The UFC's first event on FUEL TV takes place Wednesday as welterweight powerhouse Jake Ellenberger returns home to Nebraska to take on scrappy contender Diego Sanchez.
Here's a closer look at the televised main card:
Diego Sanchez (25-4) vs. Jake Ellenberger (26-5)
A staple in the UFC since 2005, Sanchez, 30, hopes a third straight victory will finally earn him a crack at the welterweight title, while Ellenberger, 26, an emerging knockout artist, plans to position himself at the forefront of top contenders with his sixth win in a row.
Sanchez, 30, is coming off back-to-back wins over Martin Kampmann and Paulo Thiago. After unsuccessfully challenging for the UFC lightweight title against B.J. Penn, Sanchez returned to the 170-pound division, only to suffer an upset loss to John Hathaway.
Since reuniting with former coach Greg Jackson in New Mexico, Sanchez is back in the win column — but not without some controversy. His unanimous decision over Kampmann last March was hardly convincing, but the bloodied Sanchez showcased his heart and warrior spirit in one of the year's most spirited encounters.
A Brazilian jiujitsu brown belt and longtime pupil of Saulo Ribeiro, Sanchez is a handful for anyone when he's at his best. An athletic welterweight with strong slams, good scrambles, constant aggression, a tough chin and stellar conditioning, Sanchez has benefited from fighting some of the best competition the UFC has to offer.
Ellenberger is coming off the biggest win of his career as he knocked out longtime Strikeforce and EliteXC champion Jake Shields in the first round of their bout at UFC Fight Night on Sept. 17, 2011. After dropping a razor-thin split decision to current interim welterweight champ Carlos Condit in his UFC debut, Ellenberger has established himself as a force.
A product of Reign Training Center and Kings MMA in California, the heavy-handed former NCAA Division II wrestler has turned in impressive knockout wins over Mike Pyle, John Howard and Sean Pierson.
Ellenberger is actually an experienced veteran as he made his mixed martial arts debut in 2005, but he is now entering into his prime as he begins to showcase his well-rounded game against elite opposition.
"The Juggernaut" is hoping a resounding win in front of his hometown crowd could earn him a rematch with Condit for the interim belt while Georges St. Pierre nurses injuries, but Sanchez is not a fighter he can afford to take lightly.
Sanchez will come forward aggressively, looking to close the distance, and it would not be surprising to see him pull guard. Ellenberger will not shy away from the clinch, where he will pursue strong takedowns. His primary strategy will be a familiar one as he bulldozes forward throwing hard hooks.
Sanchez is as durable as they come with his only loss coming at the hands of Penn after a savage beatdown, but Ellenberger is a harder puncher than his previous adversaries.
Sanchez could survive the onslaught, but Ellenberger's heavy barrages of strikes and takedowns should secure him the victory as he outpoints Sanchez on the judges' scorecards.
In a compelling heavyweight meeting, Struve will try to prove that Brazilian jiujitsu does, in fact, work.
Struve, 23, the tallest fighter in the UFC (6-foot-11), is coming off a submission win over Pat Barry in October. The towering Dutchman has been knocked out three times in his UFC career, and Herman will likely be looking to exploit a susceptible chin.
However, Struve possesses a strong base in kickboxing to go with his Brazilian jiujitsu purple belt. Evidenced in his wins over Sean McCorkle and Christian Morecraft, Struve has a lot of fight in him, and his striking should not be discredited.
Herman, 27, made a triumphant UFC debut in June, finishing wrestling ace John-Olav Einemo at UFC 131. After the win, Herman stood by his claims that Brazilian jiu-jitsu was not a practical tool for mixed martial arts. Coincidentally, Herman finished Yoshihiro Nakao with an omoplata in December 2010.
Herman, a Team Quest product, has 15 knockout wins in 23 professional fights, so he will be coming forward looking to trade heavy strikes with the Dutch "Skyscraper."
Struve is unlikely to shy away from a traditional kickboxing match, but he might also look to take this fight to the mat to teach Herman a lesson about submissions.
Herman's biggest weakness is actually his gas tank, not his submission game. If Struve can take this fight into deep water and exhaust the Indiana native with clinches and body shots, Herman will begin to fade. If it goes the distance, Struve's control could be the difference maker.
In middleweight action, Simpson will look to build on a three-fight winning streak when he faces Markes, who made a successful UFC debut in August and competes at 185 pounds for the first time in his career.
Simpson, 37, is not always the most exciting fighter, but his style works. The former NCAA Division I All-American utilizes his wrestling effectively to neutralize his opponents and take away their best weapons.
Markes, 23, competed on US soil for the first time in his UFC debut, outpointing Karlos Vemola in a light heavyweight bout. The Brazilian prospect was signed by UFC matchmaker Joe Silva after defeating former WEC champion Paulo Filho in April.
A product of the Nova Uniao BJJ academy, Markes will possess a size advantage at 185 pounds. He doesn't shy away from the clinch or ground game, which could actually be his downfall against Simpson.
Striking is the key to beating a seasoned wrestler, and Markes is unlikely to pose any major threats with his hands. If Simpson can administer his patented clinch warfare, it will benefit the American wrestler, who will likely prevail via decision.
In a battle of unbeaten heavyweight prospects with 1-0 UFC records, American wrestler Miocic battles British Alliance product De Fries.
Miocic, 29, earned a unanimous decision win over Joey Beltran in his UFC debut in October. In addition to possessing an NCAA Division I wrestling background, Miocic is a former Golden Gloves boxing champion with dangerous striking.
De Fries, 25, a Brazilian jiujitsu purple belt under Rodrigo Cabral, outpointed Rob Broughton in his promotional debut in November. With seven of his eight wins coming by way of submission, De Fries will desperately need to bring this fight into his comfort zone against the vastly superior striker.
Every fight begins with both fighters standing, which should give Miocic a sizable advantage. De Fries will be hard-pressed to take down the NCAA standout, so look for Miocic to finish the fight with a devastating barrage of strikes.
After suffering his first career loss in the final of "The Ultimate Fighter" in December, the 5-6 Dillashaw looks to rebound against the much taller Watson (5-11).
Dillashaw, 26, an NCAA Division I wrestler, saw his unbeaten run snapped in the first round of his bout with John Dodson. The Californian trains out of Team Alpha Male alongside Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez and Chad Mendes as he continues to develop other aspects of his game, namely striking and submissions.
Watson, 27, lost a split decision to Yves Jabouin at UFC 140 in December. The lanky submission specialist finished Joseph Sandoval in the first round of his UFC debut in October.
While the fight remains upright, Watson will be in control with his long reach and superior striking pedigree. However, the Texan will have a hard time stuffing Dillashaw's takedown attempts. Dillashaw still has many facets to improve upon, but his wrestling alone should carry him to a victory if he can grind on Watson over three grueling rounds.
"The Pride of El Salvador" will try to build on a two-fight winning streak when he collides with the Victory Athletics-trained Albert in a bantamweight tilt.
Menjivar, 29, has been around the mixed martial arts scene since 2001. In his fifth professional bout in 2002, he lost to future teammate and welterweight king St. Pierre in St. Pierre's mixed martial debut.
Menjivar has competed on the international circuit, earning wins over Jeff Curran, Joe Lauzon and Hideo Tokoro. At UFC 48 in June 2004, Menjivar lost a hard-fought decision to Matt Serra in his only UFC appearance before reemerging in the organization last year.
Menjivar was inactive between 2006 and 2010 as he spent time with his family and pondered his future. The full-time airport security worker still has a passion for the sport and he's looking to make the most out of his return to the UFC.
A well-rounded fighter anchored at Tristar Gym in Montreal, Menjivar can roll, strike and wrestle with the best of them. With the pool of contenders diminishing at 135 pounds as champion Dominick Cruz continues to reign supreme, Menjivar is emerging as a bona fide title contender.
Albert, 25, a veteran of the 14th season of "The Ultimate Fighter," stopped Dustin Pague in December. Albert is no slouch, but he lacks the experience and skills to pose any major threat to the well-travelled Menjivar.
Menjivar, a Canadian of Salvadorian descent, is a man on a mission who likely willl capitalize on Albert's first big mistake, sinking in a tight submission to force the tap out.