UFC 156: "Aldo vs. Edgar" goes down this Saturday night (Feb. 2, 2013) at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event is headlined by a featherweight "super fight" between current 145-pound titleholder Jose Aldo and former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar.
Supporting the main event is two pivotal bouts: One in the light heavyweight division as Rashad Evans meets Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and the other in the heavyweight division as big men Alistair Overeem and Antonio Silva are set to collide.
With the top three bouts of UFC 156 garnering lots of attention from both fans and media alike, it's time to break down what, besides a paycheck, a victory on Super Bowl Saturday means for the six men carrying the UFC 156 fight card.
The UFC's reigning 145-pound champion Jose Aldo has not fought in 13 months, and his return comes against arguably the biggest test of his 22-fight mixed martial arts (MMA) career in Frankie Edgar.
The closest fighter to Edgar's combination of speed, endurance, wrestling and striking that Aldo has ever faced would have to be Urijah Faber, but "The California Kid" has more of a bruiser style opposed to Edgar's attack that is heavy on movement and getting in and out of the range of his opponents.
Point is, this is far from a gimme fight for "Scarface," who has won 14 bouts in a row.
Aldo has taken out Mark Hominick, Kenny Florian and Chad Mendes in his UFC stint, but none of those wins would hold a candle to a victory over Edgar, who was the UFC lightweight champion from April 2010 to February 2012.
The Brazilian has talked about moving up to the lightweight division for some time now, mainly due to the fact he has difficulty making the 145-pound limit required to fight at featherweight. While he may not move up after the Edgar fight, a win over "The Answer" would prove Aldo has what it takes to beat a fighter who was elite at a weight class above.
A win for Aldo means extending his ridiculous win streak under the ZUFFA banner to 12, another title defense and the opening of many doors at both featherweight and lightweight.
One could easily say that Saturday night is a make or break contest for the image of Frankie Edgar. No one wants to be remembered as the guy who lost three title fights in a row at two different weight classes, and a loss to Jose Aldo at UFC 156 would make Edgar that guy, even if he was lightweight champion for nearly two years.
Edgar has been nagged on for over a year now to drop down to the featherweight division where his frame is best suited and take a run at featherweight champion Aldo. "The Answer" has brushed off those notions, insisting that he fights best at 155 pounds and has no desire to cut the weight. It was hard to argue with Edgar's stance while he held the lightweight belt, but after his second defeat to Ben Henderson, the move was a no-brainer, especially when an immediate title shot was offered.
Defeating Aldo at UFC 156 means a number of things for Edgar. He becomes the third-ever UFC fighter to win belts in two different weight classes, silences the critics who said he didn't deserve a title shot right off the bat and gets back to the world champion status he has become accustomed to over the last few years.
The New Jersey native has a lot on the line on Feb. 2 and while a win is significant for every fighter on the card, it may very well mean the most to Edgar.
It was less than a year ago that Rashad Evans was challenging Jon Jones for the UFC light heavyweight title, now it almost seems as if the division is beginning to pass him by.
Once considered the undisputed number two at the weight class, Evans is now lost in the shuffle of contenders with the likes of Chael Sonnen, Dan Henderson, Lyoto Machida, Alexander Gustafsson, Gegard Mousasi, Phil Davis and Glover Teixeira, to name a few.
The loss to Jones at UFC 145 last April didn't drop Evans too far down the rankings, but his lack of activity since that fight mixed with several fighters in the division doing very well has put "Suga" in a situation where he absolutely needs to win -- and win in impressive fashion -- if he hopes to sniff anywhere near the light heavyweight title in the next year or two.
The next challenge in front of the 33-year-old is Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, an extremely durable fighter who has only been finished once in 25 fights as a professional.
A win for Evans in the co-main event of UFC 156 means avoiding a second consecutive defeat for the first time in his career, as well as a reminder to UFC fans that he is still a threat in the 205-pound division. But more importantly, it has come out in the past few days that Evans will likely be offered a fight with UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva if he comes out UFC 156 with an impressive victory. A lot is on the line for Evans on Saturday night, and a win will create tremendous opportunities for his career.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
While Rogerio Nogueira is still a dangerous fighter for anyone to share the cage with, there is no doubt that at 36 years of age, the career of "Minotoro" is winding down.
After sitting out the entire 2012 campaign with numerous injuries, Nogueira returns to action for the first time since a technical knockout win over Tito Ortiz at UFC 140 back in December 2011. The Brazilian draws no easy task as he takes on former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans in the UFC 156 co-main event.
Nogueira has struggled against wrestlers in his UFC career, losing back-to-back fights against Ryan Bader and Phil Davis before his win over Ortiz. A third defeat in four fights would not be a good thing for Nogueira, but a victory over Evans, who has only lost to Jon Jones and Lyoto Machida, would skyrocket him up the rankings.
A win for Nogueira on Saturday means, first of all, he silences the critics who say he can't beat wrestlers and second of all, it immediately puts him in the title mix with the likes of Henderson, Machida, Gustafsson and Teixeira.
Since signing with the UFC in 2011, everyone has been waiting to see Alistair Overeem fight for the heavyweight championship belt. A win against Antonio Silva at UFC 156 on Saturday night will get him there.
Overeem had his shot to fight Junior dos Santos for the belt at UFC 146 last May; however, when a drug test showed elevated testosterone levels in Overeem's system, the former Strikeforce heavyweight champion was pulled from the bout, benched by Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) and has not fought since.
"Demolition Man" returns to a situation many fighters could only dream of being in. He is on one of the most stacked UFC cards in recent memory, has what many consider to be a favorable match up and only needs one victory to reclaim his former status as No. 1 contender. Sounds like a pretty sweet package.
Now all he has to do is deliver.
Unless Overeem comes out and gives an utterly dull performance that everyone hates, a win at UFC 156 means the Dutchman will be fighting Cain Velasquez for the UFC heavyweight championship later this year.
"Bigfoot" Silva has a massive opportunity to jump forward in the heavyweight division when he takes on the returning Alistair Overeem in one of UFC 156's featured bouts. A lot of people are making an argument that Silva has little chance of beating Overeem unless he can put fist to chin and connect with his heavy hands, or drag the fight to the ground and smash Overeem much like he did to Fedor Emelianenko.
While it is hard to make a strong argument against that point, UFC 156 marks Silva's chance to prove he is more than just a power puncher with a heavy top game and has enough skill to beat an elite fighter such as Overeem.
The talk surround Silva vs. Overeem suggests "Demolition Man" will get a title shot with a win at UFC 156. No one is talking about Silva. A win for the former EliteXC heavyweight champion would essentially leap him into Overeem's spot and perhaps line up a rematch with Cain Velasquez.
What do you think a win means on Saturday night for these six men? Let us know in the comments section below!