Despite the UFC being all set to make their third appearance at Madison Square Garden, New York City in ten weeks time, there has still been no announcement from the promotion regarding the main event.
We know the co-main event will see Dustin Poirier and Nate Diaz throw down in something of a lightweight title eliminator. While there can be no denying that it’ll be a fun fight, as a co main event it’ is something of a step down from previous PPV’s held at MSG.
The UFC have always put on top heavy cards when visiting MSG with their last two visits featuring a combined total of six title fights. Making their debut in the city with UFC 205, the main event saw Conor Mcgregor challenge lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez with the co main event being a welterweight title battle between Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson, not to mention Joanna Jedrzejczyk defending her 115lb title against Karolina Kowalkiewicz earlier on the card.
The promotion last visited Manhatten for UFC 217, an event headlined by a middleweight title fight between then reigning champ Michael Bisping and returning great Georges St Pierre. The co main saw Cody Garbrandt put his bantamweight title on the line against TJ Dillashaw, with Jedrzejczyk and Rose Namajunas competing for the strawweight strap also being featured on the main card.
With all of that history in mind, it feels more than a little strange that there are currently no title fights scheduled for the promotions return to Manhattan for UFC 230. To try and clear things up, I’ve taken a look below at the various match ups which could fill that all important gap on the 3rd November card.
Cris Cyborg vs Amanda Nunes (Featherweight title fight)
Of all the possible options, this one feels the most likely. Admittedly, it falls a little short when compared with the main events on the UFC’s previous two visits to Madison Square Garden, but it could legitimately be considered a super fight which puts it into contention.
Cyborg (20-1-0) has headlined a number of PPV’s since making her UFC debut and is easily the UFC’s most recognisable woman on the roster in the post-Rousey era. If you think that the 33-year-old isn’t a PPV draw, think again.
While nobody would claim Cyborg is on par with the likes of McGregor when it comes to PPV numbers, her UFC 219 main event title defense against Holly Holm delivered c.380,000 buys – the same number as UFC 226: Miocic vs Cormier.
As for Nunes, she has headlined four PPV events of her own during her UFC career to mixed results, twice exceeding 1,000,000 buys although the sales of those two events were largely driven by her opponents, Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate. The bantamweight champions more recent PPV main event appearances were significantly less successful with her fights against Valentina Shevchenko and Raquel Pennington drawing 100,000 buys and 85,000 buys respectively.
Jon Jones vs either Alexander Gustafsson or Daniel Cormier (Light Heavyweight title fight)
This is a tricky one since Jones is still suspended, awaiting the official outcome of USADA’s investigation. Anyone caught mentioning the idea of Jones fighting at UFC 230 on social media will be quickly accosted by a portion of the fan base who will swiftly remind you that Jones doesn’t currently have a license to fight.
Putting all that inconvenience to one side, assuming Jones is clear of his troubles there are two real options and both involve him getting a crack at regaining his light heavyweight title.
The first option would be for Alexander Gustafsson to get a shot at redeeming himself following his decision loss to Jones at UFC 165. Gus has held the number one spot in the 205lb rankings for what feels like forever and has been petitioning reigning champion Daniel Cormier for a shot at the title for some time. For Jones and Gus 2 to take place it would mean either the UFC opting to introduce an interim title into the division or Cormier choosing to vacate the light heavyweight strap.
Option number two? Jones vs Cormier 3. A fight genuinely worthy of headlining a PPV at Madison Square Garden. There’s little else to say other than that this would be an enourmous fight for both men, particularly Cormier who is on the brink of retiring as the greatest of all time. This fight gives him one last chance at avenging the only loss of his professional career and no matter what you think about either fighter, you can’t deny the fact that this is a fight which would draw people in.
TJ Dillashaw vs Henry Cejudo (Bantamweight title fight)
With Demetrious Johnson sidelined through injury following his loss to Henry Cejudo, it’s beginning to feel inevitable that newly minted flyweight champion Cejudo will step up to 135lbs to face bantamweight kingpin TJ Dillashaw.
While that fight is almost certainly going to happen sooner or later, I honestly don’t see it happening as the main event at Madison Square Garden. I’m sure when it does happen, the UFC will market it as a “super fight” but even so it doesn’t feel even close to being a big enough fight to anchor what is traditionally one of the biggest cards of the year.
Max Holloway vs Brian Ortega (Featherweight title fight)
This match up has potential and is certainly big enough to hold the main event spot in New York but it is not without it’s problems.
Much has been written regarding Holloway and his health following his scary withdrawal from his scheduled UFC 226 featherweight title defence against Ortega. All we know for sure at this stage is that we don’t actually know what the problem was and there is no timetable for the Hawaiian to return to the octagon.
As for Ortega, he declined the promotions offer of an interim title fight in favour of waiting for Holloway to get healthy, preferring to bide his time for the title shot he deserves rather than risk it all in a fight he considers to be unnecessary.
With Ortega on standby, assuming Holloway receive medical clearance this fight feels like a strong contender for the vacant main event spot.
Georges St Pierre vs Anderson Silva
I’m going to go ahead and say this has as much chance of headlining UFC 230 as CM Punk vs Mike Jackson 2. No doubt seeing two of the greatest fighters the sport have ever seen go at it would still be an interesting fight. Aside from the obvious issue that there would be no belt on the line, the reality is, this just isn’t the fight that it would have been ten years ago.
Had the UFC not announced Dustin Poirier vs Nate Diaz as the co-main event, I could maybe see this fight holding that spot on a PPV card but let’s be honest with ourselves, in 2018 this isn’t a PPV main event.