UFC on FX 8 fight card: What's at stake?

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With an event of decent if relatively smaller size by UFC standards, there isn't necessarily a great deal to weigh-in on. I'd simply say the UFC is beginning to explore territories in Brazil beyond the major cities. One would expect to see a decent gate no matter where the UFC goes, but even if this one isn't particularly high it still wouldn't be time to hit the panic button. This is about measuring the depth of this market as much as it is taking advantage of it.

Star-divide

Vitor Belfort vs. Luke Rockhold

At stake: either a title shot or the next best thing. It's hard to say with high confidence the winner here automatically gets a title shot against the winner of Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman. First, we don't know what could happen in that bout. One can't rule out a rematch for any number of reasons. Second, the complexion of the win tonight matters. I find it hard to believe an eeked-out decision is going to be enough to merit the sort of favorable matchmaking both competitors are looking for (short of it being a necessity due to a lack of contenders).

One small note about this bout: bragging rights are on the line, too. Whatever one thinks of Rockhold's war on TRT, it's good for promotional value both before and after a bout. He can use this win as an angle for self-promotion and legitimacy should he emerge victorious. For Belfort, he can quit a lot of dissenters (although not all of them).

Ronaldo Souza vs. Chris Camozzi

At stake: a golden opportunity. My description isn't very, well, descriptive, but here's what I mean. Camozzi is taking this bout on short notice. Even if he hadn't done so, he wouldn't be favored to win the bout. Obviously beating Jacare is easier said than done, but the upside is hard to overstate. He'd continue his unexpected win streak and would achieve the signature win of his career. Literally, he'd be an actual contender overnight should he get past Jacare.

For Souza, he's expected to win, but an impressive victory can still be sold in any future fight against a top contender as evidence for his legitimacy as he crosses over from Strikeforce to UFC. Middleweight needs contenders, particularly exciting ones. Jacare is poised to jump into a very open position. If he does it with authority, it will be hugely beneficial to his title shot hopes.

Rafael dos Anjos vs. Evan Dunham

At stake: next-level contendership. Both of these fighters occupy very similar spaces. That is, both are regarded as ultra-dangerous, well-rounded lightweights, but ones who have thus far failed to break through in key moments in their careers. Dos Anjos has been building momentum, but had hiccups against Clay Guida, Gleison Tibau and others. Dunham, by contrast, has been a bit more up and down with losses to Melvin Guillard and T.J. Grant among a few other top names in the division.

This bout could say more about the future of the loser than the winner. But the winner needs the demonstrate the ability to keep a winning streak going consistently, fight over fight, against one top competitor after the other. Tonight is a chance to do so.

Rafael Natal vs. Joao Zeferino

At stake: not much, really. Not every UFC bout is full of significance. This one is a bit of a head scratcher. What really surprises me is that in the wake of John Moraga getting a title shot off after only fighting on Facebook, UFC isn't doing more to properly place the flyweights on this card. If you look at the cards Moraga fought on, it's hard to justify moving him out of the position he occupied. They could've placed him on a different card, but for the events where he competed, his placement is justifiable. One would think with decent to very good flyweights on this card, UFC would be more inclined to give them some FX love here. I guess not. Anyway, Natal vs. Zeferino should be a fine fight, but I can't imagine it means a whole lot.

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