UFC Fight Night 30: 10 Burning Questions Heading into Fight for the Troops 3

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistOctober 26, 2013

UFC Fight Night 30: 10 Burning Questions Heading into Fight for the Troops 3

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    Fight Night 30 is over and done with. Here are the Results:

    Lyoto Machida defeats Mark Munoz by knockout via head kick at 3:10 of Round 1
    Ross Pearson vs. Melvin Guillard ends in a No Contest
    Jimi Manuwa defeats Ryan Jimmo by technical knockout via injury at 4:42 of Round 2
    Norman Parke defeats Jon Tuck by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
    Nicholas Musoke defeats Alessio Sakara by submission via armbar at 3:07 of Round 1
    John Lineker defeats Phil Harris by technical knockout via punches at 2:51 of Round 1
    Al Iaquinta defeats Piotr Hallman by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
    Luke Barnatt defeats Andrew Craig by submission via rear-naked choke at 2:12 of Round 2
    Jessica Andrade defeats Rosi Sexton by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)
    Cole Miller defeats Andy Ogle by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
    Jimy Hettes defeats Rob Whiteford by technical submission via triangle choke at 2:17 of Round 2
    Bradley Scott defeats Michael Kuiper by submission via guillotine choke at 4:17 of Round 1

    Next up is UFC Fight Night 31, also known as UFC Fight For the Troops 3. Headlined by Tim Kennedy vs. Rafael Natal, the card is stacked with as many former military members as the UFC could muster. There are also a few other intriguing bouts. 

    So what questions do we have going into this card? Find out here!

Ratings Stuff?

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    Blah, blah, blah. I said it before, and I'll say it again:

    It's no secret that the UFC is the backbone of Fox Sports 1's programming lineup. It's also no secret that the UFC Fight Night events, the core of their presence on the network, have been a ratings dud over recent months...The bright spot is that, while the UFC has had lousy ratings on Fox Sports 1, they're still blowing away everything else on the channel. Because of that, it's worth keeping a close eye on the TV numbers for the indefinite future.


    The "indefinite future" has not come to a close since last week. So the ratings for this card are still going to be something to take note of.

Did Derek Brunson Run over Joe Silva's Dog?

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    Derek Brunson must have run over Joe Silva's dog with his car. That's the only possible explanation for the turnaround in the UFC's attitude toward the Strikeforce veteran.

    Back at UFC 155's post-fight press conference, Dana White discussed the internal matchmaking battle between hims and Joe Silva over Chris Leben's placement on the card. White wanted him on the main card due to his popularity (or at least, his popularity with White), while Silva wanted to put him on the preliminary card because he's not a very good fighter and irrelevant to the title picture.

    As we all know, Dana gets what Dana wants.

    Leben was matched against an almost completely unknown Brunson, who was coming off back-to-back losses to Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and Kendall Grove, in what was supposed to be a squash match. Much to the chagrin of White, Brunson beat Leben with his superior wrestling, taking home a slam dunk 29-28 victory. 

    While that should have been a major stride for the 29-year-old middleweight, he basically seems to have been punished for beating Leben. Brunson now goes from opening the main card on a huge pay-per-view event to kicking off the Facebook portion of one of the weaker UFC Fight Night events.

    His win was by no means electrifying. Both he and Leben gassed toward the end of the fight. Not to mention that a win over The Ultimate Fighter 1 veteran, who was fresh off a year-long suspension for taking various illegal painkillers, doesn't make him a world-beater.

    However, Brunson earned a place higher on the card, and it's not like this is such a thoroughly stacked event that there isn't room higher up for him.

Where's the Recognition for Lorenz Larkin?

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    Francis Carmont joins Leonard Garcia and Diego Sanchez as one of the fighters whom judges just can't seem to quit. While Carmont recently channeled his inner Jon Fitch against Costa Philippou, immediately before that, he scored back-to-back controversial decision wins over Tom Lawlor and Lorenz Larkin.

    Carmont finds himself sitting pretty at seventh in the divisional rankings. Meanwhile, Larkin is at...I don't know...20-something?

    Back in 2011, he was one of the top prospects at 205 lbs after he roughed up his first three opponents in Strikeforce, which gave him a strong 12-0 record. He got annihilated by Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal at the Luke Rockhold vs. Keith Jardine card, but the loss was turned into a no-contest due to Lawal taking less-than-legal over-the-counter supplements.

    Regardless, after the bout he dropped to middleweight, slapped around current Top 10 welterweight Robbie Lawler and then (according to the vast majority of MMA fans) beat Carmont.

    Not only is that not good enough to be in a division's Top 10, it's not even good enough to fight on TV. 

    Larkin, like Brunson, finds himself wrongly fighting on Facebook. Like Brunson, he has been forgotten for no real reason.

Will George Roop Make a Run at Bantamweight?

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    George Roop has shown flashes of greatness over his time with Zuffa.

    He had a strong run on The Ultimate Fighter 8 as a lightweight, but he also amassed a deceptively solid 2-3-1 record in the WEC and UFC as a featherweight, which included his shocking knockout of Chan-Sung Jung at WEC 51. Since dropping to bantamweight, though, he has put together the first winning streak of his career, beating Reuben Duran with ease before knocking out former bantamweight champ Brian Bowles.

    He now has the opportunity to show that he isn't just a fighter who "has shown flashes of greatness." Now is his chance to show that he is, in fact, a great fighter.

    Bantamweight is thinner than ever right now, and an emphatic win for Roop would rocket him up the rankings in a major way. Champions Renan Barao and Dominick Cruz seem to be shelved until they can fight each other, with Michael McDonald and Urijah Faber also handcuffed by the eventual title unification bout. Past those four, potential contenders Raphael Assuncao and TJ Dillashaw failed to impress in what could have been a top contender bout.

    That means Roop can jump into title contention by beating Francisco Rivera. There are some very high stakes in this preliminary card fight.

Why Isn't Dennis Bermudez vs. Steven Siler on the Main Card?

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    Dennis Bermudez was a ridiculous armbar away from winning, perhaps, the most talent-rich season of The Ultimate Fighter since the first one. Since that loss to Diego Brandao, though, he has demonstrated legitimate skills, racking up four consecutive victories. 

    His most recent win was a Fight of the Year candidate opposite Matt Grice, although that bout has been forgotten since Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson and Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez. His opponent has been comparably successful.

    Steven Siler is another TUF 14 alumnus. He was knocked out of the competition early on, but he has silently done good work since, amassing a 5-1 record in the UFC. He most recently knocked out former WEC featherweight champion Mike Brown.

    All that is to say we have two fighters here who could easily be ranked in the Top 10 of one of the UFC's deepest divisions with their stocks at an all-time high. Yet there they are, being promoted behind Yoel Romero vs. Ronny Markes.

    Where's the justice?

Which The Ultimate Fighter Winner Is Moving to the Chopping Block?

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    Think back. Way back to Nick Diaz vs. Diego Sanchez.

    Two of the UFC's all-time most unique characters met in a bitter feud. Over what? Well, it stemmed from allegations on Diaz's part that the UFC babied the TUF winners. 

    Is it true? Perhaps not in Sanchez's case, but TUF winners Mac Danzig, Joe Stevenson and Efrain Escudero have gotten breaks that other fighters wouldn't have been given. That courtesy, though, seems to be a thing of the past, as other TUF participants have been matched against one another again and again.

    On this card, TUF 16 winner Colton Smith will face off with TUF 15 winner Michael Chiesa. Both fighters are coming off losses, meaning one of them will be at risk for a two-fight losing streak. Smith is also making his lightweight debut, adding another layer of difficulty to an already tough situation for the Army veteran.

    That is not a great spot to be in these days, especially for Smith, who must be aware that fellow grinder Yushin Okami was recently cut due to his fighting style. Chiesa has a bit more security, but only a bit, given his crafty submission game. TUF 15 and 16, by the way, were among the worst in series history in terms of ratings, which means these aren't fleshed-out, popular characters like, say, Roy Nelson.

    It's possible that the UFC is trying to clean house with the glut of not-very-good TUF fighters on the roster. Smith and Chiesa, though, don't fit that bill. This fight doesn't make sense and will move one of these fighters whom the UFC spent 12 hours building up to the chopping block.

Will Jorge Masvidal Dodge the Rustam Khabilov Bullet?

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    Gilbert Melendez, Pat Healy and Josh Thomson have exceeded the expectations of many in the UFC. That trifecta of lightweight talent seems to be the decisive proof that Strikeforce, no matter what the haters had been saying for years on end, was ripe with talent. 

    Completely lost in the shuffle has been Jorge Masvidal.

    He took two of the most slam-dunk 30-27 victories you'll ever see in Strikeforce, beating KJ Noons and Billy Evangelista. While he found himself completely outclassed by Gilbert Melendez in 2011, he has gone on a strong 3-0 run since, most recently making TUF 15 winner Michael Chiesa tap to a d'Arce choke at UFC on Fox 8. 

    He is now tapped to face Rustam Khabilov in a dangerous fight. Khabilov is scary and basically unknown, which means Masvidal can be slapped down into obscurity before the masses even realize that he has a 5-1 Zuffa record with knockout victories over Satoru Kitaoka, Yves Edwards and Joe Lauzon. He beat his first UFC-caliber opponent at age 18.

    He is very good and unfortunately may never get to show it off.

Is the Rustam Khabilov Era Upon Us?

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    Khabib Nurmagomedov isn't the only Russian lightweight who has set the UFC on fire. Rustam Khabilov has been downright scary in his two UFC appearances, and he is now getting a chance to vault his way into the lightweight Top 10 with his fight against Jorge Masvidal. As you probably gathered from the last slide, Masvidal is by no means a glamorous opponent, but he is a very good fighter.

    That said, the ease with which Khabilov has beaten his first two opponents is nothing short of frightening. While Yancy Medeiros and Vinc Pichel are nothing remotely resembling championship material at this time, it is rare to see UFC-caliber talent manhandled in such lopsided fashion. 

    If Khabilov can beat Masvidal as disproportionately as we saw him beat Pichel and Medeiros...wow. He would arguably be an immediate threat to Anthony Pettis right now.

Does the Winner of Liz Carmouche vs. Alexis Davis Get a Title Fight?

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    Women's MMA fights are still a treat, and with the bantamweight division still this small, every fight counts. Two fights are on this card: Liz Carmouche vs. Alexis Davis and Amanda Nunes vs. Germaine de Randamie.

    All four ladies are skilled and coming off wins and could be next in line to face the winner of Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate. The question is: Which one will stake the greatest claim for that honor?

    Obviously, Liz Carmouche vs. Alexis Davis is more likely to produce a top contender, based strictly on name value.

    Carmouche is already fairly identifiable because of her previous bout with Rousey (hence why she is in the co-main event). While many (including myself) felt like she wasn't a top female talent in MMA, her demolition of Jessica Andrade showed that she is an honest-to-goodness force in the division. While she isn't on the strongest footing in the title picture given her recent loss to Rousey, the door would be wide open for her if Tate becomes champion.

    Davis is the complete opposite. When she came into the UFC, there was no question regarding her skills. Her impressive Brazilian jiu-jitsu resume made her a popular pick when speculating who would unseat Rousey as champion. However, Davis struggled against undersized British striker Rosi Sexton and gassed hard en route to an uninspiring decision win in her promotional debut. A win is a win, but she needs to win big more than Carmouche to enter the title picture. 

    Regardless, with Cat Zingano still rehabbing her knees and Sara McMann abducted by aliens or something, the door is wide open for these two to get a title shot in early 2014.

Can Tim Kennedy Actually Grow His Fanbase in the Cage?

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    For those flying through MMA's quadrant of the Twitterverse, Tim Kennedy's desperate search for an opponent was a constant source of laughter. After his fight with Lyoto Machida fell through (due to "The Dragon" replacing Michael Bisping following eye surgery), he called out a who's who of middleweights (and a few heavyweights) with a self-deprecating humor that made each tweet worth reading. 

    While he earned himself some fans with his out-of-the-cage exploits, he needs to back it up against Rafael Natal next Saturday.

    More than anything else, Kennedy has a strong ground game. He owns a traditional jujutsu black belt, eight submission wins and bragging rights over numerous high-level grapplers. Natal, like many previous victims, is defined by his Brazilian jiu-jitsu but doesn't measure up with some of Kennedy's past competition. 

    Kennedy is the favorite on paper (or should be, at least), but grappler vs. grappler matches tend to be underappreciated. He is in a position to keep the size of his fanbase snowballing. However, the cards are somewhat stacked against him in this matchup.

    Literally the only well-heralded, almost-all-grappling matchup that went to a decision that I can remember is Benson Henderson vs. Donald Cerrone 1. With that in mind, if Kennedy really wants to build himself up as both a character and a fighter, he is either going to need to dominate Natal or score a sweet submission.

    He needs a signature win of that sort if he wants to go from being a fan favorite like Jacob Volkmann to a legitimate draw like Chael Sonnen.