(article by Adam LeBarr/ image via Zuffa LLC)
Saturday, May 24th, the UFC heads to Las Vegas, Nevada for UFC 173: Renan Barao vs. TJ Dillashaw. What was originally set to be Chris Weidman defending his title against Vitor Belfort/Lyoto Machida was quickly sidelined due to injured, leaving Dana White (President of the UFC) and the rest of the organization to find a replacement.
Now, the current Bantamweight champion, Renan Barao is set to defend his championship against ranked #4 TJ Dillashaw.
Jamie Varner vs. James Krause -
Jamie Varner and James Krause are set to open the PPV (Pay-Per-View) fight card, and after a rocky couples of years, both are going to be looking to set the bar high for the rest of the fight card.
Both Varner and Krause are 1-3 in their last 4 fights, another loss for either of these lightweight warriors could make or break their career with the UFC.
Jamie Varner's previous preference against Abel Trujillo was one for the ages, and possibly in the running for top fight of 2014. After pushing the pace, and dominating in many different areas, nearing the end of the fight, Trujillo landed with a devastating hook, putting Varner to the mat, resulting in a KO (knockout) defeat. He was dominant prior to the knockout blow, and that kind of loss leaves us to believe he's only going to come back stronger, with fire in his eyes.
Pick: Jamie Varner
Takeya MIzugaki vs. Francisco Rivera -
Mizugaki, ranked #4 in the bantamweight division takes on ranked #10, Rivera, and there's one thing that sticks out like a sore thumb and that's that Rivera is a dangerous finisher, as to where Mizugaki is 4-1 in his last 5 fights, all ending via: Decision.
Both are on impressive streaks, and with a fight finish this weekend, they're nearing closer and closer to the championship gold. That I can only assume will bring the best out of both Mizugaki and Rivera, presenting the fans around the world with a fast-paced war. If Mizugaki's in search of an impressive finish, he can bet Rivera's doing the same, looking to move further and further through the top 10 rankings.
Pick: Francisco Rivera
Robbie Lawler vs. Jake Ellenberger -
Georges St-Pierre just months ago made the announcement that he was taking a break from MMA and would vacate his title, leaving Robbie Lawler, currently ranked #1 in the welterweight division to take on Johny Hendricks. In a 5 round back and forth war, it was Hendricks who would walk out the champion after holding 'Ruthless' on the mat in the 5th and final round, leaving Lawler in disappointment, and on the immediate road back to the top spot.
There's one man in the way of Lawler possibly getting another shot at Hendricks, and that's ranked #5, Jake Ellenberger. Ellenberger's coming off of a tough loss to Rory MacDonald, but previous to that, he was on a division tear, dominating some of the best welterweights in the world. This is now his time to prove he's worth of the top 5, and also a title shot.
Robbie Lawler lost to Hendricks in a close, close fight, and that's just it - It was insanely close. Lawler has been the only man to deliver that kind of beating to Hendricks, and with the motivation to get back to the top, fighting for the world championship again, there seems to be no stopping 'Ruthless' Robbie Lawler.
Pick: Robbie Lawler
Daniel Cormier vs. Dan Henderson -
Daniel Cormier, ranked #4, a former heavyweight contender who was in line for a title shot stepped down to the light heavyweight division, avoiding a title fight against current training partner/friend, Cain Velasquez. While in the heavyweight/light heavyweight division, he has proven to be a dominant force, taking out all who stand in his way of the top spot.
Dan Henderson, ranked #6 is the one man left between Cormier and a long-awaited title shot.
Henderson, former Pride middleweight, welterweight and Grand Prix champion also is faced with the same opportunity. Winner of Cormier/Henderson will be rewarded a championship fight against the winner of Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson II (jones/gustafsson not 100% confirmed, White insists it's happening).
Henderson has some wicked power, the ability to put any man in the UFC to sleep. However, Cormier's speed, wrestling and ground dominance will be a huge factor in this fight if he's to preform as well as he has in his past performances.
Pick: Daniel Cormier
Renan Barao vs. TJ Dillashaw -
Leading up to this main-event title fight, many questioned if it will succeed as a PPV headliner. After Barao's years of dominance and the performance Dillashaw is coming off of, which led him to a victory over Mike Easton, we're left to assume this is going to be a fast, epic battle.
No one outside of the UFC or in have been able to figure out the current champion, Barao. Barao was awarded the title after Dominick Cruz was forced yet again to back out of a fight due to injury, leaving Dana White to strip Cruz of his championship, crowning Renan Barao the new bantamweight champion.
TJ Dillashaw's fast, and in his most recent fights, has displayed a whole new level of striking. Training with Team Alpha Male tends to do that to people...
Despite the power and speed Dillashaw possess, is it enough to dethrone who Dana White states is the #1 pound for pound fighter in the world, Renan Barao?
Pick: Renan Barao
Main Card (10pm EST):
Renan Barao vs. T.J. Dillashaw Title Fight
Daniel Cormier vs. Dan Henderson
Jake Ellenberger vs. Robbie Lawler
Takeya Mizugaki vs. Francisco Rivera
James Krause vs. Jamie Varner
FOX Sports 1 Prelims (8 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Michael Chiesa vs. Francisco Trinaldo
155 lbs.: Anthony Ferguson vs. Katsunori Kikuno
135 lbs.: Chris Holdsworth vs. Chico Camus
155 lbs.: Al Iaquinta vs. Mitch Clarke
Fight Pass Prelims (6:30 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Anthony Njokuani vs. Vinc Pichel
145 lbs.: Aaron Phillips vs. Sam Sicilia
170 lbs.: Jingliang Li vs. Danny Mitchell