Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to Brazil for the 12th time in its history this weekend (Sat., Nov. 9, 2013) with two legends of the sport looking to outdo one another for another shot at glory.
Dan Henderson was victorious against Vitor Belfort at Pride FC 32 back in 2006, and will look for another victory over "The Phenom" at UFC Fight Night 32. Both currently in their third stints with the promotion, Henderson looks to avoid a three-fight losing streak. Belfort, on the other hand, looks to improve to 6-2 and it would also be his third-straight victory.
The original The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Brazil" Middleweight tournament final will be contested in the co-main event, as winner Cezar "Mutante" Ferreira takes on Daniel Sarafian, who pulled out of the final because of an injury. Both 185-pound prospects will look to put this issue to rest and look further into the big picture, which would ultimately lead to gunning for the division's title.
The card will be broadcast on FOX Sports 1 in North America.
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 night might mean for these four combat sports stars.
Here we go:
A win for "The Phenom" could lead to a Middleweight title shot, since he remains No. 1 at 185 pounds, according to Dana White. Even though this contest with Dan Henderson will take place at Light Heavyweight, his record of 5-2 in his third UFC stint saw him only lose in title bouts to arguably the best fighters on the planet (Jon Jones, Anderson Silva).
Even though White and his company are reluctant to let a fighter fluctuate from different weight classes, Belfort remains a special case. Why is that?
It may be because a veteran like Belfort has earned these sorts of opportunities for the years of hard work, despite his past troubles with failed drug tests. He did step up to fight Jones at UFC 152 in Toronto for the UFC Light Heavyweight championship, and the promotion more often than not give love to the competitors who take big fights on short notice.
Belfort would also avenge his Pride FC 32 loss to Hendo, in which he came up short in a unanimous decision victory for the former Olympic wrestler. Although, a Middleweight title shot will be the prize for the Brazilian slugger.
Hendo could steal Belfort's thunder with an emphatic win and petition for a 205-pound championship bout with Jon Jones -- his original opponent at UFC 151, had he not torn his MCL. A drop to Middleweight would not be shocking, yet Henderson could have unfinished business with "Bones."
With Alexander Gustafsson declared next if he gets past Jimi Manuwa on the London, England, card in early2014 (full details here) and Glover Teixeira and Daniel Cormier still looming, Henderson may have to take another fight before he earns a shot at gold. It all depends on how he looks -- his possible 2-2 record in his return stint to the UFC may look a little weak in terms of title contention; however if he cleans Belfort's clock, he may have done enough to at least be considered as a close watch in the title hunt.
The most interesting facet to take away from all this is that Henderson is on his last fight of his current UFC contract, and the brass wants to see how he does before sitting down at the negotiating table once more. Henderson needs a good performance for the promotion to keep him around, and better yet, pay him what he feels like he deserves.
We have already seen this debacle before between both parties.
If Henderson cannot win on Saturday, that could also mean his time in UFC would be coming to an end. "Hendo" is trying to avoid three-straight losses for the first time in his career.
"Mutante" is 6-2 in his mixed martial arts (MMA) career, and since winning TUF: "Brazil" Middleweight tournament at UFC 147, he has had only one minute of Octagon action under his belt -- a destruction of Thiago Santos at UFC 163, winning by guillotine choke in 47 seconds.
Ferreira now faces the opponent he was originally supposed to duke it out with in the TUF: "Brazil" tournament final, Sarafian. "Mutante" needs a victory to prove he is in fact the best fighter to come out of the show, and essentially, has to compete twice to erase any doubts that he is the TUF Brazil 1 winner.
A loss would be incredibly costly for the Brazilian, yet a win would prove that his status should not have been questioned at all.
A win would also ascend Ferreira into the Middleweight ranks, and Top 15-ranked opponents should ensue shortly after. It is all about getting his name out there and showing the fans he is a fighter to watch in the near future.
Much like his opponent, Sarafian needs to establish himself as a threat in the division moving forward. And he already has a notch up in experience over "Mutante" in losses to C.B. Dollaway in the Octagon and against Mike Whitehead in just his second professional fight.
Sarafian has a chance to really mess up the plans and rewrite the history books, as he could become TUF: "Brazil" lineal champion after he was pulled out of the final because of an injury and was unable to compete against Ferreira.
He will be fighting a fellow countryman in his native Brazil and these two competitors are not far away when it comes down to the pecking order. Whoever can get a victory on Saturday night will leapfrog their foe in hopes of climbing up the middleweight ranks, and Sarafian knows all about tough challenges.
Sarafian will also look to make it two straight inside the UFC and improve to a promotional record of 2-1.
What do you think these four fighters are destined for with a victory this weekend? Let us know in the comments section below.
For more news and notes on UFC Fight Night 32: "Belfort vs. Henderson" be sure to check out our complete event archive here.