UFC 161 has turned into a muddled mess of what it originally was suppose to be. That, however, doesn’t mean the fight card is minus any importance despite the loss of a title fight and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.
Just look at the main event, as light heavyweights Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson collide. “Suga” is a former champion in the UFC, while “Hendo” has worn gold in several promotions.
In fact, less than half-a-year-ago, Henderson was the man set to stand in front of Jon Jones for the title. A knee injury ended that, and a loss to Lyoto Machida has him fighting to regain that position, but he could do it – starting with a win over Evans.
So, here’s a look at what is at stake for some of the main players this Saturday night from Winnipeg and the MTS Centre.
He needs a win, and he needs one badly.
Nobody wants three straight losses on their resume, even if they are to fighters such as Jon Jones, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Dan Henderson.
If “Suga” is going to ever get back into title contention, he needs to finish Dan Henderson – not just defeat him, finish him. A loss, and we could see Evans a permanent fixture on FUEL TV (soon to be FOX Sports 1) coverage.
Wins over Fedor Emelianenko, Michael Bisping and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua will keep Dan Henderson in the minds of MMA fans forever.
The one thing missing is a belt from the UFC. His quest to get back into title contention starts – and could end – with Rashad Evans.
While “Hendo” isn’t riding a two-fight losing streak, he is aging by the day and by the fight. Battles like the one he had with Rua will take multiple years off a fighters body.
A win over Evans and Henderson could be paired back up with a Top-5 fighter later this year. A loss, and we may have seen the end of the “H-bomb.”
Nobody could have more to lose at UFC 161 than Roy Nelson.
He accepted the fight with Stipe Miocic on short notice, and will be competing for the third time in the last seven months. While neither previous fight went long, “Big Country” still has to be feeling the pains that go into training and preparing.
Miocic isn’t ranked in the Top-10, but he is a heavyweight with knockout power – seven KO finishes – and Nelson will have to be on his game.
A dream situation for Stipe Miocic came about when UFC officials decided they needed to spruce up the event with Roy Nelson.
Out went returning Soa Palelei and in came top-flight fighter “Big Country.”
Coming off a loss to Stefan Struve, Miocic couldn’t have been more pleased with given another ranked fighter and a chance to prove himself.
Ryan Jimmo/Igor Pokrajac/Pat Barry/Shawn Jordan
On a card without a lot of top names, all four of these fighters could make a statement with their performance.
Ryan Jimmo and Igor Pokrajac were bumped on to the main card after all the shuffling, and Jimmo has already given fans a look at what he can do with his KO of Anthony Perosh and war vs. James Te Huna.
Pokrajac has struggled vs. the likes of Vinny Magalhaes and Joey Beltran, but one swift punch or timely submission could be all he needs.
Pat Barry and Shawn Jordan need to put a run together if they want to ever compete with the big boys in the UFC’s heavyweight division. Maybe a convincing knockout could propel one of them.
Jake Shields/Tyron Woodley
Many were shocked that these two were not moved to the main card, but FX might be a better place for them to showcase what they can do.
Jake Shields and Tyron Woodley are Strikeforce vets, but they are heading in opposite directions at the moment.
Shields is moving back to welterweight after a one-fight stay at middleweight, while Woodley rebounded from his first career loss by destroying Jay Hieron in his Octagon debut.
If Woodley can handle Shields, a Top-5 foe could be in his future. Shields, meanwhile, needs to show he can still hang with the young guns of the welterweight division.