Commentary

Five most dreadful UFC main events

Updated: April 22, 2009, 11:03 AM ET
By Tomas Rios | Sherdog.com

Anderson & LeitesEd Mulholland for ESPN.comUFC 87 in a nutshell: Thales Leites on the ground and Anderson Silva in full nonattack mode.

As the UFC nears 100 shows under the Zuffa LLC banner, quality has become the one characteristic upon which fans can count -- quality fighters, quality fights and no 8-foot Mongolian wrestlers battling taekwondo gold medalists.

All the planning in the world, however, can only delay the inevitable. Put on enough fights, and you better believe you'll end up with a handful that make a Zac Efron movie seem exciting by comparison. If it happens when no one is watching, what's the difference? Put on a snoozer of a main event, though, and you have what amounts to an 18-car pileup worthy of a cheesy car-crash highlight reel -- hard to watch, but impossible to turn away from.

Here's a list of the Zuffa-era UFC main event disasters.

UFC 33: Tito Ortiz versus Vladimir Matyushenko, Las Vegas, Sept. 28, 2001

When I try to spark someone's interest in amateur wrestling, the No. 1 complaint I hear is that the matches are too short. My rebuttal: Watch this fight. No one needs to watch 25 minutes of grappling, especially when it's as dreadful as this.

Between the completely pedestrian wrestling and boring top control (read: lay and pray), this fight was so bad that you got sucked into it by assuming it had to improve at some point. After all, Ortiz's light heavyweight title was up for grabs, and that alone should have provided some inspiration. Before you knew it, a half-hour of your life was gone, and all you had to show for it was a pair of bloodshot eyes.

Sure, Matyushenko was brought in on short notice to replace the chronically injured Vitor Belfort. But this was the first UFC event with Zuffa calling the shots and the first mixed martial arts event sanctioned by the Nevada Athletic Commission. After this debacle, we're lucky the Fertitta brothers didn't sell the UFC at a pawn shop for 20 bucks and matching gold chains.

UFC 97: Anderson Silva versus Thales Leites, Montreal, April 18, 2009

Fans and analysts alike love revisionist history, especially when it comes to their own fight predictions. The day after a big fight, everyone claims they saw the end game coming from a mile away. Well, no one saw this coming.

It was universally agreed upon that either Leites would expose Silva's supposedly faulty jiu-jitsu or Silva would remove Leites' head from his shoulders. Instead, we got five rounds of Leites guard-flopping like some jiu-jitsu rookie and Silva's version of Mr. Miyagi's wax-on-wax-off routine. I assume most readers have seen this fight already; if you're one of the lucky few who hasn't, keep it that way.

[+] EnlargeAndrei 'The Pitbull' Arlovski and Tim Sylvia
Ryan Born/Getty ImagesArlovski-Sylvia III featured a whole lot of standing around … and not much else.

UFC 61: Tim Sylvia vs. Andrei Arlovski, Las Vegas, July 8, 2006

After they traded spectacular finishes in their first two fights, there was no way the rubber match in the Sylvia-Arlovski trilogy could not be another heavyweight slugfest for the ages. … Right? As it turns out, both guys went into the match hell-bent on not getting knocked out. And while no one wants to get his or her brain punted into the third row, every fighter has to make peace with the fact that his or her chosen profession falls in the domain of broken bones and scrambled synapses.

Mutual refusal to acknowledge that concept leads to fights like this one, a seeming eternity of halfhearted kickboxing and sloppy ballet. Not even an obvious knee injury suffered by Arlovski midfight swayed Sylvia to do anything beyond flicking his jab and bobbing his head around like a teenage boxer trying out his Jack Dempsey imitation. The only bright side to this fight: It was one of several that made the UFC reconsider its would-be heavyweight standard-bearers.

UFC Fight Night 1: Nate Marquardt vs. Ivan Salaverry, Las Vegas, Aug. 6, 2005

When you put two fundamentally sound, strategically minded fighters in the same cage, you hope it results in some top-notch mixed martial arts. Of course, you risk them canceling out each other and ending up in a stalemate.

The UFC paid for its gamble with a three-round impasse as the main event in its new Spike TV fight series. From the opening bell, it was plain to see that Marquardt and Salaverry entered the fight knowing the winner would be poised for a run at the middleweight title. But the prospect of a loss and a one-way ticket to the preliminary card that could accompany it seemed to concern them more. By the closing bell, fans were hoping to never see either fighter again.

[+] EnlargeMatt Hughes & Royce Gracie
Gregg DeGuire/Getty ImagesHad he been a decade younger, Gracie still would have been hopelessly overmatched against Hughes.

UFC 60: Matt Hughes vs. Royce Gracie, Los Angeles, May 27, 2006

MMA fans do not like having their collective intelligence insulted. Back when the UFC was off pay-per-view and relegated to tiny arenas just north of the middle of nowhere, they traded tapes and hooked up ginormous satellites just to stay up to date on the sport. These are not the fans to whom you want to sell a false bill of goods.

When the UFC came up with the bright idea to set up a catchweight fight between then-welterweight champion Matt Hughes and 39-year-old Royce Gracie, the fans smelled a cash grab -- and rightfully so. Even a physically in-his-prime Gracie had no business being in the same cage as Hughes, and no one needed to watch a jiu-jitsu fighter who had eschewed cross-training nearly his entire life get pounded out by a modern mixed martial artist.

The only thing worse than a boring fight is an anticlimactic one, and nothing could be more anticlimactic than watching this bout go down after spending years observing the sport's evolution.

Tomas Rios is a contributor to Sherdog.com.