It may not seem the show stopping card of the year, especially after some of the great match-ups we’ve had recently, but UFC 102 is certainly going to settle a couple questions both small and not so small. Let’s take a little gander at the top five things that will get settled at UFC 102:
- Topping the list is not the headline fight of the night, but rather a fight that is surprisingly listed 4 bouts into the UFC website’s card details. Nate Marquardt will be facing off against undefeated Demian Maia in a bout that likely sets up the next (or perhaps next-next) challenger for the UFC Middleweight crown. This fight is big on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to begin. Firstly, Marquardt has done nothing but improve and look great since his first and arguably premature shot at the title. If he wins and gets a title shot soon, he is a compelling challenger for what we can assume will be a reigning Anderson Silva. This, however, is not the big issue getting settled here. This fight is more about Demian Maia and the giant banner he carries for Gracie Jiu Jitsu. Demian, for those who remember, declared in a post fight interview that he wanted to win them all by submission and "show the world that you don’t have to hurt someone to win a fight." Much like Lyoto Machida became the poster child for traditional karate, Demian Maia is the man on the mission to show that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can still be a dominant form unto itself. His determination to do so and the feeling of the BJJ establishment behind him is well evidenced by his impromptu training session with Renzo Gracie in a hotel room in Bejing. We all know BJJ is a big part of MMA, but Demian is out to prove it can be the main ingredient ala Royce circa UFCs 1 through 5.
- Can a legend still sell pay per view tickets even if he’s not likely in serious contention? One can never count “The Natural” out, but is he a serious threat for the belt in a new UFC age where we’re talking about gifted athletes with speed, skill and power who – oh by the way – happen to CUT WEIGHT to make 265?! Not to discount Nogueira’s part in this either, but Couture is the big UFC draw. A win for either of these guys isn’t going to prove a ton and a loss is simply going to add to the arguments that they have aged too much or had too many wars. The real issue is, are they still marketable from here out?
- Will Brandon Vera be something worth worrying about at 205? After opening his career at 8 – 0, Brendon went 2 – 3 and just looked lackluster fighting up at heavyweight. He’s looked better at lightheavy and in his last fight he availed himself well, beating down Michael Patt with leg kicks. A dominant performance over Krzysztof Soszynski (say that 5 times fast!), who has looked good recently in his own right, would be a statement worthy of Brandon’s hat being thrown in the title contender mix.
- How many fights does personality get you in the UFC? Somehow, some way, Chris Leben has turned peeing on a bed into a career. One would think that after his TUF antics, his leash would be very short in the UFC but he keeps getting put on cards despite not being able to beat any name opponents. In a UFC organization that cuts fighters faster than the NY Mets lose players to injury, we’ll see if Leben stays on board if he suffers another loss.
- Who will take the crown for the UFC's most “I wanna eat your children” stare? With Kimbo Slice, the king of the spooky stare-down appearing on the upcoming season of TUF, this is the last chance for the original two freakiest looking fighters to hold that coveted position. Who will blink first? Will it be “The Dean of Mean” or “That other Silva?”
Tune in Saturday and find out...