UFC 135: 5 Questions Heading into Saturday's Fights

Patrick Drottar@pdrottarCorrespondent ISeptember 24, 2011

UFC 135: 5 Questions Heading into Saturday's Fights

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    The day is finally here and the moments of anticipation are over as tonight we will see UFC light heavyweight champion Jon "Bones" Jones' first title defense against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.

    Fight fans will find out if Jones is the next elite fighter in the UFC and can go on a run of successful title defenses.

    When he captured the title, Jones dominated an elite fighter in Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and is looking to do the same to the former champion.

    In Jackson's last fight, he put up a forgettable performance against Matt Hamill, a fighter Rampage should have dominated, but could not finish.

    Rampage is known for the power he packs in his punches, but has not been able to finish a fight since 2008 when he knocked out Wanderlei Silva. A lot of people have questioned whether or not his focus is not entirely on the fight game as he has a budding acting career.

    He will look to make a return to his popular self against Jones in what should be a great fight.

    Jones and Rampage is not the only exciting thing on a card that is full of intriguing matchups between fighters young and old.

    Fans will get to see the debut of the latest Ultimate Fighter winner Tony Ferguson as he battles UFC veteran Aaron Riley.

    Travis Browne will look for yet another impressive performance after his incredible knockout victory against Stefan Struve opened up a lot of fans' eyes to the Hawaiian's skills.

    This may also be the final time we see UFC legend Matt Hughes in the octagon as his contract is up after his fight with Josh Koscheck. The wrestler has been considering retirement for some time now.

    So let's take a look at some of the biggest questions being asked about fight night.

Is Tony Ferguson the Real Deal?

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    During the Ultimate Fighter: Lesnar vs. dos Santos, no one put together a string of more exciting fights than 27-year-old Tony Ferguson.

    Ferguson, the third pick by coach Brock Lesnar, started the season off with a bang when he landed an explosive up-kick that knocked out Justin Edwards and sent Ferguson to the quarterfinals.

    He would finish his next two fights against Ryan McGillivray and underdog Chuck O'Neil by knockout and technical knockout, respectively, and advanced to the finals against Ramsey Nijem.

    As impressive as Ferguson's finishes were, Nijem was considered the favorite, as his wrestling helped him overpower the competition and cruise to a championship berth.

    At the finale, Ferguson continued his stretch of finishes by knocking out Nijem in the first round to not only win the knockout of night, but also the prize of Ultimate Fighter and a six-figure UFC contract.

    In Ferguson's first fight since winning the competition, he will drop down to lightweight and take on UFC veteran Aaron Riley, who has not fought in over a year due to injuries and is looking to pick up a win after the long layoff.

    It will be interesting to see if Ferguson can extend his knockout streak as he faces a whole new level of competition.

    We have seen Ultimate Fighters winners like Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans and Matt Serra go on to have great success in the UFC.

    More often than not, we have seen winners go on to falter and find themselves being cut after unimpressive performances. Kendall Grove, Efrain Escudero and Joe Stevenson are all winners that could not live up to their expectations.

    Ferguson will do whatever it takes to not join that list, and Riley could be his first victim.

Will Nate Diaz Have the Same Success Against Takanori Gomi as Brother Nick?

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    Back at Pride 33 in 2007, former UFC fighter Nick Diaz went to war with Pride lightweight champion Takanori Gomi.

    Gomi got ahead early in the fight, landing several shots on the taller Diaz and even scoring a knockdown.

    However, as quickly as Gomi got started, Diaz came back with a vicious onslaught of straight jabs and right hands in the latter half of the first round; Gomi was clearly exhausted.

    At the start of the second round, Gomi tried to catch up, but suffered a double leg takedown that would later lead to an impressive Gogoplata submission that earned the California native the victory.

    It was later determined that Diaz tested positive for marijuana in the pre-fight drug tests and the result was later changed to a no contest.

    Even though Diaz failed the test, marijuana is not a performance-enhancing drug, but is still considered illegal.

    When you consider that Diaz took nothing that would improve his strength, stamina or recovery time, his performance against Gomi was still impressive.

    On Saturday, Gomi will face the younger Diaz brother and Ultimate Fighter winner Nate.

    As talented as Diaz is, he has not found the same success as his brother, often putting together dismal performances against tougher competition.

    In his past two fights, Diaz was dominated by Dong Hyun Kim and Rory MacDonald, who picked up the 26-year-old and slammed him several times at ease.

    Diaz is desperately looking for a win and it will be interesting to see if he can take his skills to the next level with his back against the wall.

    Gomi should be careful if the fight goes to the ground, as Nate has as much an impressive submission game as Nick. Gomi could suffer the same fate if he is not wary.

How Will Travis Browne Follow His Impressive Knockout Victory at UFC 130?

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    At UFC 130, heavyweight Travis Browne went up against the "Skyscraper" Stefan Struve, the tallest heavyweight in the division at close to 7'.

    Browne was looking for an impressive victory after his last fight against Cheick Kongo came to a draw, which would have been awarded the "Boring Fight of the Night" if there was such an award.

    At the beginning of the fight, the Hawaiian was struggling to get in striking distance of Struve.

    However, every fight fan knows that a fight could be ended at any time. Browne backed up that statement as he landed a violent superman punch that completely leveled Struve and won Browne the fight.

    The 30-year-old's impressive performance earned "Knockout of the Night" and a few more followers as he looks to soon make a jump to the top ten in the division.

    Browne still has to get a few more wins under his belt to be considered one of the top fighters in the division and will start against newcomer Rob Broughton.

    The Wolfslair Academy fighter made his UFC debut at UFC 120 against Vinicius Queiroz and picked up the victory with an impressive rear naked choke.

    Broughton will be a tough test for Browne. He has shown so far in his career that he can win the fight on his feet as well as on the ground. Out of his 15 victories, seven of them have come by knockout and five by submission.

    Browne will have to be careful, but if he can add another spectacular finish to his resume, he may get a chance at top-ranked competition.

Is This the Last Time We Will See Matt Hughes in the Octagon?

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    The last time we saw Matt Hughes in the octagon, he suffered a knockout loss to BJ Penn only 21 seconds into the first round.

    Hughes is clearly close to the end of his career and after the fight, UFC President Dana White suggested that the 37-year-old retire before the losses pile up like they did for Chuck Liddell.

    The former collegiate wrestler has taken close to a year off, but with one fight left on his contract, signed to return to the octagon to face top welterweight Diego Sanchez.

    Sanchez was on a hot streak after picking up convincing victories against Paulo Thiago and Martin Kampmann.

    However, during training with only a few weeks before the fight, Sanchez had to pull out of the fight with a broken hand.

    In his place, Josh Koscheck, who challenged Hughes back in 2009, stepped in to finally get the fight he has wanted for so long.

    With only 20 days to prepare for the fight, Koscheck assured everyone that he has been training and he would have plenty of time to prepare for his return after breaking an orbital bone against Georges St-Pierre in their title fight last December.

    Hughes has his work cut out for him, as Koscheck is a superior fighter.

    Koscheck only had 20 days to prepare to fight, but Hughes only had that much time to change his strategy from Sanchez to Koscheck.

    Koscheck has powerful takedown ability, but also has excellent striking and will look to end his first fight back in exciting fashion.

    Like any fighter, Hughes wants to finish his career with a victory, but if Koscheck wins in dominant fashion, he may not have a choice. 

Can Rampage Get His Title Back, or Is He Focusing More on the Movie Money?

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    Quinton "Rampage" Jackson has assured everyone that he is focused on going in tonight, beating Jon Jones and regaining the title he lost three years ago.

    He was on his way back to title contention after losing the belt, but left the UFC to play B.A. Baracus in the summer blockbuster "The A-Team," and said he was done with fighting.

    Jackson's decision was understandable as he is getting older and being an actor is a physically less demanding profession.

    Rampage would later return and found himself back in title contention.

    Even with the success, Jackson has still let everyone know that when the movie money is right, he will hang his gloves up and end his fight career, stating that he does not want to fight past the age of 35.

    At 33, that does not leave much time before Jackson calls it quits. He did a pretty good job in his first big movie role and the jobs should begin to come in.

    When any fighter—or any person in that matter—has a career change planned in the future, they seem to lose focus on the task at hand.

    In able for Jackson to return to the top of the light heavyweight division, he will have to focus entirely on defeating Jon Jones.

    Jones has shown in his past fights that the sport of Mixed Martial Arts is evolving and he is leading the new wave.

    The champ can end the fight on his feet with an aggressive and unpredictable stand-up as well as on the ground, where he has exceptional jiu jitsu.

    If Rampage is not completely focused on defeating Jones, the 24-year-old will dominate like he did against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua when he captured the title.