UFC 160: 5 Things to Watch For at Velasquez vs. Silva 2
UFC 160's main event is a weird one.
I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. The first bout between Cain Velasquez and Antonio Silva was so definitive, so dominant, that I'm not sure there's a single person in the world outside of Silva's family, friends and camp that wanted to see it a second time.
You can't say that Silva didn't earn his title shot, either. He beat Travis Browne and Alistair Overeem, after all, and he won both in destructive fashion. Those wins, combined with the lack of another clear-cut contender, mean that Silva deserves to be in the cage on Saturday night.
And still, I can't say that I'm excited about the fight. Anything can happen in MMA, sure, but given what we saw Velasquez do to Silva the first time around, I can't imagine that many fans or experts are giving "Bigfoot" a real shot at winning. For the first time in a long time, a UFC heavyweight title fight feels like a foregone conclusion.
But outside of the main event, there's still plenty to be excited about on the UFC 160 card. When you take a step back and really look at the card, from the prelims all the way to the co-main event, you quickly realize that it's actually quite jam-packed with interesting fights.
Today, I'm going to take a look at five things I'm looking forward to at UFC 160. Join me, won't you?
Can Mark Hunt Complete His Improbable Underdog Story?
Dana White's new selling point for the fight between Junior dos Santos and Mark Hunt is that Hunt is one of the best stories in the current sports world.
For once, it's not hyperbole or promoter speak.
Hunt's career resurgence is one of the more unlikely things I can remember in mixed martial arts. He only entered the UFC after Zuffa purchased PRIDE; they contractually owed Hunt several fights from his old PRIDE deal and offered to simply buy him out of the contract without Hunt fighting at all.
But Hunt didn't want to do things that way. He told White that he wanted to fight, and so he was given a fight with Sean McCorkle at UFC 119. Hunt lost that fight in just over a minute by submission, his sixth loss in a row.
But the next time out, Hunt beat Chris Tuchscherer. That was in February 2011, and Hunt hasn't lost since, running up four consecutive wins in one of the most difficult UFC divisions in which to accumulate any kind of winning streak.
On Saturday night, Hunt has a chance to beat a former heavyweight champion. According to White, if he wins, he'll likely get a title shot.
From six losses in a row and only fighting in the UFC because of contractual issues to a potential heavyweight title contender. White is right: Hunt truly is one of the best stories in sports right now, and an upset win on Saturday night would be one of the best feel-good moments in UFC history.
The Next Lightweight Title Contender
The world may not know T.J. Grant, but he has a chance to become the next challenger for Benson Henderson's lightweight title on Saturday night.
Grant deserves the position he's in, but he's got a tough task in front of him. Gray Maynard has twice nearly become the UFC champion, thwarted only by Frankie Edgar's indomitable spirit and unique ability to endure extreme amounts of punishment before making improbable comebacks.
Style-wise, Maynard has an ace in the hole. He's an excellent wrestler, and Grant's takedown defense is far below average. Should Maynard choose to execute a safe wrestling game plan, Grant will have a tough time scoring the win.
That doesn't mean Grant can't win. He can. But he'll need to fight the absolute best fight of his career if he wants to earn a shot at Henderson's title.
Donald Cerrone vs. K.J. Noons: Fight of the Night?
One of the more entertaining speculations leading into a fight card always centers around early choices for Fight of the Night. It's often difficult to pick a potential bonus-earning fight from a card. Sometimes, it's easy.
This one is the latter.
Donald Cerrone vs. K.J. Noons, in my book, is the odds-on favorite for Fight of the Night honors. It's a fantastic style matchup, with both fighters tending toward the stand-up striking game. Cerrone has excellent technical kickboxing, while Noons is one of the better boxers in the sport. He was a professional boxer, after all.
Both men also find themselves in the middle of thrilling bouts more often than not. Whether it's because they're looking to entertain the fans or if it's just a by-product of their respective styles, Cerrone and Noons have reputations for delivering the goods.
This is one to watch. And if you're the kind of person who enjoys throwing down a few bones on fight-night-bonus prop bets, well, you'd do far worse than choosing this one.
The Return of Brian Bowles
Since the WEC was shuttered in January 2011, Brian Bowles has only fought three times. All three bouts happened in 2011, with the last—a submission loss to Urijah Faber—coming in November of that year.
Bowles missed all of 2012 and nearly half of 2013 due to injury. There were times when it felt like the former WEC bantamweight champion would never return. A friend asked me earlier this year if Bowles would fight again, and I honestly didn't know how to answer the question.
On Saturday night, Bowles will finally return to the cage as he faces George Roop. When he's at his best, and when he's injury-free, Bowles is still a dynamic bantamweight fighter. But will his hands, which break so easily as if they're made of glass, hold up to the rigors of punching another man in the face?
That's the major question surrounding Bowles. We know he can still be a title contender. What we don't know is if he can avoid more injuries and prolonged periods on the sideline that waste away some of the prime years of his fighting career.
Khabib Nurmagomedov: Best Lightweight Prospect in the World?
The most interesting aspect of the UFC 160 preliminary card is Khabib Nurmagomedov's bout against Abel Trujillo.
Not because it's an intriguing fight or because I believe it will be a close one. On the contrary, I think Nurmagomedov will absolutely manhandle Trujillo and pick up his fourth UFC win.
It's intriguing because Nurmagomedov might just be the best lightweight prospect in the world—or at least in the UFC.
The Russian is 19-0 in his professional career. Fighters will often come into the UFC with spotless records, but quickly discover that the level of talent they're facing in the world's biggest fight promotion is far greater than they faced while compiling that perfect record.
Not Nurmagomedov. Through three UFC fights against tough opponents in Kamal Shalorus, Gleison Tibau and Thiago Tavares, Nurmagomedov has shown the same kind of outstanding skill set he displayed while fighting on the indies. He's been nothing short of fantastic.
In a way, Trujillo feels like a step down for Nurmagomedov. But the fight still represents an opportunity for Nurmagomedov to show just how dangerous he is, and to perhaps take a step up the lightweight ladder.