Bloody Elbow's Matt Bishop sat down Wednesday morning to answer three burning questions surrounding Thursday's UFC on Versus 3, which will be live from the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky.
1) Can Brian Bowles return to the form that earned him the WEC bantamweight championship?
Bowles has been sidelined for just shy of a full year because of various injuries. He broke his hand in his first career loss, a second-round TKO via doctor's stoppage to Dominick Cruz in his first title defense at WEC 47 last March. He was on the books to face Wagnney Fabiano in November but had to pull out due to a broken foot. Those are obviously serious injuries for a fighter to overcome and it's going to be telling if Bowles can't get in there and pull the trigger.
He's a very well-rounded fighter and has the skills necessary to make another run to the top. The only problem now is that, due to his layoff, the division is completely different than when he left it. Urijah Faber is now a factor, as is Faber's UFC 128 opponent Eddie Wineland. Miguel Torres, the man Bowles beat for the title, is rejuvenated following two straight wins. And you can forget Joseph Benavidez, either. If Bowles wants to regain the title, he is going to have a lot of work to do. It's certainly not impossible, he has the skills, but the top of the bantamweight division is much more tougher than when he last fought. He has a tough challenge here in Damacio Page, but it shouldn't be anything he can't overcome, considering he's already defeated him once.
This is an interesting fight. Really, this fight is going to clear somebody out of the way for upward mobility in this division and is a great test for both men. Munoz is looking to win his second straight while Dollaway is looking for his fourth in a row. Off the top, Munoz really has the age thing going against him at this stage. Already 33, the clock is ticking on him in terms of improvement. At 27, Dollaway isn't exactly a spring chicken prospect either, but that's a lot of time between them and that can make a big difference.
Munoz has some of the most brutal ground-and-pound in the sport but his wrestling hasn't adapted to MMA as well as many thought it would. Dollaway is interesting because I don't feel like we've seen the best of him yet. I feel like we know Munoz and what we're going to get out of him. Maybe it's because we've seen Munoz on TV more, so Dollaway remains more of a mystery. Now, in terms of the question, I think it would be difficult to term either of them as "failed" should they lose this fight. Munoz got a late start in the sport which limited him right off the bat. Dollaway still has time to climb back should he lose. It definitely doesn't speak well for the future of the loser, though, I will say that. These are the fights that need to be won. This is a winnable fight for both men.
If/when Georges St. Pierre leaves the division, I think it becomes almost as wide open as lightweight is right now. That means either of these men, both extremely talented, can make a run for the title. Sanchez is so interesting to me because of his style and relentless pace and Kampmann is as well-rounded as they come.
Even though both fighters have hit the ceiling where they've failed against their toughest competition, it seems to me Sanchez has more upward mobility because of his style. Kampmann is more of a jack of all trades, master of none type of fighter. Sanchez's cardio is what sets him apart. If he can continue to push the pace and do what he did to Paulo Thiago to other fighters, he can be a real threat just because of that. Kampmann is a solid fighter, no doubt, but when you think "Martin Kampmann" in your mind, does anything really stand out to you? To me, nothing does. That's why I think Sanchez has better world title aspirations in this division. He has that tangible skill he can push on people. Regardless of what they do in the future, this should be one heck of a fight.