In a sport where it only takes a mere second to be separated from your consciousness, winning is truly paramount.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to Brazil for the seventh time this year as the world's leading mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion plans to close out 2014 with a bang.
In the main event of the evening, and the final UFC fight of the year, former light heavyweight champion Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida will look to re-establish himself as a top contender by taking out the streaking CB "The Doberman" Dollaway.
The co-main event will feature the return of the former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao, who will look to put his UFC 177 weight mishap behind him as he takes on the dangerous Canadian Mitch Gagnon.
With victory meaning the difference between a potential title shot or falling out of the rankings, this weekend's marquee bouts could not be more consequential for the four fighters involved. With that being said, let's take a glimpse into the future and predict what victory could potentially mean for each competitor.
If "The Dragon" ever wants to rematch Chris Weidman, or fight for UFC gold once more, he must defeat CB Dollaway this weekend.
Regardless of how improved Dollaway has become, nearly everyone is picking the former light heavyweight champion to beat "The Doberman" in Brazil. A loss, in any fashion, would be absolutely crippling for Machida at this point in his career.
Machida is 36 years old, and there is no doubt his prime is slowly slipping away from him each and every fight. Of course that is not to say Machida cannot still earn the UFC title in 2015, but he must defeat Dollaway in order to remain in the division's top five.
If Machida does in fact do away with "The Doberman" this Saturday, I would expect to see the former champion back in a No. 1 contender fight early next year.
Considering the champion Chris Weidman won't defend his belt until late February against Vitor Belfort at UFC 184, expect to see Machida take on No. 5-ranked Luke Rockhold sometime in March or April.
With top contenders Yoel Romero and Jacare Souza battling it out for the No. 1 contender spot at UFC 184 as well, you likely won't see Rockhold or Machida fight for the belt until late next year.
Currently sitting at No. 10 in the middleweight rankings, CB Dollaway could make huge waves by upsetting Lyoto Machida this weekend in hostile territory.
Heading into this fight, Dollaway should be on a five fight winning streak, with his only loss coming via a horrendous robbery of a decision against Tim Boetsch at UFC 166. Even with momentum on his side, few are giving "The Doberman" a chance against the former champion this weekend.
In fact, many expect Dollaway to meet the same fate as his teammate Ryan Bader did when he took on Machida back in 2012. On that fateful evening, Machida stymied the wrestler until Bader lunged in and met the brick wall that is Machida's right hand, sending him into the realm of unconsciousness.
Dollaway better be prepared to take on the difficult style of Machida, and if he can figure out the Brazilian enigma, the Arizonian could leapfrog a bevy of contenders en route to a top five spot in the rankings.
If Dollaway pulls off the upset in Brazil, I expect him to take on Luke Rockhold next year in a No. 1 contender bout.
Renan Barao may have the most on the line of any fighter this weekend at UFC Fight Night 58.
Fighting for the first time since losing his belt via vicious beatdown at the hands of TJ Dillashaw this past May, Barao is taking on the wildly underrated Mitch Gagnon.
Before we discuss the importance of Barao defeating Gagnon inside the Octagon this Saturday, it must be mentioned that Barao's weight cut is equally as important as the fight itself.
Back at UFC 177, Barao was set to rematch Dillashaw for the bantamweight strap, but a failed weight-cut forced the former champion out of the fight just hours before the weigh-in. Obviously Dana White and Co. were upset with Barao, and his "punishment" was losing the opportunity to fight for the belt.
Now back to Saturday night; If Barao defeats Gagnon in similar vein to his performances as UFC champion and prior, expect to see him take on Dillashaw or Dominick Cruz once those two settle the score in 2015.
A loss for Barao could be crippling for the former champion, and it may mark the end of his time in the bantamweight division altogether.
The upstart Canadian has a huge opportunity in front of him this Saturday, and a win at UFC Fight Night 58 would literally change Mitch Gagnon's life.
When this bout was initially announced, fans and pundits alike were flabbergasted that Gagnon, the No. 14 ranked bantamweight, was getting a crack at No. 1 Renan Barao.
The fact is, however, that nearly every other bantamweight was booked or injured when UFC matched these two men up for the year's final event, and Gagnon deserves a chance to prove he is elite.
With four straight victories, including three outstanding finishes, Gagnon could turn the entire division on its head by defeating Barao this weekend. If the Canadian can put in his best career performance, he will be an elite bantamweight come Sunday morning.
In his UFC career, Gagnon has faced only one ranked opponent, losing to Bryan Caraway via submission in his UFC debut back in 2012. A little over two years later, Gagnon is getting the opportunity of a lifetime to take on a former champion. A win could catapult him into stardom, and potentially a No. 1 contender bout in early 2015.
That's a wrap!
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