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UFC on FOX 15 fight card: What's at stake?

Luke Rockhold tries to earn a title shot at UFC on FOX 15 on Saturday.
Luke Rockhold tries to earn a title shot at UFC on FOX 15 on Saturday.
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

I always try to write these 'What's at stake?' posts with an eye towards the larger picture of the stakes involved as much as I do the main card fights themselves. Truth be told, though, it's not clear there's much of a bigger narrative here. The UFC on FOX series is basically stable. The ratings are usually good, sometimes underwhelming, but occasionally great. It reaches the right demos in the right ways. The card quality is historically strong and appropriate given the card tiers. UFC on FOX 15 isn't remarkable in any one aspect, but is structured well enough and carries a first-rate main event. In short, I don't expect much in the way of huge headlines or sweeping consequences if X or Y happens, but it meets the common standard of excellence expected of the UFC. As long as they do that, the product takes care of itself. No longer comment is necessary.


Lyoto Machida vs. Luke Rockhold

At stake: probably a title shot or something close to it. Machida's reputation is largely set, although if he is somehow able to grab the middleweight title before hanging it up, he could burnish his already-incredible resume. But, generally speaking, his career is already remarkable. He also isn't that close to getting a title shot given he's already faced and lost to the current champion. If Chris Weidman loses to Vitor Belfort, anything's possible, but all of this is to say, Machida could get a title shot from a victory here, but it's not as certain as it would be with Rockhold.

For the American, this could be precisely what he needs to claim the next UFC middleweight title shot. A win over Machida here is enough of an accomplishment that, when combined with the rest of winning streak, he can lay claim to being the most deserving of his middleweight peers. No one's been promised much, but reading the tea leaves, it's not very difficult to cobble together a case for him.

I also won't say this is a referendum on Rockhold, but it would be the sort of victory he could point to as proof of his belonging among the elite. It would represent the best win of his career and Octagon appearances. That's no small matter.

Ronaldo Souza vs. Chris Camozzi

At stake: everything and nothing. This one is fairly straightforward, no? Camozzi risks essentially nothing and has everything to gain. It's mostly the opposite for Jacare, however, the challenge is manageable for a fighter of his caliber. That's doubly true given their professional history together. I'll just say, though, that a loss here for the Brazilian would be truly devastating. It's not that he couldn't recover in short order necessarily. It's that for title shot implications, even this fight represents a slow down in the journey since it's not the kind of fight that can propel him forward. To end up losing position given how competitive the rest of the division is would be hugely problematic.

Cub Swanson vs. Max Holloway

At stake: a place among the top. Swanson's already there, largely, but needs to hold his spot. Holloway isn't there yet, but has shown enough flashes of brilliance to make one believe he could eventually earn his place. This fight is perhaps that eventuality. A Holloway victory would easily be his biggest and most important to date. It could also portend a larger trend for Swanson. In either case, there's no title track here explicitly. This is just about defining the peer group to which each fighter belongs.

Felice Herrig vs. Paige VanZant

At stake: an opportunity to prove bona fides. A lot of the discussion that surrounds VanZant centers on what opportunities have been afforded her because of her physical appearance. I find this hand wringing mostly (but not exclusively) pointless. This is largely the way the world works, for better or worse, and besides, it might all be beside the point. That's where this fight comes in. For all the talk of VanZant's looks, there's almost a distracting factor on what should be a pointed conversation about what appear to be her very legitimate skills. She's favored by odds makers to defeat Herrig, a credentialed veteran. If she can, the hemming and hawing of the skills vs. looks debate she's mired in could soon disappear. By contrast, if she's blown out in a performance that proves Herrig the clearly superior talent, VanZant will have a tidal wave of scrutiny and mockery to suffer.

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