UFC 172: Fighters with the Most to Gain in Baltimore
While the days of Omar making his way on the streets and Hamsterdam offering a safe haven for the downtrodden are behind us, there are still plenty of reasons to pay attention to Maryland's largest city this weekend.
One of the biggest reasons is that there's plenty on the line for the fighters of the Octagon. Here are four guys who stand to gain the most of those on the card.
The Gain: The last gasp of relevance
The Pride version of Takanori Gomi is the truest of legends, a budo warrior who was seemingly invincible as he tore through the best Japan had to offer. He was an overwhelming proposition for anyone who dared to enter the ring against him and lost only three fights in his first 10 years of combat.
Now he's 35, 3-4 in the UFC and very close to being outright done. MMA is cruel like that.
He'll face Isaac Vallie-Flagg on the preliminary portion of the event, and a loss could have him out of a job. Maybe even worse, he could be banished to Fight Pass obscurity, which is a fate worse than death in terms of one's career.
No one can know which Gomi will show up, but there's no doubt he'll leave Baltimore totally irrelevant should he lose. Those are pretty high stakes for a man many thought was the best lightweight alive only a few years ago.
The Gain: Modest stardom
Stardom in the flyweight division is a modest concept. A mustachioed buzzsaw with a propensity for fan interaction can't make much of an impact, and the champion himself is irrelevant to most casual fans, despite more appearances on Fox than the iconic Poochie.
That said, there are still guys trying to make it happen at 125 and guys who are a little further along in the journey, and the matchup of Tim Elliott and Joseph Benavidez illustrates as much.
Elliott, a bearded brawler addicted to action, is trying to make his name. Benavidez, a two-time title contender who also almost topped the bantamweight mountain in the past, is as big a name as the division has.
Should Elliott employ his wild style and see it better Benavidez, all of a sudden, he might become something in a division desperate for attention. He's entertaining and engaging and has a unique look, putting him ahead of most guys at that weight.
A signature win over the best guy not holding the title might be the start of something special for him.
The Gain: The chance to do it right
Not that long ago, Anthony Johnson was a gigantic welterweight who probably took years off his life to make 170 pounds a few times a year. Then he was a guy who couldn't make middleweight somehow.
Today, he's a hulking 205-pounder with experience at heavyweight who's won six in a row.
Oh, and he just turned 30.
It's been quite the ride for Johnson, an explosive physical specimen who has only been limited by his own mental shortcomings for much of his career. He can wrestle but chooses not to, and he has some of the most violent finishing instincts in the sport on the feet.
His bout with Phil Davis is his first in the UFC since early 2012, and he's coming back to a new division as a new man. If he's able to beat Davis, a top contender who actually matches his talents nicely, his misgivings will be forgotten. In fact, he'll immediately enter championship conversations.
It's a chance to do it right for a guy who's gotten it wrong plenty at this point, and that's a considerable gain to have hanging in the balance.
The Gain: An improbable championship
He's an aging, comparatively unproven guy fighting the most dominant champion in the sport. No one knows how he'll hold up against overly elite competition because he hasn't faced any yet, but that's why they play the games—or fight the fights, in this case.
The direct result of that fact is that Teixeira stands to gain more than anyone on the UFC 172 card. Not only can he become a champion, a significant gain itself, but he can do it against all odds and with most of the sport writing him off before he even weighs in.
That borders on legendary.
If the Brazilian can topple Jones, it will be the first true loss of the champion's career, and it will come at the hands of a man most would have considered an improbable victor, at best, going in. To say that would be impressive doesn't begin to do it justice.