UFC 173: Burning Questions Heading into TUF Brazil 3 Finale, Fight Night: Berlin

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistMay 25, 2014

UFC 173: Burning Questions Heading into TUF Brazil 3 Finale, Fight Night: Berlin

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    USA TODAY Sports

    UFC 173 is in the books. The results are as follows:

    UFC 173 Main Card

    • TJ Dillashaw def. Renan Barao, TKO (Round 5, 2:26)
    • Daniel Cormier def. Dan Henderson, submission (Round 3, 3:53)
    • Robbie Lawler def. Jake Ellenberger, TKO (Round 3, 3:06)
    • Takeya Mizugaki def. Francisco Rivera, unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
    • James Krause def. Jamie Varner, TKO (injury) (Round 1, 5:00)

    Fox Sports 1 Prelims

    • Michael Chiesa def. Francisco Trinaldo, unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
    • Tony Ferguson def. Katsunori Kikuno, TKO (Round 1, 4:06)
    • Chris Holdsworth def. Chico Camus, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
    • Mitch Clarke def. Al Iaquinta, submission (Round 2, 0:57)

    Fight Pass Prelims

    • Vinc Pichel def. Anthony Njokuani, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
    • Sam Sicilia def. Aaron Phillips, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
    • Li Jingliang def. David Michaud, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)

    Next up? Not one but two cards going down on May 31.

    First will be the UFC's return to Germany in UFC Fight Night 41 (aka UFC Fight Night: Berlin). Headlined by Mark Munoz vs. Gegard Mousasi, the card features numerous rising-yet-unestablished fighters from Europe.

    After that? The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 Finale, headlined by Stipe Miocic vs. Fabio Maldonado and backed up by various fights from the season's cast.

    So what should you be talking about heading into next Saturday? Find out right here!

Two Cards in One Day?

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    I know, right!

    For the first time ever, the UFC is having two cards on the same day. The promotion planned to do this once before back in 2012 and did something similar back when it had the TUF: The Smashes and TUF16 finales on back-to-back nights. This is the first time they'll actually pull it off, however.

    Neither card is particularly good. They're below-average, which frankly seems to be the new standard for Fox Sports 1 and Fight Pass cards, and they are sure to have many members of the MMA media groaning from their chairs, as fighters with vaguely recognizable names (and a few others we kind of care about) plod ever-forward toward decision wins.

    So how will it end up going? Will we get two hair-pullingly bad clinch fests or something enjoyable? Here's hoping for the latter. I don't know if I can stand two Fight Night 36-style cards in one eight-hour sitting.

Will Mark Eddiva Become Somebody to Watch?

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    Xaume Olleros/Getty Images

    Tiequan Zhang, Erik Perez...Mark Eddiva?

    The UFC has its fair share of "token" fighters. Guys who may or may not be legitimate prospects that the UFC scoops up to give the locals in a new market someone, anyone, to cheer for. Wushu specialist Mark Eddiva is the guy for the Philippines and might just be poised for actual UFC success.

    He scored a convincing-yet-forgettable win over Jumabieke Tuerxun at the TUF: China Finale, and he is somebody the UFC really wants to succeed. He is facing off with Edimilson Souza, a Brazilian knockout artist, in what could be an exciting bout. 

    If Eddiva can win, and do so emphatically, it might just be the start of something. So how will he fare?

Is Luke Barnatt a Star in the Making?

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    The UFC is always searching for U.K. talent to hype up. It's why Dan Hardy and Paul Daley were both fast-tracked to the belt, Norman Parke has been fighting on main cards, and Michael Bisping has been such an enduring figure in the middleweight division.

    There might just be a new guy to add to that lot, though, as Luke Barnatt is definitely a fighter to watch these days. The Brit had a forgettable run on TUF17 as part of Team Sonnen but has looked quite solid since the end of the show, racking up three straight in the Octagon.

    Standing at 6'6", he towers almost every other fighter in the middleweight division. That length gives him a unique set of tools standing and on the ground that could let him become a player in the division before too long. 

    The UFC seems to realize this and is grooming him carefully in the same way it has with fighters like Jon Jones and Junior dos Santos (as opposed to somebody like Khabib Nurmagomedov, who was tossed into the deep end but just so happened to be a strong swimmer). Barnatt will face off with Sean Strickland in Berlin. If he wins, he will advance to 4-0 in the Octagon. 

    So will Barnatt soon be a name you have to remember?

Which TUF: Brazil 3 Runners-Up Will Get a Second Shot?

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    Oh...right...that second card is for TUF: Brazil 3...

    Totally forgot about that. 

    But seriously, TUF: Brazil is (generally) producing better fighters than the "real" seasons of The Ultimate Fighter, and the fact that the show had a crop of (mostly light) heavyweights makes this an interesting one. This card is introducing fans to not two, not four, but eight fresh fighters to join the most talent-starved divisions in the promotion (it also has middleweights...but who cares about them?).

    So how many of the heavyweights will be brought back by the UFC? Will we see them paired off with a spot in the UFC on the line? Or will they be thrown into the division to provide it with the bodies it so sorely needs?

Who Will Win TUF: Brazil 3?

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    Oh, and I guess the winners will be decided, too...

    At this point, we don't know all the finalists, and I won't spoil things for those who haven't seen it yet. But obviously, somebody is going to have a six-figure contract, probably some kind of motorcycle to increase his likelihood of getting an injury and blah blah blah. 

    So who will it be?

Will Francis Carmont Be the New Costas Philippou?

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Everyone has always kind of known that Francis Carmont's plummet from the middleweight rankings was only a matter of time. Keep in mind, this was a guy who needed controversial split decisions to get past Lorenz Larkin and Tom Lawlor. 

    Still, wins are wins, and he got six of them in a row in the UFC. That's a big deal.

    When he came up against a human buzzsaw by the name of Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, however, the results were pretty much what everyone was expecting. Now set off to face CB Dollaway, a guy with an on-paper advantage, it's possible Carmont might be poised for a Costas Philippou plunge down the rankings.

    Will he get back in the win column? Or will he be freeing up a spot in the top 10?

Are Squash Matches Now a Regular Part of UFC Cards?

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    "Every fight matters in MMA. Top-10 guys don't get inflated records from fighting tomato cans. That's why boxing is dying, Floyd Mayweather would lose to Manny Pacquiao, and Fedor Emelianenko isn't the greatest of all time."

    If you've ever been on an MMA forum or made the terrible decision to look at the comments section of an article on MMA, you've probably seen that exact quote or something closely resembling it. 

    For a long time, it was relatively true. Legitimately talented fighters were paired off before either was a known commodity. Careers were altered by fights like Phil Davis vs. Alexander Gustafsson, Tyron Woodley vs. Tarec Saffiedine and Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard I in ways that wouldn't become clear until years later.

    Now, though? If you are a fighter that the UFC brass likes, it will openly work things for you.

    Donald Cerrone vs. Adriano Martins. Chad Mendes vs. Cody McKenzie. Erick Silva vs. Takenori Sato. And on this card? Diego Brandao and Demian Maia were both slated for fights with guys who are making their UFC debuts.

    Yes, yes...you can hypothetically blame it on injury replacements, but let's be straight. These are fights in the densely populated featherweight, lightweight and welterweight divisions. While a disgusting mismatch like Stipe Miocic vs. Fabio Maldonado can reasonably come together in the consistently shallow heavyweight division, it's hard to imagine that the UFC can't do better between 145 and 170 pounds.

Which Middleweight Will Actually Start Climbing the Rankings?

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    Michael Sohn/Associated Press

    Mark Munoz and Gegard Mousasi are two guys who have always been just outside of "there." "There" could be title contention, legitimate relevance, elite status...take your pick. Both carved out a strong niche in the always-shifting middleweight division but have fallen on hard times since losing to now-contender Lyoto Machida.

    Munoz was a win over Chael Sonnen away from fighting Anderson Silva but tailspinned his way to the middle of the 185-pound pack when he was demolished by now-champ Chris Weidman.

    Mousasi was the toast of Japanese MMA but fought mid-tier competition (or worse) bouncing between Dream and Strikeforce from 2008 until 2013. He is 1-1 in the UFC.

    Both of them have their legacies on the line for this fight. Should Munoz lose, it will be hard to look past how the biggest name on his record is now-welterweight Demian Maia. Should Mousasi lose, he will become the new posterboy for Japanese MMA fighters who just don't hold up against "elite" competition.

    So who will keep his title hopes afloat? Who will fall by the wayside?

Will Stipe Miocic Maintain His Spot in the Heavyweight Division?

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    You have to feel bad for Stipe Miocic. He was slated for a career-defining fight with former champion Junior dos Santos where a win would have likely guaranteed a title shot.

    Now he's fighting some other guy. Some unranked, no-name 205er. Some jobber who, frankly, offers Miocic nothing more than a marginally secure paycheck.

    It's a terribly ugly situation (as Chad Dundas spelled out pretty clearly) and a colossal disappointment for fans. Miocic is basically the first breath of fresh air in the heavyweight division since Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez first popped up onto the scene, and he now has wins over both of the division's most formidable gatekeepers in Gabriel Gonzaga and Roy Nelson.

    He clearly isn't going to improve his position with a win, no matter how decisive. The question is whether he can avoid making any kind of mistake to maintain his spot as the heavyweight division's next big thing, or if doubt will begin creeping in on his prospects.