Paul Abell-US PRESSWIRE
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 a job on Monday? Who is healthy? Who is fighting injured? Anytime UFC athletes are set to enter the Octagon, questions swirl.
This Saturday afternoon (Feb. 16, 2013), the Octagon travels across the pond for the first time this year as UFC on FUEL TV 7: "Barao vs. McDonald" goes down at Wembley Area in London, England.
An interim Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bantamweight championship contest receives top billing at the event, as interim titleholder Renan Barao puts his 135-pound belt on the line for the first time against rising star Michael McDonald.
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 on FUEL TV 7: "Barao vs. McDonald" this weekend:
4. Who is Jimi Manuwa?
Looking over the UFC on FUEL TV 7 fight card there are a number of UFC newcomers and unfamiliar names. The unknown fighter with the highest profile bout on the card in a man name Jimi Manuwa, who meets Cyrille Diabate in a Light Heavyweight contest billed just below the co-main event.
If memory serves you correct, you will recognize Manuwa as the man who -- in his UFC debut at UFC on FUEL TV 5 last September -- turned Kyle Kingbury's face into minced meat with a brutal striking attack. Manuwa will compete in his home country of England once again for his sophomore UFC appearance, this time taking on a 14-year mixed martial arts (MMA) veteran in Diabate.
Manuwa is undefeated in 12 professional fights and has finished all of his opponent by (technical) knockout or submission. The native of Morden has -- as seen in his win over Kingbury -- a ridiculous striking arsenal at his disposal, and supposedly some submission skills to boot; however, he has rarely been forced to utilize them.
By no means is Manuwa going to be a UFC champion any time soon, but judging from his lone UFC appearance he does have some talent. If "Poster Boy" can do to Diabate what he did to Kingbury, the 32-year has some fun fights ahead of him in the 205-pound division.
3. Will Jorge Santiago get his first UFC win since 2006?
After making a successful UFC debut against Justin Levens at UFC Fight Night 5 in June 2006, Jorge Santiago has failed to register another win inside the Octagon in his last four attempts. "The Sandman" is an extremely talented fighter, racking up wins over quality opposition in organizations such as Strikeforce and Sengoku, but when he enters the cage for a fight in the UFC, the 32-year-old has serious difficulties finding a way to win.
On Saturday, Santiago returns to the UFC for this third stint with the organization as he takes on grappling sensation Gunnar Nelson in a main card bout. What makes this trip back to the UFC different for Santiago is the fact he will compete as a Welterweight.
The Brazilian has gone undefeated (2-0) in regional organization since moving to the weight class after spending nearly his entire career at Middleweight, feeling now is the time to show what he is capable of in the world's biggest organization. The native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has never been submitted in his 35-fight professional career, and if he can beat up a highly touted submission ace in Nelson, it will prove he is worthy of a spot on the UFC roster.
Santiago's most recent UFC stint came in 2011 when he dropped back-to-back fights against Brian Stann and Demian Maia and as a consequence was released from the organization. Now that he's back, Santiago is hoping the third time is a charm.
2. Which man will continue to climb up the featherweight ranks?
Two of the most exciting fighters in the featherweight division clash in a main card bout when hard-hitting striker Cub Swanson takes on the well rounded Dustin Poirier in a pivotal fight at 145 pounds that will move the winner within reach of a title shot.
Swanson has emerged as a serious threat at the weight class in the last year after consecutive knockout wins over George Roop, Ross Pearson and Charles Oliveira. The 29-year-old was pegged as an inconsistent fighter not long ago, but his skills appear to be coming together at the right time. Of Swanson's 18 professional wins, seven are by knockout, seven are by submission, and the remaining four are via decision.
Poirier is one of the youngest fighters on the UFC roster, having just turned 24, but he already has an abundance of experience inside the Octagon, as UFC on FUEL TV 7 will mark his seventh appearance in the UFC. The American suffered a heartbreaking loss to Chan Sung Jung in a ‘Fight of the Year' candidate in May 2012, but bounced back strong last December with a first-round submission of Jonathan Brookins and will look to continue to build momentum in his first career fight outside of the United States.
The styles of Swanson and Poirier have the makings for a great scrap. Both men rarely hold anything back and should be looking to finish each other with every passing moment. The UFC matchmakers did a brilliant job putting this bout together because fireworks are guaranteed. It all comes down to who shows up on fight night and continues to climb up the featherweight ranks.
1. Can Michael McDonald become the youngest champion in UFC history?
In the UFC on FUEL TV 7 headliner, Michael McDonald has to opportunity to become the youngest champion in UFC history by winning the belt at 22 years, one month and two days, surpassing current UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who won UFC gold at 23 years and eight months.
While some would put an asterisk next to McDonald's record because he would become the "interim" champion, the UFC is promoting the fight as McDonald's chance to become the youngest titleholder in UFC history, which likely means he will be considered the record holder by the organization, interim tag or not.
The American will attempt to make history on Saturday night, and his opponent, Renan Barao, will do everything in his power to stop that from happening.
McDonald has dominated all challengers put in front of him, only losing once in 16 professional fights, and has to yet to be truly tested or face adversity inside the Octagon.
If McDonald can walk through Barao, it would be an incredible statement to the rest of the division, letting all contenders, including champion Dominick Cruz, know the hype behind him is unquestionably real.
There is a lot of buzz for this fight, but one thing is for sure, when the two elite bantamweights enter the cage on Saturday night, all eyes will be on the man they call "Mayday."
Can Michael McDonald complete his meteoric rise through the ranks and become the youngest champion in UFC history?
Tune into UFC on FUEL TV 7: "Barao vs. McDonald" this Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET/12 p.m. PT on FUEL TV to find out all the answers to these questions and more right here.