Mark Hunt and Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva are battling to remain relevant in the heavyweight division.
The Ultimate Fighter Season 18 Finale is over and done with. The results are as follows:
TUF 18 Main Card on Fox Sports 1
- Nate Diaz def. Gray Maynard, TKO (Round 1, 2:38)
- Julianna Pena def. Jessica Rakoczy, TKO (Round 1, 4:59)
- Chris Holdsworth def. Davey Grant, Submission (Round 2, 2:10)
- Jessamyn Duke def. Peggy Morgan, Unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Raquel Pennington def. Roxanne Modafferi , Unanimous decision (30-27, 20-27, 29-28)
Prelims on Fox Sports 1
- Akira Corassani def. Maximo Blanco, Disqualification for illegal knee (Round 1, 0:25)
- Tom Niinimaki def. Rani Yahya, Split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)
- Jared Rosholt def. Walter Harris, Unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Sean Spencer def. Drew Dober, Unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Josh Sampo def. Ryan Benoit, Submission (Round 2, 4:31)
Next up? UFC Fight Night 33, headlined by Mark Hunt vs. Antonio Silva.
The card features established fighters looking to maintain relevance, as Ryan Bader, Mark Hunt, Antonio Silva, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Pat Barry all scramble to recover from crushing losses.
So what questions do we have heading into the card? Find out here!
UFC Fight Nights continue bouncing around between days and time slots.
The UFC has been having little success in the ratings department as it wildly bounces between Wednesdays and Saturdays. As if shifting between two days and various times wasn't already enough of a hassle for casual UFC fans to follow, Zuffa and Fox have now decided to toss a Friday card into the mix.
Granted, this is a unique situation. The card is in Queensland, Australia. While it takes place on Friday night in America, the time difference means it takes place on Saturday afternoon Down Under.
Still, there's no looking past the toll that these international events have been taking on the UFC's ratings. There are many questions to discuss therein, but we'll keep this brief.
The card has two solid draws in Mark Hunt and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. Will they translate to more viewers? Or will the UFC's inconsistent time slot make for another ratings dud?
The UFC's ambitious international expansion has seen ticket sales dip in some markets.
So you met this cute girl (or guy, depending on your gender and orientation) last week. You hit it off quickly and ask her out, and she says yes. The first date is amazing, and toward the end, you ask where she wants to go next time.
She giggles it off, chalking it up as a half-joke. You're giddy, though—truly, honestly floating on air from the excitement of what you're expecting to be the start of a long, awesome relationship. You don't even realize you're starting to become overbearing.
The third date comes and goes, and your fawning has officially become tiresome. You call her up after, and, well, she thinks she wants to start seeing other people.
That is what has been happening lately when the UFC thinks it has found a new market. It happened with Seattle, and it's happening with Brazil.
Wisely, the UFC has been playing it cool when it comes to Australia, limiting itself to one event a year, but what used to be a good thing seems to be fading none the less. The finale for The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes drew just $900,000 at the gate. The previous three UFC cards in Australia drew between $2.2 million and $3.5 million.
Will sales bounce back? Or is the UFC going to be looking for a new hookup?
Almost five years after fighting Miguel Torres for the WEC belt, Takeya Mizugaki might be moving back toward a title fight.
Don't look now, but Takeya Mizugaki has climbed back to relevance. Nearly five years after challenging Miguel Torres for the WEC bantamweight strap, the Japanese veteran has bit and scratched his way back into the title picture.
By no means is he an especially tantalizing contender. He has been one of the longest-reigning gatekeepers in Zuffa's history, and his back-to-back split-decision wins over good-but-not-great fighters Bryan Caraway and Erik Perez attest to that.
Still, he has three wins in a row and is set to face off with a middling Nam Phan in his bantamweight debut.
As Jeremy Botter once said, MMA is not a "what have you done for me lately" business, but a "what are you doing right now" venture. If Mizugaki stomps Phan, he might find himself in a top contender bout in 2014, regardless of how unlikely he is to beat any of the top four bantamweights in the UFC.
That makes his fight with Phan an important one to watch.
Alex Caceres is, unofficially, undefeated at bantamweight.
Takeya Mizugaki isn't the only fighter making an unlikely push up the bantamweight rankings. TUF 12 alumnus Alex "Bruce Leeroy" Caceres has quietly become a force at 135 pounds.
While his official record as a UFC bantamweight is 4-1 (1), he could easily be 6-0. Now he gets the chance to show off against a relative newcomer in Mitch Gagnon.
Gagnon is a legitimate submission whiz, but there's no ignoring or dismissing the huge strides that Caceres has made over the last two years. He should enter this fight as the favorite and has the skills to work Gagnon over en route to a lopsided win. If Caceres takes a convincing win, there's no question that he's a Top 10 bantamweight.
If he can get over that hump, the sky is the limit.
Beth Correia makes her MMA debut after the withdrawal of Aleksandra Albu.
So you may have noticed on Saturday night that the UFC is looking to actively expand its women's bantamweight division. The UFC showed that off by bringing back all eight ladies from TUF 18, but that's not the end of the efforts.
Thus far, all of the UFC's female fighters (save a few of the TUF 18 contestants) made their names in one of three places: Strikeforce, Bellator or Invicta. Bethe Correia is the first fighter to be signed outright without experience in one of those three promotions, and is the first real prospect to enter the division from outside The Ultimate Fighter.
On tape, she's a generally well-rounded fighter who is stylistically similar to Julianna Pena, as she throws haymakers to wound her opponents before tackling them to the cage. She has amassed a 6-0 record fighting exclusively in small-time promotions in Brazil. Her biggest win came at Jungle Fight 54, when she beat Erica Paes (best known for being the only woman to beat Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino in 2005).
Still, Jungle Fight isn't even the biggest promotion in Brazil, and Erica Paes is by no means a world beater. Without exaggerating, all of Correia's opponents have records ranging from 0-3 to 3-1. Suffice it to say, she is an unproven fighter.
So what did Sean Shelby see in her? What skills does she have? How will she stack up against an enduring-yet-beatable veteran in Julie Kedzie?
We'll find out.
Pat Barry is possibly the most inconsistent fighter in MMA.
Pat Barry suffers from disassociative identity disorder.
One personality is the hard-hitting striker with a crafty ground game. That Barry showed up against Christian Morecraft, escaping from three deep submission attempts before slipping a jab and landing one of the hardest left hooks you'll see in MMA.
The other personality tends to get knocked out a lot. That version recently showed up against Shawn Jordan and got flattened in just 59 seconds.
It's impossible to tell which Barry will show up against Soa Palelei. Traditionally, Barry tends to fall to hard-hitters, and "The Hulk" fits that bill. The thing is, when Barry is "on," he looks as good as anybody in the heavyweight division.
So who will enter the cage in December? Your guess is as good as mine.
Nikita Krylov vs. Soa Palelei was an inauspicious start for both fighters' UFC careers.
Soa Palelei vs. Nikita Krylov was a Bellator-caliber bad heavyweight fight. Both dudes were gassed incredibly hard, and by the end, they punched each other like they were trying to paint a picture.
Palelei got a TKO win, but nobody "won" that fight.
Right now, he finds himself on the main card in a big fight in front of a hometown crowd.
If that isn't enough to motivate a better performance out of him, I don't know what is.
Palelei has all the tools to succeed. He's a former member of the Australian Olympic wrestling team, and he has more than a little pop in his hands. If he can get his cardio up to par, we could see him do some legitimate work in the heavyweight division.
If he has another fight like he did against Krylov, though, he won't be long for the UFC. That would be a big disappointment for Zuffa, who could use more star power in Australia.
Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Ryan Bader are both desperately looking to get back in the spotlight after ugly losses.
The main card features two critical light heavyweight bouts in James Te-Huna vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Anthony Perosh vs. Ryan Bader. Both fights are between established Top 10 fighters in a career free fall against fast-rising hard-hitters fighting out of Sydney, Australia.
"Shogun" is definitely in the most dire of straits. The former champ hasn't looked the same since his five-round battle with Dan Henderson in 2011. He found Brandon Vera to be every bit his equal last year and has since dropped fights to Alexander Gustafsson and Chael Sonnen.
Sitting at 2-4 since losing the belt, Rua could be cut loose by the UFC or may "retire" if he loses again. Truly, it's a sad situation for the former Pride legend.
Ryan Bader, meanwhile, surged up the light heavyweight division after winning The Ultimate Fighter Season 8, but he hit a brick wall by the name of Jon Jones. He has been struggling since and has been knocked out in devastating fashion in two of his three most recent fights. While this isn't a fight he's guaranteed to get cut over, a loss would put him in an awkward position.
Both fighters have a lot on the line here.
Anthony Perosh and James Te-Huna are both being presented an amazing opportunity.
While Shogun and Bader have a lot on the line, there's also a massive opportunity here for James Te-Huna and Anthony Perosh.
Te-Huna previously crept onto some Top 10 lists but was pushed out after tapping to a Glover Teixeira guillotine choke. He faces Rua and could be regarded as the favorite for this fight. Rua's struggles over the last year are no secret, and that makes this a wonderful chance for Te-Huna to start building a resume for a title shot.
Perosh, meanwhile, has been dancing just outside of the spotlight for a while now. After taking on a squash match opposite Mirko Cro Cop at UFC 110 (which was above his native weight class), he has since gone 4-1 in the light heavyweight division. At age 41, he doesn't have much time left in the sport, so it's unlikely the UFC will put him in a position to even start sniffing around a title shot.
Still, he has a chance to establish a legacy in the UFC. Legacies are a big deal if you know you're creeping toward retirement.
These guys are both in a position to climb the rankings to heights they have yet to achieve. What's more, they may not get another chance if they fail.
This is a big roll of the dice for these two. They'll hit it big, or they'll be taking a depressing bus ride back home.
Silva and Hunt are both one loss away from being forever locked into the middle of the heavyweight division.
Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva had a title shot at UFC 160. Mark Hunt almost earned one of his own that very night. However, both of them lost in convincing fashion and now find themselves trying to stay relevant near the top of the division.
Since 2010, Silva has been one of the most inconsistent heavyweights in MMA. Every win was a blend of electrifying and scary and typically came over serious competition. It's hard not to believe that he is among the greatest heavyweights in MMA when you see him maul the legendary Fedor Emelianenko or bark over a completely unconscious Alistair Overeem.
But reality always ends up setting, usually in the form of a brutal knockout loss from an American Kickboxing Academy fighter.
Mark Hunt, on the other hand, rode one of the most well-publicized and impressive career resurgences in the history of MMA. With a record of 5-7, Hunt roared through Chris Tuchscherer, Cheick Kongo and Stefan Struve with amazing highlight-reel knockouts. While his surge back to the top was one hell of a ride, just like with Silva, the crash was quite hard, as Junior dos Santos outpointed him for two rounds before finishing him with a spinning kick in the third.
For the first time in a while, the top of the heavyweight division is looking quite crowded. Josh Barnett rejoined the promotion and instantly took up a Top 10 spot. Meanwhile, Brendan Schaub, Stipe Miocic and Gabriel Gonzaga are all sneaking back toward relevance.
Many fighters are looking to climb over Hunt and Silva. The only way they keep that from happening is to win here.