UFC 171: 5 Reasons to Watch

Riley Kontek@@BigRIlesMMAFeatured ColumnistMarch 11, 2014

UFC 171: 5 Reasons to Watch

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    Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

    The UFC returns to pay-per-view this weekend with UFC 171. Headlined by a welterweight showdown for the vacant title, this show should provide a ton of fireworks and significant outcomes in several UFC weight classes.

    The headliners are Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler, but they will be supported by another key welterweight bout between Carlos Condit and Tyron Woodley. Major title implications will play a part on the co-main event between "The Natural Born Killer" and Woodley.

    Here are five reasons to watch UFC 171 on Saturday. 

New Welterweight Champion

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    Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sp

    If you haven't been keeping track, come Saturday night, we will see the first undisputed UFC welterweight champion not named Georges St-Pierre since 2008.

    Johny Hendricks, whom many people believe beat St-Pierre in his last encounter, gets a chance to earn the UFC gold that many think he should already have. In addition to his great wrestling, he is also capable on the feet with his ungodly one-punch KO power.

    Robbie Lawler represents the old guard of the sport, but he has re-emerged as of late as the feared knockout artist he used to be. He is 3-0 since coming back to the UFC, with wicked finishes over Josh Koscheck and Bobby Voelker.

    We may see a nasty slugfest on the feet, or we could see Hendricks attempt to expose Lawler's takedown defense. Either way, it should be interesting. 

New No. 1 Contender?

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    Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sp

    Although not set in stone, Carlos Condit vs. Tyron Woodley could determine the No. 1 contender for the welterweight title when the dust clears.

    Condit is the former interim champion and has only lost to Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks in recent times. The Hendricks fight was closely contested and could have gone either way.

    A win for Woodley would make him 3-1, which includes a brutal knockout of Josh Koscheck in his last fight. Though he would be hopping in front of some other contenders, a win over Condit would be grounds to hand him the title shot. 

    Perhaps the winner of Hendricks vs. Lawler will meet Condit vs. Woodley by the end of the year. 

Strikeforce Champ vs. Bellator Champ

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    Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

    Jake Shields is a former Strikeforce champion. Hector Lombard is a former Bellator champion. Their matchup at UFC 171 makes a ton of sense.

    Both men represent different styles. Shields is a grinding wrestler who makes fights dirty and grimy, while Lombard is a power puncher who uses his judo as good takedown defense.

    These two men are also close to a title shot in a crowded welterweight division. A win for either man could boost him into title talks. 

Gastelum's Big Test

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    Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

    One of the brightest prospects in the UFC has to be Kelvin Gastelum. The Ultimate Fighter 17 winner went from dark horse of the competition to tournament champion—something that most people would have never guessed.

    In two UFC bouts, he has looked great. He outwrestled and grinded Uriah Hall to win the TUF title before pounding Brian Melancon on the feet and tapping him out quickly.

    Now he has a real test in Rick Story, an established UFC vet who has faced some top competition. If Gastelum can pass this test, he will establish himself as a soon-to-be contender. If he doesn't, it's back to the drawing board for the 22-year-old blue-chipper. 

Blue-Chip Prospect

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    Speaking of blue-chip prospects, Sean Strickland will make his long-awaited UFC debut against Bubba McDaniel as a short-notice replacement for Tor Troeng.

    An undefeated middleweight, Strickland is considered to be one of the best middleweights outside the UFC. He is well-rounded and could stick around the roster for a while.

    He doesn't have a lot of time to prepare for this fight, but he was set to fight UFC vet Tomasz Drwal a couple of weeks ago. That means he will be in fight shape for this bout and could cement himself as a rising force in the UFC with a win over McDaniel.