Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to FOX Sports 1 this Wednesday night (Oct. 9, 2013) after a successful pay-per-view (PPV) event just over two weeks ago, visiting Brazil for the eleventh time with UFC Fight Night 29, taking place at Jose Correa Arena in Barueri, Brazil.
The main event features two former title challengers looking to get back into the hunt and contend for a championship yet again.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu phenomenon Damien Maia, who is 3-0 since dropping to welterweight -- with two of those wins coming by a way of finish -- meets a man looking for redemption in Jake Shields. The Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu specialist is 2-3 in his past five, including a questionable split decision victory over Tyron Woodley.
Here are five burning questions for UFC Fight Night 29:
5. Could a title contender emerge from the fight between T.J Dillashaw. and Raphael Assuncao?
T.J. Dillashaw is looking like the top prospect out of Team Alpha Male right now, with his lone slip coming at the hands of Jon Dodson at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 14 Finale in late 2011. He is currently on a four-fight winning streak, with his last three coming by a way of finish.
"The Viper" is 8-1 in his mixed martial arts (MMA) career.
His opponent, Raphael Assuncao, has 10 fights under the ZUFFA banner, suffering his only loss in UFC in his debut at the hands of Erik Koch. After that bout, Assuncao decided to make the move to bantamweight and has been perfect thus far with a 4-0 record in the division.
Both men are 4-1 in UFC, and if they can continue their winning ways in impressive fashion, their names could be inserted into the title picture after the debacle involving Dominick Cruz and Renan Barao comes to a conclusion. If the promotion follows its proper ranking system, Assuncao sits at fifth place, with Renan Barao, Urijah Faber, Michael McDonald and latest title challenger Eddie Wineland in front of him. The last three men mentioned have all had their chance to capture gold and Dillashaw finds himself at ninth place. One more solid performance from the winner afterwards could have him in good standing.
4. Is it wise to have an abundance of countrymen compete on one card?
This particular event features 11 Brazilians that will compete, including five out of a possible eight on the preliminary card. Since this is not a PPV, there will not be pressure on the "Prelims" to deliver and strengthen the number of buys, as this event can be seen for free on broadcast television.
Although there is a notion that cards like these, in countries other than the United States, pit many countrymen together for one card, ends up being repetitive and slightly hazardous for their respective careers, in terms of popularity and outside exposure.
These "Prelim" fighters are unknown to the world and it would benefit them to develop their careers in other markets. That would also be a test to see if they are able to shine outside of their country, since having the same fighters fight on their home turf can be fun for them in front of their friends, family and fans, which adds a little more excitement for each of their fights, but ultimately does not prove they could be a draw elsewhere.
With Hacran Dias and Rodrigo Damm being scrapped because of the latter having complications with kidney stones, these "Prelims" are seen as being a little thin. There is no question that local fighters put the derrieres in seats, although for television viewers and a worldwide audience who likes to put a name to a face, it is nearly impossible with a number of local guys who end up one and done with the promotion more often than not. It would be nice to see a little variety, and expose certain fighters to different markets and audiences.
3. Will the loser of Matt Hamill and Thiago Silva end up being released by the promotion?
After Matt Hamill was demolished by Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 133 two years ago, he decided to hang up the gloves and call it a career. Even if Hamill had a few good fights left in him, many did not have a problem with the courageous NCAA Division III National Champion's decision. Hamill decided to give it one more go against Roger Hollett (who stepped in for Vladimir Matyushenko), and looked decent but not exactly reborn.
Thiago Silva has had one hell of a trip these past three years. He lost to Rashad Evans at UFC 108 in early 2010 and came back a year later to dominate Brandon Vera at UFC 125, only to fail a drug test in which he submitted a urine adulterant to the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC). After a yearlong suspension, he faced Alexander Gustafsson and lost, and then had his victory over Stanislav Nedkov at UFC on FUEL TV 6 overturned because of a positive marijuana test. Thankfully for Silva, he saved his job with his first victory in almost four years after defeating Rafael Cavalcante at UFC on FUEL TV 10.
Hamill and Silva are not exactly in the same place right now, yet they are riding the same boat. Both are coming off a win in their last bout, both men need a satisfactory performance for them to excel in the light heavyweight division and eventually contend for the prize. Hamill is 10-4 in UFC and that is by no means bad; however, if he takes a lot of punishment from Silva this week, the brass may not be too convinced to keep "The Hammer" around.
Silva will need a victory to not only get back in the good graces of his employers and followers, but to save his job as well. He is 2-3 (2) in his last seven dating back to early 2009, with two failed drug tests. Silva is an undeniable force at 205 pounds, although if he slips against Hamill, he may have run out of chances.
2. Will Erick Silva finally become the next big threat at welterweight?
Erick Silva has been touted as one of the top prospects in the game for a while, yet he is almost 30 years old and there must be a limit as to when an up-and-coming talent is no longer deemed a "prospect."
"Indio" is a heavy favorite going into his fight against Dong Hyun Kim and has had success in his short UFC career. The former Jungle Fight welterweight champion smashed Luis Ramos in 40 seconds two years ago, making his promotional debut at UFC 134 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but lost his next bout against Carlo Prater in the same city by controversial fashion, as Mario Yamasaki disqualified Silva for punches to the back of the head, which cost him a 29-second knockout.
Silva then moved on to more first-round victories over Charlie Brenneman and Jason High, showcasing his alarming submission skills along with his powerfully technical striking. Perhaps we learned the most from Silva in a losing effort to Jon Fitch at UFC 153, in which both men earned "Fight of the Night" honors. Silva was in a dogfight with Fitch and that fight showcased all aspects of mixed martial arts, but Silva was not yet prepared to face the more seasoned opposition.
A win over Kim would be a feather in Silva's cap, and truly prove that he could be a force with a promising future in the welterweight division. He has the calmness and mental aspect to his game intact, along with a strong physique that could trouble most in the division. Amelioration and growth are the most important aspects to this sport and in Silva's case, he needs to show that he is beginning to achieve that.
1. Is Demian Maia vs. Jake Shields going to be an exciting main event?
Not that every main event needs to be a barnburner, but it is what everyone remembers from a fight card. The last fight is synonymous with the memories that are present from remembering that specific event.
This may be an incredibly dangerous risk to put two world-class grapplers in the main event of the evening. Since both Demian Maia and Jake Shields are incredibly talented and experienced submission fighting practitioners, they could cancel out each other's ground game weapons and keep the fight standing, in which they are equally as proficient, with Maia having a slight edge based on his improvements as of late.
Shields gets the same treatment that guys like Jon Fitch receive from fans, who criticize his performances for either playing it safe or being incredibly dull. Shields entered the UFC as the Strikeforce middleweight champion and has a record of 3-2 (1) with the company, with fights against notable opponents such as Georges St. Pierre, Martin Kampmann and Jake Ellenberger. His wins against Kampmann, Akiyama, and Woodley were seen as boring and besides Ellenberger, making quick work of Shields two years ago, every single one of his fights have been rather uneventful.
It would not be an understatement to say his job could be on the line on Wednesday evening.
Maia is stringing together a number of impressive outings, with back-to-back victories over Jon Fitch, Rick Story and Dong Hyun Kim. His past two losses came from current middleweight champion Chris Weidman and Mark Munoz, and apart from a freak accident that halted his bout with Kim in July of last year at UFC 148, he submitted Story at UFC 153, his first submission win since defeating Chael Sonnen in 2009 at UFC 95.
Educated fans may be disgusted with these remarks because we should all love a great grappling contest between two standouts on the mat. If that comes to fruition, there are no complaints here if it proves to be stimulating and competitive.
Let us face the music: Both of these men are not the most thrilling combatants in the welterweight division, eager to throw down for the fans and their peers. Hopefully, there will not be hostility from the Brazilian faithful if this fight is uneventful, though it is a serious gamble that may not pay dividends if these two stick to their true nature and come out like they normally do.
Those are our burning questions. What are yours?
Be sure to check out our entire UFC Fight Night 29: "Maia vs. Shields" event archive by clicking here.