While Franklin vs. Silva is understandably receiving much of the attention, UFC 99 has the potential to produce more than the potential fireworks in the main event. Could a measure of clarity be coming to two weight classes in the UFC this weekend? Let's take a look at four prominent matchups on the card and see what the outcomes could mean:
Matchup # 1- Dan "The Outlaw" Hardy (21-6) is taking on "The Irish Hand Grenade" Marcus Davis (16-4) in a battle that has gained more attention for the pre-fight war of words than anything else. Apparently these two just don't care for each other. Although Michael Bisping is the face of British MMA, Hardy is making a push to become the second most popular Brit in the game. Hardy is a rangy, athletic striker who has supposedly improved his game quite a bit recently. In the past three years his only loss was a DQ to Yoshiyuki Yoshida. Marcus Davis has attained quite a following over in the U.K., having fought across the Atlantic on multiple occasions. Davis has a very solid resume and with the way his skillset matches up with Hardy's, this one could be a strong candidate for fight of the night. Whoever comes out of this fight with a victory will catapult themselves into the mix in the UFC welterweight division.
Matchup # 2- Mike "Quick" Swick (13-2) looks to hand the first loss to Ben "Killa B" Saunders (7-0-2). Swick has yet to lose since his drop down to the welterweight division. He carries a 3 fight win streak coming into this matchup and looks to use his hand speed and overall quickness to offset the height advantage and devastating clinch game of Saunders. This will definitely be a step up in competition for Saunders and a win here for either could help position them for a possible title shot soon. Both guys are very marketable having been featured on The Ultimate Fighter series and both have crowd pleasing styles that have provided some highlight reel material.
Bottom Line: The welterweight division could see two new contenders come out of these matchups. With a pair of TUF alums and two fighters that are popular overseas, these matchups could produce two viable contenders to the welterweight crown.
Matchup # 3- Heavyweight slugger Cheick Kongo (24-4-1) takes on Cain Velasquez (5-0), an up and coming prospect that many in the industry are high on. Kongo is a large heavyweight that combines the frame of a defensive end with an enormous reach (82"). Having trained at Wolfslair gym in England for quite awhile now alongside several MMA stars, Kongo has greatly improved his wrestling game and his ability to avoid the takedown has helped amplify his striking. Although Velasquez was an All-American and a national runner-up while a collegiate wrestler at Arizona State, it was the word of mouth generated by his early sparring and training progress at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose along with his devastating early victories that helped this young man gain the attention of his peers. Cain combines great wrestling with heavy handed, compact strikes. How will Cain deal with Kongo's experience, knees and ability to control the distance? How will Kongo handle Cain's wrestling ability and pace? We will learn something about both of these fighters in this match and the division will gain a viable challenger for the title.
Matchup # 4- Finally, June 13th will also mark the UFC return of Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic (22-6-2). The man that was once one of the world's best heavyweight fighters is fresh off of a successful knee surgery that supposedly has him healthy again for the first time in quite awhile. He takes on British heavyweight Mustapha Al-Turk (6-4). Al-Turk is a tough guy and reportedly a talented grappler but there is no question that most are viewing this match primarily as an opportunity to find out if Cro Cop still has what it takes to compete. Most are skeptical due to how he has looked in his most recent outings but there is no question that if he is indeed healthy and can return to form then the guys at Zuffa will have another attractive option for their heavyweight division.
Bottom Line: The UFC will at the very least come out of this weekend with a viable (and marketable) contender in either Kongo or Velasquez. If Filipovic can come through in his bout, he'll likely find himself much higher up on a future UFC card. I had less interest in this weight class a couple years ago, but things have definitely gotten interesting recently.
What do you think of these four matchups and which ones are you most looking forward to?