5 Reasons to Watch UFC 180
The untimely injury of heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez in late October nearly derailed the UFC's first event in Mexico.
Fortunately for the company's brass, fearless and ambitious heavyweight contender Mark Hunt stepped up on late notice to replace Velasquez and subsequently accept a daunting task in the night's main event.
The fourth-ranked Hunt will face top-ranked submission wizard Fabricio Werdum in an interim heavyweight title bout in the main event Saturday night at UFC 180 at the Arena Ciudad de Mexico in Mexico City.
On a top-heavy card that includes fourth-ranked featherweight Ricardo Lamas and seventh-ranked welterweight Jake Ellenberger, the matchup between Mark Hunt and Werdum could prove a perfect ending to a captivating night.
Read on to get a glimpse of some of the alluring attractions that UFC 180 will offer.
See the UFC's Featherweight Dark Horse Fight for the 3rd Time This Year
He still doesn't get the attention he deserves, but streaking featherweight Dennis Bermudez is finally getting the high-profile matchups that can catapult him into the title picture.
Less than four months after submitting the 11th-ranked Clay Guida at UFC on Fox 12, the former NCAA Division I wrestler will face former title challenger Lamas in a marquee showdown that will take place before the co-main event.
The seventh-ranked Bermudez has reeled off seven straight wins since dropping his UFC debut to Diego Brandao in December 2011. If Bermudez happens to get past Lamas in impressive fashion, then he could jump to the front of a short line of featherweight title challengers.
Witness Mexico's First Taste of the UFC
If you don't believe the UFC's decision to hold its first event in Mexico was long overdue, then you must not have heard that the 21,000 tickets for UFC 180 sold in a span of just eight hours.
Although Mexican-American heavyweight champ Velasquez had to pull out of the event due to an injury, expect fans at the Arena Ciudad de Mexico to bring a mesmerizing energy similar to that of MMA fanatics who dwell in Brazil and Ireland.
After all, Mexicans have long considered one of the major components of mixed martial arts, boxing, as one of their darling sports (right up there with soccer and baseball).
Mexican-American stars like Velasquez and UFC 180 co-main event fighter Kelvin Gastelum have made MMA fans of droves of Mexicans who once only revered boxing as their combat sport of choice.
Tune in Saturday to witness history and the beginning of a potentially long and fruitful relationship between the UFC and Mexico.
The Blossoming Kid and the Fading Vet Are Sure to Put on the Fight of the Night
Although seventh-ranked welterweight Jake Ellenberger and 11th-ranked Kelvin Gastelum appear to be heading in different directions, both have plenty riding on their co-main event bout, a fact that will likely bring the best out of each man.
The venomous Ellenberger, who teetered on the brink of his first UFC title shot after besting Diego Sanchez at UFC on Fuel TV 1 in 2012 to earn his sixth straight win, has since lost three of his last five fights, including his last two.
The 29-year-old Ellenberger likely possesses a slightly more refined skill set than the 23-year-old Gastelum, but Gastelum has improved drastically since his time on the 17th season of The Ultimate Fighter.
While Gastelum hasn't shown the sheer punching power that Ellenberger is known for, he's got similar skills to The Juggernaut in virtually every other category, including wrestling. His confidence is soaring, having won his first four UFC fights, including a win over a grinder in 12th-ranked Rick Story.
With so much riding on this bout, it's difficult to imagine either Ellenberger coming out flat for the third straight time or Gastelum squandering his first crack at a Top 10 welterweight.
Everyone Loves the Underdog, Especially When It's Mark Hunt
Even on less than a month's notice, Hunt doesn't mind playing the underdog role.
The Super Samoan has made a career out of proving his doubters wrong, and since he's hungrier than ever to win his first pro MMA belt, it seems perfectly fitting that the UFC's brass would finally give Hunt his chance.
Hunt's role won't change Saturday when he takes on the heavily favored Werdum, who's riding an impressive four-fight winning streak that includes victories over Travis Browne and Antonio "Minotauro" Nogueira.
Odds Shark has deemed Werdum a 4-17 favorite to beat Hunt (16-5), a former K-1 Grand Prix champ who's tasted defeat just once in his last seven fights.
Hunt has pulled off the improbable before, and despite the fact that Werdum presents many problems for him on the ground, Hunt will show up Saturday with the belief that he's going to score another walkaway knockout.
One thing is certain: Hunt's massive fanbase will tune in to see if the fearless New Zealander can score the most noteworthy upset of his career against a man who looked virtually unbeatable in his last fight against Browne.
Watch the First 2 'TUF Latin America' Finales
Before the card's big names take center stage at night's end, two members of The Ultimate Fighter Latin America cast will duel for chances to make history.
In the inaugural finale of TUF Latin America, featherweights Yair Rodriguez and Leonardo Morales will duke it out in the featherweight finale. Alejandro Perez and Jose Alberto Quinonez will square off in the bantamweight finale.
For those who didn't get to see the top-flight skills the members of the TUF Latin America cast regularly put on display, tune in to the preliminary card Saturday to see possible coming-out parties for four of the season's best.