Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the fourth time this weekend (Sat., Aug. 3, 2013), featuring a Featherweight title bout and a pivotal Light Heavyweight scrap with possible title implications.
UFC 145-pound champion Jose Aldo, who has not lost since 2005, takes on fan favorite "Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung in the evening’s main event. The mixed martial arts (MMA) showdown will mark Aldo’s eighth consecutive title fight, while Jung -- a Pancrase and Sengoku veteran -- will compete for a major championship for the first time.
The co-main event will showcase an intriguing bout between "The Dragon" Lyoto Machida and "Mr. Wonderful" Phil Davis. Both of these 205-pound fighters are currently riding two-fight win streaks and are eager to make major statements in their division with a win.
With the majority of this card’s excitement focused on these two bouts, let us look to the near future and map out what a victory on Saturday night might mean for these four combat sports standouts.
Here we go:
A win for Aldo in his native Brazil would be just that – a win. Aldo has knocked down the premier Featherweight fighters in the world like dominos and at the tender age of 26, slowing down does not seem likely. Aldo has faced stiffer challenges in Urijah Faber, Kenny Florian, Chad Mendes, Mark Hominick and Frankie Edgar (the stiffest) – although he has proven tiresome in the championship rounds, which is something his counterpart could capitalize on if he can get that far.
However, Aldo would make the case stronger than ever before to move up in weight and realize his dream of simultaneously holding two titles and persuade his boss, Dana White, that the time for a Lightweight title shot would be more convincing than ever before. Although Aldo has not entirely cleaned out the division either -- with emerging contenders (all fingers point to Ricardo Lamas) and familiar foes itching to compete against him once more -- there are a couple of rematches that make sense (Edgar and Mendes would be the most sensible).
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind a spectacular victory on Saturday night, his sixteenth consecutive win to be exact, could be as equally chaotic as it was at UFC 142, elevating his place as the best fighter in the world. Look no further to his seven previous title fights and his eight-year win streak in search of his dominance.
Make no mistake, Aldo is progressing toward being one of the all-time greats of the sport.
"Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung
Surely, Jung would score one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport if he could stop "Scarface" in front of the champion’s home crowd; however, it remains to be seen if Jung fearlessly sprints himself forward like his moniker suggests. Jung would not only climb in just about everyone’s ranking system, but would be propelled to fame and fortune in hopes that his meager $20,000 split to show and win salary improves.
Would he be one of the best fighters in the world with a win? It is difficult to say, but probably not. Although there would be no argument that Jung would become the best Featherweight on the roster if he could dominate in impressive fashion.
Jung also must deal with the fact that there were favored match ups ahead of him for the champion -- Lamas was skipped a number of times and Anthony Pettis’ injury granted him this shot at UFC 163. Jung has a puncher’s chance on Saturday night, as well as a grappler's chance if he can catch the Brazilian in something tricky. Regardless of how he wins if he does indeed score an upset, a rematch with Aldo would be virtually guaranteed much like the situation that emerged in the Middleweight division between Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva.
Last, and certainly not least, already burgeoning with popularity in South Korea, a win over Aldo would place him at the forefront of sporting figures in Asia and become eminent to western fans more than he already is today.
The near future of the former Light Heavyweight champion is a tricky one because if he ousts Davis in dominant fashion, there would be no reason that Machida would not be next in line for the winner of UFC 165’s championship bout between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson.
However, would a bout with Jones, assuming he is the victor, make him second-guess his options? Would the brass evenly hesitate at the same scenario?
Machida stated this week that his fellow countryman, Glover Texeira, has all the abilities to dethrone Jones and lest we forget "The Dragon" turned down another opportunity at the title when he could have stepped in at UFC 151. However, that was a short notice fight where the fault cannot be pinned on him.
It does raise the question, though, whether or not he feels prepared enough since the memory of Dec. 10, 2011, must haunt him to this day.
Machida’s brutal submission loss at UFC 140 against Jones gives him reasoning to decide when the time is right for a rematch, but there would be no other bridge to cross en route for a second title reign. His knockout win over Ryan Bader last year was as good as someone could bounce back. And although his lackluster win over Dan Henderson was heavily criticized for being a snoozer, he would have three victories over three top-quality opponents if he could bring home the win on Saturday night.
If he could dazzle the home crowd he has not fought in front of for more than six years, a title shot would be ineluctable -- even if names like Texeira and Rashad Evans loom in the scenario.
An equally impressive performance from the Penn State alumni could have him leapfrog the entire division, especially since he holds a victory over current title challenger and teammate, the aforementioned Gustafsson, already. Ironically, Davis’ wins as of late have come over guys like Vinny Magalhaes, Wagner Prado and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and were not exactly the most triumphant performances against questionable opposition at the time.
His setback against Evans, where he was clearly outmatched for five rounds, should not be paid too much attention to, but it is nearly impossible to overlook. He claims the performance he is looking for over Machida will have "fans begging for a title shot," but he will have to live up to his words quite immensely if he feels that way.
Nevertheless, it would make him undefeated (3-0) in his last three just like Machida, but who knows if that constitutes for anything these days with the company’s proper ranking system (which could be as equally frustrating since Davis is ranked at No. 7).
His naturally gifted physique has drawn comparisons to the current champion, but there needs to be slightly better reasoning behind that match for it to come to fruition. It all depends how Davis beats Machida on Saturday night – if it is exciting and surprising, why not give him an immediate shot or a true title eliminator bout? If he wins indecisively and without making a real statement, his feet are more or less cemented in the same spot.
What do you think a win means on Saturday for these four men? Let us know in the comments section below!
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 163 card on fight night, starting with the Facebook "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, right on through the FX-televised under card bouts at 8 p.m. ET and then main card pay-per-view (PPV) action, which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET.
See you on fight night!
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