Coming off a spectacular UFC 166 event in Houston, Texas, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to Great Britain months before their European expansion plan looking to impress the English crowd come Saturday (Oct. 26, 2013).
Lyoto Machida and Mark Munoz headline UFC Fight Night 30, as Machida steps in to replace Michael Bisping, who suffered an eye injury just one month ago. "The Dragon" will be making his middleweight debut.
Also on the card is Melvin "The Young Assassin" Guillard, who takes on Ross Pearson in the co-main event. Both lightweights will look to make an impact in the division, with the winner moving onward to top 10 opponents.
With the majority of this card's excitement focused on these two bouts, let us look into the near future and map out what a victory on Saturday might mean for these four combat sports stars.
Here we go:
Even though an eye roll may be sufficient here, Lyoto Machida is always one win away from a title fight. It is true, whether he deserves it or not. We have seen on multiple occasions Machida slaughter his opposition -- or advance on points without a killer instinct -- and be awarded a title fight. That may bring a negative connotation towards the light heavyweight division, yet that is simply the type of fighter he is. It is also due largely in part to his past success as a champion and a force that seemed impossible to stop.
For starters, Machida would be walking out of England with a win in his middleweight debut. There are a decent crop of contenders in that weight class, and with a second showdown between Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva set to take place at UFC 168, it is not clear who the champion will be when Machida sits back and watches that fight.
He may be reluctant to fight Silva, his training partner and friend, though that all depends on how he handles Munoz.
If Machida manhandles Munoz, then it is up to the brass to see if he deserves an immediate title fight or if he needs to put in more work, against someone like Ronaldo Souza, a mainstay like Michael Bisping on his return or even a fluctuating Vitor Belfort, should he beat Dan Henderson at UFC Fight Night 32.
Most importantly, a win for Machida would erase that unfortunate night for him against Phil Davis at UFC 163, where all fingers pointed to him earning the decision until Bruce Buffer read the scorecards. He did have a stinker against Dan Henderson as well at UFC 157 and those were his latest two fights. Hopefully, he can excite and prosper from beating Munoz, and see if the direction becomes more clear in a new home.
A win over Machida would do wonders for Mark Munoz's career yet more importantly, his current standing. He is more or less ranked in the middle of the division and although he has been in the main event before, he does not have a contingent of fans lined up begging for him to get a title shot.
Munoz has been with the promotion for over four years now, and to the surprise of many, has only lost thrice: in his debut to the rising Matt Hamill, a split decision to Yushin Okami and a pretty forgetful evening in San Jose against Chris Weidman. Out of 11 fights, his most impressive victories have been over Tim Boetsch, Chris Leben, Demian Maia, and C.B. Dollaway. That is some pretty durable opposition, but none of them come close to the mystique that Machida possesses and a win over the Brazilian on Saturday -- no matter how it comes -- will be his most fruitful to date.
A win over Machida did not guarantee Phil Davis a title shot, though it got the world talking (maybe for all the wrong reasons). Munoz will become a more popular fighter and he will have a chance to chase the coveted middleweight prize with a little more certainty that he has what it takes.
The real beauty for Munoz is, while Machida could look good or bad against "The Filipino Wrecking Machine" with a win, Munoz will automatically look good, since beating Machida is a feather in one's cap, no matter how the victory comes about.
Winning has never told us enough about Melvin Guillard. He could look spectacular and explosive, like he usually does when he gets the nod, but then succumb to an individual who he may have beaten on any other given night. Guillard has had some troubles outside of the Octagon and he cannot be faulted for those. "The Young Assassin" has not fully reached his potential as a top five lightweight who is able to give the champion a run for his money although, with a newly formed alliance with American Top Team (ATT), his hopes look better than ever.
Ross Pearson will come to fight in his native land and Guillard cannot let that pressure get to him. Pressure has been a special word for Guillard, because sometimes, it gets the better out of the Louisiana fighter. No matter how good Guillard says he feels, we need to see it to believe it.
With two Octagon stints under his belt since 2006, "The Young Assassin" is in the prime of his career at 30 years old. He has never had a title fight, and when he was considered as a possible adversary for one, he blew it. A win over Mac Danzig at UFC on FOX 8 saved his job, as he was 1-4 prior to that in his last five. If he can come out of the United Kingdom with a victory over Pearson, he would have to prove a lot more if he wants to be considered as a legitimate title threat. He would go on to anticipating top 10 opponents, yet he would need to make the most out of his opportunities -- since he has had plenty of them before.
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 9 winner won the hearts of many viewers since he was already a professional who had paid his dues to get to the house the old-fashioned way -- by fighting first (not to mention his crazy cauliflower ears).
Pearson went on to defeat Aaron Riley and Dennis Siver shortly after winning the show, although it was not until his last two victories over George Sotiropoulos and Ryan Couture that he was able to amass two-straight victories (out of a possible five fights in between).
Pearson is coming off two stoppages and winning over Guillard would do more for his career than his opponent, not only because he is an underdog, but more so because he has not quite ousted anybody with a name like Guillard's. This would be Pearson's most impressive victory to date if he can beat "The Young Assassin," unless it is a three-round snoozer -- which seems more or less impossible. The Sunderland-born fighter is in need of a massive win and this is his golden opportunity.
One thing is for sure, "The Real Deal" will have the crowd on his side and the patriotic European nation will encourage him until the final bell sounds.
Pearson has significant losses against Edson Barboza and Cub Swanson, and after going 1-1 in the Featherweight division, his chance to shine and become one of the sport's premier lightweights needs to come for him now until some have lost hope in him -- similar to his opponent.
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 30 card this Saturday afternoon, starting with the Facebook "Prelims" at 12:15 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 2-televised main card bouts at 3 p.m. ET.
For more on Saturday big event on FOX Sports 2 click here.