UFC 181 is just hours away, and the promotion's final PPV of 2014 aims to be a classic. Johny Hendricks rematches Robbie Lawler in the main event, this time with Hendricks as the undisputed welterweight champion. The other championship bout pits lightweight belt holder Anthony Pettis against Gilbert Melendez, his TUF 20 coaching rival.
Before we get to the title fights, let's take a look at the opening bouts on tonight's UFC 181 main card. There are a pair of heavyweight fights plus a lightweight bout to begin the proceedings, all of which should provide plenty of entertainment for the fans. The UFC 181 main card begins live from Las Vegas, NV at 10 PM ET/7 PM PT on PPV, with prelims on Fox Sports 1 at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT and Fight Pass at 7 PM ET/4 PM PT.
Browne's quest for a title shot was emphatically turned away by current interim champ Fabricio Werdum, who beat him pillar to post over the course of 5 rounds en route to a unanimous decision. But Browne's run-up to his #1 contender fight saw him score 1st round stoppages over Gabriel Gonzaga, Alistair Overeem, and Josh Barnett. He has since left Greg Jackson's gym to train with Edmund Tarverdyan, who also trains Ronda Rousey.
Schaub became the butt of jokes after consecutive KO losses to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Ben Rothwell, but the TUF 10 runner-up bounced back with a pair of wins over Lavar Johnson and Matt Mitrione. Any steam gained was snuffed out by a loss to Andrei Arlovski, a decision which probably should've gone Schaub's way in an otherwise poor fight.
The story of Todd Duffee begins with the infamous 7 second KO of Tim Hague, which got the hype train rolling before Mike Russow's hammerfist of doom derailed it. Inactivity due to injuries and Dana White's belief that he had a "bad attitude" let to his UFC release. Duffee was brought back in 2012 after beating Neil Grove but losing (violently) to Alistair Overeem. He destroyed Phil De Fries at UFC 155 but a diagnosed medical condition has kept him out of the cage for nearly 2 years. It'll be interesting to see how he performs as one of the rare sub-30 fighters to use the now-banned TRT. Results for the likes of Antonio Silva and Dan Henderson have been thoroughly disastrous.
Hamilton didn't get off to the best of starts in the UFC, as Oleksiy Oliynyk was able to submit him in just over 2 minutes back in June. He would soon get that first UFC win by punishing the body of poor Ruan Potts at UFC 177 in August. As it stands, Hamilton has still won 7 of his last 8, including over WSOF HW champion Smealinho Rama and the infamous "titties" Darrill Schoonover from TUF 10.
It's a quiet 6-1 record for "El Cucuy", who has got his career back on track with a sustained active schedule and a winning streak that he's aiming to extend to 4. Ferguson's recent outings have seen him choke out Mike Rio, destroy Katsunori Kikuno, and eke past Danny Castillo. The TUF 13 winner's sole UFC blemish is to Michael Johnson, a teammate of Trujillo's in the Blackzilians camp.
Trujillo's UFC debut came in 2012 and he destroyed Marcus LeVesseur with knees to the body. However, his next two fights ended in a lopsided decision vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov and a no-contest versus Roger Bowling after he landed an illegal strike. Trujillo responded with a dominant win over Bowling in the rematch and then a stunning 1st round KO of Jamie Varner, making him the first man to accomplish this feat.