UFC 165: The 3 Fighters Who Have the Most to Gain

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UFC 165: The 3 Fighters Who Have the Most to Gain
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Every UFC event produces winners and losers, but the stakes of each contest are far from uniform.

Some fighters are looking to lock down a roster spot, while others are attempting to make a name for themselves, and still others are grasping at immortality.

Here we will look at the three fighters who stand to gain the most by coming out the other side of UFC 165 a winner.

 

Alexander Gustafsson

Starting with the most obvious choice, we go with Gustafsson. The Swede has already become something of a mixed martial arts star, but his notoriety is still just a footnote to a Jon Jones' epic. With a win, that all changes.

For Gustafsson, victory means a lot of things. It means he wins the UFC light heavyweight title, he becomes the first Swedish UFC champion and he takes out the guy many consider to be the best fighter on the planet.

And more than that, he becomes a hero.

Jones is a polarizing figure with plenty of fans, but just as many—if not significantly more—detractors. Most are willing to accept his him as an elite talent, but for many MMA fans that acceptance comes only grudgingly.

As Dana White says, "people don't like [Jones]."

If Gustafsson removes a disliked figure from his pedestal, he not only enters discussion of the best fighters in the world, he immediately becomes a very, very popular man.

 

Eddie Wineland

Another obvious choice, Wineland has the potential to become the interim bantamweight champion of the UFC. That is all it takes to make this the biggest fight of Wineland's career.

But really, that's only the half of it.

See, the UFC bantamweight has several super-stars. It has absentee champion Dominick Cruz. It has his placeholder and rising pound-for-pound contender Renan Barao. It has the wildly popular Urijah Faber. It has arguably the best young fighter in the world in Michael McDonald.

The majority of the fighters on that list will be around for awhile and continue to make up the pinnacle of the 135-pound division.

Unless Wineland wins, or at least pushes Barao to his limit, his name will stay out of that class. It's harsh, but reality nonetheless.

Should he bring home a W from Toronto this Saturday, Wineland not only becomes a UFC champion, but carves out a piece of prime real estate in what is perhaps the most promising market on the MMA landscape.

 

Khabib Nurmagomedov

"The Eagle" has garnered plenty of attention during his 4-0 UFC stretch, but still lacks a signature win that shows he's ready to make a title run.

By beating Pat Healy at UFC 165 he can change all that.

Nurmagomedov is a supremely talented, exhilarating and charismatic competitor. He has all the makings of a star. He just needs a win over a highly regarded fighter and he is there.

It's high stakes for the Russian at UFC 165—either his breakthrough moment or a rude awakening that stardom is only a possibility, not a destiny. 

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