After a UFC 101 card that featured two interesting fights and a handful of marginal bouts, that didn't draw much attention, UFC 102 goes down this weekend in Portland, Ore., and the televised portion of the card is loaded with interesting altercations.
Leading off the telecast will be a light heavyweight tussle between Canadian Krzysztof "The Polish Experiment" Soszynski and Brandon "The Truth" Vera.
Despite my shared nationality with Soszynski, my responsibilities as an objective journalist outweigh the fact that I, too, know all the words to O Canada, including the French version.
Krzysztof "The Polish Experiment" Soszynski (18-8-1) vs. Brandon "The Truth" Vera (10-3-0)
When it comes to training and team affiliation, the Canadian comes out way ahead, as Team Quest is one of the best in the business and affords Soszynski the opportunity to roll with the likes of Dan Henderson and Matt Lindland, two very accomplished athletes in the sport.
Vera, on the other hand, is pretty much the big dog with Alliance MMA, and while his BJJ training comes from the great Saulo Ribiero, having top level talents in the gym always helps make you a better fighter.
Where Soszynski earns the edge in teammates, Vera has a clear advantage in experience and strength of opponents. After all, he was once a heralded heavyweight prospect who sprinted out of the gate to an 8-0 record, including wins over Mike Whitehead, Assuerio Silva, and Frank Mir.
Although things haven't gone as smoothly since the Mir win, "The Truth" has still spent more time inside the cage with high caliber opposition, while Soszynski has defeated the likes of Brian Stann and Andre Gusmao.
As much as Vera is certainly a step up in competition for the Canadian, Soszynski is the one who enters this fight carrying the most momentum. Riding a six-fight winning streak, it appears as if the move to Temecula, California from the frozen plains of Winnipeg have done a world of good for the former professional wrestler.
Conversely, Vera hasn't been able to string together consecutive wins since the close of 2006. Weaker opposition has been dispatched with relative ease, but tackling an equally talented opponent has led to losses to Tim Sylvia, Fabricio Werdum, and Keith Jardine, producing a 2-3 record over his last five fights.
In terms of style and strength, Vera's devastating Muay Thai is easily his most dangerous weapon coming into this fight. Following his loss to Jardine, Vera returned to his leg-kicking ways and stopped Mike Patt shortly after the opening bell of the second round by chopping his legs out from under him. The same could be done here.
What makes Soszynski an interesting counterpart for Vera is the diversity of skills he's shown since coming off season eight of The Ultimate Fighter.
Since losing his semifinal match to Vinny Magalhaes, "The Polish Experiment" has submitted both Shane Primm and the aforementioned Brian Stann, while knocking out former IFL standout Andre Gusmao on short notice at UFC 98.
Though Vera is clearly the more accomplished in ever aspect of the game, Soszynski poses a real threat to the man who still believes he will be a title holder in both the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions simultaneously.
That's awful hard to do when you can't seem to win back-to-back fights.