The stage is set as Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to United Arab Emirates (UAE).
UFC Fight Night 39: "Nogueira vs. Nelson" takes place this Friday (April 11, 2014) at Du Arena on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. It's just the second time UFC has visited the capital.
A huge heavyweight tilt is set for the main event, as combat sports legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira tries to get his career back on track against the almighty Roy Nelson.
"Big Country" will be looking to snap a two-fight losing streak, while Nogueira needs to avoid losing his third bout out of four contests.
A featherweight scrap in the co-main event features UFC veteran Clay Guida against the seasoned Tatsuya Kawajiri, in a bout which could grab "Fight of The Night" honors quite easily.
"The Carpenter" desperately needs to shake off a knockout loss, while "Crusher" will be looking to make it two victories out of two inside the Octagon.
With the majority of this card's excitement focused on these two contests, let us look into the near future and map out what a victory on Friday might mean for these four athletes.
Here we go:
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
It's very simple... a win for Nogueira means he can continue his fighting career without any wrinkles (beside the ones on his face).
"Minotauro" is by far the greatest heavyweight to fight back from the brink of defeat, like we've seen many times before against the likes of Bob Sapp at PRIDE Shockwave 2002, Tim Sylvia at UFC 81 and Brendan Schaub at UFC 134.
On the flip side, he's been brutally finished in his last three losses. UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez knocked him out in just over two minutes, Frank Mir snapped his arm, and most recently, Fabricio Werdum made him quit on home turf.
Considering "Big Nog" is 3-4 since winning the UFC heavyweight championship in 2008, it's obvious his best years are behind him. If he can get past Nelson, the positives would outweigh the negatives, though he still would have his work cut out for him to be a legitimate contender again.
If he loses, or better yet, if Nelson finishes the Brazilian, it may be time to call it a day. He's the only combatant to hold a PRIDE and UFC heavyweight championship, he's given the fans incredible moments to remember, and at 37 years old, it wouldn't be enjoyable to watch a pioneer continue on a decline.
If Nelson can't get past Nogueira this upcoming weekend, his UFC career could be over.
"Big Country" is on a two-fight losing streak and no matter how much the fans love him, it's obvious his boss detests him. The Burger King enthusiast is a bit over the top sometimes, but you can bet your bottom dollar he's not going to give you a boring fight (at least not one that resembles his win over Kimbo Slice in The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 10 tournament).
The promotion can't risk cutting heavyweights without looking over the roster, because let's face it, the division is thinner than a slice of Swiss cheese. However, if he loses, I can already hear Dana White insisting Roy Nelson will never be a champion and that he was lucky to win TUF 10 altogether.
"Big Country" seems relatively calm leading up to this bout, but if he gets dominated for the third consecutive time, it could be over for the lovable beast.
Guida was once one of the most ferocious and energetic fighters in all of combat sports. His "cave man" gimmick was for real, and for the majority of 2010 into 2011, it looked like "The Carpenter" was on his way to a title shot -- something pundits wouldn't have predicted.
After beating Anthony Pettis in the safest way possible, he went on to lose to Ben Henderson and then came his embarrassing performance against Gray Maynard -- scrutinized for doing absolutely nothing. He bested Hatsu Hioki in a fight he should have lost before getting knocked out by Chad Mendes at UFC 164.
If we look at the grand scheme of things, Guida is only 1-1 in the featherweight division since making his debut, so he still has the opportunity to make something out of his latest run. But don't be surprised if Guida is given his walking papers if he fails to beat his opponent on Friday.
He would be just 1-4 in his last five.
It remains to be seen how he performs, because if he musters up something positive in a loss, he should get another chance to stick around.
Seriously, who would have thought Kawajiri would have had his UFC debut after 13 years in the sport?
To say Kawajiri would be in line for a title shot if he beats Guida would be a drunken prediction; however, he'd certainly be on the right track.
"Crusher" has won his past six fights, but UFC competition is a little stiffer than guys like Donald Sanchez and Drew Fickett. He's got plenty of bricks to stack until then. That being said, if he beats a veteran like "The Carpenter," the Japanese standout can anticipate a meeting against a top five opponent shortly thereafter.
Despite his longevity, the only title "The Bodybox" had around his waist was the Shooto welterweight strap, so don't be surprised if he can't hack it in the end. He was destroyed in his last three losses against Gilbert Melendez, Shinya Aoki and Eddie Alvarez, proving stiffer competition hurts sometimes, even if they seemed long ago by now.
He's one of those guys who you just can't count out, and if he walks out of Abu Dhabi a winner, the past could mean very little.
That's a wrap, folks.
Check out our UFC Fight Night 39: "Nogueira vs. Nelson" preview stream right here.