Somewhat than spending one other column getting on my soapbox about how everybody must pay extra consideration to a wider swath of fighters and never fixate solely on the largest names in the sport (which I in all probability do too typically if I’m being trustworthy), I figured it will be a greater use of my time to roll via the main card of each UFC occasion and element what’s at stake in every matchup.
See, I feel we’re too reactive relating to this sport — we await the outcomes earlier than we speak about the impression they’ve — and that appears counter-intuitive to me, particularly given how a lot most individuals appear to be involved with declining tv numbers and pay-per-view purchase charges.
Quite than come away from an occasion that was extensively panned like UFC 221 speaking about the breakthrough performances and new stars that emerged whereas only a few individuals have been watching, I figured why not break all of it down earlier than hand so that you simply’re not lacking out on the emergence of a pair of Australian prospects or a heavyweight contender rising to the second in the largest struggle of his profession?
Not each struggle goes to have main stakes hooked up or carry vital profession or divisional ramifications, however there’s all the time a bit to maintain an eye fixed on in each pairing, so I’ll be breaking down the main card prior to every UFC occasion beginning with Sunday’s struggle card in Austin.
Right here we go.
Sage Northcutt vs. Thibault Gouti
Whereas there’s nothing on the line right here from a divisional standpoint, every of Northcutt’s fights are essential contests as a result of the UFC has beforehand invested a ton of selling muscle and promotional power into establishing him as considered one of the firm’s prime rising skills.
They clearly jumped the gun by giving Northcutt too many prime placements proper out of the gate earlier than he was prepared and people early losses resulted in a ton of backlash towards the 21-yr-previous child who took benefit of the alternatives being introduced to him the similar method anybody in that place would. Dropping him into the prelims for his final look and stationing him as the main card opener right here is sensible. Whereas he’s all the time going to command a specific amount of consideration due to how his profession in the UFC kicked off, he’s additionally not getting prime placement at the expense of extra established fighters and extra significant contests.
KYTE: Northcutt is creating out of the highlight, and that is what he wants
This one is all about seeing how far more Northcutt has developed over the final couple months and after a second camp with Workforce Alpha Male. His win over Michal Quinones final day trip was his most full and professional efficiency up to now and he has the uncooked supplies to make critical positive factors between every struggle, particularly now that he’s working with an incredible group of coaches and coaching companions.
Northcutt appeared nice again in November and wishes to point out he’s able to delivering a comparable effort right here in one other showcase struggle towards a extra seasoned, extra savvy opponent.
Steven Peterson vs. Brandon Davis
I used to be a bit stunned to see this one moved to the main card when the strawweight pairing between Jessica Aguilar and Livia Renata Souza fell aside, nevertheless it’s an awesome alternative for these two Tuesday Night time Contenders Collection alums to make an impression.
Peterson loved a 5-battle profitable streak beneath the Legacy Preventing Championship banner earlier than dropping to Leandro Higo when the firm merged with Ressurection Preventing Alliance to develop into Legacy Preventing Alliance a pair years again. He got here up brief towards Benito Lopez when he fought for an opportunity to make the massive present in Las Vegas final summer time.
Davis received a win in entrance of Dana White & Co. inside the Final Fighter Fitness center again in August, however turned in a comparatively flat effort in his promotional debut a pair weeks again at UFC 220. Stepping in for Humberto Bandenay right here, the Mississippi native is hoping to make a greater impression in his second Octagon look.
These guys are preventing for a spot on the roster — nothing extra, nothing much less. Featherweight is flush with expertise proper now and there are solely so many seats out there at the desk.
Thiago Alves vs. Curtis Millender
This one is a bit more fascinating by the Peterson-Davis pairing as a result of whereas Millender is making his promotional debut in the midst of a six-battle profitable streak, Alves is one among the most tenured guys on the roster. Alves is aiming to take his UFC 210 victory — his first win in over two years — right into a two-struggle profitable streak.
As a lot as I’m wanting to see Alves compete once more — particularly given all the things he’s been by means of over the final 5 months — Millender is the man I’ll actually be taking note of right here.
At 30, he’s a bit of older than most UFC newcomers, and whereas he’s on a pleasant little run that features again-to-again headkick finishes, all three of his losses got here when he received a glance in Bellator again in 2015. I need to see if that was a “an excessive amount of too quickly” state of affairs and now he’s figured it al out or if he’s a Triple-A standout who can’t hit main league pitching.
Alves is a critical check proper out of the gate and can function an actual robust litmus check for the UFC neophyte on Sunday.
James Vick vs. Francisco Trinaldo
Right here’s our first struggle with legit divisional significance as Vick (No. 12) and Trinaldo (No. 14) are jockeying for place in the freakishly deep light-weight division.
Vick is eight-1 in the UFC and on a 3-struggle profitable streak. Trinaldo is 12-four general in the Octagon and eight-1 over his final 9, together with his solely setback coming towards former interim title challenger Kevin Lee. These dudes are critical skills with numerous arsenals and strong ending instincts and but each typically get just about missed with regards to speaking about the division.
This one can also be fairly private for Vick, who’s from Mineral Wells, Texas, which is three hours and alter north of Austin. He was pissed about being on the prelims at UFC 211 in Dallas and needed a headlining task right here, which clearly didn’t occur, so there’ll certainly be an edge to the rangy 30-yr-previous light-weight.
Trinaldo is a troublesome out, but in addition sort of appears joyful to right here. That’s not to remove from his success and the way he retains wanting higher every trip although he’s trending in the direction of forty (identical to me), however whereas Vick needs to make a press release and is actively chasing gold, “Massaranduba” is having enjoyable…which doesn’t all the time assist once you’re in a fist-battle.
Derrick Lewis vs. Marcin Tybura
The lone prime-10 matchup on the card and an essential bout in the heavyweight division, this one must be enjoyable and can ship the winner into the combine simply outdoors of rivalry in the massive boy ranks.
Lewis returns after dropping his final look in June towards Mark Hunt and withdrawing from an task reverse Fabricio Werdum at UFC 216 resulting from a nasty again. When he’s in form and able to roll, “The Beast” is a fierce knockout artist and the sort of man that may shift the movement of a battle by touchdown a single bomb, however he wants to point out that he’s wholesome and able to firing on all cylinders right here.
Via 5 fights in the UFC, Tybura is three-2 and enters off a loss to Werdum final day trip. He’d gained three straight earlier than that after dropping his debut and has proven nice conditioning and a capability to get guys out of there late in fights – not with the similar type of blistering energy as Lewis, however extra because of timing and attrition.
With the division in flux at the prime proper now, this one is essential for each guys and the heavyweight ranks as an entire.
The winner might very nicely land in a pairing with final weekend’s breakout star Curtis Blaydes, welcoming Cain Velasquez again to the cage later in the yr or assembly Alistair Overeem as soon as he’s able to get again into the fray. Lewis has a cult following and the type of quiet charisma to be a second tier star going ahead, however he wants a win right here to actually have an opportunity to make that occur.
Donald Cerrone vs. Yancy Medeiros
This one will have an effect, however doesn’t have any actual stakes if that is sensible.
Sure, the winner shall be in the combine at the backside of the prime 10 in the welterweight division and a strong struggle will probably be on the horizon, however the greater factor right here is determining the place every of those guys goes after this one relying on the consequence.
Cerrone has misplaced three straight for the first time in his profession and other people (me included) are beginning to marvel if that is one thing greater than a run of dangerous outcomes towards actually good fighters. He’s framed it that means and is geeked to get again in there on Sunday, however after greater than a decade competing at the highest degree, “Cowboy” wants a great displaying right here in an effort to hold the whispers that he is perhaps in decline from rising louder.
KYTE: Might Sunday be “Cowboy” Cerrone’s final journey?
Medeiros is at the different finish of the spectrum, getting into on a 3-battle profitable streak and constructing a cult following by being a freakishly resilient fighter who’s all the time in wildly entertaining fights. Shifting to welterweight has been a plus. He additionally has the probability to make an actual transfer in the division by handing Cerrone a fourth straight loss in his first main-occasion task.
Is Medeiros a participant at welterweight? Can Cerrone flip it round? These are the key questions that can be answered in what must be a tremendously entertaining finale to a enjoyable night time of fights in the Texas capital.