UFC 165 takes place this Saturday night (Sept. 21, 2013) when Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) visits the familiar Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, for the fourth time with its latest pay-per-view (PPV) offering that features two title fights in the main- and co-main events.
Jon Jones looks for his sixth UFC Light Heavyweight title defense and tenth consecutive victory (in which he has already beaten the division's record at nine) when he takes on challenger Alexander Gustafsson in the main event of the evening. It will be the third time Jones fights in Toronto, looking to defend his 205-pound title three times in the building. If "Bones" can beat "The Mauler," he beats Tito Ortiz's record of most successful title defenses in UFC history (they are now tied at five). Gustafsson comes into this fight on a six-fight win streak.
In the co-main event, Renan Barao defends the UFC Interim Bantamweight championship against Eddie Wineland. Barao beat Urijah Faber for the interim strap at UFC 139 and afterward, defeated Michael McDonald by submission at UFC on Fuel TV 7. This would be his second title defense -- with sidelined champion Dominick Cruz watching closely -- while Wineland finds himself in his first UFC title fight with a record of 2-2 in the promotion and two-straight victories.
Several interesting storylines, including interim title fights, PPV purchases and redemption, are all on the radar as we take a look at "Five Burning Questions" heading into UFC 165 this Saturday night.
Drum roll please ...
5. Have we seen the last of the "interim" Bantamweight title tag?
In a sense where, if Barao wins against Wineland this weekend, the interim tag should be thrown away and the Brazilian should be labeled as the champion. Technically, he would still be an interim champion if we get into the specifics of what that means; however, Cruz has been sidelined seemingly forever, having not competed since Oct. 1, 2011, and he is hopeful for an early 2014 return -- yet nothing is set in stone.
The division cannot be put on hold any longer. And if a champion needs to bow out for a long period of time and without disrespecting Cruz -- who must be taking the necessary measures to come back as quick as possible -- it has been far too long to call someone an interim champion who has held the belt for more than year and is on the brink of defending it twice.
For the sake of it, if Frank Mir was stripped of the title after 14 months because of a gruesome motorcycle injury that almost killed him, let us get some closure in the 135-pound division that seems like a mess when the title is implied.
If Wineland wins, that does not change too much however does it makes things that more complicated? One would assume so. Barao would be working toward his second title defense, while Wineland, would win his first UFC belt. Would he be forced to wait for Cruz, too, to be considered a true champion?
We could go over the multiple scenarios, but let us face it, the promotion will do whatever it feels is right for business and the ball is in its court. The interim tag may be present solely out of sympathy for Cruz and rightfully so -- his injury is pretty unfortunate.
With that being said, we have seen enough of this debacle and it is time for it to come to an end.
4. Why is John Makdessi on the Facebook "Prelims?"
The Canadian kickboxing standout has a highly respectful record of 4-2 in the Octagon, going straight to the big leagues after a perfect (7-0) mixed martial arts (MMA) record in the indies (where he defeated six of those opponents via technical knockout and never saw the third round until his last fight before the UFC came knocking).
In his native Canada, he scored a beautiful spinning-back fist knockout in Toronto, in the same arena he will compete in on Saturday night, over Kyle Watson at UFC 129. If that was not enough, the highlight of his career was beating the seasoned vet Sam Stout at UFC 154 in Montreal after back-to-back losses to Anthony Njokuani and Dennis Hallman. He is a young, exciting and unorthodox fighter who uses the flashiest of kicks and usually keeps the fight standing no matter who he is pitted against.
So why is Makdessi on the Facebook "Prelims?" Better yet, why has Makdessi never been on a main card if he is so exciting?
We could say because he may not be a household name yet or that only educated and habitual fans are familiar with him. However, that certainly has not been the case with watered-down television cards we have been getting over the past little while. The FOX Sports 1 under card seems like we should keep it intact, though, Ivan Menjivar and "KID" Norifumi Yamamoto (his original opponent before Wilson Reis stepped in to replace him) are both coming off losses and we have Mitch Gagnon and Dustin Kimura, who do not get us wrong, are great fighters.
However, Makdessi's track record with the promotion should grant him a slot on television since the two fights that follow his bout have four competitors with a combined nine Octagon appearances. Makdessi has more than half that amount. Maybe this fight is the calling card to have him propel to the main card someday soon although we cannot say he is not exciting or worthy of it.
The same could be said about Mike Ricci, who finds himself in the main attraction of the "Prelims" yet that could be because he has the recognition to wheel people into free television. In the case of Makdessi, give the man his shot ... or should we say, slot.
3. Is this another PPV event worthy of the hefty price tag?
Without getting into specifics of the amount it costs to order these events and the fact that being a combat sports enthusiast could be expensive at times, we cannot shy away from the fact that the volume of events per year is getting too rich. At least once a month, we are to dish out a pretty large sum for three hours of action on a Saturday night.
Besides Floyd Mayweather and Saul Alvarez's fee of last week, we understand that sometimes boxing is a little bit of a different story -- especially when you have a guy called "Money" fighting, courtesy of "The Money Team" who normally fights once a year if not for his new fight contract with Showtime. We also do not have one promotion in boxing who puts on close to 40 events per year with more than a quarter of them of them being as expensive as they are.
UFC has brought a card to the Air Canada Centre in Toronto with two-title fights. That is pretty rad, but is that a method to overshadow the rest of the card?
This fight card is by no means bad. As a matter of fact, it is better than a handful of ones we have seen over the past year that required us to pay the same price tag. It's hard not to wonder if some events should be lowered because of the amount we are receiving. And after some pretty weak "Fight Night" cards like the one we got in Brazil almost two weeks ago, we have to wonder if this marketing machine is going overboard.
UFC 163 sucked, while UFC 164 was good. We are now at UFC 165. Yes, we have two title fights, yet what about the others? Brendan Schaub vs. Matt Mitrione, Costa Philippou vs. Francis Carmont and Pat Healy vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov (which is a great fight on paper) are good fights, although how do you rate them on PPV?
There is a notion we are praying that these fights do not turn out to be boring. Is this question a little too harsh? Well, it is just a thought.
2. Can Brendan Schaub redeem himself?
Ah, yes. The curious case of Brendan Schaub. "The Hybrid" has come a long way since being defeated at the hands of Roy Nelson by way of knockout at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 10 Finale in 2009. He amassed four victories afterward, including wins over Gabriel Gonzaga and Mirko Filipovic -- two highly respected veterans of the sport. His eagerness may have gotten the best of him against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in Brazil and then Ben Rothwell knocked him out.
So maybe he was not the incredibly special, new breed of fighter he was billed to be. He had promise, though, and he still does.
Now we have to question his win over Lavar Johnson. Okay, so Schaub needed a win badly. This fight could have been a pretty entertaining war ... and it was anything but. Schaub lied on top of Johnson for three rounds, playing it safe and getting the win. Sometimes wrestlers who bring forth dominant performances are accused of playing it safe when really, they are bringing to life an aspect or a fighting style of MMA.
Schaub literally played it safe.
Then came the debacle at Metamoris, Ralek Gracie's jiu-jitsu tournament where Brendan Schaub had the green light from Dana White to partake. Schaub met Robert "Cyborg" Abreu and for 20 minutes, avoided engaging, creating one of the biggest grappling stinkers ever and losing the respect of nearly everyone involved in submission fighting at some point in their lives.
Metamoris has nothing to do with UFC, but being allowed to compete there taints its reputation a little bit. Simply put, it harms its blossoming image. You can say UFC sits on one end of the balance and Metamoris sits on the other and we get that, although if you feel respect is important in this sport, which was quite disrespectful to say the least. Plus, why would UFC risk Schaub getting injured in at a jiu-jitsu event? That could be another story or it could be Schaub's reasoning. Who knows. Schaub's performance even brought forth rule changes to their third event, Metamoris 3.
Schaub is 5-3 in the Octagon with work to do to regain the respect of his peers. If he should lose to Matt Mitrione, a guy who is in the same boat as Schaub career-wise without the victory over veterans, Schaub could be pegged down a few notches on the ladder. And suffering another knockout would not be healthy for someone who has been brutally knocked out three times before in the UFC.
1. Will Alexander Gustafsson be able to make the main event a competitive fight?
Reach, reach and reach. That is the main facet surrounding this fight, that Jones and Gustafsson are similar in size, yet both possess very different reach with their limbs (with "Bones" being advantageous). More importan, can Gustafsson hit Jones? Reach or not, can he hit the champion clean and keep on hitting him?
Jones has been tested with Lyoto Machida and Rashad Evans although those fights were still lopsided ("Suga" was closer than anyone has ever gotten to beating Jones and giving him a competitive fight). Apart from that, Ryan Bader, Mauricio Rua, Quinton Jackson, Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen have all suffered brutal losses to the champion and "Bones" did not look troubled once besides Belfort's armbar in the same arena last year.
Gustafsson has been summoned as the man who can give Jones a run for his money since his frame is a lot like the champion's; however, how much of that can be based on who will win or lose? Jones has taken on the best -- if not legendary fighters in the division -- and has convincingly smashed them all. Gustafsson has beaten "Shogun" and Thiago Silva by decision, and that is about as far as it goes for impressive wins, even though his claim to fame was a beating over Matt Hamill two years ago.
Ever since being submitted by his training partner, Phil Davis, in 2010, he has won six straight and deserves this title fight although one has to wonder if this will be another walk in the park for Jones or if Gustafsson can force the champion to fight a little more cautiously and make this fight competitive. This is not to say Jones had easy fights yet he makes his wins look so easy -- because he is that damn good.
Gustafsson has a good chance of making this a great fight. And although he may have to get his hands dirty and take a few punches to dish some out, for his sake, he has no other option. "The Mauler" -- who vows to fight differently -- needs to show the world something different that we have not yet seen if he wants to be crown the new 205-pound king.
For more on the upcoming UFC 165 be sure to check out our complete event archive right here.