UFC Fight Night 84: 5 Burning Questions Heading into UFC 196

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistFebruary 28, 2016

UFC Fight Night 84: 5 Burning Questions Heading into UFC 196

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    UFC Fight Night 84 is in the books. The results are as follows:

    Main Card on UFC Fight Pass

    • Michael Bisping def. Anderson Silva, unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47)
    • Gegard Mousasi def. Thales Leites, unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-27)
    • Tom Breese def. Keita Nakamura, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
    • Brad Pickett def. Francisco Rivera, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

    Prelims on UFC Fight Pass

    • Makwan Amirkhani def. Mike Wilkinson, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 29-28)
    • Davey Grant def. Marlon Vera, unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26)
    • Scott Askham def. Chris Dempsey, knockout (Round 1, 4:45)
    • Arnold Allen def. Yaotzin Meza, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
    • Krzysztof Jotko def. Brad Scott, unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28)
    • Rustam Khabilov def. Norman Parke, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
    • Daniel Omielanczuk def. Jarjis Danho, technical decision (29-29, 29-28, 29-28)
    • Teemu Packalen def. Thibault Gouti, submission (Round 1, 0:24)
    • David Teymur def. Martin Svensson, TKO (Round 2, 1:26)

    Next up? UFC 196 on Saturday.

    The card formerly known as UFC 197 is quite something to behold. Two of the UFC's hottest names, Conor McGregor and Holly Holm, sit atop the card, facing interesting challengers in Nate Diaz and Miesha Tate, respectively. The rest of the card features an interesting mix of hot young prospects such as Teruto Ishihara, Valentina Shevchenko and Brandon Thatch and recognizable veterans such as Diego Sanchez, Tom Lawlor and Darren Elkins.

    There's a lot of intrigue to be found in the card's 12 fights, but what are the hottest storylines entering next week's event? What are the most important questions that will be answered? Find out right here.

Which Lightweight Veteran Is Going to Get Pushed Toward Retirement?

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    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    The Fight: Diego Sanchez vs. Jim Miller
    The Real Fight: Aging Veteran vs. Aging Veteran

    The Stakes

    Jim Miller and Diego Sanchez are recognizable veterans with impressive bodies of work...but they're also worn down after long, difficult careers. With both men's careers officially hitting the skids, the loser of this fight may be forced into considering retirement or, worse, seek contract offers from WSOF and Bellator.  

    The Question

    Which lightweight veteran is going to get pushed toward retirement?

    Analysis

    Sanchez and Miller have 66 professional fights (more than 40 in the UFC) and 24 years professional MMA experience between them. That's a lot of wear and tear on the body, and that has become impossible to ignore that over their recent performances.

    Sanchez is two competent judges away from being on a six-fight losing streak and hasn't been in a competitive fight against a Top 10 name since his 2011 fight against Martin Kampmann (which, unsurprisingly, was a gift from the judges). Miller's descent hasn't been as sharp, but it's certainly not a coincidence that he is 1-3 over his last four, with none of those losses being especially close.

    Whoever wins this fight will borrow some more time and drag out his UFC career two or three more fights. The other one...we'll just have to wait and see.

Is Amanda Nunes for Real?

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    Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

    The Fight: Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko
    The Real Fight: Amanda Nunes vs. Breakout Performances

    The Stakes

    After three years as a middle-of-the-pack bantamweight in the UFC and Strikeforce, Amanda Nunes had a breakout 2015, scoring impressive stoppages over Sara McMann and Shayna Baszler. Now established as a top bantamweight, she needs to start building herself up as a title contender. She has a prime opportunity to do just that by facing the impressive newcomer Valentina Shevchenko. 

    The Question

    Is Amanda Nunes for real?

    Analysis

    Nunes has always been amazingly talented but has often been overlooked. Fans knew she was athletic, especially in comparison to the less-than-robust women's bantamweight division. They also knew that she had the killer instinct, courtesy of her 100 percent stoppage rate.

    The trouble is that Nunes hasn't been able to put together a winning streak in Zuffa, losing to Alexis Davis in 2011, Sarah D'Alelio in 2013 and Cat Zingano in 2014. Those days, however, may be behind her.

    Already on a two-fight winning streak, if she can put away a seemingly overmatched Shevchenko in front of what will surely be a massive audience, she could finally, at long last, kick down the doors to title contention. Or, on the other hand, she may fizzle yet again.

Which Light Heavyweight Will Become a Dark-Horse Player?

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    The Fight: Corey Anderson vs. Tom Lawlor
    The Real Fight: Young Upstart vs. Resurgent Veteran

    The Stakes

    Corey Anderson and Tom Lawlor were both promising at one point, had their ascents halted and got back on track. Set to face off at UFC 196, however, one of them will be dealt yet another setback, while the winner will suddenly become an interesting commodity in the 205-pound division.

    The Question

    Which light heavyweight will become a dark-horse player?

    Analysis

    Anderson has a solid 4-1 UFC record and has officially put the TKO loss against Gian Villante last year out of memory. Lawlor's setbacks have largely come through lengthy injury layoffs. He ended a two-year hiatus in July by knocking out the aforementioned Villante and could be poised for a legitimate run as a light heavyweight.

    Both men hold some promotional value for the UFC, with Anderson (26) being one of the youngest fighters at 205 pounds (not that young in reality, but there aren't many guys under 30 fighting above 185 pounds) and Lawlor still holding "fan favorite" distinction. In all likelihood, this will be an ugly grindfest of a fight. If either man can score an impressive stoppage win, though, we might start to see business pick up for him.

Will Miesha Tate Throw Everyone a Curveball?

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    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    The Fight: Holly Holm vs. Miesha Tate
    The Real Fight: Miesha Tate vs. The UFC's Business Interests

    The Stakes

    The UFC is still looking to put the women's bantamweight title on Ronda Rousey, but the plan has been for her to take it back from Holly Holm. While many are sleeping on Miesha Tate in this fight, Cupcake has never, at any point in her career, been an easy out. If she can pull off the upset here, it's tough to guess what the future has in store for the women's bantamweight division.

    The Question

    Will Miesha Tate throw everyone a curveball?

    Analysis

    When Holm beat Rousey at UFC 193, the UFC had a clear plan in mind. Shelve Holm for six months and do the immediate rematch at UFC 200.

    Obviously, things didn't shake out that way. With Rousey out of commission for the foreseeable future (or possibly retired completely), the UFC instead gave Tate her long-awaited title shot. That provides an interesting set of possibilities here.

    If Holm wins and gets injured, what happens then? If Tate wins, then what? 

    Fun times are ahead, folks.

Can the McGregor Train Keep A'Rollin'?

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    The Fight: Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz
    The Real Fight: Nate Diaz vs. The UFC's Best Interest

    The Stakes

    A massive fight between UFC lightweight champ Rafael dos Anjos and UFC featherweight champ Conor McGregor fell apart when Dos Anjos pulled out due to a foot injury. Now, all involved parties are rolling the dice by putting McGregor opposite the always-dangerous Nate Diaz. If McGregor stays the course, the UFC, Dos Anjos and McGregor are poised for a huge payday. If Diaz wins, though, the UFC's 2016 would suddenly become much less profitable.

    The Question

    Can the McGregor train keep a'rollin'? 

    Analysis

    McGregor's drawing power is second to none right now, and it's approaching the point where he could, potentially, start breaking UFC gate and pay-per-view records. That, of course, is contingent on him winning.

    If McGregor drops this fight to Diaz, the big super title fight is taken off the table. The potential welterweight title fight with Robbie Lawler after that? Gone. Add to that the fact that McGregor is seemingly done at 145 pounds, and this fight with Diaz, suddenly, becomes a high-stakes affair instead of a "fun fight for the fans."

    Of course, fans should just kick back and enjoy the ride. UFC brass, however, are probably going to have at least one or two sleepless nights this week.