When booked correctly, rematches have the power to reignite feuds and entire years of history, and build-up coming fights within seconds— having them flash before your eyes as if you were reliving them, and instantly you want, no, you crave more.
That’s when booked correctly. The UFC hasn’t always booked their rematches correctly, as we found out in 2021.
Diaz vs. McGregor, Jones vs. Cormier, Junior dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez, Penn vs. GSP, Wanderlei Silva vs. Rampage, Lesnar vs. Mir, Silva vs. Sonnen, and Henderson vs. Bisping are all names that come to mind when I think of historic rivalries where the ‘B’ fighter in the rivalry was just as important as the ‘A’ fighter. That is to say each fighter brought something of importance to the bout and even the loser came out with something to show for it. These rivalries also had time — years — to breathe.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship has tried to rush things recently — they’ve tried to inorganically create rivalries out of rematches. The fights may still be good, but they lack the natural anticipation that typically comes with grudge matches; they feel phony.
These ‘Rivalries’ felt forced
Moreno vs. Figueiredo
The frequency with which former champions have been granted immediate UFC title rematches has without question watered down many divisions in recent years. Look no further than the UFC Flyweight division — where the championship is about to be decided in the third straight bout between champion Brandon Moreno and former champ Deiveson Figueiredo. That means it will have been 427 days come UFC 270 since there has been fresh blood in the title picture.
I forgive the bookers for making the initial rematch coming off of a draw, but making Brandon Moreno defend his belt against Figueiredo again after just facing him twice and winning the second fight in dominant fashion is just baffling. It means there are no deserving challengers in the flyweight division; the division is weak, or at least it appears that way from the outside looking in. The two will meet again in two weeks at UFC 270.
Masvidal vs. Usman
Jorge Masvidal is another man who received a title shot that he did not deserve. He did of course step in on short notice at UFC 251 to face Kamaru Usman for the UFC Welterweight Championship in a fight that he very much deserved to be in, though he lost that fight in a relatively boring five-round unanimous decision. Masvidal did deserve that first title shot, but he was also granted an immediate rematch without proving that he had made the necessary changes to contend with Usman on the feet.
Jorge was granted another title shot because the first fight was reported to have done 1.3 million Pay-Per-View buys, which would place UFC 251 about seventh all-time for UFC events in terms of buys, and not off the back of a hard-fought victory. Ultimately, Masvidal would succumb to Usman again – this time by knockout at UFC 261, an event which only did around 700,000 buys.
Usman #UFC pic.twitter.com/C6a4bqs3Eo
— Lawrence Obonyo (@LawrenceObonyo2) April 25, 2021
While still a success by UFC standards, the fight had nowhere near the amount of interest as the initial encounter.
More recent examples
A few honorable mentions: Stipe Miocic being granted an immediate rematch against Daniel Cormier and then Daniel Cormier being granted an immediate rematch when he lost the first rematch. Rose Namajunas had to defeat and then defend her title immediately against Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 217 and UFC 223 respectively (and then did the same last year against Weili Zhang). Max Holloway had to defeat Jose Aldo and then repeat the feat just six months later. Alexander Volkanovski had to defeat Max Holloway at UFC 245 and again at UFC 251. Max has just now worked his way back to a third fight with Volkanovski, but now we’re in a predicament where a fourth fight seems inevitable if the third contest is even remotely close.