UFC Fight Night 29 Results: 10 Burning Questions Heading into UFC 166

Steven RondinaFeatured ColumnistOctober 9, 2013

UFC Fight Night 29 Results: 10 Burning Questions Heading into UFC 166

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    Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

    UFC Fight Night 29 is over and done with! The results are as follows:

    Jake Shields def. Demian Maia via split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47)
    Dong Hyun Kim def. Erick Silva via knockout (punch) - Round 2, 3:01
    Thiago Silva def. Matt Hamill via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-27)
    Fabio Maldonado def. Joey Beltran via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
    Rousimar Palhares def. Mike Pierce via submission (ankle hook) - Round 1, 0:31
    Raphael Assuncao def. T.J. Dillashaw via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
    Igor Araujo def. Ildemar Alcantara via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
    Yan Cabral def. David Mitchell via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
    Chris Cariaso def. Iliarde Santos via technical knockout (punches) - Round 2, 4:31
    Allan Patrick def. Garrett Whiteley via technical knockout (punches) - Round 1, 3:54

    Now it's time to get prepped for the stacked UFC 166 card. The October 19 event is headlined by a heavyweight title fight between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos, has Daniel Cormier vs. Roy Nelson right behind them and features a load of Top 10 fighters on the main card, so get ready for one great night of fights.

    So what are the burning questions heading into this event? Find out right here!

Why Does the UFC Hate Tony Ferguson?

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    Tony Ferguson won The Ultimate Fighter 13 but got busted down after his loss to Michael Johnson.
    Tony Ferguson won The Ultimate Fighter 13 but got busted down after his loss to Michael Johnson.Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    Tony Ferguson apparently angered somebody at the UFC's home office.

    The Ultimate Fighter 13 winner was a promising lightweight prospect in 2012. He scored an impressive knockout over Ramsey Nijem to win the season. He followed that up with convincing victories over two of the most experienced fighters in the business at the time in Aaron Riley and Yves Edwards.

    Then he lost to Michael Johnson on a short-notice fight. That bout was more than a year ago, and TUF winners are usually promoted heavily. Instead, with a 3-1 UFC record, he finds himself fighting on Facebook.

    Granted, this is a stacked card, and it's impossible to say this bout should be promoted ahead of any of the fights on the main card or the Fox Sports 1 portion of the card. Still, it's rare to see a TUF winner get buried like this.

    Most of the UFC's recent cards would have benefited from his presence, but instead he finds himself likely trying to impress empty seats. It's a bit of a waste, considering fellow TUF winners like Norman Parke, Colton Smith and Kelvin Gastelum are attached to main cards in the future, and even runners-up like Uriah Hall and Mike Ricci have found themselves getting desirable bookings.

Who Is Getting Cut After George Sotiropoulos vs. KJ Noons?

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    The bout between Noons and Sotiropoulos will almost certainly see the loser get released from the UFC.
    The bout between Noons and Sotiropoulos will almost certainly see the loser get released from the UFC.Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

    Way back when, I chastised the UFC for choosing George Sotiropoulos to coach The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes. The reason? They were knowingly building up Ross Pearson and George Sotiropoulos immediately before cutting one of them. 

    When the two faced off, Pearson scored a career-rejuvenating knockout. Sotiropoulos, though, has been out of the cage ever since. Now riding a three-fight losing streak, it's hard to imagine the Aussie could endure another loss without getting a pink slip.

    The same goes for former EliteXC lightweight champ KJ Noons. He is an 11-year veteran of the sport with notable wins over Nick Diaz and Yves Edwards, but he struggled once he joined Strikeforce. A victim of constant overmatching, he is 1-5 over his last six fights.

    To his credit, he hasn't been finished despite fighting Nick Diaz (at welterweight, no less), current lightweight top contender Josh Thomson and the always-scary Donald Cerrone. He also wrongly lost what is likely to be 2013's Robbery of the Year to Ryan Couture. That said, not even "Just Bleed" posterboy Leonard Garcia could survive a 1-6 streak.

    Noons, like Sotiropoulos, needs a win here. 

    We'll have to see how things shake out. The only imaginable way that both fighters survive the chopping block would be a 15-minute war where Noons ends up taking home a close split decision. Sotiropoulos is a relatively valuable commodity with the UFC looking to expand its presence in Australia; however, the odds still favor one of them getting sent back to the local circuit.

Who Is Getting Cut After Nate Marquardt vs. Hector Lombard?

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    Marquardt vs. Lombard is another bout where both parties likely have their jobs on the line.
    Marquardt vs. Lombard is another bout where both parties likely have their jobs on the line.Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

    This is yet another battle between savvy veterans with a reliable paycheck on the line. 

    Nate Marquardt can be regarded as one of the best middleweights of all time. A three-time Pancrase middleweight champion who racked up a strong 9-4 record in the UFC, he found immediate success after dropping to welterweight, earning the Strikeforce belt by beating Tyron Woodley.

    Since then, however, he has lost the title to Tarec Saffiedine and been knocked out by Jake Ellenberger. With those losses in mind and the ghosts of his 2011 UFC release still lingering, Marquardt finds himself in a must-win scenario. 

    Hector Lombard is in a similar boat. While he was regarded by many as the best fighter outside the UFC during a 25-fight unbeaten streak, his first bout with the promotion was a sloppy decision loss to Tim Boetsch. He got back on track against Rousimar Palhares but was then manhandled by Yushin Okami.

    Now dropping to welterweight, Lombard is not just fighting for his job but to avoid the label of being one of the biggest UFC free-agent busts of all time.

    Welterweight is a good place for him. He still owns dynamite hands and has underrated takedown defense, which will be on display when he isn't fighting substantially larger fighters like Boetsch and Okami.

    Regardless, his credibility is on the line here. While Lombard will be showered with offers if he gets cut, few fighters would prefer to be fighting outside the UFC. We'll have to see if he can overcome Marquardt's experience and cement himself as a force at 170 lbs.

Can Sarah Kaufman vs. Jessica Eye Live Up to Its Potential?

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    Sarah Kaufman vs. Jessica Eye is the most likely candidate for Fight of the Night.
    Sarah Kaufman vs. Jessica Eye is the most likely candidate for Fight of the Night.Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

    If you're a fan of women's MMA but didn't begin following it until Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche, then this should be a treat. 

    Sarah Kaufman has beaten some of the biggest names in women's mixed martial arts, including victories over Alexis Davis, Shayna Baszler, Roxanne Modafferi, Miesha Tate and Liz Carmouche. She was Strikeforce's first women's bantamweight champ and is one of the few honest-to-goodness knockout artists in women's MMA.

    Jessica Eye is no slouch either, owning a 10-1 record. She is best known for her three fights in Bellator, most notably her demolition of former 115-lb women's champion Zoila Gurgel, whom she finished with an impressive standing arm-triangle choke (you can see the highlights here). She sacrifices a size advantage after spending her entire career at 125 lbs, but she remains one of the scariest fighters in the UFC's women's division.

    We all know that the ladies have been putting on exciting fights so far, and Kaufman and Eye are entertaining even by the standards of women's MMA. This is the top candidate for Fight of the Night honors. 

Was Tim Boetsch Just a Fluke?

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    Tim Boetsch surged into the Top 10 but has been plummeting since.
    Tim Boetsch surged into the Top 10 but has been plummeting since.Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    Few fighters have risen as fast and crashed as hard as Tim Boetsch. 

    After dropping to middleweight in 2011, he racked up solid wins over decent competition, taking home unanimous-decision victories over Kendall Grove and Nick Ring. Then came his shocking come-from-behind knockout victory over Yushin Okami.

    The former middle-of-the-pack 205er was suddenly relevant near the top of the middleweight division.

    This earned him the opportunity to welcome Hector Lombard to the UFC. The fight was ugly and sloppy, and neither fighter wowed the fans. That said, Boetsch still walked away with the win, making him a clear-cut Top 10 fighter.

    In retrospect, it's easy to criticize him and say he never belonged. Grove was not a world beater, and Ring hasn't looked like one of late. Boetsch's win over Okami came after he was dominated for 10 minutes and can be regarded as a fluke.

    More recently, though, he was embarrassed by Costa Philippou. Then he was outclassed by Mark Munoz.

    Ranking-wise, he has a tomato can of an opponent in CB Dollaway. On paper, Boetsch (who still ranks 10th in the official rankings) should be able to dispatch the TUF 7 runner-up with ease. 

    It's on Boetsch to prove the stats correct. If he experiences any sort of hardship en route to a win, it's hard to make a case that he's a top middleweight. If he loses, he could be looking at a contract offer from Bellator.

Who Is That Guy Fighting John Dodson?

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    John Dodson went from fighting the champion to fighting a UFC newcomer.
    John Dodson went from fighting the champion to fighting a UFC newcomer.Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

    John Dodson has fought two of the biggest names in the flyweight division in Jussier Formiga and current champion Demetrious Johnson. Now, he's fighting Darrell Montague.

    "Who?" is the most common reaction to that in all likelihood.

    Montague is a relatively seasoned flyweight and another alumnus from Tachi Palace Fights, a promotion which is owned by the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino and promoted many top flyweights before the UFC started its own 125-lb division. He owns a respectable 13-2 record.

    The most identifiable names on his resume are the fighters who handed him his two career losses: well-regarded flyweight Ian McCall and current UFC featherweight Robbie Peralta. His only win over a UFC fighter came over recent washout Ulysses Gomez. However, the biggest win on his record came against Japanese veteran Mamoru Yamaguchi, one of the best lower-weight fighters to ever compete in Shooto and possibly the GOAT of the flyweight division.

    Dodson, though, is probably the biggest knockout threat at 125 lbs and ran through a fairly stacked season of The Ultimate Fighter as a bantamweight. Rankings-wise, this is a massive mismatch, but every fight is worth watching in the wide-open flyweight division.

What Is the UFC's Plan for Gilbert Melendez?

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    It seems like Gilbert Melendez will need to work his way back to the top in the UFC.
    It seems like Gilbert Melendez will need to work his way back to the top in the UFC.Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Gilbert Melendez may have lost to Benson Henderson, but he silenced many of his doubters with his performance against the former champion. He belongs among the elite of the lightweight division.

    So what is he doing fighting Diego Sanchez?

    Make no mistake: Sanchez is an enduring veteran of the sport who puts on exciting fights. However, he is 3-3 in his last six and would be 1-5 if MMA had competent judging. No number of Fight of the Night bonuses is going to change the fact that he isn't a top-level lightweight right now.

    So what is Joe Silva thinking?

    Well, there are a few possibilities. 

    It's no secret that UFC is trying to explode into China and Mexico. It also isn't a coincidence that both fighters are of Mexican descent. It's also no surprise that the UFC is looking to have an event in Mexico next year.

    So what is the UFC's plan for Melendez?

    Is the UFC trying to fast track him to a title shot, possibly in Mexico City, by giving him an identifiable but beatable name? Is it trying to build his brand by matching him against somebody who will give fans the sort of "Just Bleed" fight they crave? Or, after his loss to "Bendo," is the UFC going to make him work his way back to the top in earnest?

    Time will tell.

Is Roy Nelson Getting in Too Deep?

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    Roy Nelson is facing a tough opponent in Daniel Cormier.
    Roy Nelson is facing a tough opponent in Daniel Cormier.Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Roy Nelson is a great many things: Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, knockout artist, Top 10 mainstay and fan favorite. But it's tough to call him a threat to take the UFC heavyweight belt. 

    The heavyweight division is divided into two very distinct tiers: the one with Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos and Daniel Cormier (and maybe Fabricio Werdum)...and the one with everyone else. 

    Oversimplification? Maybe, but you get the point. 

    Cormier is a talented heavyweight who opens as a massive favorite due to his superior cardio and second-to-none wrestling. In fact, short of a signature first-round haymaker knockout from Nelson, it is impossible to envision "Big Country" winning this fight. Cormier clinched a bigger, stronger Frank Mir to victory, and there is no reason to think he can't do the same to Nelson.

    Nelson is prone to losing ugly. While he has a steel chin and big heart, almost every fight he has been in that made it out of the first round involved him getting beaten badly with little difficulty. His most recent fight, a loss to Stipe Miocic, fit that bill as he gassed early and was outpointed over three rounds.

    Nelson, despite being a fan favorite, is no stranger to the chopping block. He came very close to the ax after dropping three of four to Mir, Dos Santos and Werdum. If he gets dominated again, he might find himself in an all-too-familiar must-win position.

Will Daniel Cormier Still Drop to Light Heavyweight?

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    Cormier was planning to call out Jon Jones a few months ago...but things are very different now.
    Cormier was planning to call out Jon Jones a few months ago...but things are very different now.USA TODAY Sports

    Earlier this year, Daniel Cormier discussed his desire to drop to light heavyweight and fight Jon Jones for the belt.

    The move makes sense on a few levels. In terms of his height and frame, he is probably best suited for fighting at 205 lbs. Additionally, he will never again have to worry about fighting with teammates Cain Velasquez and Todd Duffee.

    A big factor in that, though, was the lack of opponents for Jones. After two one-and-done fights against middleweights, Lyoto Machida being refused a rematch and Dan Henderson dropping back-to-back fights, there didn't seem to be too many opponents for Jones past his next for, mammoth Swede Alexander Gustafsson.

    However, over the last few weeks, things have changed drastically. Gustafsson brought Jones to his absolute limit, and fans have called for a rematch ever since. A surprising turn has seen Jones get matched opposite Glover Teixeira instead, which means the light heavyweight belt is out of Cormier's reach for the foreseeable future. 

    That removes a lot of the incentive to cut weight for the first time since 2008, when Cormier nearly died trying to make 96 kilograms (211.5 lbs) for the Olympic Games. So, too, would a Cain Velasquez loss to Junior dos Santos, which would free up Cormier to chase the heavyweight belt without having to cross his friend and teammate.

    There are a lot of moving parts in any title picture, and it may have shifted in such a way that it isn't in the best interest of "DC" to make a run at 205 lbs. It will be interesting to see what he does after his bout with Nelson.

How Will Cain Velasquez vs. Junior Dos Santos 3 Pan Out?

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    Dos Santos and Velasquez had their first two bouts go down in very different ways.
    Dos Santos and Velasquez had their first two bouts go down in very different ways.Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    The first UFC on Fox event, headlined by Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos 1, saw Velasquez get knocked out in about a minute. The rematch at UFC 155 saw Dos Santos take perhaps the most lopsided beatdown of a reigning champion in a major MMA promotion ever.

    Two decisive victories went in completely opposite directions. So how will the rematch pan out?

    Your guess is as good as mine. 

    Obviously, everything comes down to Dos Santos' takedown defense. The Brazilian is the best striker in the heavyweight division. That said, it's hard to ply those skills from the flat of his back.

    The good thing is that Dos Santos doesn't train with a crew of yes men. He brought in some impressive help, most notably Khetag Pliev, a member of the Canadian Olympic wrestling team who competed at 96 kg (211 lbs). He knows precisely where Velasquez's strength lies, and he is helping Dos Santos to neutralize it.

    If "Cigano" can stuff takedowns, we might see him score another big knockout victory. If he can't, there's no reason to think Velasquez isn't capable of tossing him around the Octagon again.