Eric Bolte-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 the UFC athletes are set to enter the Octagon, questions swirl.
This Saturday night (March 16, 2013), the Octagon hits Montreal for the second time in four months for one of the most anticipated Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) pay-per-view (PPV) events of the year as UFC 158: "St. Pierre vs. Diaz" goes down at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
A welterweight championship contest receives top billing at the event, as reigning 170-pound kingpin Georges St. Pierre puts his title on the line for the eighth time against former Strikeforce champion Nick Diaz.
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 158: "St. Pierre vs. Diaz" this weekend:
4. How will Nate Marquardt look in his return to the UFC after an upset loss?
It was only one fight ago that Nate Marquardt was Strikeforce welterweight champion and on the verge of re-entering the UFC with a tremendous amount of momentum under his belt.
How quickly things can change.
Tarec Saffiedine upset "The Great" at the final Strikeforce event last January, which pushed the 33-year-old to the bottom of the pecking order for his return to the Octagon. Fortunately for Marquardt, a shuffle to the UFC 158 fight card opened a spot for him to take on the world's No. 6 ranked 170-pound fighter Jake Ellenberger in a mixed martial arts (MMA) match up that presents a tremendous opportunity for Marquardt.
History buffs will remember Marquardt's nasty split from the UFC in June 2011 when the Wyoming native tested for elevated levels of testosterone just one-day prior to a scheduled bout against Rick Story at UFC on Versus 4, causing him to be abruptly fired from the organization by UFC President Dana White.
Since being released, Marquardt has done all the right things to mend his relationship with the UFC brass and has shown he is a trustworthy person outside of the cage -- now he just has to prove he can rack up wins inside of it.
Coming off the upset loss to Saffiedine and fighting in the UFC for the first time in two years, the pressure is on Marquardt to make the most out of his second stint in the Octagon.
Can he start it off on the right foot? Watch his fight with Ellenberger and find out.
3. Can Johny Hendricks finally earn a title shot?
After three-straight victories over highly regarded fighters in Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck and Martin Kampmann, Johny Hendricks returns to the Octagon for his fourth consecutive bout against a Top 10 opponent when he takes on former interim welterweight champion and No. 2 ranked Carlos Condit in the UFC 158 co-main event.
Since joining the UFC ranks in mid-2009, the former collegiate wrestler has fought the best of the best at 170 pounds, defeating most of his opponents, and only losing to Rick Story in a fight that helped him reach the next level.
Hendricks has compiled an outstanding 9-1 record in the UFC, and while some believe he's already earned his shot at the belt and should be the one fighting Georges St. Pierre at UFC 158, a win over "The Natural Born Killer" would push him over the edge.
Saturday's match up with Condit is pivotal for "Bigg Rigg." It already took him an incredible body of work in the UFC to get a No. 1 contender bout, and a setback now would be a devastating blow to his title aspirations.
If the 29-year-old has any hopes of getting a chance to fight for the title in the foreseeable future, a win at UFC 158 is a must. A loss would be crushing, but a victory -- especially one in impressive fashion -- would solidify Hendricks' place as the undisputed No. 1 contender in the weight class.
2. How will Nick Diaz defend the wrestling of Georges St. Pierre?
The knock on Nick Diaz over the years has been the level of competition he has faced outside of the UFC, especially when it comes to strong wrestlers.
One could make the argument the Stockton native hasn't faced a truly wrestling-based fighter since losing to Sean Sherk at UFC 59 in April 2006 and subsequently parting ways with the organization.
Nearly seven years later at UFC 158, Diaz will face a man who many consider to be the best wrestler not just in the welterweight division, but all of MMA in St. Pierre.
Diaz arguably has the striking and submission advantages in the fight, but the major question is, will he be able to stop the takedowns of St. Pierre? And if he can't, is he capable of accomplishing anything off his back?
The 29-year-old has never faced a wrestler the caliber of "Rush," and he will need to bring his A-game if he hopes to defeat the French-Canadian. Diaz's striking and submission abilities speak for themselves, but his wresting -- both offensive and defensive -- remain unknowns.
If Diaz can't defend the takedowns of St. Pierre in Montreal, it's going to be a long night for the former Strikeforce champ.
1. Will St. Pierre finally finish an opponent for the first time since 2009?
While St. Pierre is an incredible fighter who dominates opponents unlike anyone else in the sport today, the facts are the facts. And fact is, "Rush" holds the current UFC record for most consecutive minutes spent inside the Octagon without finishing an opponent at 125.
Many fans give St. Pierre flack for not finishing any fights since forcing B.J. Penn to quit in between rounds at UFC 94 in Jan. 2009, but scoring a knockout or submission over a top-ranked challenger who is trying to take St. Pierre's belt and at the same time make their lifelong dream come true is no easy task. All of St. Pierre opponents want what he has, and it's difficult to beat some one with that kind of determination, let alone finish them.
With that said, if St. Pierre is going to end a fight inside the distance, it will be against Nick Diaz, his opponent at UFC 158. The 31-year-old genuinely dislikes Diaz, and explaining the reason goes no further than listening to the heated pre-fight media call that took place last week.
Having held the championship for so long, St. Pierre may have got complacent with his position at the top of the division. Not for this fight, though. From the sounds of his pre-fight interviews, the French-Canadian is a man rededicated and has a fire lite under him. Pair that with his deep-seeded motivated to put a whooping on Diaz, and you could have the makings for a bad night for the Team Cesar Gracie jiu-jitsu product.
Can St. Pierre put Diaz away inside the distance? Or will viewers be treated to another 25-minute domination?