It's time for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) annual Super Bowl extravaganza, and this one should be a humdinger.
UFC 169: "Barao vs. Faber 2" takes place at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., this Saturday night (Feb. 1, 2014), featuring two explosive title fights in the main and co-main events.
With Dominick Cruz sidelined again after suffering yet another injury, Urijah Faber steps up on three weeks notice and challenges Renan Barao in the main event for the UFC bantamweight championship.
The co-main event features the lethal UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, who looks to make it six straight UFC title defenses when he takes on "The Bully," Ricardo Lamas.
Also on the main card is a heavyweight tilt between Frank Mir and Alistair Overeem, who both could be fighting for their jobs in "The Garden State."
Here are five burning questions heading into UFC 169, all of which that do not include a contingency plan:
5. Will the winner of John Lineker against Ali Bagautinov determine Demetrious Johnson's next challenger?
It's almost as if "Mighty Mouse" himself knows the answer to this question, after the comments he made about Lineker missing weight several times in the promotion.
With a shortage of emerging contenders in the flyweight division, mostly because of Johnson's reign and the fact that the division is still in a building phase, the winner between Lineker and Bagautinov's flyweight bout on the main card all but confirms that he will step up to the plate against Johnson.
Lineker may have been awarded a title shot if he hadn't missed weight three times under the promotion, but at least he's won those respective fights (winning his last three by technical knockout should be noted, too).
Even though Bagautinov has just two UFC fights to his name, he disposed of Marcos Vinicius and Tim Elliott fairly easily, and if he can record his eleventh straight victory this weekend, all fingers point to a date with the current flyweight champion.
4. Is the match up between Frank Mir and Alistair Overeem really a loser leaves town match?
In different eras not long ago, Frank Mir and Alistair Overeem were both on top of the world, but in far away places.
Mir, a former UFC heavyweight champion, is on a three-fight losing skid, and he's been knocked out four times out of a possible five when it comes to his losses dating back to UFC 100.
Overeem, the former K-1 World Grand Prix champion, who simultaneously held the Dream and Strikeforce heavyweight championships, had immense pressure entering the promotion, and after two back-to-back knockout losses, his employment hangs by a string.
If Mir loses, he may get the retirement talk from the brass. Overeem may be in a different standing though, since he was deemed as the hottest chip on the block coming into the UFC and despite his win over Brock Lesnar at UFC 141, he's been far from captivating.
UFC President Dana White has been non-committal.
Both individuals are marketable and with the shortage of heavyweights on the roster, it may be a bad idea to let the loser go. It all depends on how it goes down, and what kind of a demise the loser is faced with, as well.
3. Is Ricardo Lamas the answer to the Jose Aldo mystery?
Finally, Ricardo Lamas gets his shot.
It all started with his victory over Erik Koch at UFC on FOX 6 at the beginning of last year. Lamas brutalized Koch in the second round, stopping him with elbows and punches on the mat, destined to be Jose Aldo's next challenge.
Although, "Scarface" already had a date planned with Frankie Edgar, a natural lightweight who dropped down in weight to challenge Aldo for his featherweight title.
Lamas waited ... and waited ... and then he waited some more, just to find out that Chan Sung Jung had replaced Anthony Pettis to face Aldo at UFC 163 for the division championship. Not to mention, Pettis was another natural lightweight dropping down to challenge Aldo.
An irate, but more so heartbroken Lamas, was not even considered as a replacement, and should have been. Lamas did not take a fight, and stayed on the sidelines until there was a bit more clarity in the division.
Now, Lamas gets to prove that he was the stiffest competition out there this entire time, and with power in his fists, Lamas could be one of the most accomplished fighters Aldo has faced thus far in the UFC, with a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and an NCAA Division III accolade under his belt, too.
Aldo has looked phenomenal thus far, and Lamas has more than his work cut out for him. But, could he be the competitor who truly gives Aldo a run for his money?
2. What happens to Urijah Faber if he loses?
"The California Kid" will not shy away from saying that a UFC belt does not determine his legacy, or that being WEC champion was the equivalent of being a UFC champion; however, in the grand scheme of things, it means something.
It's much like Dan Marino not winning a Super Bowl. He was a great quarterback, but people are always going to remember that one thing he is missing.
If Faber fails to beat Renan Barao on Saturday night, in what will be his second attempt in less than two years, would it be audacious to say the Team Alpha Male captain could contemplate retirement after the bout?
It's very cheeky to assume, yet Faber has lost six fights his entire career, all of which were title fights. Despite being a champion in King of The Cage (KOTC) and a titleholder in the early days of World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC), his ZUFFA championship record over the past six years hasn't been good, to say the least.
You can beat everyone in the division, but if you cannot beat the champion in your third attempt trying to capture UFC gold, what left is there to do? And how could you make the case for a fourth shot?
1. Is Renan Barao truly the best fighter on the planet with a win?
To rank fighters in a pound-for-pound scenario may be flawed these days, since there is no appropriate way of determining who is better than the other.
We heard Dana White say that with a win, it would be ludicrous to not call Renan Barao the best fighter in the world right now. Then shortly after, he declared that with a win over Vitor Belfort, UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman would be the pound-for-pound best fighter on the world.
So, does every champion become the best fighter in the world after a few successful title defenses, all at the same time? And wouldn't Jon Jones have something to say about that, as well?
The president of the company must say a certain amount of things to not only sell, but also hype a fight.
If we were to examine Barao in serious terms, he is currently 31-1 (1), he has not lost since his debut fight in 2005, and since his inclusion in the UFC he has acquired six wins, including two successful title defenses.
Apart from Michael McDonald cracking him early in their UFC on FUEL TV 7 scrap one year ago, he has been nearly flawless in every one of his fights.
With a second win over Faber, there will no doubt be enough challenges in the bantamweight division to occupy him for a couple of years to come, yet his status would surely have reached the elite by then (if it hasn't already). It all depends if you deem him the very best out of everyone else.
Those are some of our "burning questions," what are yours?
For the finalized UFC 169: "Barao vs. Faber 2" fight card, click here.