This Saturday night (Jan. 19, 2013), the Octagon travels to Brazil for the sixth time in history as UFC on FX 7: "Belfort vs. Bisping" goes down at Ibirapuera Arena in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
A middleweight contender contest receives top billing, as Brazil's own Vitor Belfort takes on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 3 winner Michael Bisping with a title shot potentially on the line. There are several interesting storylines to follow going into (and coming out of) the event, but only four can make our "burning" list.
That being said, here are four burning questions going into UFC on FX 7: "Belfort vs. Bisping" this weekend:
4. Why is C.B. Dollaway vs. Daniel Sarafian the co-main event?
Take nothing away from C.B. Dollaway or his UFC on FX 7 opponent Daniel Sarafian, but this middleweight contest does not deserve co-main event status on a UFC card, especially under such a prominent fight like Belfort vs. Bisping.
Sure, Dollaway is a finalist from TUF 7 reality show and Sarafian would have been a finalist for his season of TUF: "Brazil" had he not got injured before the finals at UFC 147 last summer, but by no means does that justify a co-main event slot.
Dollaway has only one win in his last three UFC fights, a lackluster decision over Jason Miller, while Sarafian has never officially competed under the UFC banner.
There are plenty of fighters on the card who are more deserving of the featured spot; however, it matters not, because Dollaway vs. Sarafian is the fight. Hopefully, both men see this opportunity for what it is and deliver the goods on fight night.
3. Can Nik Lentz become a Top 10 featherweight?
Since the UFC introduced the 145-pound weight class in early 2011, fighters have been dropping weight left and right to compete in the weight class. Dennis Siver, Kenny Florian and Charles Oliveira are just a few of the notable names who have made the cut down from lightweight, each finding mixed success in the new weight class.
Moving down to the featherweight certainly does not mean easier competition, but it does allow some fighters to compete against opponents with similar physical attributes.
After a 2.5-year, nine-fight stint in the UFC lightweight division where he compiled a 5-2-1 with one "No Contest" record, Nik Lentz made a successful featherweight debut at UFC 150 last August, finishing Eiki Mitsuoka with strikes for his first technical knockout stoppage in more than three years.
Lentz's first fight in the division allowed him to get acclimated, and now it's time to see what "The Carny" is really made of, as he is scheduled to meet universally recognized Top 10 featherweight Diego Nunes this Saturday night.
Nunes has been a mainstay in the division for years now, defeating the likes of Raphael Assuncaso, Mike Brown and Bart Palaszewski under the Zuffa banner. And fighting in his home country of Brazil for the first time since 2008, "The Gun" is going to give Lentz all he can handle in his sophomore featherweight showing.
We already know where Nunes stands in the division, and after Saturday night we will find out if Lentz is worthy of a place near the cream of the crop.
2. How much does Vitor Belfort have left?
One-time UFC heavyweight tournament winner and former UFC light heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort began his mixed martial arts (MMA) career all the way back in 1996. And 17 years later he still finds himself headlining UFC events against the very best competition in the world.
Belfort is scheduled to meet British bad boy Michael Bisping in the main event of UFC on FX 7, a fight that will mark his 17th career UFC appearance.
Everyone knows Belfort is a talented fighter and future UFC Hall-of-Fame inductee; however, at 35 years of age and with so many miles on his body, it can't be denied his time in the sport is running out. "The Phenom" knows the clock is ticking and based on that, is doing everything in his power to remain near the to of the mountain for as long as possible and potentially even make one more run toward a world championship.
Belfort proved he can still hang with the "young lions" of the sport by going four rounds, and nearly submitting, UFC light heavyweight Jon Jones at UFC 152 in Sept. 2012. Now back at his natural weight class of 185-pounds, Belfort meets one of the division's top contenders in Bisping.
MMA is such a crazy and unpredictable sport that anything truly can happen. After an extraordinary long career and so many wars, it's possible Belfort shows up at UFC on FX 7 over the hill and completely flat. Or maybe he will perform like the 18-year-old who made his Octagon debut at UFC 12 in Feb. 2011 and stop Bisping in a matter of seconds.
Whatever the case may be, Saturday's fight will be very telling of what Belfort has left.
1. Can Michael Bisping finally secure a UFC title shot?
According to UFC President Dana White, a win for Michael Bisping over Vitor Belfort at UFC on FX 7, regardless of the fashion it comes in, will earn the Brit a chance to fight UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva later this year.
Bisping has come close to title contention before, but unfortunately, losses to Dan Henderson, Wanderlei Silva and most recently Chael Sonnen, temporarily derailed his championship aspirations.
At 33-years-old, Saturday's bout against Belfort is pivotal for "The Count." A loss to the Brazilian would be devastating, but a victory -- especially one in impressive fashion -- would signify arguably the biggest win in the 27-fight career of TUF 3 winner.
Bisping finds himself in a familiar position on Saturday night. A title shot is within his grasps, yet slightly out of reach. The Manchester native is aware of how important a win is at UFC on FX 7 if he ever hopes to fight for UFC gold. Bisping has a chance to take a stranglehold on the elusive title shot he has chased over the course of his six-year UFC career.
Will he be able to pull it off?