This Saturday night (July 6, 2013), the Octagon returns to its home base of Las Vegas, Nevada, as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) hosts their annual July 4th weekend pay-per-view (PPV) extravaganza, which this year is titled as UFC 162: "Silva vs. Weidman".
For the second year in a row, middleweight titleholder Anderson Silva will compete in the main event of the evening when he puts his belt on the line for the 11th time against undefeated No. 1 contender Chris Weidman.
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 162: "Silva vs. Weidman" this weekend:
4. Can A Former Middleweight Contender Get Back On Track?
While UFC 162 is topped by the a middleweight championship title fight, one of the most fascinating main card bouts is between two 185-pound fighters who desperately need a victory and cannot afford another set back.
Both Mark Munoz and Tim Boetsch were on the verge of earning title fights over the course of the last year or so, but a devastating loss for each man crippled their quest towards reaching a world championship.
Munoz's story is well documented at this point. Following his brutal knockout loss to Chris Weidman in July 2012, "The Filipino Wrecking Machine" let himself go in somewhat disturbing fashion, ballooning up to 260 pounds. Munoz was at a low point in his life; however, over the past five months he has gone from "obese to beast" and appears to be in better physical condition than ever before. If the turnaround in his physique is any indication of how he will perform inside the cage, it could be a great night for the 35-year-old.
Boetsch, on the other hand, was streaking towards the top of the weight class prior to suffering an upset loss to Constantinos Philippou at UFC 155 last December. "The Barbarian" had a perfect 4-0 record as a middleweight prior to that fight including signature wins over Yushin Okami and Hector Lombard, but as a result of the defeat has dropped off the radar when people discuss the division's top contenders.
The meeting between Munoz and Boetsch is a crossroads fight for both men. Neither has ever lost two-straight fights in their career, but that is going to change for one person on Saturday night and the loser could very well be out of the title picture for good. The question is: who will it be?
3. Which Featherweight Contender Will Impress The Most?
With so much attention on the Silva vs. Weidman headliner at UFC 162, many appear to be overlooking the fact that there is two significant fights in the featherweight division going down on the main card of the event.
Former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar will attempt to register his first win since dropping down to 145-pounds when he takes on rising prospect Charles Oliveira, while hard-hitting strikers Cub Swanson and Dennis Siver collide for a prime place in the divisional pecking order.
The featherweight division has developed into one of the most competitive weight classes in the UFC over the last year or so, and both fights taking place at UFC 162 are going to have a major influence over the future of the division.
Can Edgar climb back up the ladder to earn another UFC title shot? Will Oliveira pull off a stunning upset and hand "The Answer" his fourth-straight loss? Can Swanson earn his fifth consecutive victory and take another step towards erasing the memory of his eight-second knockout loss to Jose Aldo? And will Siver be able to take out a top contender and stay undefeated since dropping down from lightweight?
There are a lot of moving pieces currently going on at featherweight, and a stand out performance by one or more of the 145-pound fighters on the UFC 162 card will help add a little more clarity to the title picture.
2. Is Anderson Silva's Time Coming To An End?
To put it simply, Anderson Silva's longevity at the top level of the sport is incredible and what he has done inside the Octagon over the course of his 16-fight UFC career has been nothing short of groundbreaking.
With that said, having recently turned 38 years old and with his physical gifts likely starting to dwindle, one has to wonder exactly how much Silva has left in the tank.
While Silva has proven time and time again that he is vastly different and unique from every other MMA fighter walking the planet, father time eventually gets the best of everyone and it's entirely possible that on any given night Silva could show up a few steps slower than what fans typically expect.
Against an opponent like Chris Weidman, that's the absolute worst possible thing that could happen.
It has been a long time since Silva faced a young, skilled and determined opponent, and if he enters the cage even the slightest bit off his game, there is no question that Weidman will make him pay and the legendary run by "The Spider" could come to a bitter end.
1. Will Chris Weidman Shock The World?
Even though there seems to be a tremendous amount of support for Chris Weidman going into the biggest fight of his life against Anderson Silva, there is a major difference between fighters, fans and media members believing Weidman can defeat Silva, and the New York native actually accomplishing the feat.
There is a general consensus that Weidman has the skills and fighting style to give Silva fits; however, with only nine professional fights under his belt and coming off a yearlong layoff that included a major shoulder surgery, it's difficult to determine whether or not the 29-year-old is being rushed into a fight against the sport's top pound-for-pound fighter.
Fourteen men have attempted and failed to hand Silva his first loss inside the Octagon, but other than Chael Sonnen, there hasn't been as realistic a threat as Weidman brings to the Brazilian's crown in years.
Can Weidman defeat "The Spider" and usher in a new era in the UFC middleweight division? Find out by tuning in to UFC 162 this Saturday night at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on pay-per-view (PPV).
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