If you’re a fight fan, chances are you’ve been counting down to the UFC’s debut on FOX Sports 1 this weekend for a couple weeks now.
With all due respect to the athletes that competed at UFC 163 and the collection of fighters scheduled to in this month’s final two shows, this is the most bad ass assemblage of talent in one place in the month of August, and one of the best cards from top-to-bottom the UFC has compiled all year.
But just in case you’re still not sold, here are five reasons to enjoy the five hours of fistic entertainment coming your way this weekend when the UFC premieres on FOX Sports 1.
Return of The Bad Guy
Love him or hate him, Chael Sonnen commands an audience, and Saturday night, “The Bad Guy” steps back into the cage to take on Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in the main event of the evening.
Sonnen may be on a two-fight losing skid, but both losses came in championship bouts, and – if you’ll remember – he was 27-seconds away from winning the light heavyweight title by default because of Jon Jones’ mangled toe. Rua has alternated wins and loses over his last eight appearances, most recently coming away on the wrong side of a decision against Alexander Gustafsson in December.
While this may not be a bout that will have a serious impact on the title picture in the 205-pound ranks, it is an interesting clash of styles between Sonnen’s “grind you out” wrestling attack and Rua’s superior striking and Muay Thai skills.
And given the platform and his placement in the main event, you can be sure that Sonnen will have something interesting to say after this one, win or lose.
Clash of the Titans
As FOXSports.com’s Mike Chiappetta outlined earlier in the week, Travis Browne eyes his fight this weekend as an opportunity to put himself in the thick of title conversation as we count down to the epic trilogy bout between champion Cain Velasquez and challenger Junior dos Santos.
Standing in his way is Alistair Overeem, a fighter who, despite having been a champion in Strikeforce and previously aligned to fight for the UFC heavyweight title, might actually have more to prove Saturday night in Boston than the man he’ll meet inside the Octagon.
Following his loss to Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva at UFC 156 and with persistent questions about performance-enhancing drugs hovering overhead, a victory over the 6’7” Hawaiian known as “Hapa” would go a long way to silencing some of the critics, and putting the former high profile acquisition back into the mix in the big boy division.
And Browne is correct – this is his chance to prove he belongs. As good as he has looked at times, he’s also had some hiccups, and if he’s going to make a serious push towards being a title contender, he’ll need to get a big victory this weekend in Boston.
Since the start of 2012, Matt Brown and Mike Pyle have combined to defeat Chris Cope, Luis Ramos, Stephen Thompson, Mike Swick, Jordan Mein, Ricardo Funch, Josh Neer, James Head, and Rick Story.
Brown accounted for the first five names on that list, with Pyle picking up wins over the final four. Only Thompson and Story made it to the final horn, and while there were scattered dicey moments for each in some of those encounters, neither has been bested in that time frame.
That will change for one of them on Saturday, but before it does, these two welterweight veterans that have become contenders over the last two years will trade heavy shots carrying bad intentions in an effort to earn a victory and entertain the fans.
If you’re looking to lay bets for Fight of the Night, don’t look much further than this one.
Joe Lauzon could fight in a poorly lit, beaten up old warehouse in front of 47 people that had no idea who he was, and he’d put on a show. Given his track record, he’d probably win a UFC Fight Night bonus for his effort too.
Saturday night, however, the East Bridgewater, Massachusetts native will step into the cage at the TD Garden to put on a show for the partisan hometown crowd that will be looking to see their native son deliver another bonus-worthy performance when he faces off with Michael “The Menace” Johnson in the opening bout of the main card.
Lauzon has collected 11 bonuses in 14 fights under the UFC banner, including nine awards from his last nine appearances. He’s the epitome of the type of fighter UFC President Dana White loves – a guy that leaves it all in the cage every time he competes, with his focused geared more towards entertaining the masses than amassing dull victories.
He’s undefeated (13-0) fighting in his home state, and took home Submission of the Night honors last time the Octagon was constructed over center ice at the home of the Bruins. Come Saturday night, you can be sure that the 22-8 lightweight veteran will be looking to add another win to his record, another check to his bank account, and another thrilling performance to his highlight reel.
Conor McGregor carried a great deal of hype into his UFC debut back in April. It only took 67 seconds for the Irish featherweight to prove the praise he garnered as a two-division champion under the Cage Warriors banner was justified, as he promptly halted Marcus Brimage’s winning streak with a Knockout of the Night-winning effort in Sweden.
Since then, “The Notorious” has become a burgeoning superstar. He’s appeared in every MMA publication you can name, including the most recent edition of UFC 360 Magazine, been the subject of numerous newspaper articles, and sat down alongside teammate Cathal Pendred as guests on The Late, Late Show with Ryan Tubridy.
Brimming with confidence, this is an important fight for the 13-2 featherweight, who takes on young Hawaiian Max Holloway, a late replacement for Andy Ogle. McGregor has rubbed some the wrong way with his self-assured approach and willingness to call out the best in the 145-pound division (and other weight classes too), and another blistering effort with weekend will silence some of the critics who question whether the dynamic 25-year-old striker is a serious factor in the deep and talented featherweight ranks.
McGregor has earned nine consecutive stoppage victories heading into his match-up with Holloway, seven of them coming in the first round. The Dubliner is a showman, and has the markings of a special talent — one that could become a championship contender and main card fixture in the very near future.