What could victory mean for Michael Bisping, Cung Le, Benson Henderson and Rafael dos Anjos ahead of their respective main event battles this upcoming weekend (Sat., Aug. 23, 2014) in Macau and Tulsa? We explore the consequences for each fighter below.
Win at all costs!
UFC Fight Night 48: "Bisping vs. Le" takes place this Saturday (Aug. 23, 2014) from Cotai Arena in Macau, China, and in the Fight Pass main event, Michael Bisping will aim for a return to form against former Strikeforce Middleweight champion Cung Le.
Bisping's lost his last bout to Tim Kennedy at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Nations" Finale in Quebec City, while Le looks to continue his win streak after defeating Rich Franklin (UFC on Fuel TV 6) and Patrick Cote (UFC 148).
Several hours later, the action resumes on FOX Sports 1 as Benson Henderson battles Rafael dos Anjos in the main event of UFC Fight Night 49: "Henderson vs. Dos Anjos," which takes place at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Since losing the UFC lightweight strap to Anthony Pettis, "Smooth" is 2-0 with a controversial win over Josh Thomson (UFC on FOX 10) and a submission victory against Rustam Khabilov (UFC Fight Night 42). Meanwhile, dos Anjos has gathered a record of 10-5 inside the Octagon, with key wins over Donald Cerrone (UFC Fight Night 27), Evan Dunham (UFC on FX 8) and Jason High (UFC Fight Night 42), among others.
With the majority of this weekend'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.
A victory for the Englishman wouldn't really change much in terms of where his career is heading, to be honest, but instead keep him grounded.
Bisping desperately needs to defeat Cung Le to shake off the gatekeeper tag that fans will be quick to label him by, since he hasn't fought for a title yet in UFC. After seeing how Tim Kennedy controlled him for nearly 25 minutes in his last bout, a middleweight championship bout seems that much further away.
If Bisping defeats Le, the return to form would allow him to challenge someone in the top 5. To the Brit's credit, he's still a tough match up for anyone, and he's favored more often than not when it comes to his adversaries. Plus, Bisping has fought a number of high-level competitors during his near eight-year UFC stint. He could expect someone like Luke Rockhold, or the winner of Ronaldo Souza vs. Gegard Mousasi if he finishes (or even dominates) his foe on Saturday.
A loss would all but confirm Bisping's best days are behind him, making him a marquee name to promote easily when trying to generate interest for upcoming fight cards.
Le seems like an enigma at this point of his career.
The former Strikeforce champ, who dabbles into Hollywood for numerous acting roles, doesn't fight too often. He's 42 years old, fighting three times in nearly three years under contract with UFC.
It remains to be seen if Le's sole purpose in the sport is to take superfights, or if he's waiting on an opportunity to cash in and capitalize. In other words, maybe Le doesn't want to rush anything, but a victory over Bisping would get people talking.
Let's say the accomplished kickboxer beats his opponent on Saturday; that leaves us with another middleweight contender who just knocked off one of the division's most consistent fighters to boast about.
UFC wouldn't really force Le into a spot he's not comfortable in, but they'd definitely present him with more options against the 185-pound division's best fighters. Maybe Le would lay low, and opt for another superfight. Then again, the same rewards that would be given to Bisping could be handed to Le if he can topple the Brit and hijack his post-fight plans.
"Smooth" told his lightweight counterparts that if they desire a title shot, they have to get through him first.
Now, Henderson is nowhere near stepping stone status. The former UFC and WEC lightweight champion could still be the second best fighter in all of the weight class, since his past includes four successful title defenses under the Zuffa regime (despite the close split decision bouts).
A betting man would tell you Henderson wouldn't acquire a title shot with a win, but he'd definitely be pitted in a title eliminator bout next. With Khabib Nurmagomedov not far away, and a score to settle between Donald Cerrone vs. Eddie Alvarez at UFC 178, "Bendo's" agenda is certainly booked.
It also should be noted that Henderson is currently 9-1 inside the Octagon, and he's more or less going to win against anyone not in the top 5. That isn't a knock on dos Anjos, but it's expected of "Smooth" to have his way against foes ranked below him.
Simply put, a win for Henderson would be business as usual.
Rafael dos Anjos
Having said that for "Bendo," it's not like the Brazilian secures a title shot if he wins, yet maybe he would get similar treatment.
Dos Anjos would probably find himself against the winner of UFC 178's co-main event, considering Nurmagomedov defeated him not too long ago. Then again, dos Anjos has a win over Cerrone already, which makes his case pretty interesting.
The Brazilian has the tools to beat anyone in the division, although he doesn't do so well against wrestlers and high-level grapplers. If he pulls off the upset in Tulsa, it would be a massive statement. Since the lightweight division is more packed than a Saturday at the waterslides, there's going to be a significant fight waiting for the Brazilian if he defeats a former champion. After all, dos Anjos is 6-1 since 2012.
If beating Henderson makes you deserving of a title fight, then dos Anjos may feel like his work would be done, but he would still need another big win to solidify his status as a number one contender.
Be that as it may, we may have a fighter in an unusual but comfortable situation come Sunday morning, and there's no doubt it would be the biggest victory of dos Anjos' decade-long career.
It just ruffles up the division, which can be both a good and bad thing.
For more on both cards, check out our event pages including bout order and set times, here and here.