5 reasons why you can't miss UFC 161
Five reasons why you just can't miss UFC 161 on Saturday in Winnipeg, Canada. And remember, preliminary bouts begin on FX at 8 p.m. ET.
5. Fresh Female Faces
Only a few months have passed since the introduction of the women's division.
Alexis Davis (top) punches Sarah Kaufman during a March 2012 Strikeforce event in Columbus, Ohio.Esther Lin/Forza LLC via Getty Images
This past February, "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey armbar'd her way into the annals of mixed martial arts history, cementing her status as the undisputed queen of the bantamweight division.
Still, the recently adopted division remains in its infancy. Desperate to find fresh talent and develop new contenders, Rousey and Miesha Tate will coach a crop of male and female talent on the upcoming season of "The Ultimate Fighter."
On Saturday night, another pair of female newcomers will grace the Octagon in a featured pay-per-view showdown as Canada's own Alexis Davis takes on longtime veteran Rosi Sexton.
Davis is riding a two-fight winning streak, but her memorable Strikeforce scrap with Sarah Kaufman showcased her true warrior spirit. Meanwhile, Sexton's roots in the sport can be traced back to 2002. Fresh off three straight wins, Sexton is making the jump up to 135 pounds as she hopes to become a fixture on the sport's biggest stage.
With so few viable contenders in the women's division, an emphatic victory for either fighter could mean the road to a title shot as early as next year.
The more women who make their mark, the merrier.
4. Canadian Talent and the Winnipeg Crowd
Seven Canadian fighters are set to take center stage at UFC 161.
Why does it matter? Well, Canada has produced its fair share of world-class fighters, from UFC welterweight king Georges St-Pierre to emerging young force Rory MacDonald. Most recently, Nova Scotia native T.J. Grant cemented his place as the No. 1 contender to Benson Henderson's lightweight throne.
The atmosphere surrounding the event is the most compelling factor. Unlike major Metropolitan cities the UFC's often frequents north of the border, Winnipeg is not the mecca of, well, anything really. Sure, the Winnipeg Jets have recently re-emerged in the National Hockey League. But let's face it, when the UFC comes to town, it's a pretty big deal.
Unlike Las Vegas crowds, often littered with empty seats until a marquee pay-per-view fight, the fans in Winnipeg will eat up every minute of action. From the first prelim to the main event, they'll be on the edge of their seats. The UFC coming to town is a major novelty for the city, evidenced by the 15,000-plus tickets sold for Saturday's event.
Similar to crowds in the Brazilian market, the MTS Centre will be jam-packed and chanting for their favorites all night long, which brings us back to the seven Canadians competing.
You can bet they'll be feeling the love come Saturday night.
3. Heavyweight Heat
Who doesn't love a great heavyweight fight? Well, UFC 161 has two in store on the pay-per-view broadcast.
The belly-rubbing, free-swinging Roy Nelson looks to extend his winning streak to four against once-beaten slugger Stipe Miocic.
Most fans can take one glance at Nelson and they can relate. You don’t need big muscles or a chiseled physique to make it in this sport. Meanwhile, Miocic works as a firefighter and emergency medical technician in Ohio. These aren’t your everyday jocks.
In other action, the fan friendly striking specialist Pat Barry looks to build off the momentum of a devastating knockout win over Shane del Rosario this past December as he takes on the freakishly athletic Shawn Jordan.
Jordan has finished 13 of his 14 career victims, while Barry has finished eight of 13, in addition to nine kickboxing knockouts.
With volatile elements in play such as Nelson’s overhand right and Barry’s brutalizing leg kicks, fireworks are inevitable.
Who doesn’t love a good knockout? If your answer is no, this probably isn’t the sport for you.
2. Prelims with a Purpose
Since the landmark deal with FOX was announced, the UFC has put an increased emphasis on exciting prelims to tee off a pay-per-view.
Saturday’s featured FX prelim is a legitimate treat as former Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields returns to 170 pounds against menacing powerhouse wrestler Tyron Woodley.
Despite a rough stretch in recent years, Shields is one of the sport’s most accomplished fighters. Since debuting in 1999, the Cesar Gracie-trained prodigy has beaten a who’s who of household names, including Dan Henderson, Martin Kampmann, Robbie Lawler, Paul Daley, Mike Pyle, Carlos Condit and Yushin Okami. There’s no denying what Shields has accomplished or what he’s capable of.
On the other hand, Woodley blitzed Jay Hieron just 36 seconds into his UFC debut this past February, registering an impressive knockout to put the welterweight division on notice.
Stylistically, this one should be interesting. Shields has often relied on his wrestling and sublime submisisons, but will he succeed in taking Woodley down? Can Shields withstand an offensive flurry from his heavy-handed foe?
Many questions remain and they should all be answered after Saturday’s encounter, which is complemented by Canadian fan favorites Sam Stout, Sean Pierson and Winnipeg’s own Roland Delorme in separate bouts.
When you have two top contenders facing off on the undercard, life is good.
1. The H-Bomb’s Last Stand
Dan Henderson may be 42 years old, but the legendary mixed martial arts pioneer is still laying opponents out with his patented overhand right, otherwise known as the “H-Bomb.”
Henderson headlines UFC 161 opposite former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans. With both fighters coming off losses, one will re-establish himself as a top contender, while the other falls further by the wayside.
Not only is Henderson one of the most exciting fighters of all time, evidenced by his 2011 campaign that saw him notch back-to-back knockouts of Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante and Fedor Emelianenko before a classic five-round battle with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 139, a fight widely acknowledged as the best of all time, which is saying a lot.
Henderson always comes to fight, so we can expect entertainment. More importantly, however, Henderson is in for an immensely tough test.
If Henderson comes up short, that means two losses in a row. Preparing to turn 43 this August, one must wonder how much Henderson has left in the tank.
He’s not interested in becoming a gatekeeper or a fighter who overstayed his welcome.
Whether it means fighting legends or challenging for the title, Henderson wants to compete at the highest level.
Another loss could open Henderson’s eyes to the reality of retirement. Simply put, Henderson could fight professionally for the last time in his historic career on Saturday night.
There are no signs clearly pointing to Henderson hanging up the gloves, but the clock is still ticking and father time will eventually catch up with him. A competitor at heart, the outcome of Saturday’s headliner could determine Henderson’s fate.