Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
Every time UFC puts on an event, speculation, questions and theories arise about which fighters will perform ... or underperform. Will new contenders emerge? Will established ones fall? Where will the winners go? Which losers will still have a job on Monday? Who is healthy? Who is fighting injured? Anytime the UFC athletes are set to enter the Octagon, questions swirl.
This Saturday night (Dec. 15, 2012), the Octagon travels back home to "Sin City" for the first time since last July for The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 16 Live Finale at "The Joint" from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
A heavyweight affair headlines the show, as Roy Nelson takes on Matt Mitrione in a five-round main event. There are several interesting storylines to follow going into and coming out of the event, but only four can make the "burning" list.
That being said, here are four burning questions going into this weekend's TUF 16 Live Finale:
James Head has already pulled off one upset this year when he took out the heavily-favored veteran Brian Ebersole at UFC 149 last July. At Saturday's TUF 16 Finale, he will look to put on a repeat performance by taking out another long-time veteran of the sport in Mike Pyle.
Considering the fact Ebersole took the UFC 149 bout on short-notice, some feel he wasn't at his best when he lost to Head. The 28-year-old will look to show that the win was no fluke by taking out Pyle, a fighter who enters the bout with wins in five of his last six.
With the ability to finish fights by way of knockout and submission, Head is dangerous, especially when he finds his distance and begins stringing techniques together. Head may be far less experienced, but has all the weapons to beat Pyle.
After losing his UFC debut to Nick Ring, Head has put together back-to-back wins in the Octagon and with every fight, is proving he belongs. Pyle is a difficult match up and is the favorite for a reason; however, Head certainly can pull off the win.
If Head can put it together inside the cage as he did against Ebersole, there could a new name for everyone in the welterweight division to take notice of on Sunday morning.
3. Will Pat Barry's fight against Shane Del Rosario be his last at heavyweight?
After six-months away, one of the most charismatic fighters in all of mixed martial arts (MMA) returns to the cage on Saturday night as Pat Barry takes on Shane Del Rosario.
Barry has fought all but three of his professional fights under the UFC banner, going 4-5 in his nine Octagon appearances. At 5'11", Barry is considered undersized for the 265-pound division and after a recent Tweet saying his weight was at 208-pounds, one must wonder if the fight on Saturday against Del Rosario will be the last for Barry in the heavyweight division.
If what Barry says is true, he would go from being undersized in his weight class to one of the bigger competitors, something that would undoubtedly play to his advantage.
The 33-year-old will always have trouble against the monsters in the UFC's biggest division, but it would be interesting to see how he could do against fighters of a similar or smaller size.
2. Is Matt Mitrione ready for Roy Nelson?
After suffering his first and only career defeat against Cheick Kongo at UFC 137 in October 2011, Matt Mitrione decided to take an extended break from the sport in order to improve his skills as a mixed martial artist.
Mitrione has fought all six of his professional bouts in the UFC and opened his tenure with the organization by putting together five-straight wins. Mitrione wasn't expected to be seen back in the cage until UFC 155 later this month, but when Shane Carwin fell out of the main event against Roy Nelson with an injury, Mitrione volunteered to step up in Carwin's place and face his fellow cast mate from TUF season 10.
Fans didn't expect much from Mitrione after his stint on the combat sports reality show, but with every fight he is building respect. With that said, the 34-year-old has never faced anyone quite like Nelson and "Big Country" is easily the best fighter "Meathead" has ever been paired against.
Mitrione already has the respect of fans for stepping up on short notice, now all he has to do is fight. There's no telling what kind of improvements he's made in the last 14-months, but Nelson is definitely no pushover and it's doubtful Mitrione would take the fight unless he felt he could win.
Can Mitrione handle a borderline top-10 opponent with more than four-times the experience of himself? Tune in to FX this Saturday night to find out.
1. Can Melvin Guillard avoid another loss?
The last 16-months of Melvin Guillard's career haven't exactly gone to plan. After putting together five-straight wins in 2010-11, "The Young Assassin" was on the verge of a UFC lightweight title shot before it all came crashing down.
The 29-year-old had his momentum brought to an abrupt halt by Joe Lauzon at UFC 136 and after that defeat, would go on to lose two of his next three bouts, most recently suffering a knockout loss for the first time in his career at the hands of Donald Cerrone.
The current skid is the worst of Guillard's 44-fight career and when he meets Jamie Varner at TUF 16 Finale, a win is a must for the Team Blackzilians product.
Even after losing three of four bouts, Guillard is in for another tough match up once again as Varner is one of the grittiest and most durable 155 pounders in the world. Guillard needs a win bad or he will find himself in a spot where he is not only fighting for relevancy, but for his UFC contract as well.
You've heard what's on my mind going into this weekend's MMA extravaganza, now let's hear what's on yours.