UFC 173's Main Card Still Has Stars Like Renan Barao and Daniel Cormier
UFC 173 isn't quite what it was suppose to be.
Originally, the Memorial Day weekend event was expected to feature Chris Weidman defending his UFC middleweight title against Vitor Belfort. Than it was Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida for the belt, with a co-main event between Junior dos Santos and Stipe Miocic.
None of those fighters are linked to the card now, but there is still reason to tune in.
Renan Barao, who sports an incredible win streak, will defend his bantamweight title against T.J. Dillashaw from Team Alpha Male. Light heavyweight contenders Dan Henderson and Daniel Cormier will square off in a bout featuring two former U.S. Olympic wrestlers, while welterweight standouts Jake Ellenberger and Robbie Lawler meet in another key bout.
Here's an early look at the fights set for the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday, May 24.
Jamie Varner vs. James Krause
Jamie Varner is a veteran of MMA, having won the WEC lightweight title and racking up three career wins inside the Octagon. After two consecutive losses, though, he needs a win in a bad way.
James Krause will try to make it three straight defeats for Varner when they kick-start the pay-per-view main card. After an impressive debut in the UFC that earned him "Fight of the Night" and "Submission of the Night" honors when he defeated Sam Stout, Krause was finished by a nasty body kick from Bobby Green last November.
With 22 career wins via submission, it's obvious that Krause (20-5) will try to take this one to the mat. And that might play into Varner's strength.
For Varner (21-9-1), he needs to get back to what made him a winner in 16 of his first 20 career fights, and that is wrestling. He used it to grind out a victory over Donald Cerrone back in 2009, and it is his best chance at unseating the youngster.
Takeya Mizugaki vs. Francisco Rivera
Did you know Takeya Mizugaki is on a four-fight win streak inside the Octagon? He'll look to make it five in a row against Francisco Rivera.
Mizugaki (19-7-2) has posted a 6-2 mark overall since joining the UFC in 2011 after a loss to Urijah Faber in the WEC. All four of his recent victories have come via decision, including two split-decision wins that have gone in his favor.
Rivera (10-2) is unbeaten in his last six, with five wins and one no-contest after he failed a post-fight drug test. The 32-year-old has lost just once since moving to bantamweight.
With the bantamweight title on the line the same night, either Mizugaki or Rivera could solidify his positioning in the division with a victory.
Robbie Lawler vs. Jake Ellenberger
Remember all the way back to March when Robbie Lawler was competing for the UFC welterweight title against Johny Hendricks? Well, he's back and ready to get another crack at the title.
He (22-10) will fight just more than a couple of months removed from a grueling five-round battle with Hendricks that left him on the losing end of a decision. The loss snapped a three-fight win streak for "Ruthless" but showed he remains a viable contender to the title.
Ellenberger (29-7) has been on the sidelines since last July, recovering from a hamstring injury that canceled his original date vs. Tarec Saffiedine. The two were matched back up, but this time, Saffiedine got hit with an injury.
For Ellenberger, this is a high-profile fight, something he has had many times before against the likes of Rory MacDonald, Nate Marquardt, Martin Kampmann, Diego Sanchez, Jake Shields and Carlos Condit.
Dan Henderson vs. Daniel Cormier
What happens when two former U.S. Olympic wrestlers meet inside the Octagon? We're going to find out with Daniel Cormier vs. Dan Henderson.
Cormier (14-0) made a successful debut at light heavyweight earlier this year when he stopped Patrick Cummins in the first round. As a heavyweight, "DC" defeated former UFC champions Frank Mir and Josh Barnett, along with the likes of Antonio Silva and Roy Nelson.
He is taking on a man who owns some of the more memorable moments in MMA history in Henderson (30-11). The 43-year-old stopped the first three-fight losing streak of his career with a knockout win over Mauricio "Shogun" Rua earlier this year.
Henderson has victories over the likes of Fedor Emelianenko, Michael Bisping, Rich Franklin, Vitor Belfort and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and has been in the cage against even more future Hall of Fame fighters.
Renan Barao vs. T.J. Dillashaw for UFC Bantamweight Title
Can T.J. Dillashaw do what Team Alpha Male teammate Urijah Faber couldn't? Can he be the one to stop Renan Barao and his 33-fight unbeaten streak?
Dillashaw (9-2) might not have the track record of some of Barao's previous opponents, but he holds knockout power in his hands and the ability to submit fighters with the California-based camp's patented rear-naked choke.
The Ultimate Fighter alumnus owns four knockout finishes, including two last year over Hugo Viana and Issei Tamura. He has also submitted three fighters, two by rear-naked choke and another with a neck crank.
But Barao (32-1) is an animal. The Brazilian has finished Faber, Eddie Wineland and Michael McDonald in his last three fights and has 14 submissions and eight knockouts to his credit.
There is also that pesky little streak, as he hasn't lost since his debut in 2005 and has failed to have his hand just one other time after a no-contest in 2007.