The UFC Gambled Big, Lost Big With Cain Velasquez & Anthony Pettis

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Today the MMA world is still digesting the fallout of this week’s unfortunate news that former heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez was forced out of his UFC 196 rematch with Fabricio Werdum due to a back injury, although it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise at this point.

Werdum was originally slated to face No. 2-ranked late replacement Stipe Miocic for the interim belt, but that bout also fell apart yesterday afternoon when ‘Vai Cavalo’ bowed out with another back injury after stating he would have fought through it in order to face Velasquez. Regardless of that tenuous situation, it was obviously the former champ that set this ultimately messy windfall into motion.

Long thought to be the UFC’s meal ticket to the largely untapped but fight-crazed Latin American market, Velasquez was forced out of yet another high-profile pay-per-view title fight, calling his career into question while simultaneously doing the same thing for the UFC’s insistence to basically let the entire direction of the heavyweight division be dictated by the frequently injured fighter’s scant availability.

It’s also called into question the training practices at Velasquez’ heralded American Kickboxing Academy (AKA); at least even more so than the already intense scrutiny they’ve had to absorb after both Velasquez and absent lightweight contender Khabib Nurmagomedov have missed a huge chunk of their prime due to injuries supposedly suffered because of AKA’s rough-and-tumble training methods.

Whatever the reason, the UFC gambled big on Velasquez, and he isn’t the first expectedly marketable former champion that they’ve done this with to devastating results.

The promotion also has egg on its face in the huge hype and promotion of former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, another oft-injured and unreliable ‘superstar’ that gained his reputation in no small part thanks to one highlight reel move that will forever be etched into MMA history – his ‘Showtime Kick’ on Benson Henderson that helped him win the WEC title back in 2010.

While the obviously talented, handsome, articulated, and flashy ‘Showtime’ undoubtedly had many of the pieces to become a unique superstar in the UFC, ultimately he has, to this point, proved to be both injury prone and ineffective against the smothering wrestlers populating his division, and that’s lead to another absence of payoff in another proposed star that just didn’t pan out.

And the UFC could have avoided both of those scenarios, but this is what happens when you put too many of your proverbial eggs in one (or two) baskets. Let’s take a look at where things went wrong for Dana White and company, starting with the case of Velasquez….