This Saturday the 27th, UFC 134 will take place in Rio De Janeiro, marking the first time the UFC has been in Brazil since 1998.
This is an important milestone for the sport, as Brazil has long been regarded as the birthplace of MMA and the world's largest organization is finally paying tribute.
An event this monumental is bound to have some very important matchups, and it does. Careers, legacies, title shots and reputations are on the line—all of which will be decided in one night.
Let's take a look at the five most important fights happening this weekend at UFC 134.
Given the recent track record of Ultimate Fighter graduates, Ross Pearson has a lot of weight on his shoulders.
It used to be that TUF alums would make recognizable waves in their weight divisions. Early entrants such as Forrest Griffin, Josh Koscheck, Rashad Evans, Matt Serra and Michael Bisping have found considerable success in their UFC careers.
Lately, that hasn’t been the case for an Ultimate Fighter winner. Roy Nelson and Ryan Bader are on two-fight losing skids. Jonathan Brookins has fought only once since winning TUF 12. Efrain Escudero is no longer with the UFC. In short, hardly any recent winners have had any notable success.
Ross Pearson could change all that by defeating a devastating striker in Edson Barboza, who has finished seven of his last eight opponents.
Is Pearson a contender or a pretender? Can he prove a TUF winner is still worth his contract? We’ll find out Saturday.
Dan Miller has fallen on hard times recently.
Saturday, he will be taking on Brazil’s own 5’ 8” powerhouse Rousimar Palhares, a master of leg submissions and ornery disposition.
If Dan Miller loses, he will have lost five of his last seven matches and could possibly be cut from the UFC.
Miller is a fine fighter and a likable enough guy, but he’s failed to defeat every top 10 middleweight he’s ever faced.
Surely, no man could hang his head in shame after consecutive losses to Chael Sonnen, Demian Maia and Michael Bisping. If he can’t win once in a while against the best, however, then that just makes Miller a man who is fighting for work instead of a belt.
Palhares is much in the same boat as Miller, as he’s only been defeated by top-ranked opponents. The only difference is, his recent record is much better than Miller’s, and a loss won’t necessarily get him the boot.
A win, any win, is necessary for Miller to remain employed with the UFC.
It’s legend against prospect in this co-main event bout.
At 35 years of age, Nogueira is not an old man by any conceivable standard. However, with 40 wars to his name, recent hip surgery and over a decade in the sport, Minotauro is undoubtedly in the twilight of his career.
Nogueira could have retired years ago and still be considered one of the greatest heavyweights in mixed martial arts. Like any true warrior, though, he wants to continue competing.
Fighting (and defeating) a young upstart like Schaub could go a long way in proving he still has what it takes to remain active in the sport.
Interestingly, Schaub is also at a crossroads in his career. If he defeats Nogueira, that’ll be his fifth straight win in the heavyweight division and he could arguably make the case that he deserves a title shot.
It’ll be interesting to see if Schaub sends Nogueira into retirement or Nogueira sends Schaub back to square one in the heavyweight division.
This fight is much more important for Okami than it is for Silva.
As it stands, Silva could walk into the Octagon, get knocked out in less than 10 seconds, and still be considered the greatest mixed martial artist in the history of the sport.
Needless to say, the same does not ring true for Okami. His legacy has yet to be built, but it could start with a win on Saturday night.
Nobody is disputing the fact that Okami already has a win over Silva by disqualification, but watch Okami lying flat on his back in their first bout and tell me he looks like a winner.
If he wins, “Thunder” will be the first person to legitimately defeat Silva since 2004. He would also be the first Japanese fighter in the history of the UFC to win a championship; this would undoubtedly bring much honor to his home country.
Most importantly, he would have his revenge.
This is the most significant fight on the card.
In terms of recent developments in the light heavyweight division, a win for either Griffin or Shogun could conceivably place them within reach of a title shot.
Dana White has stated that Shogun is merely two wins away from another crack at the belt, so it would make sense that Griffin could also have the same opportunity were he to soundly defeat Rua.
More importantly, though, this is a rematch four years in the making.
At UFC 76, Griffin humbled the Shogun hype-train by out-striking and out-grappling Rua, who was lauded for his dangerous Muay Thai and BJJ black belt skills. The match ended with a third-round submission win for Griffin, and he would go on to win the title in his next match against Rampage Jackson.
Aside from his last loss to Jon Jones, Rua remained virtually unbeaten in the UFC since losing to Griffin (yes, he defeated Machida twice). He will now have a chance to avenge one of his losses.
Both are now former light heavyweight champions; both lost their belts during their first defense—both by devastating third-round knockout. Belts are in their future. Legacies are on the line.
Who wants it more?