With some of UFC's most successful events in the past having been headlined by rematches, we thought it would be a good idea to take a look at how some of these past events have done in terms of PPV buys.
Tito Ortiz vs Ken Shamrock: They first met at UFC 40 on 11/22/02. With a strong grudge and an excellent hype job on Fox Sports' "The Best Damn Sports Show Period, the show drew 150,000 buys, by far the best number of the era, to the point that it convinced Zuffa not to sell the company (which they were strongly considering) after a dismal 23 months under their ownership. A few years later, "The Ultimate Fighter" caused the company's popularity to explode. For the third season of the show, Shamrock and Ortiz were the coaches to build up a fight on 7/8/05 at UFC 61. After an entertaining season that saw Ortiz babyfaced as a generous, accessible, and resourceful trainer and Shamrock coming off as a dim musclehead who thought that a bodybuilder was a better assistant trainer for his team than a Jiu Jitsu teacher, the fight drew an impressive 775,000 buys, then a new record for the company. The previous best number was for the Matt Hughes vs Royce Gracie fight just over a month earlier.
Chuck Liddell vs Tito Ortiz: The initial fight, held at UFC 47 on 4/2/04, had been brewing for over a year, when Ortiz disappeared from the UFC for awhile amidst accusations that, as Light Heavyweight Champion, he was ducking Liddell (Ortiz's claim, which Liddell denied, was that when training together, they had made a pact never to fight each other). Randy Couture, having moved down from heavyweight, ended up defeating Liddell to win the interim title, and then, 3 months later, dominated the returning Ortiz (even spanking him as the last round ended) to win the "undisputed" title. Vitor Belfort was the champion at this point, having defeated Couture by medical stoppage after a fluke where a seam on his glove sliced his eyeball early in the first round of their title fight. With no title on the line, the winner was in line for a shot at the winner of the Belfort-Couture rematch, and the card drew 105,000 buys, which was respectable for the pre-Ultimate Fighter period. Liddell won the fight and later beat Couture for the title. After three successful title defenses, he was matched up with Ortiz again at UFC 66 on 12/30/06. With strong hype, the two biggest stars in the company squaring off for the first time in the TUF era, and the week after Christmas always been strong for PPV events, it drew 1,050,000 buys, a new record.
Rich Franklin vs Anderson Silva: UFC had big plans for Franklin, as he was a great spokesperson for the company. After winning the middleweight title from Evan Tanner and defending it successfully on two occasions, he broke his hand and was over seven months before his next defense, against Anderson Silva at UFC 64 on 10/14/06, which drew 300,000 buys. Silva badly dominated him and won the title. Franklin was so dejected by the dismantling that he had to see a sports psychologist to get in the right frame of mind to fight again. After picking up two wins, he got his rematch with Silva at UFC 77 on 10/20/07. Silva outclassed him and won easily again in a fight that drew 325,000 buys. While not a bad showing, business-wise, it was outdone by several shows that year.
Georges St. Pierre vs Matt Serra: After winning the "comeback" season of The Ultimate Fighter, Serra got a shot at St. Pierre's welterweight title at UFC 69 on 4/7/07, and won the title by knockout in one of the biggest upsets in UFC history, topping off a card that drew a respectable 400,000 buys. Next up was supposed to be Serra vs Matt Hughes after a season of TUF where they grew to hate each other, but Serra injured his back. St. Pierre vs Hughes was signed for the interim title, and St. Pierre came out on top. When Serra's back healed, St. Pierre's rematch was booked for UFC 83 on 4/19/08 in his home city of Montreal. With the former champ (considered by many to be the best fighter in the world) trying to regain his title in front of a full house of rabid fellow Montreal-ites, the card was a success on PPV, drawing 530,000 buys.
Brock Lesnar vs Frank Mir: Lesnar's UFC debut at UFC 81 on 2/2/08 was brilliantly put together. He needed to be put into a position to draw, and his opponent needed to be someone whose status wouldn't hurt Lesnar if he lost while boosting him if he won, which is the result that Zuffa preferred. Enter Frank Mir. A former UFC heavyweight champion, he had been inconsistent since a motorcycle accident, but most of the newer fans didn't know that. They just knew he was a former heavyweight champion. Lesnar made a rookie mistake, Mir tapped him, and the card drew 600,000 buys, clearly showing that Lesnar was a draw. After a dominant win over Heath Herring, Lesnar signed to fight Randy Couture for the heavyweight title in Couture's return from a contract dispute. In the meantime, Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera had defeated Tim Sylvia to become interim champion, and was scheduled to defend against Mir at the next event. Lesnar beat Couture, Mir upset Noguiera, and the rematch was on, this time for the "undisputed" title. It was always clear that the rematch would draw, the question was just how well. The fight was originally scheduled for UFC 98, but since Mir suffered a knee injury, it was moved to UFC 100 on 7/11/09. The hype job was immense, the 100th numbered UFC card was kind of a big deal, and the card that also included a Ultimate Fighter battle between Ultimate Fighter coaches Michael Bisping and Dan Henderson and Georges St. Pierre defending his welterweight title against, Thiago Alves. Lesnar unified the titles after using his size to dominate Mir, and the event drew an astounding 1,600,000 buys. Not only is that the company record, it's the biggest non-boxing event in PPV history, even besting the biggest Wrestlemanias by several hundred thousand buys.
Tito Ortiz vs Forrest Griffin: At UFC 59 on 4/15/06, they headlined a card that drew 425,000 buys. It was a close fight that Ortiz won by decision, and many fans argued that the win should've gone to Griffin, who cemented his status as being more than just a guy who won a reality show. They didn't meet again for more than three and a half year, during which Ortiz teased leaving the company while Griffin won and lost the light heavyweight title. The rematch at UFC 106 on 11/21/09 drew 375,000 buys, which was respectable but indicative of Ortiz no longer being a top draw.
Lyoto Machida vs Mauricio "Shogun" Rua: At UFC 104 on 10/24/09, they faced off in Machida's first defense of the light heavyweight title. The fight went the distance, and Machida won what was overwhelmingly considered a bad decision that should've gone to Rua. With 500,000 buys, it was Machida's third consecutive strong number as a headliner. The rematch is set for UFC 113 on 5/8/10, which is a week from this coming Saturday. The controversial decision of the previous fight should bode well for building up interest in the rematch, so this event could do very, very well on PPV.