UFC 150 Fight Card: Hottest Topics Heading into Henderson vs. Edgar II
Benson Henderson successfully dethroned Frankie Edgar in February, but the former WEC champion was not able to rid himself of Edgar's presence, as he will now have to defend his recently earned title against the former champion in the UFC 150 main event.
In addition to a rematch for the lightweight belt, Saturday's fight card brings many more intriguing story lines.
The UFC 150 co-main event features a bout between former training partners and lightweight contenders Donald Cerrone and Melvin Guillard. After deflating losses near the end of 2011, both fighters are hunting a shot at the belt that will be on the line in the fight that follows theirs.
These are just a couple of the highly anticipated matchups that provide a plethora of talking points heading into UFC 150. Here are the hottest topics surrounding the Henderson-Edgar matchup and the rest of Saturday's fight card.
Will Nik Lentz or Eiji Mitsuoka Benefit More from a Move to Featherweight?
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Nik Lentz hasn't seen favorable matchmaking in his past three fights, which all ended in disappointment for the 27-year-old. "The Carny" was battered in a no-contest against Charles Oliveira before coming up short against two more skilled lightweights in Mark Bocek and Evan Dunham.
Having gone three straight appearances without picking up a win and needing some luck to score victories in his two fights preceding his current winless streak, Lentz was forced to make a change. That metamorphosis came in the form of a move to the featherweight division, where Lentz will meet Eiji Mitsuoka at UFC 150.
Mitsuoka is coming off of a loss to Takanori Gomi in his UFC debut and could also be competing to keep his UFC roster spot on Saturday.
If either fighter decided to drop to 145 pounds to gain a significant size advantage over their opposition, they won't find such a thing against one another. At least in this instance, the effects of the weight cut on both fighters should be negligible.
While it has damaged his record, Lentz's experience against high-level competition will be valuable in this matchup. The 36-year-old Mitsuoka previously competed under the Pride banner, but he hasn't seen many elite opponents since that earlier portion of his career.
Letz will secure the win he needs to stick around in the world's premier MMA organization, while Mitsuoka will need to make the fight exciting in order to earn a third chance to prove himself inside the Octagon.
Is Dustin Pague Taking Too Many Fights?
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Most fighters would consider themselves fairly active in a three-fight year. Dustin Pague, however, will have competed on that many occasions in the past two months after he squares off against UFC newcomer Chico Camus at UFC 150.
Following a submission victory over Jared Papazian at UFC on FX 3, Pague stepped in as a late replacement for a fight against Ken Stone only two weeks later in June. Pague suffered from his decision to take the fight with Stone on short notice, as he was defeated in a split decision.
Pague should be able to escape with a win over the inexperienced Camus on Saturday. However, if he feels anything less than 100 percent, Pague should use this fight as an opportunity to learn he shouldn't be fighting on a monthly basis at the highest levels of this sport.
Has Ken Stone Turned Things Around?
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In his first two appearances under the Zuffa banner, Ken Stone was brutally knocked out by Eddie Wineland and Scott Jorgensen. There weren't many positives to take away from those first-round stoppages, but it appears Stone has used those embarrassing defeats as motivation to get his career back on track.
Stone is now on a two-fight winning streak after submitting Donny Walker and edging Dustin Pague in a split decision. On Saturday, Stone will have a chance to make it three in a row against Erik Perez, a promising new face in the bantamweight division who is coming off of a controversial submission win against John Albert.
With 13 submission wins between them, Stone and Perez are both strongest on the ground. If Stone can beat Perez at his own game, the American Top Team product will finally crawl his way out of the 135-pound division's basement and can begin focusing on climbing the ladder rather than holding onto his job.
Will Jared Hamman or Michael Kuiper Avoid Losing Back-to-Back Fights?
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Jared Hamman and Michael Kuiper are both still a long way from the top of the middleweight division. However, neither fighter has ever lost consecutive fights in their respective careers. Unless the competitors fight to a draw at UFC 150, that will change for one of the two individuals on Saturday night.
Three of Hamman's four losses have come via knockout, but the 30-year-old is also dangerous when standing. With knockout wins against C.B. Dollaway and Travis Wiuff, Hamman has already shown the ability to deal with grapplers like Kuiper.
Coming off of a loss to Rafael Natal in his UFC debut, Kuiper is also less experienced than Hamman against UFC-level competition. That inexperience will be detrimental against Hamman and could lead to Kuiper's release from the UFC if he is unable to mount an upset or at least be entertaining in defeat.
How High Is Dennis Bermudez's Ceiling?
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Following most TUF seasons, little is expected from the runner-up. Over the years, only two TUF runner-ups have challenged for a UFC title, and neither was able to capture the belt. However, after a dominant performance against Pablo Garza in his first post-TUF appearance, it appears Dennis Bermudez could be the fighter to change that trend.
Despite his impressive win over Garza, Bermudez will now take a perceived step back in competition against Tommy Hayden, who is coming off of a submission loss to Fabricio Camoes in his UFC debut. Nonetheless, this UFC 150 matchup will allow Bermudez to put his skills on full display once again.
If Bermudez can dispose of Hayden decisively, he will surely earn a big step up in competition for his next fight. From there, Bermudez has the ground-and-pound to give a lot of opponents problems. However, being forced to tap in all three of his career losses, Bermudez will need to continue to improve his submission defense in order to become a serious contender.
Will Justin Lawrence or Max Holloway Emerge as the Brighter Young Prospect?
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Though he didn't fulfill expectations of winning TUF as the season's early favorite, 22-year-old Justin Lawrence remained undefeated in his official UFC debut by knocking out John Cofer with a spectacular head kick.
In February, 20-year-old Max Holloway also had a rough introduction to the UFC when he met featherweight contender Dustin Poirier in his first Octagon appearance. At the same June event as Lawrence's victory over Cofer, Holloway also picked up his first official UFC win in a lopsided decision against Pat Schilling.
Now, Lawrence has opted to drop from lightweight to featherweight, where he will meet Holloway on Saturday. The young, flashy strikers will battle for recognition as one of the most promising up-and-coming fighters in the division.
Can Yushin Okami Avoid Another Shocking Upset?
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In the midst of the first losing streak of his career, Yushin Okami will need an impressive performance against the promising Buddy Roberts to remain a contender in the UFC's middleweight division.
Okami's standing on the 185-pound ladder took a serious hit in his most recent appearance against Tim Boetsch. Though Okami was besting Boetsch through the first two rounds of the fight, the Japanese fighter was overwhelmed by a barrage of uppercuts in the final frame and ended up suffering a knockout loss less than one minute into the round.
Like Boetsch, Roberts is a large middleweight with significant knockout power, so Okami will need to be smart in order to avoid what would be a shocking and career-threatening third straight knockout loss. Okami's loss to Boetsch probably gave the Japanese middleweight the wake-up call he needed to be fully prepared for this fight, though.
Okami is too experienced and skilled to make the same mistake against Roberts that he did against Boetsch. Expect Okami to win decisively at UFC 150 before making one more run at a 185-pound title shot.
Is Jake Shields Better at Middleweight Than Welterweight?
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After losing two of his past three fights, Jake Shields has decided to make a return to the 185-pound division, where he was Strikeforce champion and defeated the likes of Dan Henderson, Jason Miller and Robbie Lawler.
Shields has also seen plenty of success at welterweight throughout his career, but the cut to 170 pounds has appeared to have a negative impact on the 33-year-old since he joined the UFC in 2010. The Cesar Gracie-trained fighter hopes a move to middleweight will help him return to the top of the sport before the end of his illustrious career.
Ed Herman, Shields' first opponent in his return to 185 pounds, is riding an impressive three-fight winning streak. However, Herman has never been able to pick up a win over a middleweight contender during his long stay with the UFC. Considering Herman's usual reliance on his ground game, it will be difficult for him to upset an even more proven ground specialist in Shields.
With a dominant win over Herman, Shields could put himself on the fast track to middleweight title contention.
Will Donald Cerrone or Melvin Guillard Reclaim Contender Status?
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Donald Cerrone and Melvin Guillard are former teammates at Jackson's MMA. However, they will both be hunting for the knockout when they meet one another in Saturday's co-main event. With a win, either fighter could put themselves back in lightweight title contention, where both competitors were before suffering deflating losses toward the end of 2011.
While Guillard has always been seen as a fighter with massive potential, he isn't as technical as Cerrone on his feet and has had problems with submission defense in the past, something "Cowboy" is more than capable of taking advantage of. Guillard does have knockout power, but Cerrone has never been knocked out and has a granite chin capable of taking Guillard's best.
Expect Cerrone to take one step closer to a UFC title shot with a submission win over Guillard, who will add another loss in a long line of missed opportunities to reach his full potential.
Is Frankie Edgar's Lightweight Career on the Line Against Benson Henderson?
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Though he was recently dethroned from the top of the UFC's lightweight division, Frankie Edgar has become one of the best 155-pound fighters in MMA history. Still, the UFC brass would like to see Edgar move to the featherweight division, where he will not have to deal with the size disadvantage he faces at lightweight.
Should Edgar fail to reclaim his title against Benson Henderson in the UFC 150 main event, it's possible the UFC could force Edgar's move to 145 pounds. The change would also seem like the most logical choice for Edgar to make the quickest run at another UFC belt.
If it were up to Edgar, though, that decision won't have to be made. A win over Henderson would silence a whole lot of questions regarding the featherweight division that Edgar is becoming increasingly annoyed with answering.