UFC 172 is unquestionably one of the year's biggest cards, with Jon "Bones" Jones defending the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship against Glover Teixeira. But as good as that bout could be, UFC 172 is about much more than one fight.
There is plenty of talent on the card from top to bottom, and several fights feel like pick 'em contests in that there is no clear advantage. Those are often the best kinds of fights, so there will be great deal of show-stealing potential throughout the night.
Here are three under-the-radar contests that will have mixed martial arts fans on the edge of their seats at UFC 172.
Andre Fili vs. Max Holloway
There is always a certain amount of flair and excitement attached to featherweight bouts, and that will certainly be the case when Andre Fili and Max Holloway lock horns at UFC 172. Fili and Holloway are two of the fastest-rising stars within the division, and a win on such a big card would be a major coup for either of them moving forward.
Fili and Holloway are adept at scoring knockout victories, and there is no question that they will both go for the gusto. Because there won't be any apprehension, this has definite Fight of the Night potential. According to Marc Raimondi of FoxSports.com, Fili vs. Holloway is a tilt that deserves a lot more attention than it has gotten during the build toward UFC 172:
Most overlooked fight at UFC 172 might be Max Holloway vs. Andre Fili. Goodness, that is a scrap. And neither are old enough to rent a car.— Marc Raimondi (@marc_raimondi) April 23, 2014
On the surface, it would seem as though the 23-year-old Fili has the advantage. He enters the night on a nine-fight winning streak, while the 22-year-old Holloway has dropped two of his past three contests. His split-decision loss to Dennis Bermudez was certainly controversial, though, and it masks the fact that he performed quite well.
People are starting to sleep on Holloway, but that is an extremely dangerous game. Fili may very well look past him too, and he'll ultimately get a rude awakening, with Holloway pulling off the minor upset.
Bethe Correia vs. Jessamyn Duke
Women's MMA fighting has gained a ton of credibility since its inclusion in UFC, and it has even managed to outshine the men's fights on several occasions. While mega-draw Ronda Rousey won't be competing at UFC 172, a pair of credible contenders will rock the octagon when Bethe Correia and Jessamyn Duke do battle in a bantamweight matchup.
The 30-year-old Correia seemingly has the experience edge over Duke, and she also boasts a perfect record of 7-0. From a physical perspective, though, Duke is imposing in comparison to Correia. She has a seven-inch height advantage at 5'11", and her length and reach figures to give her Brazilian foe some problems.
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Duke is coming off a big win over Peggy Morgan in The Ultimate Fighter 18 finale, and she believes that Saturday's meeting with Correia won't be nearly as challenging, per Grant Gordon of the Glendale News-Press.
"It is nothing but a problem to be solved in front of you," Duke said. "It's just a problem to be solved and I find her easier to solve [than Morgan]. I know how she fights and what she does. I'm confident. It's not an easy fight, but it's a simple fight."
Duke's overconfidence could prove costly, as Correia's pit bull mentality has allowed her to beat bigger fighters many times in the past. With that said, Duke has all the tools, and she will pick up a statement win at UFC 172.
Takanori Gomi vs. Isaac Vallie-Flagg
Many UFC fights are bolstered by trash talk and a blatant lack of respect between competitors, but that simply won't be the case when Takanori Gomi and Isaac Vallie-Flagg meet in a lightweight contest Saturday night. Both Gomi and Vallie-Flagg are veteran fighters with excellent reputations, and they seem genuinely excited to face each other.
The 35-year-old Gomi hasn't fought in more than a year since losing a split-decision contest to Diego Sanchez in March 2013. Vallie-Flagg enters the fight on a losing note of his own, as he dropped a decision to Elias Silverio in January.
Both men are looking to rekindle their careers, and a win could make that happen. Despite being one year Gomi's senior, Vallie-Flagg is actually at an experience disadvantage, with 19 career fights to Gomi's 44. He even admitted that he looks up to Gomi in some ways:
Because of that, this should be a straight-up fight with no cheap shots. One can only assume that it will go to the scorecards and perhaps be the closest bout of the night, but Gomi will find a way to win on the scorecards as he has so often over the years.
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