UFC on FX 8 preview: Four burning questions going into ‘Belfort vs. Rockhold' in Brazil

Photo by Esther Lin via MMA Fighting

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 (May 18, 2013), the Octagon returns to Brazil for the second time in this year and the seventh time in history with a free television event as UFC on FX 8: "Belfort vs. Rockhold" goes down from Arena Jaragua in Jaragua, Santa Catarina, Brazil.

An Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight contest receives top billing at the event, as Brazil's own Vitor Belfort headlines an FX card in his home country for the second time when he welcomes the final 185-pound champion in the history of the now-defunct Strikeforce organization, Luke Rockhold, to the Octagon for the first time.

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 FX 8: "Belfort vs. Rockhold" this Saturday night:

4. Which Man Will Continue To Climb The Lightweight Ranks?
Two of the most exciting fighters in the lightweight division clash in a main card bout when submission specialist Rafael dos Anjos takes on the well rounded Evan Dunham in a pivotal fight for the bottom half of top-10 lightweight rankings.

Dos Anjos emerged as a threat in the weight class over the last year after consecutive wins over Kamal Shalorus, Anthony Njokuani and Mark Bocek. The 28-year-old was pegged as an inconsistent fighter not long ago, but his skills appear to be coming together at the right time. Of his 18 professional wins, eight come by submission, eight are by decision and the remaining two are knockout.

Dunham has also had his ups and downs over the years. It wasn't long ago when he was being pegged as a future title challenger at 155-pounds, but consecutive defeats to Sean Sherk and Melvin Guillard derailed him. Since that pair of losses, Dunham has gone 3-1 with the only defeat coming to potential future title challenger T.J. Grant. And if Grant is about to fight for a No. 1 contenders spot against Gray Maynard at UFC 160, the fact Dunham lost a close fight to him less than a year ago means he is not far behind in the pecking order.

The styles of Dos Anjos and Dunham have the makings for a great scrap. Both men rarely hold anything back and should be looking to finish each other with each 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 lightweight ranks.

3. How Will Chris Camozzi Handle A Step Up In Competition?
Chris Camozzi may be on one of the longest win-streaks in the UFC middleweight division, but the American has yet to prove he is capable of beating the cream of the crop at 185-pounds.

Dustin Jacoby, Nick Catone, Luiz Cane and Nick Ring, the four fighters Camozzi has defeated on his current win-streak, aren't exactly the type of opposition that elevates a fighter into the elite of their respective weight class.

Camozzi brings a professional MMA record of 19 wins and five losses to the Octagon at UFC on FX 8 to face former Strikeforce middleweight champion Ronaldo Souza. "Jacare" is an elite competitor who has shared the cage with some of the best in the world, and it wouldn't be a stretch to say he is the best fighter Camozzi has ever been paired up against.

The 26-year-old goes from fighting low-tier 185-pounders to Souza, a man who has been ranked among the elite of the division for the past couple of years. Facing Souza is a stern leap in competition for Camozzi, but one he has earned and appears to be more than ready for. However, appearing ready is one thing -- performing on fight night is an entirely different animal.

2. How Much Does Vitor Belfort Have Left?
One-time UFC heavyweight tournament winner and former UFC light heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort began his mixed martial arts (MMA) career all the way back in 1996. Seventeen years later he still finds himself headlining UFC events against the very best competition in the world.

Belfort is scheduled to meet the last middleweight champion in Strikeforce history, Luke Rockhold, in the main event of UFC on FX 8 -- a fight that will mark his 18th career UFC appearance.

Everyone knows Belfort is a talented fighter and future UFC Hall-of-Fame inductee; however, at 36 years of age and with so many miles on his body, it can't be denied his time in the sport is running out.

Sure, his current testosterone-replacement-therapy (TRT) treatment will give him more time than he would have had otherwise, but "The Phenom" knows the clock is ticking, and based on that is doing everything in his power to remain near the to of the mountain for as long as possible and make one more run toward a world championship.

Belfort proved he can still hang with the "young lions" of the sport with a head kick knockout of Michael Bisping at UFC on FX 7 last January, but Rockhold is extremely talented in his own right and is arguably the toughest middleweight opponent Belfort has faced since Anderson Silva in 2011.

After an extraordinary long career and so many wars, it's possible Belfort shows up at UFC on FX 8 over the hill and completely flat. Or maybe he will perform like the 18-year-old who made his Octagon debut at UFC 12 in Feb. 1997 and stop Rockhold in highlight reel fashion.

Whatever the case may be, Saturday's fight will be very telling of what Belfort has left -- TRT or no TRT.

1. Can Luke Rockhold Become A UFC Middleweight Title Contender?
Luke Rockhold is one of the few mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters in the game today to put together a resume worthy of a top-10 spot in his weight class despite fighting outside the UFC.

The 28-year-old has only 11 fights of professional experience under his belt, but in that short window Rockhold has developed into one of the best fighters in his division and is currently No. 5 in the world, according to the official UFC rankings.

Still, though, Rockhold has a lot of work to do before being considered a title contender under the UFC banner.

Fortunately, his UFC debut will come against one of the most accomplished and respected fighters to ever compete in the sport in Vitor Belfort, a name that can elevate Rockhold to the top of the division.

The final middleweight champion in Strikeforce history is a finisher who has stopped his opponent inside the distance in eight of his 10 career victories and holds professional wins over the likes of Ronaldo Souza, Keith Jardine and Tim Kennedy.

Fans have clamored to see Rockhold in the UFC for some time now, and there's a reason why.

Not many fighters get the opportunity to compete in the main event in their UFC debut, but there's a reason the UFC brass put Rockhold in this position and it's up to him to prove if he is deserving of being there.

Tune in to UFC on FUEL TV 8: "Belfort vs. Rockhold" this Saturday at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT, only on FX to find out all the answers to these questions and more.

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