With mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters often competing less than four times each calendar year, winning each bout is absolutely critical to maintaining a job in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), as well as ascending the rankings en route to a title shot.
For the four headlining fighters in this weekend's UFC fiesta in Australia and Brazil, a win could mean the difference between a title shot and potentially fighting on a preliminary card.
This Friday (Nov. 7, 2014), UFC kicks off its weekend of events with a trip to Sydney, Australia for UFC Fight Night 55: "Rockhold vs. Bisping" streaming live on UFC Fight Pass from the Allphones Arena. In the evening's main event, British scallywag Michael Bisping looks to shut the mouth of his bitter rival and former Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold.
On Saturday (Nov. 8), UFC returns to Brazil for UFC Fight Night 56: "Shogun vs. St. Preux" live from the Ginasio Municipal Tancredo Neves in Uberlandia airing on FOX Sports 1 (FS1). In the main event, former UFC light heavyweight champion and Brazilian MMA legend Mauricio Rua takes on former Tennessee Volunteers football player turned MMA fighter Ovince St. Preux.
With consequential match ups in both the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions going down this weekend, let's take a glimpse into the future and predict what victory could potentially mean for all four competitors.
Michael Bisping has experienced what many would call a "roller coaster of a career" in MMA. After winning the third season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) back in 2006, Bisping has gone on to become one of the biggest names in the history of the sport thanks in large part to his British heritage, brash trash talking, and an effective fighting style.
Unfortunately for Bisping, his 15 career UFC victories have yet to yield a title shot. The elusive crack at the belt has certainly haunted the Brit, but with a win over Luke Rockhold this weekend in Sydney, Bisping could very well find himself one win away from the apex.
In the current scheme of the log-jammed middleweight division, even a wildly impressive and shocking first round finish over Rockhold would likely have the former TUF winner sitting behind Jacare Souza and Yoel Romero in the pecking order.
With Vitor Belfort getting his crack at UFC champion Chris Weidman in February, a Bisping win this weekend would set him up nicely for a No. 1 contender fight against the winner of Lyoto Machida vs. CB Dollaway this coming December.
If Souza and Romero fight for the top spot in January, we would likely see the next middleweight title bout in May or June. That would leave Bisping to fight either Machida or Dollaway in March or April, before potentially fighting for the belt in August or September of 2015.
Luke Rockhold is a big time favorite this weekend over Bisping, and a victory could potentially garner the former Strikeforce champion a UFC title shot.
Rockhold is currently ranked fifth in the middleweight division, behind Jacare Souza whom he holds a victory over back in Strikeforce. Unfortunately for Rockhold, MMA is a sport of "what have you done for me lately" and Jacare has yet to lose in his UFC career.
Although Rockhold may not understand the rankings, he knows that in order to leapfrog Yoel Romero and Jacare, he must emphatically defeat Bisping on Friday night.
Competing in a division stacked with contenders, Rockhold would probably have to fight once more before getting a title shot, and it would likely be against the winner of Lyoto Machida vs. CB Dollaway in early 2015.
Since losing his UFC title to Jon Jones in March 2011, Rua is a ghastly 3-4 in his last seven bouts. To make matters worse, the Brazilian is 1-3 over his last four, which has many pundits and fans alike howling from their rooftops for the legend to retire.
Unbelievably, the promotion's light heavyweight division is so pathetically thin that Rua is somehow ranked No. 9. The former champ is actually ranked higher than his foe Ovince St. Preux, who at No. 10, is 4-1 in his UFC career.
Regardless of the rankings, the paltry amount of contenders in the division could allow Shogun an unheralded title shot in 2015 if he strings a few wins together. His main event bout on Saturday night is essentially a must-win in terms of the title picture, as well as his overall career.
If Shogun does pull out the victory against the late replacement in St. Preux, he could be slated to fight either Ryan Bader in a contender bout, or potentially re-book the Jimi Manuwa fight. While some may call for a bout against Glover Teixeira, now is a good time to remind you that Shogun allegedly would have rather been cut then fight his Brazilian brethren.
Either way, Shogun is sitting in a deep hole going into Saturday night, but the proverbial ladder to the top is being lowered for him. Now we will have to wait and see if the legend can pull himself out.
Ovince St. Preux
Let this one sink in folks: Ovince St. Preux will have headlined two UFC events in 2014 by the time this weekend is over.
Anywho, it isn't St. Preux's fault that Jimi Manuwa broke his foot just a week before being scheduled to face off against Shogun. "OSP" is simply benefiting from other's misfortunes, and is now getting a chance to add a huge name to his resume while ascending the light heavyweight division's rankings.
Currently ranked at No. 10, St. Preux would still likely fight someone in the 11-15 range if he pulls out the victory in enemy territory on Saturday night. Considering OSP was thoroughly dominated by No. 8 ranked Ryan Bader just over two months ago, it would be tough to reason how he could fight anyone ranked higher.
That being said, a win for St. Preux would likely garner a bout against Brazilian bruiser Fabio Maldonado or British slugger Jimi Manuwa.
That's a wrap!
Check out the latest UFC Fight Night 55 event card and line up right here. For UFC Fight Night 56 event card and bout order click here.