5 Questions We Hope Will Be Answered at UFC 252

Tom TaylorContributor IAugust 11, 2020

5 Questions We Hope Will Be Answered at UFC 252

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    UFC 252, the promotion's next pay-per-view blockbuster, is just around the corner.

    The event, which will emanate from the UFC APEX facility in Las Vegas this Saturday night, is long on star power and elite talent.

    In the main event, UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic will defend his title against the division's former ruler, Daniel Cormier, and settle a 1-1 tie in the process.

    In the UFC 252 co-main event, bantamweight super prospect Sean O'Malley will look to thwart the challenge of Ecuador's Marlon "Chito" Vera. Elsewhere on the lineup, we'll be treated to appearances from a number of former champions, title challengers and ranked contenders.

    In sum, it's a card that has fans tremendously excited, and one that should answer a lot of compelling questions.

    Without further ado, here's what we hope to learn by the time this pay-per-view has concluded in the small hours of Sunday morning.

Who Is the Greatest Heavyweight in UFC History?

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier, the reigning UFC heavyweight champion and former heavyweight champion, respectively, both have legitimate claims to the unofficial title of the greatest heavyweight in the promotion's history.

    Miocic holds victories over the likes of Francis Ngannou, Junior dos Santos, Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum, Andrei Arlovski, Mark Hunt, and Roy Nelson, and holds the record for the most consecutive title defenses by a UFC heavyweight champion at three-straight. Cormier, who has also won gold at light heavyweight, has a heavyweight resume that is bolstered by victories over Derrick Lewis, Roy Nelson, Frank Mir, Josh Barnett, Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva and Jeff Monson.

    The two men also hold victories over each other—Cormier knocked Miocic out in 2018, and Miocic returned the favor in 2019—which are probably the most valuable accomplishments of their respective careers.

    Whichever man has his hand raised at the conclusion of the UFC 252 main event will almost irrefutably be the greatest heavyweight in UFC history—and perhaps the greatest heavyweight in the history of the sport outright. But who will it be? 

Can Sean O’Malley Justify the Hype?

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    Sean O'Malley, who currently holds the No. 14 spot in the UFC bantamweight rankings, could be the most hyped prospect on the promotion's entire roster—although Khamzat Chimaev supporters might beg to differ. 

    In the UFC 252 co-main event, O'Malley will take on Ecuador's Marlon "Chito" Vera. It's far and away the biggest test of his career, although it's surprisingly not being advertised as such.

    Thus far, the biggest accomplishment on O'Malley's resume is his recent knockout victory over former WEC bantamweight champion Eddie Wineland, 36, who is in the twilight of his career and a shadow of the fighter Vera is today.

    The Ecuadorian fighter, who is still just 27 years old, has called the UFC home since 2014. In that time, he's picked up wins over the likes of Brad Pickett, Brian Kelleher, Frankie Saenz and Andrew Ewell. Eight of his 15 pro victories have come via submission, and five by way of knockout. He's never been stopped, despite battling dangerous finishers like John Lineker (14 knockout wins) and Douglas Andrade (19 knockout wins).

    The point of all this stat-spewing is to reiterate that Vera is not only a venomous finisher with the tools to stop any opponent but also a fighter with the proven durability to withstand O'Malley's fight-altering power. 

    This is a dangerous test for the American, but winning it will be the closest thing he's done to justifying the hype.

Can Junior Dos Santos Turn Back the Clock Again?

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos, now 36 years old, has lost his last two fights, succumbing to the punches of younger heavyweight contenders in Curtis Blaydes and Francis Ngannou. 

    These two stoppage losses give the impression that his days near the top of the UFC's heaviest division have come to an end, but as he gears up for a UFC 252 fight with Surinamese knockout artist Jairzinho Rozenstruik, let's not forget that he's emerged from similar patches of adversity before.  

    After a violent 2013 stoppage loss at the hands of Cain Velasquez, he rebounded with a decision victory over future champion Stipe Miocic. After a second-round knockout at the hands of Alistair Overeem in 2015, he bounced back with a lopsided decision triumph over Ben Rothwell. After a knockout loss in a rematch with Miocic, he got back on track with a decision win over Blagoy Ivanov and a pair of second-round knockouts over Tai Tuivasa and Derrick Lewis. 

    At this stage, it's difficult to imagine dos Santos ever winning the heavyweight title again, but he is one of the greatest heavyweights of an era; and even at 36, he could get back to winning ways at Rozenstruik's expense. It all depends how much fight he's got left in him.

Will the Magomed Ankalaev vs. Ion Cutelaba Rematch Be More Decisive?

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    Want to see one of the weirdest stoppages in recent UFC history? Fire up UFC Fight Pass and watch the first fight between light heavyweight sluggers Magomed Ankalaev and Ion Cutelaba, which went down at UFC on ESPN+ 27 in late February.

    After an intense pre-fight stare-down, Russia's Ankalaev and Moldova's Cutelaba met in the center of the Octagon and started pelting each other with the kind of heavy artillery that would have separated many lesser fighters from their consciousness.

    Cutelaba quickly began to exhibit the signs of a fighter who'd been hurt, wobbling on unsteady legs like a newborn fawn, but continued to return fire with nuclear offense.

    Then it happened.

    Evidently suspicious that Cutelaba was more hurt than his upright position suggested, the referee waved off the fight. The Moldovan's protests were both immediate and coherent, giving many onlookers the impression he might have been playing possum or simply having a bit of fun by pretending to be more hurt than he was.

    It was an extremely unpopular end to a fight that was eagerly anticipated among fans.

    The good news is that, on the UFC 252 main card, the pair will meet again. The big question is whether they can battle to a more decisive outcome.

    We want to know who's better. Their first fight certainly didn't give us much sense of that. Hopefully the rematch does.

How Good Is Herbert Burns?

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    Gilbert Burns is the No. 1 contender in the UFC welterweight division and possibly one of the best fighters in the sport regardless of weight class. His younger brother, Herbert, who competes in the UFC featherweight division, could be as good—maybe even better.

    Herbert, a ONE Championship veteran, earned a UFC contract with a first-round submission over Darrick Minner on Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series. Since then, he's gone 2-0 in the UFC, first knocking out Nate Landwehr, then choking out an extremely crafty veteran in Evan Dunham.

    Just two fights into his UFC career, the younger Burns brother is looking like a fighter with massive potential.

    On the UFC 252 undercard, when he takes on 39-fight veteran Daniel Pineda, he'll look to take another step toward realizing that potential. It likely won't be enough to show us he's truly on the level of his big brother, but it should give us a much clearer sense of where his ceiling is.