UFC Fight Night 46 preview: Five burning questions going into 'McGregor vs. Brandao' in Dublin

Jared Wickerham

Before every fight card, mixed martial arts (MMA) fans toggle between possible scenarios and what to expect days before it all unfolds in front of their eyes. Probable outcomes, distinguishable facts and head-scratching theories are all part of the mystique that surrounds the fights on any given night. We ask ourselves the same questions … and try to uncover different answers.

Three days after Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) invaded New Jersey, the promotion returns to Europe with no intention of slowing down.

UFC Fight Night 46: "McGregor vs. Brandao" takes place at 02 World Arena in Dublin, Ireland, this upcoming weekend (Sat., July 19, 2014), with one specific fighter returning home to battle in front of his countrymen (and women).

Conor McGregor goes up against Diego Brandao in the main event, as "Notorious" enters just his third fight under the Zuffa banner. The Brazilian is stepping up on short notice for Cole Miller, who had to bow out of the fight due to injury.

Also on the main card, Gunnar Nelson takes on Zak Cummings in the co-main event, Brad Pickett goes to war against Ian McCall in a flyweight tussle, and Ilir Latifi dukes it out against Chris Dempsey on the "Prelims." The entire event will be streamed on UFC's Fight Pass digital network.

With several interesting storylines emerging from this card, check out our "Five Burning Questions" heading into these fights in Dublin.

5. Would Fight Pass subscribers and UFC fans rather watch events midday in this oversaturation era?

I apologize beforehand for all our European friends who will be watching in the evening, and keep tuning in despite pay-per-views (PPV) airing at approximately 4 a.m. in places such as the United Kingdom.

For us North Americans, these relatively early fight cards seem like a blessing in disguise. It gives fans an opportunity to care about the "Prelims" while making a late breakfast, followed by lying on the couch for the next four to six hours.

Maybe the Singapore and China cards don't really apply here, since there's a good chance almost nobody wants to wake up at 5 a.m. to watch relatively unknown fighters duke it out on a Saturday morning.

We don't need to run down the points on how UFC is oversaturating its product, yet if they keep feeding the public watered down cards centered around a specific hometown fighter, then it's better to enjoy these weekend affairs earlier rather than later and get them out of the way.

4. Is everyone sleeping on Ilir Latifi?

Some of you may be laughing hysterically after reading that, but you can't say it doesn't deserve a bit of thought.

The Swede will always be known as the guy who stepped up big against Gegard Mousasi at UFC on FUEL TV 9 in 2013, when even Dana White didn't know how to spell his name on Twitter.

"The Sledgehammer" crushed Cyrille Diabate in his home country earlier this year, and his performance raised some eyebrows to say the least. Maybe he doesn't have a cult following for all the right reasons, yet he's slowly raising a bit of awareness in terms of his presence in the light heavyweight division.

Winning over someone like Tom Lawlor -- his original opponent -- instead of Chris Dempsey would have truly shown us what he's capable of moving forward, but if you look at his three losses, you'd notice something interesting.

He's only lost to Mousasi (a top five active UFC middleweight), Emanuel Newton (Bellator's current light heavyweight champion), and Tatsuya Mizuno (a former Pancrase combatant and DREAM Light Heavyweight Grand Prix finalist).

Not too shabby.

3. Does the winner of Brad Pickett vs. Ian McCall receive a flyweight title shot following UFC 177?

The answer is presumably yes, because John Dodson is out for quite some time and there's no clear-cut challenger outside of John Lineker, who may not even receive his chance with his victory on Wednesday night because of his previous mishaps.

And a recent loss to Ali Bagautinov doesn't help.

Earlier this week, UFC officials announced Chris Cariaso will challenge Demetrious Johnson for the flyweight strap at UFC 177, and the news was met with its fair share of criticism based on "Kamikaze's" lack of challenges in his UFC career.

Maybe a better question would be if "One Punch" or "Uncle Creepy" deserve championship bouts, and the answer could be "yes" for one of those sluggers.

McCall, a fan favorite, had an epic battle against "Mighty Mouse" in the flyweight tournament opening round in early 2012, which resulted in controversy because of a couple of judges who couldn't pass grade six math.

He was defeated by Johnson three months later, and went on to string a record of 1-2 in his next three fights. Pickett, on the other hand, has only won one fight in the 125-pound division, and that's because it was his debut fight in the weight class.

Maybe the Californian is more deserving of a title bout because of his past against the champion, but it's still slim pickings when it comes to the flyweights.

2. What kind of a future does Gunnar Nelson have?

If you ask one of his coaches, Renzo Gracie, the Brazilian will tell you Nelson is the future, simply put.

We've seen glimpses of greatness when it comes to "Gunni," who hasn't been defeated yet inside the Octagon. His competition hasn't been the stiffest, but beating Jorge Santiago and Omari Akhmedov convincingly was enough to get the hype train rolling.

The welterweight in question has all the signs of a future titleholder for some, and it's a damn shame we won't get to see him compete against Ryan LaFlare. Since Zak Cummings has replaced the New Yorker, a victory may not give us enough information when it comes to the grappling champion's MMA résumé. But for all we know, maybe Cummings is the one to stop the Icelandic fighter in his tracks.

Nelson looks as if he's going to shine in the 170-pound weight class, and since the 25-year-old combatant has stayed relatively quiet and stoic when in front of the cameras, it might mean he's not ready to rush things himself, either.

At least not in the same way one of our main eventers likes to do.

1. Does Conor McGregor prove anything with a win over Diego Brandao?

It's a similar situation for the Irishman, who has monstrous expectations despite only fighting twice in UFC.

Granted, he's a former Cage Warriors lightweight champion who was making noise on the regional scene, so riding around in his bosses' Ferrari is somewhat understandable.

Or not.

Cole Miller was the perfect opponent for McGregor, since "Magrinho" would have been the toughest task of his "Notorious'" career. The Dublin-born star destroyed Marcus Brimage in his first bout, and defeated Max Holloway afterward.

A win over the American would have proved his legitimacy, no questions asked.

It feels as if Brandao is an easy task for McGregor, since we've seen the Brazilian struggle with tougher opposition. I don't doubt "Ceara" is going to get in his opponent's face; however, if Brandao isn't focused and looks like the same fighter who was mauled by Dustin Poirier at UFC 168, it sort of dumbs down McGregor's win.

Either way, let's hope it's a good fight, and if McGregor wins, maybe we can assess his skill set after seeing how he performed as a headliner.

That's a wrap.

For more on UFC Fight Night 46: "McGregor vs. Brandao," check out the finalized fight card including bout order and set times, right here.

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