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Does Bisping-Evans Deserve to Be the Main Event for UFC 78?

Michael Bisping and Rashad Evans will square off on Nov. 17 as the main event of UFC 78 in New Jersey, the organization announced yesterday. This news made me glad that I didn’t decide to buy tickets to this event, even though it’s the closest the UFC has come to New York City since I’ve lived here.

First of all, the event is in Newark, which is probably the worst city in America. It combines the squalor of a heavily industrialized town with the rampant crime and violence of an economically depressed one, making for one giant cesspool of unpleasantness.

Second, Bisping-Evans doesn’t seem like a main event. Not for a big time pay-per-view, anyway. If this were a UFC Fight Night or some other free TV broadcast, I wouldn’t complain. But if you want my $39.95 you have to give me a real main event, and some other bouts that are better than the likes of Hector Lombard vs. Karo Parysian wouldn’t hurt either.

For the purposes of this discussion, it may be helpful to determine what makes a fight a main event. Contrary to what the UFC seems to believe, there’s more to it than just calling it one. As far as I’m concerned, a main event has to meet at least one of three criteria:

1) A championship title is at stake

2) If no title is at stake, it should be a fight to determine number one contender status

3) It is a grudge match of some kind with special personal significance for both fighters

Granted, I’m sure I could think of some exceptions if I really tried hard enough, but I think those criteria are pretty fair. If it isn’t a title fight and it isn’t a fight to see who gets the next title fight, I have to ask why it deserves to be the headlining bout. If it’s because both guys hate each other or have something to prove against one another (a rematch maybe, if the first meeting was great) then I’m all for it.

But Bisping-Evans doesn’t meet any of those definitions. Bisping is coming off a lackluster win with his questionable decision over Matt Hamill. Evans is coming off a fairly exciting draw with Tito Ortiz. It makes sense to have both Bisping and Evans on this card, but why against each other?

This brings up a possible fourth criteria for a main event: if you can’t provide quality, settle for quantity.

I’d be perfectly fine with this card if both Bisping-Hamill II and Evans-Ortiz II were on it, perhaps as co-main events. That way, when I consider whether to spend my money on the pay-per-view (or whether to actually get out in the world on Saturday night), I’m comforted by the thought that with two potentially big rematches on the card, at least one of them will probably deliver.

Plus, you have to wonder why Evans isn’t matched with Ortiz here, and if maybe it has something to do with the UFC holding Ortiz out so they can put him against Wanderlei Silva (in place of Chuck Liddell) in December.

What concerns me most about the UFC simply labeling Bisping-Evans as the main event (which is what they did, after they announced the match would take place) is that it seems a little lazy, as if they’re taking me and my pay-per-view cash for granted.

One of the good things about the rise of so many other MMA promotions is that the competition for viewers should bring better events. But right now the UFC knows they’re the biggest show in town, and they might be starting to feel like whatever they put out there will sell.

As much as people are complaining about the UFC 77 lineup (which I think is pretty solid), at least there’s a title fight. Maybe one of the reasons there isn’t one for UFC 78 is because the welterweight title has been languishing in reality TV land instead of being up for grabs in the open market.

I’m not saying I can’t understand this decision. Every card can’t have the fight of the decade, and that’s fine. But I’m also not saying that I’m automatically going to pay to see a fight just because the UFC tells me it’s a main event. Sorry.

I’m also not going to stick around on Spike TV and watch Manswers just because it comes on after The Ultimate Fighter, but that’s a topic for another day. A very sad day, which most likely ends with me in tears, waiting hopefully for the apocalypse.

Ben Fowlkes is the editor of the IFL’s official website and is a special contributor to CBSSports.com. He also maintains his own blog, The Fighting Life.