I don't know about you, but I personally believe that Saturday's UFC on FOX 7 event is the most stacked card of the year. On paper, anyway.
From the bottom of the preliminary card—which features three of the best lighter-weight fighters in the world (Chad Mendes, Joseph Benavidez and T.J. Dillashaw) and several intriguing UFC vs. Strikeforce matchups (Anthony Njokuani vs. Roger Bowling, Jorge Masvidal vs. Tim Means, Lorenz Larkin vs. Francis Carmont)—all the way to the main card, well, this one has something for everyone.
Put simply, if you're a fight fan, you'll be watching this event. And if you're not a fight fan, you should watch it anyway because you might just be a fan after it's over.
Here are five things you should keep an eye out for at UFC on FOX 7. Let's roll.
Jordan Mein has 35 professional fights, and he's only 23 years old.
Yes, I said 23 years old. With 35 pro fights.
I've been aware of Mein for quite some time and it's still hard for me to fathom that he's such a veteran of the sport at such a young age. It doesn't seem possible, and yet it is.
Mein started fighting on the amateur circuit at 14 years old and then turned pro on one of his father Lee's MMA shows in Canada at the ripe age of 16.
Outside of a split-decision loss to Tyron Woodley, Mein has been perfect since signing with Strikeforce and then making the switch to the UFC. He became the first person to finish Dan Miller in his UFC debut back in February and now he returns on short notice to take on another grizzled veteran in Matt Brown.
If Mein beats Brown in the same fashion as he did Miller, is there any doubt that he should be considered one of the brightest prospects in the welterweight division?
I've long considered him a future title contender and UFC on FOX represents a chance for the rest of the world to take notice.
Gilbert Melendez has been waiting a long time for Saturday night. He passed the time in Strikeforce after Zuffa bought the promotion by being a good company man, hardly ever complaining and always putting on his "just happy to be here" face.
But privately, Melendez would tell you that he's looked forward to Saturday night since the moment Dana White announced he'd purchased Strikeforce.
Finally, he has the chance to be something more than a big fish in a small pond; he has the chance to face the best lightweight in the world for the biggest lightweight prize in the sport. He has the chance to prove himself.
Melendez has a tough task ahead of him, though. Henderson is the best for a reason and he's a very smart fighter. He won't be drawn into a mindless firefight with Melendez, because that's where the challenger is at his most dangerous. He has no problem playing a points game and working his way to a decision, seeing as winning isn't just the most important thing for the champion. It's the only thing.
I'm not saying Melendez can't beat Henderson, because he can. It'll take the performance of a lifetime to do so.
The important thing, for now, is that Melendez is in the UFC and getting his shot at the belt, if only because we can finally stop talking about how he'd fare against the top fighters in the UFC.
Josh Thomson's name is synonymous with Strikeforce, but he was actually a UFC fighter long before he signed with Scott Coker's promotion. He debuted at UFC 44 and fought three times, winning two before losing to Yves Edward and exiting the promotion.
I think it's interesting that Thomson is overlooked when it comes to the discussion of good lightweights. I'm guilty of not even considering Thomson when discussing the best in the sport, and that's wrong; since 2006, Thomson has only lost to Melendez (two times), Clay Guida and Tatsuya Kawajiri.
His record isn't spotless, but 20-5 is nothing to scoff at either.
I believe Thomson has a much better chance of beating Nate Diaz than oddsmakers and fans are giving him and I think it'll be interesting to see what happens next if he manages to pull off the upset.
Plenty of people believe that Thomson was screwed in his last fight against Melendez. Might we see Melendez vs. Thomson 4, only this time for the UFC Championship?
It's a possibility.
Saturday marks the first time that three competitors from Team Alpha Male, the squad founded by Urijah Faber, will compete on the same card.
Joseph Benavidez, T.J. Dillashaw and Chad Mendes are all slated for action on the FX-aired preliminary card. All are heavy favorites, with Mendes at -750, Benavidez at -600 and Dillashaw at -300 (per Odds Shark). I fully expect all three to dominate their respective fights.
It should be a good night for Team Alpha Male, and it comes on the heels of Urijah Faber's one-sided win over Scott Jorgensen at last week's Ultimate Fighter finale.
Wins for Mendes and Benavidez may put them right back in title contention, even though both have already lost during title opportunities.
A win for Dillashaw will continue to move him up the rankings. I expect that he'll be contending for the bantamweight title within the next two years, if not sooner.
Daniel Cormier has plenty to gain against Frank Mir, but he also has everything to lose.
He's one of the most hyped heavyweights to ever enter the UFC and fans have been waiting months to see the Strikeforce grand prix champion make his debut. A win puts him in title contention, either at heavyweight (if Cain Velasquez loses to Antonio Silva) or at light heavyweight.
But a loss to Mir would be a big setback for Cormier's career. He's riding an incredible wave of hype and athletic skill, and that could all come crashing down if Mir pulls out the kind of submission he's known for.
And Mir is no stranger to facing off against a debuting heavyweight with tons of hype. Remember his first fight with Brock Lesnar?
This is not to say that Cormier will make the same kind of mistake that Lesnar did. He's far too cerebral for that and I expect him to finish Mir long before the 15 minutes are up.
But still, he'll need to be careful because Mir is a crafty and skilled veteran. Most importantly, he has nothing to lose.