Kaiana Miller, April 15, 2016, at 1:13 p.m.
The UFC returns to Florida this weekend with a card that has changed significantly since it was announced. Khabib Nurmagomedov was supposed to face Tony Ferguson in the headliner. However, an injury forced “El Cucuy” to pull out and Nurmagomedov will now face new-comer Darrell Horcher.
Yesterday it was announced that Lyoto Machida admitted to taking a banned substance during a pre-fight drug test. His fight with Dan Henderson was taken off the card completely as a result. There seem to be numerous questions heading into this weekend, luckily for us we will get the answers on Saturday. Here is what to look for in Tampa.
Ten Questions about UFC on Fox 19
1. How long will Cezar Ferreira last before getting knocked out?
Ferreira has lost his last two fights by first round knockout. He has dropped three of his last four fights after starting off his UFC career at 3-0. Unfortunately for him his opponent on Saturday is Oluwale Bambgose, who has recorded a knockout in all six of his career victories… and all of them have been in the first round.
The UFC appears to be throwing Bamgbose a softball here in an attempt to increase his stock and name value by adding another quick knockout to his resume. That’s most likely what will happen. If Ferreira gets out of the first round it would be a moral victory.
2. Will Randy Brown live up to his promise to “bring the heat”?
Randy Brown’s debuted in the UFC in his last fight with a little more hype than was competition. In his octagon debut, Brown looked a little timid in the first round before turning it up in the second and third to win a unanimous decision.
In his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, Brown said to the fans, “I feel like it wasn’t my best performance tonight but I promise you, I promise you, I’m bringing the heat. Stay tuned.”
Expectations are high for the young man as he draws another undefeated prospect in Michael Graves (who has finished 4 of his 5 professional victories). This is a potential fight of the night candidate and maybe we should all take Brown’s advice and tune in.
3. How will John Dodson Look at 135lbs?
After winning The Ultimate Fighter Season 14 as a Bantamweight, John Dodson elected to immediately drop down to flyweight where he thought his chances of holding a UFC belt would be better.
Coming off the heels of an un-competitive second loss to current Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson, Dodson has decided to move up a weight class.
This is the first time since the TUF 14 finale in 2011 in which Dodson will fight at 135lbs. He has proved that he can be successful at this weight (he knocked out former bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw to win TUF 14).
In his first fight back in the division, Dodson draws Manny Gamburyan. Dodson’s speed should be on full display against the man who is affectionately called “The Anvil”. It remains to be seen just how good (or bad) Dodson will look at the heavier weight. Saturday should provide us with some answers.
4. Which welterweight will earn a shot at a top 15 opponent?
Court McGee will fight Santiago Ponzinibbio in a bout of developing welterweights. McGee looked to be a potential title challenger after winning his first three fights in the UFC but a couple of losses and one career threatening injury later and McGee is back to where he started five years ago.
Ponzinibbio has won three of his last four fights and has the makings of a potential contender in the division. The winner of this fight should draw a top 15 opponent in their next fight as a reward. The question is, who will it be?
5. Is Bethe Correia even good?
We all know how Correia’s last fight went. After a lot of trash talk and self promoting, Correia was knocked completely unconscious by a Ronda Rousey punch that left her face first on the canvas. It is true that Correia was undefeated before the loss, but her UFC opponents up to that point are a combined 1-7 in the organization.
Correia wasn’t exactly fighting against elite competition. She will fight her first real competition other than Rousey when she squares of against Raquel Pennington. The Altitude MMA fighter has won two of her last three, with the lone loss being a split-decision to Holly Holm. This should be a good litmus test for Correia as Pennington is good, but beatable. We will soon find out if Correia is a contender or pretender.
6. Which lightweight prospect will emerge as a potential future champion?
In what should be a very competitive and entertaining fight, lightweight prospects Michael Chiesa and Beneil Dariush will duke it out to determine who will be the future of the division. Chiesa is 6-2 in the UFC, with one of his losses coming by a questionable doctor-stoppage for a cut Chiesa sustained against Joe Lauzon in a fight that he was arguably winning. Dariush has strung together five straight impressive wins including a split-decision victory over Michael Johnson in his last outing. The winner of this fight should cement themselves as a forced to be reckoned with in the lightweight division.
7. Can Cub Swanson make a comeback?
At only 32 years old, it seems ridiculous to be asking this question about Cub Swanson but after two straight ugly submission losses the question should be posed. Swanson had won six straight fights and was a win away from getting a title shot before running into Frankie Edgar.
Twenty-four minutes and 56 seconds later, Swanson was tapping out to save himself from a potential broken jaw. He followed that up with another submission loss, this time to Max Holloway. Swanson draws another submission artist this weekend when he’ll fight Hacran Dias with a chance to prove that he has a lot left in the tank.
An impressive victory would put Swanson only three or four wins away from a title shot, while a loss would make a comeback that much harder. Swanson might even have to consider switching weight classes with a loss. Here’s to hoping that Swanson puts on a show this Saturday on his way back to potential title contention.
8. How bad will Khabib’s injuries affect his fighting?
The Khabib who beat current champion Rafael Dos Anjos in 2014 was arguably the best lightweight in the world. He dominated RDA en-route to a unanimous decision victory. Then the injuries came. “The Eagle” has been sidelined for nearly two years after two knee injuries as well as a rib injury. Finally healthy, it was his opponent who pulled out of this fight with an injury. Instead of taking a fight at a later date, Khabib has elected to fight short notice replacement Darrell Horcher in what should be an easy victory. However, if the Dagestani’s injuries are more serious than many of us think, he could be in for a long night. Horcher is no chump, but he should be nothing more than an easy win for a healthy Khabib. My bet is that Khabib shakes off some early ring rust then proceeds to throw Horcher to the ground any way he likes. A title shot will then be in sight.
9. Who will get the next shot at the UFC Straw-weight title?
Tecia Torres and Rose Namajunas fought back in 2013, with Torres taking a
unanimous decision victory. Both fighters have grown leaps and bounds since then. Namajunas has won her last two fights by submission (including a domination of Paige Vanzant). Torres meanwhile, remains unbeaten at 7-0 and has been able to use her speed advantage effectively against most opponents. Currently, Namajunas has arguably the best jiu-jitsu in the division and has added a pretty stand up game to go with it. Torres is not a finisher and has won all of her fights by darting in and out with short punches while dipping her head out of the way when her opponents try to counter. This is my pick for fight of the night and we should know who is fighting for the strap afterwards?
10. Which “old man” has enough left for one more run at a title?
Rashad Evans’ return from injury was less than stellar as the former champion dropped a decision to the division’s most boring fighter in Ryan Bader. It was his first fight in two years and you could almost see the ring rust falling off Evans’ body every time he got hit. Evans was supposed to be fighting Mauricio Rua here, but Rua had to pull out due to injury. That’s where Glover Teixera came into the picture. After losing a title bid against Jon Jones and then losing again to Phil Davis, Teixera has rebounded nicely with two dominant wins over mid-tier opponents. The winner of this fight will show that they have what it takes for one last run at UFC gold, while the loser will most likely be relegated to gatekeeper for the remainder of their fighting days.