The promotion will look to shake off the criticism stemming from its rather dull UFC 163 event and have brought forth an outstanding fight card, with the main event comprising a rematch featuring an accomplished champion against a hometown underdog who has already beaten him.
Anthony Pettis returns in front of his family and friends to try and defeat champion Ben Henderson once again, in a rematch of their classic WEC 53 main event. Riding a three-fight win streak, Pettis' win will forever be remembered for his highlight reel "Showtime Kick," but his win allowed him to capture the title, something that still eats at Henderson to this day.
One Heavyweight will get back into the title hunt while the other's title aspirations will fall as former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir welcomes back another former champion to the UFC -- Josh Barnett -- after an 11-year absence.
With the majority of this card's excitement focused on these two bouts, let us look into the near future and map out what a victory on Saturday night might mean for these four combat sports stars.
Here we go:
If "Smooth" can avoid another loss to Anthony Pettis at UFC 164, he could be posed for superstardom. Although Henderson has been competing on free television in his last two fights and a combined amount of four times out of eight, Henderson would unquestionably be the best lightweight fighter in the world and would make an argument to be considered as one of the world's best fighters and all that exposure would lead to more pay-per-view main events to come.
His decision wins to hold onto the title were super close, maybe controversial to some. Both of his wins over Frankie Edgar created a buzz on every single platform of sporting news and social media, not to mention his last razor-thin split decision over Gilbert Melendez. That is what hurts Henderson right now; he does not have his suitors convinced yet that his wins are unlike those of a dominant champion. With a solid performance and a commanding win over the man who delivered him his last loss, Henderson will prove his legitimacy should not be overlooked.
He would also avenge his loss to Pettis in World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC), something he says, "stains his soul" in the promotional videos leading up to the fight. Henderson would erase that from his memory and presumably move forward in the division. Another rematch may loom near, as Melendez would love another crack at Henderson if he could beat Diego Sanchez at UFC 166 but Henderson could safely bet that he will get a fresh new opponent after Pettis, with names such as TJ Grant, Josh Thomson or even set his sights on a superfight with someone in the divisions above or below him.
Most importantly, Henderson must overcome any psychological advantage that Pettis will bring to the table and not look past the competitor that once outmatched him. Apart from being considered the king of the division, he would want to look impressive in doing so and letting everybody know that is not going anywhere any time soon and those split decisions are none of his concern.
A win would also make Henderson the first man in UFC history with the most successful lightweight title defenses at four (he is currently tied with B.J. Penn at three). A win for "Smooth" would make it that much sweeter approaching his marriage, in which he will be taking some time off after this fight to wed his fiancée, Maria. After that, Henderson aims to break Anderson Silva's title defense record. Sky is the limit for "Bendo," but can it al be written in stone?
Anthony Pettis could make history repeat if he beats Benson Henderson once again this Saturday night (Aug. 31, 2013) and take away the champion's most prized possession (apart from his future wife to be, of course).
It is an all too familiar story for Pettis, who finds himself in the same position he once was in at the final event of WEC's history, WEC 53. Pettis, the challenger at the time, was coming in as an underdog against "Smooth" who had already beaten Jamie Varner and Donald Cerrone twice to be considered as the best lightweight in the promotion. After five grueling rounds, Pettis' performance proved that a new championship crowning was on the cards that night, as his "Showtime Kick" all but solidified the judges' decision in his favor.
"Showtime" had a forgetful promotional debut loss against Clay Guida but he did not loose too much ground in the UFC, apart from being skipped for a chance to fight for the gold once again. What should have happened, was an immediate title unification bout but Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard needed to settle the score and Pettis' stance has been in a whirlwind ever since then.
This fight with Henderson was a better idea instead of dropping down to featherweight to face Jose Aldo not because of his chances or the many predictions of how the fight would go but instead to end speculation that his first win cannot be repeated again. Pettis and Henderson have both gotten better in their respective careers and with two straight finishes over Joe Lauzon and Donald Cerrone, Pettis is the most dangerous lightweight on the planet right now. Besides, he already has a win over Henderson -- what better way to sell a fight and more specifically, another rematch?
If Pettis is crowned the new champion on Saturday (in his hometown of Milwaukee), there may be a rubber match on the horizon and no matter how much everyone wants to avoid another lightweight title rematch, it seems inevitable if Pettis grinds out a close decision win. Would Pettis be considered as the best lightweight on the planet if he beats Henderson? Surely he would have some additional challenges that would present themselves since the division is so fruitful at the moment -- but the answer gears more towards yes than no.
Frank Mir needs a win to prove he can belong in the title picture and still put on solid performances against the best heavyweights in the world. When it comes to Mir, he has had a storied career complete with multiple title runs and he is as well rounded as they get for the bigger guys. His groundwork (most notably his submission skills) is second to none in the heavyweight division and although he has been outboxed and even knocked out multiple times, he can still hang with the best when trading fists.
Mir is in a dark place right now. If past promotional videos were not enough to show you that Mir has been highly critical of himself and even breaks out into tears, he is well aware his time for being considered one of the world's best fighters is slowly winding down. That could all change if he defeats Josh Barnett on Saturday night. Not only will his confidence be restored but also he will show all of his naysayers that he can still be a force to be reckoned with in the Heavyweight division.
Linking up with famed Greg Jackson and transferring to Jackson's Submission Fighting in Albuquerque, New Mexico before his fight against Daniel Cormier in April was a good move for the former champion but it came with a lot of sacrifices --primarily time away from his family. Following his loss to Cormier, Mir finds himself on a two-fight losing streak and although he fought for a title against Junior Dos Santos just a over a year ago, he needs to concentrate on the task at hand -- one step at a time, without overthinking his future.
If Mir loses to Barnett, maybe the journeyman or gatekeeper tag will be flying around but the Las Vegas native has more accolades under his belt than any heavyweight on the planet right now, boasting a record of the most wins in the heavyweight division (14), with the most finishes in heavyweight history (11) -- including the fastest submission in history clocking in at 0:46 seconds -- and has defeated four former UFC Heavyweight champions.
For a guy that many believe comes off as arrogant or cocky, how could you not love and respect him for what he has accomplished in the sport?
Josh Barnett would show the world that he has not skipped a beat while his time away from the promotion and dare we say it -- defend the title he never lost against Mir.
Barnett's win would prove his presence would be more than felt amongst his peers at Heavyweight and he would be eager to continue his run in the promotion he was exiled from in 2003 after testing positive for banned substances.
Barnett's win would be his first over a legitimate world-class opponent. Since his loss to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at PRIDE FC Shockwave in 2006, Barnett took a year and a half off from fighting. When he returned in 2008, he tested the waters for five different promotions and found success against eight opponents, including wins over Pedro Rizzo, Hidehiko Yoshida, Mighty Mo and possibly the worthiest opponent in the crop, Sergei Kharitonov. Barnett then lost to blossoming Heavyweight Daniel Cormier and it showed that his lack of first-class opposition showed immensely. Barnett could also steal the thunder of Alistair Overeem, who was widely regarded as the best heavyweight fighter on the planet before he went 1-2 in the UFC. Barnett could make a case that he has been the heavyweight to watch coming into the promotion, making a fresh start.
If he can defeat a former champion in Mir, that would be his first win over a top 10 opponent-- or maybe even top 20 -- in seven years. Barnett has a following and a dedicated fan base that will regularly tune in to watch his fights, so if he can defeat Mir, he sets up another big fight in no time. Should he lose, the brass will undoubtedly consider his standing in the division and should he be granted another chance and fail to impress in another fight, that may signal the end for "The War Master" in the UFC.
Remember, MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 164 card on fight night (Sat., Aug. 31, 2013), starting with the Facebook "Prelims," which are scheduled to being at 6:30 p.m. ET, right on through the Fox Sports 1-televised undercard bout at 8 p.m. ET and then main card PPV action, which is slated to being at 10 p.m. ET.