The UFC is in one of those funky periods when the majority of its fight cards lack the type of name fighters that bring the casual fans out of the woodwork. Sunday’s UFC Fight Night 105 continues that trend.
But before you say, “Man, I’m not staying up on a Sunday night to watch some fighters I’ve never heard of when I have to be up for work on Monday morning,” take some time to consider what some of these fights mean more than just who’s fighting.
UFC Fight Night 105 takes place at Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. The card airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass. Here are 10 reasons to stay up late on a work night and watch the event.
It’s showtime for Lewis. If he defeats Browne at UFC Fight Night 105, he’ll set himself up for a fight against one of the handful of competitors who have dominated the heavyweight pecking order for the past few years.
Lewis, currently No. 9 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA heavyweight rankings, has won five straight heading into his fight against No. 13-ranked Browne and has ended four of those fights by knockout.
That run of dominance has put Lewis in direct competition with No. 11-ranked Francis Ngannou as the next big thing in the division.
The UFC has been in need of new heavyweight contenders for years, and if Lewis (17-4 MMA, 8-2 UFC) can get past Browne (18-5-1 MMA, 9-5-1 UFC), who’s not too far removed from fighting in a heavyweight title-elimination bout, expect him to get the first crack at the top of the division ahead of the still-developing Ngannou.
After a five-round unanimous-decision loss to Fabricio Werdum in April 2014, Browne left the coaching team of Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn and moved to Glendale Fight Club to train under Edmond Tarverdyan. The move has not paid dividends.
Since that change, Browne has gone 2-3, dropped from No. 5 in the heavyweight rankings to No. 13, and seemed to regress from well-rounded striker with a wide arsenal of techniques to a too-patient boxer.
Browne did make some changes ahead of this fight, moving his camp to Las Vegas, where he worked with Ricky Lundell and Ray Sefo, along with Tarverdyan.
Browne’s in danger of slipping from the top 15 in a rather shallow division, and the outcome of this fight could affect his future with the UFC. With that kind of pressure, it’ll be interesting to see what type of game plan Browne and his team bring into the cage against the surging Lewis.
Hendricks has had a tough go over the past year. He’s lost three straight, come in overweight twice, and had one fight canceled after a trip to the hospital following a rough weight cut. So, it’s easy to see why the former welterweight champion might be feeling discouraged.
Well, maybe more than a little discouraged. Hendricks (17-6 MMA, 12-6 UFC) recently said that if he loses this fight, his debut at middleweight, he’ll hang up his gloves.
Lombard (34-6-1 MMA, 3-4 UFC) is also in the midst of a rough patch. His January 2015 win over Josh Burkman was overturned and ruled a no-contest after he tested positive for a designer steroid. After serving a one-year suspension, Lombard came back to lose his next two fights by knockout.
With the UFC seeming to be in cost-cutting mode, neither of these fighters, both unranked at 185, can afford a tepid performance.
It can’t be easy making your UFC debut in front of a hometown crowd, but that’s what Tucker is doing in Halifax, where he meets Sam Sicilia in a featherweight contest.
While neither fighter has the name recognition usually associated with a main-card matchup, this is not a fight to plan your snack/bathroom break around.
Tucker (9-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) might not be as seasoned as Sicilia (15-7 MMA, 5-6 UFC), but he knows what to expect from his opponent. Sicilia is going to come forward and look to end his opponent’s night with his heavy hands. Don’t be surprised if Tucker, hoping to make a statement in his UFC debut, engages Sicilia in a toe-to-toe slugfest.
Shampoo endorser and romance-novel cover star Theodorou is on the brink of breaking into the top 15 of the middleweight division. With a win over Cezar Ferreira, he could make that leap, but it’s not going to be easy.
In his last fight, Theodorou used a smart game plan to avoid the strengths of his opponent, Sam Alvey. In that contest, Theodorou fought on the outside, never allowing Alvey to get close enough to land his counters. The biggest thing Theodorou has to worry about against Ferreira (11-5 MMA, 7-3 UFC) is the ground game, and that will be a huge concern for Theodorou (12-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC), who has defended fewer than 50 percent of his opponents’ takedowns.
With that being said, Ferreira recently told MMAjunkie that he plans on knocking out Theodorou before the end of the second round. If Ferreira sticks with that plan, he could be in trouble as four of his five career losses have come by way of knockout.
This is a critical fight for Esparza, the former strawweight champion and current No. 5 ranked fighter in the division. She could have fought sooner; the UFC wanted to match her up against No. 2 ranked Claudia Gadelha, but Esparza turned down that fight, saying she wanted “one non-title contention fight with an actual camp” before facing a top-ranked contender.
While that request is sensible, in the world of MMA, it will raise questions about Esparza’s confidence. It will also lead Markos (6-4 MMA, 2-3 UFC) to believe that Esparza (11-3 MMA, 2-1 UFC) is looking at her as little more than a tuneup fight to shake off the ring rust before she moves on to a “real” fight.
The debut of Zahabi, younger brother of famed Tristar Gym trainer Firas Zahabi, has received little notice ahead of UFC Fight Night 105. That may be by design; after all, having a famous brother isn’t always a blessing in MMA, and it almost automatically sets the bar incredibly high for the younger competitor.
Zahabi (6-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) enters his UFC bantamweight debut on a six-fight winning streak and has finished each of those fights in the first round, three by knockout and three by submission. He faces Reginaldo Vieira (13-4 MMA, 1-1 UFC), the winner of “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 4.”
It’s unlikely that Firas is sending Aiemann into the UFC unprepared, so while Aiemann has yet to face top quality opponents, you can be sure he’s drilled and sparred with the best that Tristar has to offer.
Vieira enters this fight coming off a July submission loss to Marco Beltran.
Former Cage Warriors middleweight champion Marshman entered the UFC with a fair amount of hype behind him. He didn’t disappoint in his debut, earning a TKO win and a “Performance of the Night” bonus against Magnus Cedenblad. At UFC Fight Night 105 Marshman (21-5 MMA, 1-0 UFC) takes a step up in competition and faces Thiago “Marreta” Santos (13-5 MMA, 5-4 UFC).
Santos was on a four-fight winning streak before Gegard Mousasi knocked him out at UFC 200. He followed that with a first-round submission loss to heavy underdog Eric Spicely at UFC Fight Night 95. To say Santos is desperate to get back on track would be an understatement.
This should be a fun kickboxing-based fight that could end at a moment’s notice.
Meerschaert made his UFC debut in December, and it was a memorable one. Meerschaert finished Joe Gigliotti with a smooth first-round anaconda choke, earning himself a “Performance of the Night” bonus. After the win, Meerschaert. a Team Roufusport middleweight announced, “My name’s ‘GM3,’ and I’m here to (expletive) up the whole middleweight division. Let’s go!”
Despite Meerschaert’s impressive win, his lengthy 33-fight resume and his callout of an entire division, UFC matchmakers decided against giving him a step up in competition. Meerschaert (25-8 MMA, 1-0 UFC) faces Ryan Janes (9-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC), who is coming off a unanimous-decision win over Keith Berish on the same card Meerschaert defeated Gigliotti..
Meerschaert looks like he could have a bright future in the division. If he gets another dominant win here, don’t be surprised if Meerschaert gets a chance to show what he can do against higher-level competition.
Last week the UFC gave fans a different commentary team when it rolled out the trio of Jon Anik, Joe Rogan and Daniel Cormier for UFC 208. At UFC Fight Night 105, the promotion scales things back to the more familiar two-man team, but one of those two is making his UFC play-by-play debut.
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