UFC 156 preview: Four burning questions going into 'Aldo vs Edgar' in Las Vegas

Mark Nolan

Every time UFC puts on an event, speculation, questions and theories emerge 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 jobs on Monday? Who is healthy? Who is fighting injured? Anytime the UFC athletes are set to enter the Octagon, questions swirl.

This Saturday night (Feb. 2, 2013), the Octagon hits "Sin City" for the first time in 2013 for a Super Bowl weekend pay-per-view (PPV) extravaganza as UFC 156: "Aldo vs. Edgar" goes down at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

A featherweight championship contest receives top billing at the event, as reigning 145-pound champion Jose Aldo returns to the cage for the first time in 13 months to take on former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, who cuts down 10 pounds for the first time in his professional mixed martial arts (MMA) career.

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 UFC 156: "Aldo vs. Edgar" this weekend:

4. How will the Strikeforce crossovers fare against their UFC counterparts?
UFC 156 is the first UFC card since Strikeforce closed its doors earlier this month to truly see an influence from the fighters who crossed over from the now-defunct organization.

Three former Strikeforce fighters will make their Octagon debuts on Super Bowl weekend, and they are certainly not getting any pushovers when it comes to opponents.

Bobby Green, who went 4-1 under the Strikeforce banner, meets the extremely tough and gritty Jacob Volkmann in a lightweight bout on the "Prelims" card. Isaac Vallie-Flagg takes a massive step up in competition when he takes on longtime UFC and MMA veteran Yves Edwards, who is coming off a brutal knockout of Jeremy Stephens at UFC on FOX 5. And finally, one of the most decorated amateur wrestlers in the sport today, Tyron Woodley, finally gets his chance to step foot in the Octagon against Jay Hieron.

Granted, Hieron isn't exactly a "UFC guy" with only one fight in the Octagon in the last seven years, but he was signed to the organization before Woodley, so lets say he's a "UFC guy" for the sake of this question.

From the second it was announced Strikeforce would disband and the fighters would come over to the UFC, fans began wondering how they'll do against the supposed best fighters in the world. Which organization really did have the better fighters? The debate begins on Saturday night.

3. Can Demian Maia submit Jon Fitch?
In a key bout for the welterweight division, one of the best grapplers in MMA, Demian Maia, meets the fighter with the best submission defense in UFC history, Jon Fitch.

Both men enter UFC 156 on a high after picking up impressive victories at UFC 153 last October -- Maia with a quick submission of Rick Story and Fitch taking a close decision over Erick Silva in a "Fight of the Year" candidate for 2012.

On paper, the match up is an extremely interesting clash of styles with Maia's world-class submission grappling style against Fitch's top-heavy wrestling game that is paired with seemingly impenetrable submission defense.

Maia has looked like a completely revitalized fighter since dropping to the welterweight division in mid-2012, quickly defeating Dong Hyun Kim and Story in his first two bouts at 170-pounds. While Kim and Story are talented in their own right, Fitch -- who has been a perennial Top 5 welterweight for years -- is another level of competition.

Fitch has successfully escaped 25 of 25 submission attempts over the course of his 17-fight UFC career, but an argument can be made that he has never faced someone as capable of submitting him as Maia.

If the Brazilian gets Fitch is a bad situation, he knows better than anyone how to finish the job and might give his opponent no choice other than tap the canvas for the first time since his first professional bout in July 2002.

2. How will Antonio Rogerio Nogueira deal with the wrestling of Rashad Evans?
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira faces a familiar challenge when he takes on Rashad Evans in the co-main event of UFC 156. "Lil' Nog" is 3-2 in his UFC career, with the two defeats coming at the hands of 205-pound studs Ryan Bader and Phil Davis. If you compare Evans to Bader and Davis, all three fighters share one trait - above average wrestling abilities.

Not to say Nogueira is a poor wrestler, but the biggest take away from his fight with Bader and Davis is the Brazilian has difficulties thwarting his opponent's takedowns for the entire duration of the contest. Against Davis specifically, "Minotoro" was stuffing takedown attempt after takedown attempt for the first round and a half until "Mr. Wonderful" adjusted from the double leg to the single leg and found success for the rest of the fight.

What made the defeat look particularly bad for Nogueira is the fact Davis was completely dominated in the wrestling department by Evans in his very next fight. If you put any weight in MMA math, this equation ends badly for Nogueira.

To give Nogueira some credit, he did take out Tito Ortiz, a fighter with respectable wrestling talents, in less than one round back at UFC 140. Unfortunately in this era, a win over "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" doesn't really mean much.

The one upside for Nogueira is that his loss to Davis came nearly two years ago, which means he has had a lot of time to fix the holes in his game. It's very possible Nogueira and Evans decide to stand and exchange punches, but if "Suga" is smart he will attack Nogueira where he has shown the most weakness in the past.

1. Who will win the "super fight" and leave as featherweight champion?
UFC 156 is headlined by a featherweight championship contest the organization is dubbing as a "super fight" as reigning 145-pound champ Jose Aldo puts his title on the line for the fourth time against former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, who will make his featherweight debut at the event.

Aldo is a remarkable 11-0 under the ZUFFA banner in his career, which includes fights in the UFC and World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) organizations. The Brazilian is 3-0 in the UFC with three title defenses against Mark Hominick, Kenny Florian and Chad Mendes.

"Scarface" was scheduled to fight Edgar at UFC 153 in Oct. 2011, but was forced out of the bout after suffering a foot injury as a result of a motorcycle accident. Healthy after the longest layoff of his career, Aldo will finally get his chance to get his hands on Edgar.

Edgar will compete in his seventh consecutive UFC title bout when he drops to 145-pounds from the lightweight division to challenge Aldo. The 30-year-old has fought his entire career in the lightweight division and held the 155-pound title for over two years. After a long debate, "The Answer" made the decision to change weight classes after losing to Benson Henderson for the second time in a row at UFC 150 last August.

Although he is 1-2-1 in his last four fights, Edgar is being pegged as the most legitimate challenger to Aldo's throne. The New Jersey native will have the chance to join Randy Couture and B.J. Penn as the only fighters in UFC history to hold championships in two weight classes.

Who will leave the Mandalay Bay Events Center with the UFC featherweight title around his waist? Join us for our LIVE UFC 156: "Aldo vs. Edgar" coverage this Saturday night at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT only on pay-per-view (PPV) to find out all the answers to these questions and more.

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