The Top Two: UFC 163’s most important fights to watch this weekend in Rio

Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

UFC 163, which takes place at HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has several intriguing match ups; however, the card has been criticized for being somewhat lackluster. Nevertheless, there are a handful of solid scraps, two of which are more meaningful than the rest.

Besides the Featherweight championship showdown between Jose Aldo and "The Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung, there are two eye-catching bouts that will take place this weekend (Sat., Aug. 3, 2013) on -- and off -- the UFC 163 pay-per-view (PPV) fight card from HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Indeed, the co-main event between former Light Heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida, and surging 205-pound contender, Phil Davis, is a pivotal divisional showdown that would inch the winner closer to a potential title shot. There is a little confusion whether or not "The Dragon" would be granted another opportunity to battle division champion Jon Jones with an emphatic victory, but it is still a match with major implications.

And on the "Prelims" portion of the under card, which will air on Facebook.com and FX Networks, Ian McCall -- who was widely regarded as the No. 1-ranked Flyweight in the world prior to his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) arrival, will look to pick up his first win inside the Octagon after dropping his first two.

It's a win or go home situation that has "Uncle Creepy" feeling the crushing pressure to perform.

It's for these reasons that Lyoto Machida vs. Phil Davis and Ian McCall vs. Iliarde Santos are "The Top Two" most important fights to watch this weekend at UFC 163.

Lyoto Machida vs. Phil Davis

This Light Heavyweight tilt is a true clash of styles, as Machida’s counter-striking and Davis’ precise attacking will be matched up against each other quite nicely. There is a slight concern that this bout could be slower paced and maybe boring, since both fighters have similar standup.

Davis moves forward a little more often that his opponent does, mixing things up with a wide variety of kicks and speedy combinations. For Davis’ sake, takedowns are a must. Easier said than done against the karate expert, who showed he could not only take down, but also impose his will on wrestlers like Dan Henderson, Ryan Bader and Rashad Evans. If Davis has a gameplan in mind, one would guess his desire to wear out the former champion, perhaps in the clinch or against the cage.

Machida, a dual black belt in karate and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, is one of the most skilled 205-pound fighters on the planet, possessing power, accuracy and endurance. Machida is no stranger to pressure, having competed in multiple big fights including championship headliners – a department Davis is not used to yet. Machida must avoid Davis’ power, as Machida does not want to find himself pitted against the cage for over a round, which would tire the home-crowd favorite. Machida though, has a lot more power in his strikes and it would be in his best interest to keep the fight standing - as he’s done before against high-level strikers in the past and has been successful at that.

There is a possibility this fight could be a memorable war between both UFC title challengers or it could be intensely slow. And with potential title implications riding on this fight, it is all too familiar when an anticipated fight with a potential shot at gold does not live up to the hype. The styles could also make this fight lackluster, since both fighters are known for their patience and counter-striking. Although Davis promises to be exciting and knows he must do exactly that if the fans want to see him fight for a title, which brings forth a little mystique as to how he will approach this fight.

Both fighters do need a good performance to be next in line, regardless who wins. Machida -- who fought Henderson last -- and Davis -- who fought Vinny Magalhaes last -- were both on the receiving end of criticism for their dull performances, needing to bounce back in an entertaining way on Saturday night. They have the chance to steal the spotlight from the main event and the entire card.

Both should run with it.

If Davis says he could be exciting, then look forward to something we may not have seen from him before. In terms of Machida, the reasoning is a little clearer cut -- his aura and skillset alone make us tune in to see him fight time after time.

Ian McCall vs. Iliarde Santos

This "Prelims" 125-pound scrap should be entertaining to say the least, but there is also a sense of urgency for both fighters in terms of job safety. McCall, a flyweight tournament competitor and former Tachi Palace Flyweight Champion, is in the same boat when it comes to Santos:

Both fighters need a win badly to resurrect and possibly save their UFC careers.

Santos would like to prove his worth in the big leagues because his first Octagon outing at UFC on FX 8: "Belfort vs. Rockhold" saw him lose by way of strikes to Iuri Alcantara in little more than two minutes. Santos’ bread and butter is his ground game, and if he can get on top of McCall for multiple rounds and rain down some ground and pound, it will be a key component to his victory.

McCall however, can impose his will with his wrestling, but it would not be surprising if "Uncle Creepy" rushes out like a bull and forces the Brazilian to engage in a fast-paced brawl.

Santos’ physique makes you wonder how he makes weight for 125 pounds, having a slight advantage in the size department against the relatively lanky McCall. He has more power behind his strikes than his opponent, but McCall has the ability to throw flurries of punches and really force Santos into a brawl, who is relatively patient in the stand up department.

McCall has not won a fight thus far in the UFC and although Santos is a veteran with more than 30 fights to his name, the former Jungle Fight competitor has not faced the type of competition one is used to in the big league (most of his wins are against unfamiliar foes in Brazil). McCall can be viewed as the same type of veteran – a man who has had success early on in his career against under-matched opponents.

For that reason, the experience factor should cancel itself out, with the eyes of the brass closely watching if they can hack it in the UFC.

Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 163 card this weekend, 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 PPV action, which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET.

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