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UFC 180 'Winner's Circle' preview for 'Werdum vs. Hunt' PPV in Mexico

What could victory mean for Fabricio Werdum, Mark Hunt, Jake Ellenberger, and Kelvin Gastelum ahead of their respective marquee bouts this weekend (Sat., Nov. 15, 2014) at Arena Ciudad de Mexico in Mexico City? ponders the consequences below.

Bradley Kanaris

As the old adage goes, winning is everything.

In the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA), each successive bout could mean the difference between earning a title shot or earning a pink slip, so victory is paramount. MMA fans care about "what have you done for me lately," so you are truly only as good as your last performance.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to the pay-per-view (PPV) market this weekend (Sat., Nov. 15, 2014) with the promotion's first offering in Mexico as UFC 180: "Werdum vs Hunt" will go down live from the Arena Ciudad de Mexico in Mexico City. While the undercard may be littered with names you have likely never heard of before, the five-fight PPV card is quite enticing.

In the main event of the evening, Mark "The Super Samoan" Hunt makes his unheralded trek to the Octagon in order to fight Fabricio "Vai Cavalo" Werdum for the interim UFC heavyweight championship. Hunt took the title fight in elevation against Werdum once undisputed champion Cain Velasquez bowed out with a knee injury last month. Just three weeks after accepting the short notice bout, Hunt will face off against Werdum in what is now a highly anticipated main event that could go down in the record books.

The co-main event features two staunch welterweights moving in opposite directions in their respective careers. The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 17 winner Kelvin Gastelum looks to improve his undefeated record to 10-0 as he takes on No. 7 ranked Jake Ellenberger. "The Juggernaut" has lost two straight to top contenders, and has not won a fight since March of 2013, while Gastelum is 4-0 in his UFC career, clearly improving each time out.

With so much on the line for the four headlining fighters heading into this weekend's PPV, let's take a glimpse into the future and predict what victory could potentially mean for each competitor.

Fabricio Werdum

While Mark Hunt is no easy fight for any man, the title is clearly Fabricio Werdum's to lose on Saturday evening. In the quintessential striker vs. grappler match up, Werdum has the decided advantage on the mat, and many expect him to leave Mexico with the gold strap, as well as Hunt's arm.

Not only is Werdum the most dangerous submission artist in the heavyweight division, he will be taking on a man who had very little time to prepare for both the fight itself, as well as the elevation in Mexico. If you recall, Hunt once fought at elevation back at UFC 135 in Denver, and that ended with a deplorable decision victory over Ben Rothwell. If Hunt's gas tank fails him early, Werdum could be waltzing his way back to Brazil with UFC gold.

If the jiu-jitsu legend is able to secure the interim title, "Vai Cavalo" will likely take on undisputed champion Cain Velasquez when he returns in March or April, barring any further injury to the behemoth.

Considering Velasquez is having issues staying healthy, UFC will likely have a secondary option for Werdum to fight the winner of Stipe Miocic vs. Junior Dos Santos, if Velasquez is not ready to battle until next summer.

Mark Hunt

Bah Gawd Almighty if Mark Hunt leaves the Octagon with UFC gold around his waist Saturday night.

Even with all the cards stacked against him, and the odds heavily in favor of his Brazilian foe, no one can ever count out "The Super Samoan." Only four years ago, Hunt had increased his losing streak to six straight after being submitted in his UFC debut by Sean McCorkle (Yes, really Sean McCorkle).

Four years later, Hunt is just days away from becoming the most unheralded champion in UFC history (sorry TJ Dillashaw). In his sensational career resurgence, Hunt has won five of his last seven bouts, including a draw against Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva last December in arguably the greatest heavyweight fight in UFC history.

If Hunt is able to knock out Werdum in similar fashion to the way Junior dos Santos folded "Vai Cavalo" and leave Mexico with UFC gold, "The Super Samoan" will find himself fighting arguably the greatest heavyweight in MMA history when Velasquez returns in March.

Again, if Velasquez is not prepared to fight in early 2015, Hunt could defend the title against the winner of Stipe Miocic vs. Junior Dos Santos, and who wouldn't want to see a Dos Santos vs. Hunt rematch?

Kelvin Gastelum

Welcome to the big time Mr. Gastelum, are you prepared?

Kelvin Gastelum has looked absolutely sensational since winning TUF 17, and nothing seems to be slowing down the 23-year old's hype train heading into UFC 180. With four UFC victories already under his belt, the 11th place in the welterweight rankings solidified, and a home crowd in Mexico, Gastelum will look to make a big statement by defeating Jake Ellenberger this weekend.

While we can go on regarding Ellenberger's losing streak as of late, let me remind you that his losses came against the two top contenders in the division in Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald. Ellenberger has defeated nearly every other welterweight put in front of him, including vicious knockouts over Jake Shields, Mike Pyle, and Nate Marquardt.

With that being said, a win over Ellenberger would be a huge feather in Gastelum's cap, and would catapult him up the rankings en route to a potential title shot in 2015. While Gastelum would still need at least two more victories after dispatching of Ellenberger, there is no question a marquee fight is in the near future for the TUF product.

While a ton of variables will affect who Gastelum fights next, the most important is how well he performs on Saturday night. If Gastelum eeks out a decision, he likely won't get a shot at a top contender next. If Gastelum finishes Ellenberger emphatically, then he would likely earn a main event spot on some "Fight Night" card against Tyron Woodley, Carlos Condit, or even Demian Maia in early 2015.

Jake Ellenberger

Jake Ellenberger has fought twice in the past 17 months, losing both fights thanks in large part to his unwillingness to exchange with his dangerous opponents. Regardless, "The Juggernaut" is somehow still ranked, and actually moved up one spot to No. 7 this past week for no reason at all.

Anyhow, Ellenberger is still a very good fighter, but he desperately needs to find the killer instinct he had back in 2010-2012 when he went 7-1, including four (technical) knockout finishes. Ellenberger's once guaranteed violence has now succumbed into a shell of the fighter he once was.

If Ellenberger ever wants to fight for UFC gold, he must defeat Gastelum this weekend. In order to beat Gastelum, Ellenberger will need to bring back the violence he was once so adored for. If "The Juggernaut" makes an emphatic return by taking out Gastelum, he will be right back on track en route to a UFC title shot.

Considering Ellenberger's inactivity as of late, you have to believe UFC and Ellenberger himself would like to get right back into the cage. A good fight for early 2015 would be against Demian Maia, but that is contingent upon the Brazilian returning from a severe bone infection.

If Maia is unavailable, a fight against Dong Hyun Kim could provide copious amount of violence and excitement. If UFC doesn't want to match up Kim with a top contender following his loss to Tyron Woodley, Ellenberger would likely face off against Rick Story.

That about does it.

For all the latest UFC 180: "Werdum vs Hunt" news, information, updated fight card, and more click here.

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