After the outstanding UFC 185 pay-per-view (PPV) event last weekend in Dallas, Texas, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to Brazil for a welterweight showdown between ranked 170-pounders looking to make a statement in the stacked division.
Former middleweight No. 1 contender Demian Maia returns to the Octagon this Saturday night (March 21, 2015) in hopes of securing his second straight victory when he takes on the undefeated Ryan LaFlare in the main event of UFC Fight Night 62, live on FOX Sports 1 from inside Ginásio do Maracanãzinho in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The co-main event features yet another 170-pound contest as Brazilian fan-favorite Erick Silva looks to earn his first UFC winning streak when he takes on late replacement, Josh Koscheck. The former welterweight No. 1 contender just recently fought on the UFC 184 PPV, getting choked out by Jake Ellenberger, and yet just three weeks later "Kos" will step back into the cage in Brazil.
With a fight card crippled by injuries and lacking major name value, MMAmania.com pondered "Five Burning Questions" heading into Saturday night.
5. Can UFC Fight Night 62 deliver without any high-profile bouts?
The last several UFC events have seen star after star, prospect after prospect, and yet fans in Brazil this weekend are left with a shell of a formerly-enticing "Fight Night" event thanks in large part to numerous injuries.
Besides losing a sensational bantamweight main event between top contenders Urijah Faber and Raphael Assuncao, UFC brass were also forced to pull the always-exciting Ben Saunders, former Strikeforce champ Josh Thomson, and Matt Wiman from the card due to injuries, as well.
The "name" fighters left on this card include Demian Maia, Erick Silva, Josh Koscheck, and maybe the women's bantamweight fight between Amanda Nunes and Shayna Baszler.
Although this card may be weak on paper, these are often the events that become a diamond in the rough in hindsight. Who knows? Maybe fight fans are in for a night full of action-packed finishes and fun fights.
One can only hope.
4. Does Andre Fili have what it takes to become a legitimate contender in the featherweight division?
When Andre Fili made his UFC debut back at UFC 166 -- knocking out Jeremy Larsen in the second round -- MMA fans were giddy with excitement at the prospect of yet another impressive Team Alpha Male talent making his way into the Octagon.
UFC promoters obviously saw something in "Touchy," giving him a PPV slot his next time out against the dangerous Max Holloway. In an exciting affair, the Team Alpha Male product ended up submitting to a deep guillotine with only about a minute and a half left in the fight.
Did Fili bite off more than he can chew? Maybe, but is sure seems that he has the backing to become a true contender.
In his return bout, Fili put in an impressive performance over Felipe Arantes, and now once again finds himself fighting as the main card opener this Saturday night.
Taking on eccentric striker Godofredo Castro, this match-up is fine tuned for "Touchy" to put on a sensational performance. If Fili makes easy work of his Brazilian foe, expect to see him rise up the ranks and begin his run at a UFC title.
3. Is Gilbert Burns a future title contender?
Gilbert Burns is one of the more unheralded prospects in UFC right now. The 9-0 Brazilian has looked dominant in his two Octagon victories, but let's not pretend he has fought anyone of caliber just yet.
"Durinho" was set to take a huge step up in competition this weekend when he was scheduled to face off against Josh Thomson, but an injury to the former Strikeforce champ yanked him from the card.
UFC brass opted to sign another Brazilian prospect, Alex Oliveira, to take Thomson's place, so it will be difficult to gauge where Burns stacks up against the elite contenders this weekend.
If the Blackzilians product can handily defeat the 10-1 Oliveira, I suspect UFC matchmakers to give the Brazilian another ranked opponent, and hopefully this time the injury bug will stay away.
2. Can Amanda Nunes rebound from her vicious TKO loss to Cat Zingano?
Amanda Nunes was so close to a UFC title shot, she could taste it way back at UFC 178 last September.
In the opening bout on PPV, "The Lioness" took on No. 1 contender Cat Zingano in a title eliminator bout, and the Brazilian nearly made a major statement by finishing the formerly undefeated "Alpha" in the very first round via strikes.
Instead, Nunes was on the wrong side of a awe-inspiring comeback that saw Zingano savagely beat down the Brazilian in the second and third rounds before the referee mercifully called an end to the bout when "Alpha" was raining down hammerfists in full mount.
That fight was nearly half a year ago, and "The Lioness" is set to return against the scrappy veteran Shayna Baszler this weekend. With UFC champ Ronda Rousey in desperate need of contenders, Nunes has a real chance to stake her claim as a legitimate challenger to "Rowdy's" throne.
1. Is Demian Maia Ryan LaFlare's first true test?
So maybe Demian Maia vs Ryan LaFlare should not be a five-round fight, and maybe it never deserved to be the main event of UFC Fight Night 62 in the first place, but sometimes in MMA, you have to work with what is given to you.
Ultimately, this is a pretty intriguing 170-pound contest pitting one of the truly great jiu-jitsu artists in MMA against a rising, athletic, and undefeated contender in Ryan LaFlare. To make it all the more exciting, the New York native has quite the grappling acumen himself.
While we are all likely dreaming of a fight chock full of sweeps, submission attempts, and high-level grappling, let's not pretend this fight can't quickly become a snoozefest.
Regardless of the quality of this bout, LaFlare's 11-0 record can not go unnoticed and his four UFC victories are quite impressive, even though the fighters he has beaten do not hold any weight in comparison to Demian Maia. Had Ryan finished any of his four UFC fights, he likely would have fought a top contender long ago, but he finally gets his crack at the top 10 this Saturday night.
If LaFlare wants to make a statement, he needs to go out there and put it on Maia. He needs to show that the 37-year old has no business being in the Octagon with him, because at 31 years old himself, LaFlare doesn't have much longer to make a run at UFC gold.
While we are certainly all hoping for an intriguing battle, the real storyline is whether or not the undefeated welterweight can pick up an impressive -- and dominant -- victory in enemy territory.
For more information on UFC Fight Night 62, including the full fight card, results, news, and more, click here.