Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) visits United Center in Chicago, Ill., for a night (Sat., Jan. 25, 2014) of exciting mixed martial arts (MMA) fights that can be viewed on television for free.
Indeed, UFC on FOX 10: "Henderson vs. Thomson" has the ability to be a memorable card to say the least.
All eyes will be on the main event, as former UFC Lightweight champion Ben Henderson looks to climb back into another title fight with a win over Josh Thomson. The latter was next in line to face division kingpin Anthony Pettis as a replacement for T.J. Grant; however, an injury to "Showtime" forced that fight to be canceled.
In the co-main event, two Heavyweights looking for recognition will trade blows until the other falls, as Stipe Miocic squares off against veteran Gabriel Gonzaga.
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.
This is where it all begins again for Henderson.
After three successful title defenses through 2012 and 2013, Henderson ran into his Kryptonite at UFC 164 in Aug. 2013. He had already lost to Pettis at WEC 53 (the promotion's last-ever event), and ironically, "Showtime" was the combatant who served "Smooth" his last two losses.
Henderson most likely steals Thomson's title shot with a win, however "Bendo" should not worry about getting back into a championship bout right away. He should acknowledge his presence in the title mix, but for Henderson, it is more so about becoming the best Lightweight fighter on the planet again.
The rest will come naturally.
The 19-3 Arizona resident did have his fair share of criticism as champion, squeaking past his opponents with two split decision wins in title defenses that could have gone both ways. One thing that cannot be contested is his style and the fact that he is arguably the most well rounded fighter in the 155-pound division (besides the current champion).
There will be pressure for both competitors in this fight, but as for "Bendo," he should focus on getting past Thomson and further stake his claim that he is the clear-cut No. 2-ranked fighter in the weight class ... for now.
Thomson, 35, is closing in on a Lightweight championship opportunity (which he already had in the bank) with a win over "Bendo" in Chicago.
Thomson only has one victory in UFC since rejoining the promotion after Strikeforce shuttered its operation; however, that sole performance spoke volumes in getting "Punk" recognition. He stopped Nate Diaz in the second round, via head kick and punches, and up until that moment, the thought of finishing a Diaz brother with strikes was unheard of.
That accomplishment was certainly the reason Thomson found himself lined up for a shot at Anthony Pettis' coveted prize, stepping in as a replacement for Grant.
With Pettis on the shelf again, Thomson absolutely needs to prove his worth for that coveted title shot to stay where it is. A win over a former champion and an athlete who could still be considered one of the best fighters in the world, guarantees Thomson that same title shot.
On the flip side, if Thomson loses, he can kiss that title shot goodbye. And with the unpredictable state of the Lightweight division, including the amount of contenders who rise from the gutters of 155 pounds, it will not be that easy to climb back up.
Especially for someone who would be 2-3 in his last five if he cannot get past Henderson.
With a 10-1 record in the sport, Miocic seems to be flying under the radar when it comes to up and coming Heavyweights. This fight is all about getting respect for the Strong Style Fight Team veteran.
Miocic has proved his worth in UFC, with four victories to date -- including his biggest accomplishment -- outclassing Roy Nelson at UFC 161 last summer. Despite running into a roadblock in Stefan Struve before that, Miocic has brought forth impressive performances.
However, he still is a bit short when examining his chances at fighting for a title.
He needs to rack up as many wins as possible over tough opposition. It's all fine and dandy that he looked good against guys like Philip De Fries and Joey Beltran, however those two fighters are not even with the promotion anymore. It is time for Miocic to batter the toughest competition out there if he wants to be noticed.
A win here moves him closer to that goal.
Six years have gone by since Gonzaga challenged for the UFC Heavyweight championship. And with a win on Saturday night, securing a second title shot down the road could be possible.
A win over Miocic does not warrant "Napao" an immediate crack at the BELT, nor is placing him in the current championship picture necessary ... for now. Gonzaga still has work to do and he needs to rack up another couple of wins over quality opponents.
Specifically, those who are gunning for title shots, too.
What makes Gonzaga's case interesting is that besides the fact that "Napao" has finished every single opponent out of his 16 wins, the Heavyweight division is not that crowded in terms of title contenders.
A lot like Miocic, Gonzaga needs to rack up a few quality wins over the bigger opponents. Arguably, you could say his most impressive victory was over Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic in 2007 (maybe his win over Ben Rothwell in his second UFC stint could be seen as a runner up).
Nevertheless, Gonzaga's two back-to-back first round knockout victories capped off a decent 2013 campaign for him, where he went 3-1. Still, his last three losses were to Travis Browne (a current Heavyweight contender), Junior dos Santos (a former UFC Heavyweight champion) and Brendan Schaub (a tough competitor who is slowly starting to come into his own).
Gonzaga needs to win fights like those if he feels like making another -- and likely final -- title run in 2014 and beyond.
Who takes it in their respective fights?
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 10 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" match online, which is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised under card bouts at 5 p.m. ET and then main card FOX action, which is slated to begin at 8 p.m. ET.