So as we have some MMA downtime, I thought I would take a look at some big time UFC title fights that were seemingly on the horizon, but due to winds of change never happened. Most of these are recent as I did not feel the need to dig too far back in the memory bank, so here we go:
Matt Serra (c) vs. Matt Hughes at UFC 79 - Yeah, the fight eventually happened but it was long after their Ultimate Fighter coaching stint and came on the heels of both being destroyed by Georges St. Pierre (as well as Hughes being flattened by Thiago Alves). The buildup and animosity between the two made their season of the Ultimate Fighter very watchable. Unfortunately, the two met while making their downslide in the welterweight division, though the UFC 98 bout was probably one of the better fights on that night. I question how big the fight would have been had it come to fruition when it was supposed to rather than later, but I think everything worked out in the long run as either guy holding the belt after 79 would have been simply keeping it warm for GSP.
Lyoto Machida (c) vs. Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson at UFC 104 - This fight was all but signed when Lyoto Machida 'stanky-legged' Rashad Evans at the aforementioned UFC 98. 'Rampage' the guy that was supposed to fight Rashad for the belt that night had to pull out due to nagging injuries, so Machida had no problems filling the void. Also, at the time the light heavyweight division was in a rebuilding phase as there were very few contenders for 'the Dragon' due to him either having already murdered them (Thiago Silva) or because other contenders were already booked (Forrest Griffin preparing to be slaughtered by Anderson Silva) so the fight made sense. Oddly enough though, 'Rampage' opted to coach alongside foe Rashad Evans instead of taking the title fight that he had earned. Would this meeting have changed the landscape of the light heavyweight division had it happened or would the winner just be preparing for a 'Shogun' beatdown.
Anderson Silva (c) vs. Michael Bisping at UFC ??? - Michael Bisping's UFC 100 bout with Dan Henderson wasn't actually billed as a contender eliminator but we all know that had Bisping outpointed Dan he would have moved to the front of the line. However, Dan Henderson's right hand decided it would have none of that. Would the fight have been competitive? Absolutely not. Would this have given the 'Spider' another clip on his highlight reel? Absolutely!
Rashad Evans (c) vs. Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson at UFC 98 - Just like the Serra/Hughes fight this actually happened but it too was long after their coaching stint on TUF and at a time when neither was the champion. This fight was supposed to go down for the belt after Rampage's win over Keith Jardine at UFC 96 and was built around the now famous staredown following that fight, however, as stated due to nagging injuries Rampage had to pull out of the event and Machida changed the course of the division forever. The fight eventually happened not long ago and was a huge hit buyrate wise for the UFC, so I somewhat feel the fact that this bout fell through and was able to be properly built up for months helped in the long run. Although I think Rampage may have faired a little better had it happened earlier than later.
Forrest Griffin (c) vs. Chuck Liddell at UFC 92 - Oh boy, while this event still did big numbers and was probably one of the UFC's best, just think of how much bigger/better it would have been had Forrest, the newly crowned champion, taken on the legend Chuck Liddell in his first title defense. Dana White and co. were all but preparing for this monumental match up but there was just one problem. Chuck was coming off a loss to Keith Jardine and you really can't justify giving a guy a title shot when coming off a loss (unless you're Strikeforce). With that said, they found the perfect opponent to propel Chuck back up the ladder - Rashad Evans. Unfortunately, Rashad did not get the memo and in front of a raucous Atlanta crowd proceeded to behead Chuck and send him crashing to the bottom of the division he had ruled for so long.
Randy Couture (c) vs. Mirko Cro Cop at UFC 74 - The UFC has a knack for impeccably putting together title fights that not only make sense but have intrigue, just look at how the UFC 100 main event between Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir worked. Then, they have this debacle. Now I'm not a person that likes hotshotting but there are circumstances which justify it every now and then...this was one of them. Fresh out of Pride and a first round beating of Eddie Sanchez at UFC 67, it would have only made sense for Zuffa to put the popular Croatian in the cage against the newly crowned, out of retirement champion Randy Couture. It just made perfect sense! Instead though, the UFC, I'm assuming, needed Cro Cop to get one more highlight reel performance before putting that bout together so they put him in a number contender match with Brazilian jiu-jitsu practicioner Gabriel Gonzaga. It was to be an easy night and perfect setup...had Gonzaga been aware of their intentions. One left high kick later (not from the person you would expect) and Cro Cop was snuggly in dreamland, the only place this bout could take place now.