Believe it or not, but the biggest and most important featherweight bout in UFC history to date takes place this Saturday night (Jan. 22) when training partners Mark Hominick and George Roop collide during the main card of UFC Fight Night 23: "Fight for the Troops 2."
That's because a win for Hominick paves the way for a future showdown at UFC 129 against 145-pound champion Jose Aldo. For Roop, meanwhile, a win puts him "in the mix" with two straight notable victories.
Both fighters, therefore, have a lot at stake. And it's entirely possible that a highlight-reel finish for Roop could convince promotion officials to punch his ticket to a championship fight sooner than expected.
Who else is there? Dustin Poirier, who recently knocked off Josh Grispi? Probably not, which is the reason the outcome of the fight between Hominick and Roop is pivotal.
Here is our preview of the Hominick vs. Roop fight, which will go down Saturday night from Fort Hood, Texas, on Spike TV.
Record: 19-8-0 overall, 5-2 UFC/WEC
How he got here: An eight-year veteran of the sport, Mark Hominick is rolling. After a tough start to his WEC career (two consecutive first-round losses), "The Machine" has rebounded with three straight wins under the WEC banner with four overall.
All three of those WEC wins came in 2010, including a "Fight of the Year" candidate against Yves Jabouin at WEC 49. He followed that up with a split decision win against Leonard Garcia, one that pretty much everybody except the dissenting judge had scored for Hominick.
The stakes are high here for Hominick. If he wins, UFC president Dana White has already stated that he will get the next crack at UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo and that will come at April's "UFC 129: St. Pierre vs. Shields" card in Hominick's home province of Ontario.
Hominick has spent much of his career competing in the Montreal-based TKO promotion, earning the promotion's featherweight title before dropping it to current Sengoku Featherweight Champion Hatsu Hioki. He was unable to regain it in the subsequent rematch and finished 12-3 under the TKO banner.
How he gets it done: With high-level MMA stand-up, Hominick is one of the most technical strikers in the sport and one of the best in the featherweight division. Hominick, though, doesn't completely rely on his striking to win him fights and can be a competent offensive grappler when he needs to be.
He combined the two at UFC 58 when he badly hurt Yves Edwards with a body shot and then submitted him with a triangle/armbar. Eight of his 19 wins have come by way of KO or TKO, seven by submission and four by decision. Hominick's weakness comes against strong offensive grapplers. He's shown a penchant for being submittable.
Five of his eight losses have come by submission with three being in the first round.
Record: 11-6-1 overall, 2-3-1 UFC/WEC
Key win: Chan Sung Jung (WEC 51)
How he got here: A contestant on "The Ultimate Fighter 8," George Roop has enjoyed an interesting career under the Zuffa banner. After going 1-2 in the UFC as a lightweight, Roop dropped to featherweight for Rage in the Cage, winning one fight there before getting the call to compete in the WEC.
Roop's first fight came at bantamweight and he dropped a unanimous decision to Eddie Wineland at WEC 46. He moved back up to featherweight for his next fight and fought to a split draw against Leonard Garcia at WEC 47. With his back against the wall, Roop responded in a big way, viciously knocking out "The Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung at WEC 51 to capture the biggest win of his career.
A win here puts Roop solidly "in the mix" for a featherweight title shot.
How he gets it done: The knockout of Jung was just the second (T)KO win of Roop's career which is part of the reason why that finish surprised so many people. Of his 11 wins, two have come by (T)KO, four by submission and five by decision. If Roop is somehow able to stop Hominick with strikes, it will be a significant accomplishment and possibly be a sign that Roop is having a career revival.
Like Hominick, Roop's defensive grappling could use some work. Of his six losses, four have come by submission with three coming to arm attacks. Hominick has been known to use an armbar or triangle/armbar on occasion in his career. To his credit, Roop has never been stopped by punches.
Fight "X-Factor:" As has been widely publicized, these two have trained together in the past at Team Tompkins. They split for this fight with Hominick staying put and Roop being forced to find a temporary home. How will their friendship and the fact they've trained together change this fight? This will not be the usual fight. It'll be interesting to see how they respond to each other here. Regardless, this is solid matchmaking and it's good to see the two fighters stepping to the plate and fighting each other despite training together.
Bottom line: Roop is so intriguing at featherweight because of his size. At 6-foot-1, Roop is going to tower over most any other featherweight in the world. Is he learning to use his size to his advantage? If he is, he could be a force in the division. Still, you have to like Hominick here. His stand-up skills are on a different level from Roop.
With both of these fighters knowing each other so well, this could be a bit of a stalemate at times -- or it could break down into a brawl. We'll see what happens. I'm going to go with Mark Hominick to win a unanimous decision and move on to face Aldo in April.
Who do you think's going to win? Let us know in the poll and express why in the comments section!