The hangover was inevitable.
After a record-breaking 2016 which featured gratuitously stacked cards, the sale of the company for $4 billion and the full coronation of Conor McGregor as a worldwide star and pay-per-view phenomenon, the UFC has taken a firm step backwards to open the new year.
Well, maybe the term "backwards" feels a bit harsh. But numbers are down as a whole, just one year after UFC produced a whopping five PPV cards that sold more than $1 million buys each. And the recent lot of shows have simply lacked that must-see buzz, which seemed to fully intoxicate the previous calendar year.
The reasons for the dip make sense. Loading up cards to end 2016 has left the roster a bit thin. Meanwhile, many fighters are unhappy with the recent matchmaking decisions of the UFC's new owners, which has produced what feels like a record number of declined offers and subsequent angry rants on podcasts and social media.
The company is also at a bit of a star deficit at the moment with McGregor (paternity leave), Jon Jones (suspension) Ronda Rousey (seclusion), Nate Diaz (indifference) and Georges St-Pierre (delayed return) all not expected to fight during the first half of 2017.
But if there has been an oasis of sorts on the horizon, it just might be Saturday's UFC 211 card from Dallas, headlined by a pair of title fights. This one might not be overridden with star power like UFC 200 or 205 but there's an embarrassment of quality (and meaningful) fights filling up the undercard.
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While it might be unfair to ask whether UFC 211 can save 2017, it is the first card that feels constructed with the sole intention of guaranteed delivery. Or maybe the second one, depending upon the quality of your memory.
Let's not forget that UFC 209 in March was expected to be the year's first "PPV that matters." In the end, it was a debacle. A can't-miss interim lightweight title fight between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov was canceled the day before, and the main event (Tyron Woodley-Stephen Thompson II) produced a dud.
The cards that followed have been relatively hit or miss, highlighted by an overachieving UFC 210 in April and a solid UFC on Fox card from Kansas City the following week. But UFC 211 has the opportunity to truly leave a mark, and by doing so, create a spark of momentum heading into what should be a jam-packed summer, including a pair of July cards in Las Vegas and Los Angeles that are expected to be loaded.
The real hook for UFC 211 is the undeniable potential for action as Stipe Miocic defends his heavyweight title against former champ Junior dos Santos in a rematch of their bloody, five-round war from 2014. In the co-main event, women's strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk faces ultra aggressive Brazilian striker Jessica Andrade.
From there, it only gets better as Demian Maia and Jorge Masvidal face off in a bout that likely produces the next welterweight title challenger. Meanwhile, featherweights Frankie Edgar and Yair Rodriguez have all the makings to be a truly great crossroads fights answering the questions of whether Edgar still has it on the elite level and if Rodriguez ready for this kind of leap.
That's not even mentioning flyweights Henry Cejudo and Sergio Pettis or the fact that the preliminary card is headlined by a lightweight bout between former champion Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier that could serve as a co-main event on any other card.
Once the UFC gets its wheels in motion, with big announcements expected in the coming days for a number of big cards ahead, it's very likely the company finishes out 2017 strong, leaving a barren opening four months deep in the rearview. It's also just as likely that the tipping point for the change in direction will be tracked back to Saturday's card.