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UFC Fight Night 53, 54 preview: Winner's Circle!

What could victory mean for Rory MacDonald, Tarec Saffiedine, Gunnar Nelson, and Rick Story ahead of their respective headlining fights this weekend (Sat., Oct. 4, 2014) in Halifax and Stockholm? We ponder the consequences below.

Suhaimi Abdullah

In the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA), you are only as good as your last fight (and performance), so winning is paramount.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has put together yet another exciting doubleheader for this Saturday (Oct. 4, 2014) as it plays host to two international fight cards. To kick off the day, UFC Fight Pass will exclusively air UFC Fight Night 53: "Nelson vs. Story" live from the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden.

In the main event, No. 12 ranked welterweight Gunnar Nelson takes his first big step up in competition as he faces off against the ever-durable welterweight gatekeeper Rick Story.

Once that card wraps up, the action unfolds live on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) as UFC Fight Night 54: "MacDonald vs. Saffiedine" gets underway live from the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

In the main event on FS1, Rory MacDonald looks to cement himself as the clear cut No. 1 ranked welterweight contender as he takes on the final Strikeforce welterweight champion Tarec Saffiedine.

With a welterweight bonanza set to shake up the entirety of the division this Saturday, let's take a gander into the future and predict what victory could potentially mean for all four of these competitors.

Gunnar Nelson

The undefeated Icelandic native has watched his teammate Conor McGregor soar into stardom over the last year and a half, and now it is his turn to main event an international UFC Fight Night card and prove to be a top welterweight contender.

Nelson is 4-0 in the UFC, including three incredible submission victories. The one qualm with "Gunni" thus far is his somewhat mediocre competition. Fighting the likes of Zak Cummings, Jorge Santiago, and DaMarques Johnson makes it quite difficult to gauge just how good Nelson can truly be.

What's worse is while Nelson has looked dominant in his grappling exchanges, it is painfully evident he has a lot of work to do in the striking department. Thankfully, Nelson is getting a true test against Story, and we will learn a lot about his prospects moving forward after Saturday night.

If Nelson is able to defeat Story, especially if he submits him, then the Icelandic native will find himself right alongside the elite competition in the top 10.

Depending on how convincing a win Nelson procures over Story will determine his next challenge, but a five-fight winning streak should at least garner a top 10 match up. Considering Nelson's grappling credentials, a fight with No. 8-ranked jiu-jitsu phenom Demian Maia would be one hell of a show.

Rick Story

Rick Story has been a mainstay in the UFC since 2009, but unfortunately has been a stepping stone for a number of contenders looking to garner a "name" victory over the last few years.

Since his incredible run from 2009-2011, where "The Horror" won six straight fights against the likes of current UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks and former title contender Thiago Alves, Story is 4-5 in his last nine bouts.

Although Story has been unable to keep any momentum going, he is clearly a step up in competition for the up-and-coming Nelson. If Story halts the hype train "Gunni" is currently riding, it would be a huge feather in his cap, and would catapult him into the top 15 of the UFC's most crowded division.

It is tough to determine what would happen in the case of a Story victory on Saturday because the UFC could opt to have Story take on another contender, or move him up the ladder and give him a shot at a top 15 opponent.

It seems more than likely the UFC would choose the latter; If that is the case, fights against Dong Hyun Kim and Jordan Mein sound intriguing enough.

Rory MacDonald

Rory MacDonald has the most to win and lose on Saturday out of all 44 fighters competing in the UFC doubleheader. Can the longtime shadow of Georges St-Pierre finally capture his spotlight by taking out the former Strikeforce welterweight champion Tarec Saffiedine?

If MacDonald wins, he is next in line for a UFC title shot against either Johny Hendricks or Robbie Lawler; who battle it out once again for the belt at UFC 181. Lose to Saffiedine, and "Ares" may not see a title shot for another year or longer. It is truly that cut and dry for the Tristar Gym product.

The win over "Sponge" alone is not what will earn MacDonald the title shot, rather it would be his three straight victories over top 10 opponents.

Many thought Rory would follow in Georges St-Pierre's footsteps once the longtime champion vacated his title, but nine months later he finds himself one win shy of fighting for UFC gold.

Tarec Saffiedine

Pulling out of two of his three scheduled UFC bouts (citing injury) did not bode well for Tarec Saffiedine thus far in his UFC career.

After defeating Nate Marquardt for the Strikeforce title in January 2013, many expected Saffiedine to be only one win away from a UFC title shot once the competing roster was folded in.

Unfortunately for Saffiedine, he was forced to pull out of a fight with the streaking Robbie Lawler at UFC on FOX 8 in 2013, and Lawler ultimately went on to fight for the UFC title only two bouts later.

Saffiedine's forsaken opportunities soon became a common occurrence, as he missed out on the chance to fight top 10 ranked welterweight Jake Ellenberger twice in the span of four months in early 2014 due to injuries.

Heading into Saturday night, "Sponge" will have fought only once under the UFC banner in nearly 22 months.

Lucky for Saffiedine, the UFC granted him a monumental bout against the No. 2 ranked fighter in the division. If he pulls off the upset, the Belgian brawler could get the next shot at the title, or face off against Hector Lombard in a No. 1 contender fight.

That's a wrap.

Check out the latest UFC Fight Night 53 event card and line up right here. For UFC Fight Night 54 event card and bout order click here.

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