Due to a herniated disk in his back, Matt Serra will not be putting his welterweight title on the line against Matt Hughes on Dec 29, the UFC’s official website reported this week. Serra suffered the injury in training, thus derailing the rivalry bout that this season of The Ultimate Fighter has spent a significant portion of its screen time hyping.
Since Serra-Hughes was billed as the main event for UFC 79, this does hurt the overall appeal of the card. Fortunately for the UFC, they already had a second main event on this card in the form of Wanderlei Silva vs. Chuck Liddell. This long-awaited showdown even allows them to keep the title of the event (“Nemesis”) intact. Everybody wins.
There has been some talk of the UFC trying to find a replacement for Serra in order to keep Hughes on the card, but I doubt that will actually happen. Having Matt Hughes fight some up-and-coming welterweight while he waits for Serra to heal is an absurd idea with very little upside for the UFC.
It won’t be a title fight, so it doesn’t carry the same appeal, for one thing. If Hughes were to lose to a Jon Fitch or Thiago Alves, it would make the fight with Serra seem pointless. Even if he won it wouldn’t mean much.
The only other officially announced bout for UFC 79 is Sokoudjou vs. Lyoto Machida. This will be Sokoudjou’s UFC debut, and it should make for an interesting match, but the UFC should really try to put together a few more good undercard fights to get this card back to the ‘event-of-the-year’ status.
So for now, it looks like Hughes and Serra will have to wait. Maybe the UFC can convince Spike TV to run a marathon of this season of TUF before the fight does actually take place some time in 2008. Then again, I think this is enough of a legitimate rivalry that they don’t really need to keep reminding us about it.