machida and Rashad Evans, but still hold the H-bomb in his right hand.
When it comes to the main event, this card has peaked interest. Now it’s up to then rest of the main card to reel the audience in, and get them to take hours of their Saturday off to watch the event. That is where this fight card falls flat.
Every fighter from the 1st fight of the night to the co-main event is unranked. Not even a top ten flyweight on the card. The co-main event sees two middleweights, Cezar Ferrira and Daniel Sarafian, from The Ultimate Fighter Brazil fighting it out to decide the rightful winner of the first season of TUF Brazil. Ferreira won the season of TUF Brazil, beating Sergio Moraes in the finale after Moraes replaced an injured Sarafian in the finale. An exciting fight for the Brazilian fan base, but nowhere close to a suitable co-main event slot, even for free TV.
The fight before the co-main event will see former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante, who is 1-2 with one no contest in his past four fights, facing Croatian fighter Igor Pokrajac, who after three straight wins has gone 0-2 with one no contest. It’s a fight that includes a former champion, but no one is tuning in to Saturday’s fights to see which one of these fighters is the next big thing at 205.
The rest of the card is a mix of veteran Brazilian fighters, feisty up and comers, and a few TUF alumni. Without the main event, this card would be a disaster, of course, from a fan interest perspective. As the president of the UFC Dana White always says, you can’t call a card crap before it has even happened. Although that logic is sound, ratings and fan interest in a card doesn’t depend on how the fights turn out, they depend on the big names and interesting stylistic matchups.
The UFC has six events planned for the rest of the year. The two PPV’s are stacked to the brim with talent and matchups that the fans want to see. The lone free TV event on big Fox has a card that makes some PPV cards look bad, with incredible depth and a main event title fight. That leaves three cards within the next two months with very little talent to pick from, resulting in sub-par main events as well as entire cards with only one or two ranked fighters.
The UFC cannot expect their fans to set aside hours each weekend when they are not giving fans fights they want to see until the last hour of the event. A fan should want to set aside an entire afternoon for the event, not turn on the fights once the main event starts. Belfort against Henderson should be a wild fight, with a lot on the line for the two, so hopefully the rest of the fighters on the card come out guns blazing so that the audience at home doesn’t get impatient waiting for this epic rematch.