UFC on Fox 7: Henderson vs. Melendez puts the Lightweight title on the line at the HP Pavilion and also features crucial battles in the Heavyweight and Lightweight division. But somehow the UFC's seventh live fight broadcast on Fox is not getting the attention it deserves. Brent Brookhouse has explained the promotional context that's causing this truly stellar card to be overlooked. On the accentuate-the-positive-tip, here are 10 stories to follow to whet your appetite for this Saturday's fights.
- Strikeforce vs the UFC
7 fights on this week's card feature fighters making their UFC debut straight out of Zuffa's defunct Strikeforce promotion. Lightweight title challenger Gilbert Melendez, Heavyweight GP champ Daniel Cormier, Josh Thomson, Lorenz Larkin, Jorge Masvidal, Roger Bowling and Yoel Romero will be looking to build in the impressive track record of SF fighters in the UFC. Potential breakout star Jordan Mein is also a SF vet who's 1-0 so far in the UFC.
SF fighters who came over since the shutdown are 6-4 per MMA Oddsbreakers and SF fighters who came over since the merger are 24-24-1, 2 NC overall. Not bad for a promotion many believed to be hopelessly second tier. Saturday's fights will definitely decide which promotion comes out ahead.
- Can Ben Henderson establish himself as P4P top fighter?
The UFC Lightweight champ is 6-0 since coming to the promotion from the WEC in 2011. That's the longest-running win streak in the
promotiondivision and he's done it against the cream of the crop: Nate Diaz, Frankie Edgar x2, Clay Guida, Jim Miller, and Mark Bocek.
And yet at the same time Bendo has another, less appealing streak going. He's got 7 straight decision wins. If Bendo can finish a warrior like Gilbert Melendez he could very well start finding himself in the P4P best discussions.
Read more: Shaun Al-Shatti has a great in-depth piece on Bendo's camp: The MMA Lab in Phoenix, AZ.
- Can Gilbert Melendez become the first man to wear both SF and UFC gold in the Zuffa era? The first UFC champ from Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu?
If the champ is overshadowed, just imagine how the challenger feels. Despite being a fixture in the LW top 10 for the best part of a decade and wearing one of the sport's top titles, Melendez is just not taken that seriously by fans. Should he manage to do what Nick Diaz, Alistair Overeem, Jake Shields and Dan Henderson all failed to do, maybe that will change.
Then there's the matter of team affiliation. Melendez and his cohorts at Cesar Gracie's Jiu Jitsu - Nick Diaz, Jake Shields, Nate Diaz, et al -- have definitely established themselves as one of the best camps in MMA. The one thing none of them has done is take home a UFC title. Maybe Gilbert changes all of that on Saturday night.
Read more: Gilbert Melendez seeks revenge for Nate Diaz's loss to Benson Henderson | Jack Slack breaks down Melendez' "far from perfect" boxing
- Will Daniel Cormier make a UFC title run and if so in what weight class?
Former US Olympic wrestling team member Daniel Cormier ran roughshod through Strikeforce's Heavyweight tournament but that hasn't stopped most of the speculation about his UFC potential from focusing on his prospects in the UFC's Light Heavyweight division.
There are two reasons for this: Cormier's size and the presence of his teammate Cain Velasquez atop the UFC HW division.
Cormier is only 5'9" and he clearly carries a lot of extra weight at heavyweight. Unfortunately he nearly wrecked his kidneys cutting weight for the 2008 Olympics so any cut to 205lbs will have to be gradual and carefully considered.
Read more: Cormier eyes cut to 205 | Is It Too Late for Daniel Cormier to Make It Big in the UFC?
- Will Josh Thomson vs. Nate Diaz bring NorCal's biggest rivalry to the UFC
Two of MMA's best camps are in Northern California: The American Kickboxing Academy and Cesar Gracie's Jiu-Jitsu. They've both benefited over the years from the close proximity of Strikeforce, producing stars like the Diaz brothers (Gracie), Frank Shamrock (AKA), Cung Le (AKA), Melendez (Gracie), Cormier (AKA) and Josh Thomson (AKA).
Strikeforce featured lots of AKA vs. Gracie action starting with Shamrock vs Cesar Gracie at their debut event and including Thomson's three-parter with Melendez. But so far the UFC has failed to book any big AKA vs CGJJ bouts despite the presence of AKA stalwarts Josh Koscheck and (until recently) Jon Fitch in their Welterweight division.
Read more: NorCal continues takeover as MMA hotbed | Josh Thomson reflects on highlight reel knockout loss to Yves Edwards at UFC 49 | Thomson expects three-round 'barnburner' with Nate Diaz
- Will Jordan Mein emerge as a breakout star?
Strikeforce prospect Mein got a lot of attention when he demolished the veteran Dan Miller in his UFC debut. Saturday he'll get a chance to make it two in a row against Matt Brown. Is Mein the next breakout talent at 170 lbs or will Matt Brown pop another hype bubble?
Read more: Riding wave of momentum, Jordan Mein poised for stardom | Matt Brown: ‘If I Had a Choice, I’d Fight Everybody’