There was always a great deal on the line between Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate and I don't just mean the bantamweight title. If that isn't a fight for bragging rights, nothing is. But across the world just a day before, four flyweights begin a tournament to crown a new champion in a new UFC division. Whatever you think of the women's bantamweight or UFC flyweight divisions, both are at least offering the best they have to showcase over the next 48 hours. That means there's blood to spill and treasure to collect. Let's take a closer look and examine what's on the line in Sydney, Australia tomorrow night and Columbus, Ohio on Saturday.
At stake: the proverbial 'mix'. 'The mix' is not the worst place to be. After all, Alves and Kampmann are on the rebound. Both dropped several tough fights to respected competitors, but they also righted their own ships recently. Alves smashed Papy Abedi at UFC 138 while Kampmann decisioned Rick Story at UFC 139.
At the moment, the UFC welterweight division is in a bit of a logjam. A victory for either fighter is a legitimate accomplishment, but it's hard to predict what it could mean in terms of the upper end of possibilities. What we can say with certainty, however, is that it returns both Kampmann and Alves to the short list of possible contenders who could earn title shots in 2012 or early 2013. They have to win Saturday and likely thereafter. But two in a row at welterweight and against the competition they've faced means quite a bit.
The bad news about welterweight is it's a place where success can be hard to maintain. The good news is you also get a lot of opportunities to make some noise.
At stake: a spot in the finals. There's no mystery here. The winners of both fights move onto the finals in this four-man flyweight tournament. Each fighter, though, is in a different stage of their career. McCall re-enters the big leagues, this time in the right weight class, but needs to justify his high ranking with a strong performance against the upper echelon of the division. Benavidez and Johnson dropping down to this weight also carries significant expectations. Urushitani, the long-time member of the flyweight class, needs to prove he still belongs among top-end flyweights despite being 35 years of age.
At stake: resume booster. McGee and Philippou are still prospects, but they've each strung together some decent wins in the UFC middleweight divsion. McGee has won three straight, most recently besting Dongi Yang at UFC Fight Night 25. Philippou has won two in a row including a very respectable KO of Jared Hamman at UFC 140. A win over either gentleman continues their streaks and adds a further touch of legitimacy to their burgeoning careers. And given how even this fight is in terms of competitiveness, it's also an opportunity to give the MMA community a greater sense of the complexion of their games.
At stake: the whole 9 yards. That the Strikeforce women's bantamweight title is up for grabs almost seems like a bonus at this point. These fighters have spent months hurling invective at one another, questioning the others ability, skill, background, placement in the division and existence, generally. The truth is that a tough but noble loss wouldn't be the worst thing and obviously victory is preferred. What they desperately need to avoid, however, is convincing defeat. Nothing would sting worse and grant more ammunition to their foe than proof they were right about them all along. And even if a clear victory in the cage doesn't prove it, the winner will say it does. That's enough to make it stick.
At stake: Glibert's gold. The Strikeforce lightweight division is thin. How thin? Thin enough where all a fighter may need for a title shot is two consecutive wins. Or just a recent win. Noons bested Billy Evangelista at Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal (after losing two straight). Thomson, on the other hand, didn't fight at all in 2011. He did manage to go 2-1 in 2010, beating both Gesias Cavalcante and Pat Healy, but that was quite some time ago. Yet, looking at the roster, not many other known names exist as potential contenders for Gilbert Melendez. Caros Fodor is surging up the ranks and Masvidal may get another shot, but it's slim pickings. If Noons or Thomson have a strong showing this weekend, a title shot is by no means out of the question.
At stake: Marquardt vs. Woodley winner. No date is set, but Marquardt is slated to face Tyron Woodley for what is expected to be the Strikeforce welterweight title. With a depleted roster, a name like Daley - despite so far being 1-2 in his latest Strikeforce stint - has to be on the short list of potential contenders. Misaki might be further away, both literally and figuratively, but even he has to be in the running if he can get past the British striker on Saturday night.
At stake: Jacare's scalp. Jacare is in a bad spot here. He's admittedly not facing the toughest threat of his career, but anything short of a decision, relatively speedy victory makes Jacare's future look dubious at best. Souza was originally slated to face Derek Brunson, but that match was scratched because of Brunson's eye issues. Jacare's best hope is to make a the night quick work. Marunde, on the other hand, can notch what would easily be the biggest win of his career.
At stake: physical health. As he proved against Antwain Britt, Sayers is capable of clobberin' time. Smith is not new to that process either. Of all Strikeforce's divisions, middleweight is arguably the thickest. Smith and Sayers aren't near the top or even middle. That's not to say they can't get there (or for Smith, return there), but it's not like a win here realistically pushes them close.
From the preliminary card(s):
-- Caros Fodor is on a tear. He's undefeated in Strikeforce and on a five-fight win streak. He faces the very durable, submission grappling savvy Pat Healy in what is a tough test for a rising prospect. If Fodor can pass this with flying colors, Gilbert Melendez may have a new contender on his hands.
-- Sarah Kaufmann, who was passed over by Ronda Rousey for the title shot, faces Alexis Davis. This is a rematch of their 2007 bout, which Kaufman won by TKO with strikes. If Kaufman prevails here, she won't be far from facing the winner of Saturday night's main event.