(During the global pandemic and the halt of live combat sports, we’ll be running features a little outside the box. In “Cards That Weren’t”, we’ll look at famous [or infamous] fight cards that never took place for one reason or another and discuss what was booked, what may have happened if it took place, and if the fighters ever faced off in the future.)
The Promotion: Yes, some of our younger readers may not know this, but Affliction, the clothing company long-tied into mixed martial arts and its louder fans, actually started up a promotion of their very own in 2008. With heavy funding, most notably from blustering businessman/politics dabbler Donald Trump, and partnering with Golden Boy, Affliction put on its first Pay-Per-View in July of 2008, headlined by Fedor Emelianenko felling former UFC Heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia in the first round. Its second show, Day of Reckoning, went down in January of 2009, headlined by Fedor felling former UFC Heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski in the first round. It’s third card, the aptly-named Trilogy, was to occur in the summer, headlined by, stop me if this sounds familiar, Fedor battling a former UFC Heavyweight champion. However, it was too good to last, as Affliction didn’t have the sustainability or management that was needed to continue and thrive, and they folded and immediately went back to sponsoring the UFC in short order before Trilogy could air. B
But what was that card supposed to look like? What fights were booked for it?
WAMMA Heavyweight Championship: Fedor Emelianenko (c) (30-1) vs. Josh Barnett (27-5) (Record is as of time of card)
Where Did They Stand: Welp, this was the heavyweight fight to make. Fedor had just dusted Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski, and Barnett, the former UFC heavyweight champion and submission ace, had finished Pedro Rizzo and Gilbert Yvel by strikes in his two Affliction bouts.
How This Would Have Gone: This could have been an absolute banger. Barnett was always content to take some strikes if it meant he got to go on the mat with you. Fedor could go to the mat with anyone, as he showed with Nogueira, but I think with the massive pay difference between the two, Fedor would want to keep it standing to re-up for a ton more. I think Fedor takes it by semi-boring decision where he wants to keep it on the feet.
Did They End Up Facing Each Other: No, and it’s unfortunate. This would have been a massive fight. The combination of Barnett burning through every cup he ever pissed in and Fedor’s M-1 promotion never aligned. However, they could have met in Strikeforce’s Heavyweight Grand Prix, but that’s a story for another time…
Light Heavyweight Bout: Gegard Mousasi (25-2-1) vs. Renato Sobral (35-8)
Where Did They Stand: Mousasi was THE free agent who hadn’t fought in the big leagues. He had won twelve fights in a row, including wins over Hector Lombard, Evangelista Santos, Denis Kang, Melvin Manhoef, Jacare Souza, and Mark Hunt. Babalu was the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight champion after completing a solid run in the UFC, and defeated both Mike Whitehead and Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou in Affliction.
How This Would Have Gone: Exactly how it did a month later, with Mousasi starching the late-season Babalu.
Did They End Up Facing Each Other: Indeed, and it ended brutally.
Middleweight Bout: Jorge Santiago (21-7) vs. Vitor Belfort (18-8)
Where Did They Stand: Vitor, The Phenom, won the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship after defeating Randy Couture at the age of 26 after first challenging him at 19. Since then, Vitor didn’t find his footing and floated around various promotions before KOing Terry Martin and Matt Lindland in Afflicton. Santiago had a rough start to his UFC career, then rebounded by winning nine fights in a row, all by finish, claiming the Sengoku Middleweight Championshio.
How This Would Have Gone: I goddamned LOVED Jorge Santiago, and wanted him to thrive in the big leagues, but my man was susceptible to being knocked out, and Vitor could have easily done that at that time.
Did They End Up Facing Each Other: They did not, and it’s unfortunate, but Santiago couldn’t make it past the upper-midcard of the UFC middleweight division to get a crack at Vitor, being waxed by Chris Leben and Brian Stann.
Heavyweight Bout: Gilbert Yvel (35-13-1) vs. Paul Buentello (27-10)
Where Did They Stand: Yvel lost by submission to punches to Josh Barnett, which doesn’t seem like a thing that would ever happen, but was still an imposing hard-hitting heavyweight with PRIDE experience. Buentello was a former UFC Heavyweight Championship contender coming off of two wins in Affliction.
How This Would Have Gone: It wouldn’t have gone long. Both of these guys could land a shot and not have a ton of defense against it.
Did They End Up Facing Each Other: Surprisingly, no. They both had underwhelming UFC runs right after this, but were more used as feed.
Welterweight Bout: Jay Hieron (17-4) vs. Paul Daley (21-8-2)
Where Did They Stand: Can you believe Daley had 31 professional fights BEFORE his Strikeforce and UFC career? Good lord. Anywho, Daley would have been making his Affliction debut after gaining notoriety has a knockout artist from across the pond who had already competed in Strikeforce and EliteXC, the latter for their welterweight championship in a losing effort against Jake Shields. Hieron built his name in the IFL and was coming off of a showstopping knockout of Jason High.
How This Would Have Gone: Daley, especially in front of his biggest audience to date, would have brought the fire and it would have been on Hieron to stop it. Hieron’s best work came mostly against wrestlers, but against a fireball-thrower like Daley, I think he would have struggled to maintain control or distance.
Did They End Up Facing Each Other: Like ships in the night. They were briefly under contract for Strikeforce before Hieron left, then Hieron was in Bellator when Daley was in the UFC, and in the UFC when Daley was in Bellator.
Lightweight Bout: Rafaello Oliveira (11-2) vs. Takanori Gomi (30-5)
Where Did They Stand: Oliveira was a regional fighter who’s only step up to the big leagues for EliteXC ended by doctor stoppage to Lyle Beerbohm. Gomi, The Fireball Kid, was a PRIDE legend and Lightweight kingpin, running roughshod over the division until Nick Diaz caught him with a goddamned gogoplata. Gomi was an absolute get.
How This Would Have Gone: It would’ve disappointed a lot of fanboys. Gomi was already on a downswing by then, putting in a 2-2 record in Sengoku, and was just entering the “doesn’t give a fuck” stage of his career. Oliveira wasn’t a name, but he proved to be serviceable in the UFC, and could have easily caught Gomi napping and not taking him seriously.
Did They End Up Facing Each Other: No, and they wouldn’t have, even if Oliveira would have reeled off five wins in a row. The UFC kept giving Gomi big names until they realized they were sold a bill of goods, then used him to try and pop numbers in Japan.