A win's a win.
UFC 174: "Johnson vs. Bagautinov" takes place this upcoming Saturday night (June 14, 2014) at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and the featured fights should be plenty of fun.
In the main event, Demetrious Johnson defends his flyweight championship against Ali Bagautinov. "Mighty Mouse" has won five straight fights, including four title tussles.
Rory MacDonald faces Tyron Woodley in the co-main event, as both competitors will certainly need a finish to acquire a 170-pound title shot. UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks is supposedly facing the winner of Robbie Lawler vs. Matt Brown at UFC on FOX 12 when he recovers from his gnarly bicep surgery.
With the majority of this card's excitement focused on these two bouts, let's look into the near future and map out what a victory might mean for these four competitors.
As someone who contributes to the SB Nation rankings panel, it's hard to say what pound-for-pound even means. It's clear many feel the ranking system is useless, because of so many difficulties in trying to explain what the reasoning behind it is.
Does it mean the best fighters in the world in their respective weight classes, or does it entail those fighters competing against one another? Do we just pile up who we think is the best, even though there is no official system to contest our choices?
Whatever the case may be, Johnson undoubtedly holds a place there. He's one of the slickest fighters in the world, slowing clawing and climbing up the ranks as the best fighter on the planet. Of course, he's got stiff competition in that regard, and nobody would pick him over Jon Jones, Jose Aldo, or Cain Velasquez if this sport worked with fantasy drafts.
Still, his talent leaves viewers awestruck when they analyze his movements and skills inside the Octagon. He's defending the flyweight gold for the fourth time, after destroying Joseph Benavidez by knockout in his latest outing at UFC on FOX 9 in December.
Naysayers will point to his difficulties in overcoming John Dodson early on in their fight, and against Ian McCall in their first scrap, but quite frankly, if "Mighty Mouse" beats Bagautinov by being utterly commanding, it would be delusional to rank him outside of the top five fighters walking the earth today ... no matter how you like to make your lists.
A lot of the focus is on the champion, which is understandable. It was much of the same story when Renan Barao was defending his title against T.J. Dillashaw. A lot of pundits thought the Team Alpha Male youngster would get manhandled by the Brazilian, but we were in for a huge surprise when the time came for them to clash.
It's understandable at the moment that Johnson isn't as revered as Barao was (or arguably still is); yet an upset win for the Dagestani would be of similar magnitude. If we believe every competitor has a chance to win on any given night, we have to consider a combatant who's named "Puncher King" has more than just a puncher's chance.
Obviously, it's going to be extremely difficult for him to keep up with "Mighty Mouse's" speed, agility, and combinations, but if he can get the job done, he scores the biggest victory of his life while becoming only the second flyweight champion in the organization's history.
Since very few will be picking Bagautinov to win the battle, his victory would be a pretty big overturn, simply because his foe is considered as one of the world's best fighters and he's not expected to challenge him whatsoever.
If you've been keeping up with this sport for a while now, you'd know of MacDonald's capabilities, and the hype behind him. At the tender age of 24, "Ares" has already been considered as the heir to Georges St-Pierre, expected to do similar damage in the welterweight division as the years progress.
However, a few lackluster performances and a big stumble cost him his chance at a title shot, which isn't guaranteed for him or his opponent if either of them is victorious on Saturday night. Winning is everything in this sport, no matter how the job is done. UFC President Dana White likes to pressure fighters into being exciting so the fans would beg for a certain individual to be placed in a championship bout, yet it's not the case with everyone.
The Canadian has to stick to his guns in that regard, no matter how boring some onlookers believe he is.
His performances over Nate Diaz, B.J. Penn and Demian Maia were some of his most dominant over the cream of the crop when it comes to competition, and if he defeats Woodley in similar fashion, he can't expect a crack at the gold if it looks anything like his performance against Jake Ellenberger.
If he finishes the former Strikeforce challenger, then that eases the tension on his mind, while it transfers over to both Robbie Lawler and Matt Brown. It would also help his case when predicting who the next big welterweight star could be.
The same could be said for Woodley, who's brought forth more of an exciting style in UFC due to his power and finishes, but he hasn't really gained the same backing as his opponent.
He's also taken some criticism for believing he finished Carlos Condit when many observers feel "Natural Born Killer's" injuries were more of a freak accident during their UFC 171 co-main event.
If "Chosen One" defeats MacDonald, it puts him on the map as a welterweight fighter who may be able to accomplish great feats in the future. If he scores a finish, he's more or less the frontrunner for the welterweight belt, since he would have three finishes in his last three fights.
That's something the promotion can't really overlook.
But more importantly, it would transform him into one of the best welterweights on the planet. His questionable split decision loss against Jake Shields at UFC 161 was unfortunate, but the fan base still has his knockout loss to Nate Marquardt two years ago in Strikeforce planted in their heads. "T-Wood" isn't the same fighter as he used to be back then, and crushing "Ares" would prove it.
That said, it's important he wins big and convinces the brass he's a force to be reckoned with, because a loss tosses him out of contention faster than a Frisbee.
That just about does it.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 174 fight card on fight night, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, right on through the FX-televised under card bouts at 8 p.m. ET and then main card PPV, which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET.
See you then!