(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: If you’ve even accidentally clicked on this site, you know what the UFC is, there’s no need to dive into its history.
This card, however, merits some background.
This was the first card to ever be totally cancelled by the UFC, and the main cause for it is as big of a problem now as it was then.
With the UFC’s explosive expansion first following their FOX deal, and now especially after their ESPN deal, the UFC is trotting out cards weekly (well, back when there were sports…*sigh*…). With that happening, and with the UFC’s pay structure having their bigger names leaving for greener pastures, comprised with the UFC and Dana White’s baffling lack of building up seemingly ANY fighter not named McGregor, Diaz, or Rousey, means they don’t have the name talent to run out on that many cards.
Look at this card, for instance, before the UFC’s expansion. Legit three main events on this card. Aside from UFC 200, when was the last time you saw a UFC card that could boast that? That means if one, or even, god forbid, two headline fights fall through, you still have a legit main event with a quality undercard to bump up to main card if needed.
Now, look three and a half years later at a card featuring a huge main event in Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans. Now look at the co-main event.
Che Mills vs. Rory MacDonald. Mind you, this was three years from a title shot Rory MacDonald. Can you imagine what would have happened if Jones-Evans fell through?
You wouldn’t have to imagine for too long.
Five months later, Jones’s next scheduled defense was to be Dan Henderson at UFC 151, with a co-main event of Jake Ellenberger vs. Jay Hieron. Hendo got injured three weeks before the fight but tried to gut it out, and by the time he actually pulled out of the fight officially, either the replacement offers came too late, or, in the case of one Chael P. Sonnen, Jones turned down the fight, and, guess what? Not nearly enough star power or quality fighters to carry the card on their own.
The UFC still hasn’t learned their lesson and cancelled cards became more regular.
But what was that card supposed to look like? What fights were booked for it?
UFC Light Heavyweight Championship: Jon Jones (c) (16-1) vs. Dan Henderson (29-8)
Where Did They Stand: Jones was at the height of his powers at this time in the cage, and only just started to go Jon Jones-mode outside of it, banking a DWI earlier in the year. So he was in that sweet spot of being unstoppable in the cage and not quite as stoppable outside of it. Hendo, meanwhile, made his UFC return at UFC 139 in November and put on one of the best fights of all-time in a winning effort against Shogun Rua, earning him a title shot.
How This Would Have Gone: I have to think with my head instead of my heart, here. Hendo was relying almost exclusively on his right hand, and he wouldn’t have had a prayer of getting in close enough to use it. It likely would have gone the same way as his fight with Anderson Silva, only more helpless.
Did They End Up Facing Each Other: Not in MMA, but they did face off in a grappling bout in 2016, with Jones winning by arm-triangle choke.
Welterweight Bout: Jake Ellenberger (27-6) vs. Jay Hieron (23-5)
Where Did They Stand: Hieron was a journeyman’s journeyman, who fought in IFL, Affliction, Strikeforce, Bellator, and a lone UFC fight before re-entering the company, filling in for an injured Josh Koscheck. Ellenberger was a prototypical short, wide, wrestle-boxers who dominated the welterweight scene in the early 2010s. He was coming off a TKO loss to Martin Kampmann after reeling off six straight wins. Coincidentally, these two fought for IFL in 2006, with Hieron taking a decision win.
How This Would Have Gone: Wait for it…
Did They End Up Facing Each Other: Ellenberger did get his rematch a month later on FX, claiming a win. Hieron would retire shortly thereafter and Ellenberger would go on to be a shot fighter shortly thereafter.
Featherweight Bout: Dennis Siver (20-8) vs. Eddie Yagin (16-5-1)
Where Did They Stand: Siver is making his featherweight debut after some success at 155, while Yagin is coming off of a split-decision over an always-game Mark Hominick at UFC 145, earning a Fight of the Night bonus.
How This Would Have Gone: Fifteen minutes of two guys landing solid punches, maybe one of them getting knocked down, but these two have military-grade chins. Would’ve been a fun scrap.
Did They End Up Facing Each Other: They did not. Yagin was released shortly thereafter by the UFC because of a brain injury sustained in sparring. He only fought twice more in his career.
Lightweight Bout: Dennis Hallman (51-14-2) vs. Thiago Tavares (17-4-1)
Where Did They Stand: Hallman has been fighting professionally since 1996, and was an oddball who was mostly known for two very quick first-round wins over Matt Hughes, and wearing a speedo against Brian Ebersole that his testicles fell out of. Tavares had been in the UFC for five years, but pretty solidly held down a midcard spot, usually exchanging wins and losses.
How This Would Have Gone: When you have two guys who are submission fighters, it’s either a brilliant, fast-paced, scrambly ground fight that everyone loves. Or a boring kickboxing bout that no one likes. I think, after both his attire and performance against Brian Ebersole that landed him in hot water, Hallman would play it conservatively, and Hallman’s experience would back off Tavares a little.
Did They End Up Facing Each Other: Nope. They tried to run it back at the Bigfoot vs. Browne FX card, but Hallman, already on thin ice with the company for wearing a saucy number that his beans fell out of it, came in a tidy SEVEN POUNDS overweight. He was released.
Flyweight Bout: John Lineker (19-6) vs. Yasuhiro Urushitani (19-5-6)
Where Did They Stand: Urushitani was the 123lb champion of Shooto, and with the UFC’s introduction of the flyweight division, they needed talent and he fit the bill. He actually fought in the UFC’s first flyweight fight, meeting the same fate most Japanese fighters meet when they come to the States and fight an opponent with a wrestling background: destruction. Lineker, despite being only 22 at the time, had amassed quite the collection of fights in Brazil. Louis Gaudinot choked him out in his UFC debut, so this is both fighters looking for redemption in their second UFC fight.
How This Would Have Gone: We found out, across the world.
Did They End Up Facing Each Other: Yep, in China two months later, with Lineker taking the W.