Opinion: The Near Meltdown of UFC 161 and Sonnen vs. Rua
By Jesse Heitz
Not too long ago, the injury bug struck the headlining bout of another UFC event, UFC 161. The featured bout was to be an old Pride FC grudge match of sorts, between Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Pride fans were undoubtedly anxious to get a second chance to relive some of the Chute Boxe/Brazilian Top Team rivalry that dominated an era.
Everything looked great, and then Nogueira was forced to withdraw from the event after suffering a herniated disc in his back. Naturally, the UFC scrambled to find a suitable replacement on such short notice, two weeks to be more specific, lest they repeat the promotionally disastrous events of last fall.
The UFC’s brass called the one man that is apparently at the top of their speed dial when it comes to last minute replacements. Enter Chael Sonnen, the man who has developed a boss-pleasing knack of being able to step into a void and salvage seemingly doomed cards. Apparently Sonnen has recovered from his UFC 159 thrashing at the hands of UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Jon “Bones” Jones, as he’s eager to jump back into the cage with a man in “Shogun” Rua that’s not long removed from being considered the best light heavyweight in the world, less than two months following the aforementioned fight.
A couple of days ago, disaster struck again, and the Sonnen v. Rua fight was dropped from the UFC 161 lineup after it was revealed that Sonnen was unable to obtain a visa for travel into Canada. Fight fans, at least those who were interested in this fight—which seems to be a mixed-bag at best, can rejoice as the fight has been rescheduled for August 17th’s UFC on Fox Sports 1:1 Shogun vs. Sonnen, this time in Boston.
What fight fans are left with is a UFC on Fox Sports card that in my opinion, has more depth and is simply put, a better card, that its $50+ pay-per-view predecessor in UFC 161, which had already lost its main event in Renan Barao vs. Eddie Wineland, after Barao was forced to withdraw following an injury.
I can fully understand that travel issues and injuries can drastically alter fight cards, but let’s be honest UFC 161, outside of a questionably relevant fight between Dan Henderson and Rashad Evans, it’s a card worthy of free television, not half a C-note. I applaud the UFC’s efforts to make a fight materialize on short notice, but they had better exercise equal efforts at taking care of their exceptionally well paying customers too.