Comparing and Contrasting UFC 300, UFC 200, and UFC 100

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Speculation and anticipation for UFC 300 has run rampant for what seems like forever. In reality, true fight fans have likely had an eye on the milestone 300th pay-per-view in UFC history since UFC 200 came to a close back in 2016.

The primary reason for this might be due to the high standard UFC 100 set for UFC pay-per-views to end with two zeros. The company’s first landmark event set a company record with 1,300,000 pay-per-view buys, featured one of the UFC’s two or three highest drawing athletes of all-time in Brock Lesnar at the top of the card (in his crowning moment, no less), and introduced fight fans to many of the stars that shaped the way fans would look at the company over the next 100 UFC pay-per-view events.

That’s not to say UFC 200 was a step back — far from it. The card featured a level of depth seldom seen on UFC cards, though it did introduce the kind of all-or-nothing matchmaking fans have, for better or worse, become accustomed to today. With a main event of Amanda Nunes defending her women’s bantamweight title against Miesha Tate, UFC 200 hit 1,000,000 buys, but just barely. It is important to remember, however, that the event was plagued with controversy, and not the kind that creates cash as Eric Bischoff once quipped.

It remains to be seen how UFC 300 will be remembered, but in the meantime, here’s how the card stacks up with UFC 100 and 200.

UFC 100

Modern UFC cards, when the company really wants to do a big number, will typically feature three title fights. UFC 200, UFC 251 (the first PPV card on Fight Island), and UFC 261 (the first card in a sold-out American sports arena since the COVID-19 pandemic) all come to mind.

UFC 100 hadn’t quite gotten there yet, but it’s important to remember that at the time of this pay-per-view, the company only recognized five weight divisions. Therefore, this type of matchmaking may have been more akin to the UFC littering four title fights on a main card in a modern sense.

Brock Lesnar headlined the pay-per-view as he sought to finish Frank Mir, avenge his only defeat in MMA at the time, and become the UFC’s undisputed heavyweight king. The co-main event presented something for the more technical MMA viewer, as Georges St-Pierre sought to defend his welterweight championship against Thiago Alves. Though the feature fight did not feature a third title up for grabs, it did present a grudge match in the form of Ultimate Fighter coaches Michael Bisping and Dan Henderson facing off for bragging rights and position on the UFC middleweight ladder.

Each of these fights gave the fans a little bit of everything. Fans more prone to the grudge match side of the sport gravitated towards Bisping vs. Henderson. Fans more drawn to technical mastery had an opportunity to see GSP put on a show in the co-main event. Meanwhile, Lesnar vs. Mir II borrowed from both of these ideas, and did it in a way that saw the company get sustained mainstream media coverage moving forward.

The card is also notable for introducing fight fans to many of the stars of tomorrow. Jon Jones, who is considered by many to be the greatest fighter to ever live, choked out Jake O’Brien on the prelims. Meanwhile, Jim Miller who continue to be a fixture on big UFC cards (more on him later) dominated Mac Danzig en route to a unanimous decision. The preliminary main event saw Mark Coleman control Stephan Bonner en route to a Unanimous Decision himself in what has become something of a legacy fight in the light heavyweight division.

Yoshihiro Akiyama, a highly sought after free agent from Japan, made his debut against Alan Belcher to open the pay-per-view main card and won by way of split decision. Overall, the UFC did not have the bandwidth, nor the wherewithal to stack UFC 100 the way UFC 200 and UFC 300 would be stacked, though it will likely hold as the highest drawing card out of the three, primarily due to the main event. The Lesnar-Mir rematch did massive business, and when stacked up with Nunes vs. Tate and Pereira vs. Hill, it remains the most compelling fight by a country mile.

UFC 200

One cannot discuss UFC 200 without discussing what could have been. While it would have seemed like a prime time to induce the rematch between Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor (that would come at UFC 202 after McGregor feigned retirement, in actuality requesting more time to train), the UFC opted to replicate the formula from UFC 100 by headlining with a grudge match-rematch. Daniel Cormier was set to defend his UFC light heavyweight championship against Jon Jones — the only man to beat him, and a man who never actually lost the championship in the cage.

Had the main event held firm, it likely would have surpassed UFC 100 thanks to the natural growth of the company as well as a much-improved undercard. Not to mention, Jones and Cormier infamously got into it at a pre-fight press conference, inciting a melee on stage that went viral and received a ton of mainstream publicity. However, three days out from the fight, Jones tested positive for a banned substance stemming from an out-of-competition sample from the previous month. Cormier pleaded with the UFC to allow him to sign a waiver to let the fight proceed as scheduled, but to no avail.

With Jones off the card, the UFC pivoted Cormier to featured fight status in an impromptu “dream fight,” of sorts, against former middleweight champion Anderson Silva. Meanwhile, Nunes vs. Tate was moved to the main event, while Brock Lesnar, the headliner of UFC 100, took over the c0-main event in a three-round fight against Mark Hunt.

The result proved to be a card that underwhelmed in more ways than one. While the show was stacked head-to-toe with stars and compelling matchups alike, all four of the televised prelims went to decision. A Fight of the Night bonus was not awarded, with Amanda Nunes, Cain Velasquez, Joe Lauzon and Gegard Mousasi all receiving performance bonuses. Meanwhile, the buy rate came in under UFC 100, making several points about the state of mixed martial arts as a business. The hardcore fanbase is the hardcore fanbase, but without a compelling fight at the top of the card, there is a ceiling for what an MMA card can do businesswise. As fun of a card as UFC 200 may have been on paper for fight fans, title belts do not sell; personal issues do.

Despite this, the UFC continues to believe the myth that the UFC title, not the fighters, is the draw, as evidenced by how quick the company is to make interim title fights at any opportunity.

This critique aside, UFC 200 was special, and the UFC went out of its way to make it such. The typical light gray canvas was replaced with a “gold” canvas that, while unique, bordered on distracting at times, though it was an appreciated risk. Like UFC 100 before it, UFC 200 took place on what became International Fight Week, a week-long UFC celebration in the UFC capital of the world: Las Vegas, Nev. It was also the first UFC event held at the brand new T-Mobile Arena, which would become the norm for pay-per-view events in Las Vegas going forward.

This created a perfect storm for live business, with the live gate doubling from $5,101,740 to $10,700,000, evidence of how much the UFC, as well as the fight business as a whole, had grown in the seven years between events.

UFC 300

When it comes to UFC 300, which takes place this weekend live from the T-Mobile Arena, the UFC changed little from the formula they used ahead of UFC 200. UFC President Dana White promised to put on the most “badass” fight card possible, and while UFC 300 may be the deepest, most immersive UFC fight card to date, it lacks the personal issues that drove business for UFC 100 and intended to drive business for UFC 200. Instead, the show has been marketed as a celebration of how far the UFC has come in the combat sports zeitgeist.

There is no denying the strength of this fight card from top to bottom. Justin Gaethje vs. Max Holloway is a dream fight to many. Charles Oliveira vs. Arman Tsarukyen is the irresistible force meeting the immovable object — something has to give. Zhang Weili vs. Yan Xiaonan, while perhaps better served for the Asian market, is an explosive title fight. Kayla Harrison vs. Holly Holm is a legacy fight for women’s MMA. Jiri Prochazka headlines the prelims against an old rival in Aleksandar Rakic. Former champion Aljamain Sterling is on the prelims! Former champion Deivison Figueiredo is on the prelims! The depth is truly unparalleled.

Should Bo Nickal vs. Cody Brundage by on the main card? Absolutely not, though perhaps it would be a more acceptable main card opener for a different pay-per-view event; not the almighty UFC 300. As for the main event, it should be fun on paper. Alex Pereira vs. Jamahal Hill is a matchup of kickboxer vs. boxer in the Octagon, and will be contested for a title Pereira just won and one that Hill never lost. However, after making the announcement of Holloway vs. Gaethje, White went out of his way to indicate it would not be the main event, with a main event announcement coming at a later time.

It certainly got the gears turning. What fight could be bigger than a Justin Gaethje-Max Holloway superfight? It’s not as if the UFC didn’t have opportunities to replicate the grudge match formula from UFC 100 and UFC 200. For yours truly, I had the main event pegged as Pereira and former UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, tied 1-1 in MMA with a tumultuous history in another sport (kickboxing), settling the score once and for all for Pereira’s light heavyweight championship.

Perhaps Adesanya wasn’t ready? Or perhaps the UFC is saving Adesanya for top ticket on the International Fight Week card against Dricus Du Plessis. By the way, UFC 300 stands out from its predecessors for not being on International Fight Week, which is actually a good thing. Although it probably came down to timing more than anything, the UFC now gets to market not one, but TWO massive shows for the middle of the year.

Conor McGregor always felt like a potential option to headline as well. It remains a complete mystery as to why the UFC isn’t booking McGregor. Both sides are giving different stories as to why that is, and neither seems like the full truth anyway, but there would be no shortage of grudge matches to be had with “Mystic Mac.” There’s the Michael Chandler fight, of course, but also Tony Ferguson in case they want to get him a tuneup. Or, perhaps McGregor finds appeal in a fourth fight with Dustin Poirier? That one might have been a little soon after Poirier weathered the storm to finish Benoit Saint-Denis at UFC 299.

Instead, it will be Hill stepping back into the limelight against Pereira. It’s not that there isn’t a story there, but it would be fair to question whether the story of Hill trying to reclaim the belt he never actually lost is worthy of UFC 300.

There’s no question the UFC is going out of its way to make UFC 300 a special night. The video packages have been some of the best the promotion has ever done. In addition, several fighters are debuting special UFC 300 custom fight shorts (that should really just become the norm) inspired by their unique characteristics.

The rest is up to the fighters now. If UFC 300 delivers in the way it’s set up to, it could become a historic and special night for everyone emotionally tied to combat sports.

Will it do the box office business UFC 100 did? It’s highly unlikely without a proven draw at the top of the bill, not to mention, the pay-per-view business is inherently different now behind the ESPN+ paywall. However, will it have a chance to set live business records and further the vision manifested at UFC 200? Absolutely; particularly if the show delivers like it should.

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