UFC 173: Last-Minute Questions to Ponder Before Saturday Night's Card

Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIMay 24, 2014

Jan 31, 2014; Newark, NJ, USA; Renan Barao (right) is interviewed by UFC commentator Joe Rogan after weighing in for his Bantamweight Championship bout against Urijah Faber (not pictured) at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Just hours before the beginning of UFC 173, anticipation is mounting for some potentially huge fights on the main card.

The undercard has a few interesting bouts on paper, such as Chris Holdsworth's battle with Chico Camus, but the final three fights are powering UFC 173.

What is the biggest question to be answered in the biggest fights on Saturday night's card?


Can Ellenberger Walk the Walk?

Jul 27, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA;  Jake Ellenberger during his welterweight bout against Rory MacDonald (not pictured) at Key Arena. MacDonald won. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

"Ruthless" Robbie Lawler is trying to carve a path toward another shot at the UFC welterweight title. Equally as hungry for a shot at 170-pound gold and standing in Lawler's way is "The Juggernaut" Jake Ellenberger.

We referred to both men as hungry, but Ellenberger insists he wants it more than Lawler. Ellenberger told Bleacher Report:

It really comes down to who wants it more. I have a sign posted on my mirror that says ‘Who wants it more?’ and I see it every morning while I’m brushing my teeth. I start my day looking at that question and it is honestly the only question. Who wants it more? I know I want it more than him and it is going to show on Saturday night.

Does Ellenberger want it more, or does he simply talk a better game? This one will be settled in the cage, and it could be exciting and explosive.


Is Cormier Ready to Become Jon Jones' Top Challenger?

Feb 22, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Daniel Cormier speaks to reporters during a post-fight press conference after defeating Patrick Cummins in a light heavyweight bout during UFC 170 at Mandalay Bay.  Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

If Daniel "DC" Cormier can dispose of Dan Henderson in impressive fashion, it's hard to imagine who would be in front of him in line for a shot at the light heavyweight championship.

Assuming Cormier defeats Henderson, as most expect, no other fight would make much sense for the champion after he rematches Alexander Gustafsson.

That's a ways down the road, but Chael Sonnen is already singing the highest praises for Cormier. Per UFC Canada, Sonnen said:

Cormier still has to avoid an H-Bomb from Henderson, but if he does, he could be only one win away from proving Sonnen right.


Can Renan Barao Become a Megastar?

Feb 1, 2014; Newark, NJ, USA; Renan Barao (red gloves) celebrates beating Urijah Faber (blue gloves) during UFC 169 at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The UFC desperately wants Barao to be a mainstream star. Check out this tweet from the promotion's head man Dana White:

Mike Chiappetta of Fox Sports puts Barao's 32-fight win streak into perspective:

All of that is well and good, but Barao's notoriety is hampered by two things: his size and that he doesn't speak English.

Neither is a good reason to hold a fighter back, but it's true. Smaller guys in combat sports never grab attention from the casual fans. As much as purists may hate to admit it, the lesser-informed fans are the ones who determine if a fighter is a superstar or not.

MMA lifers know how great and diverse Barao is. The fact that he weighs just 135 pounds doesn't matter to people who can name each posture before Joe Rogan gets it out of his mouth during a telecast.

That's not the case for casual fans. They tend to favor the big guys, and that's a battle that Barao simply can't win.

Because most—if not all—of his public speaking is done through a translator, he doesn't connect with the American audience. Fighters like Anderson Silva have conquered that issue with a long title reign, in-cage showmanship and size.

Barao can grow his legend with a lengthy title run, but he's not much of a showman. In fact, he's a little lame after his wins. He runs around, filled with emotion in a very Martin Grammatica kind of way.

Can beating up a very tough TJ Dillashaw change Barao's legacy? It's a start, but this is a long-term project, not an overnight quick fix.


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