UFC

5 reasons to watch UFC Fight Night

FOX Sports E. Spencer Kyte
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Boston was just the beginning, literally and figuratively.

On Saturday, August 17, the UFC debuted on Fox Sports 1 with an action-packed fight card that gave viewers a little bit of everything, including a front kick knockout from heavyweight contender Travis Browne and a first-round submission win for “The Bad Guy,” Chael Sonnen.

Wednesday night, the UFC returns to Fox Sports 1 and the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis for UFC Fight Night: Condit vs. Kampmann II.

This isn’t going to be some lame duck follow-up either. This week’s 12-fight line-up offers some outstanding pairings, and should produce some exciting mid-week awesomeness for fight fans.

Need further convincing? Here are 5 Reasons to Watch.

The Natural Born Killer and The Hitman

Two of the best, most fitting nicknames in the UFC square off in what promises to be one hell of a main event. Oh -- it also happens to be a rematch, and their first fight produced a back-and-forth battle that ended in a split decision after 15 minutes.

And now we might get an additional 10 minutes of action!

Carlos Condit and Martin Kampmann always – ALWAYS – deliver excitement when they step into the cage, and now they’re sharing the space together for a second time. Perennial contenders, these two welterweights are equal parts technical and savage, and both are looking to re-establish their footing in the deep 170-pound weight class.

After rattling off five consecutive victories and claiming the interim title, Condit has dropped back-to-back contests, though losing to Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks in a pair of Fight of the Night-winning battles is nothing to hang your head about. Kampmann hasn’t competed since losing to Hendricks in November 2012, but the Danish striker with pinpoint boxing holds wins over Jake Ellenberger and Thiago Alves, as well as having earned the nod over Condit in their first encounter.

If you’re looking for a fight that combines the best elements of “throw caution to the wind” slugfests and calculating, tactical, technical battles, this is the fight for you… and you get to watch it in the middle of the week.

Happy Hump Day indeed!

Donald Cerrone is Fighting

You may think this sounds really simplistic, but when’s the last time a Donald Cerrone fight wasn’t entertaining?

The correct answer is never.

Win or lose, “Cowboy” has been a must-see attraction dating back to his days in the little blue cage of the WEC (Never Forget!), and that should be the case again when he steps into the Octagon to square off with Rafael dos Anjos Wednesday night.

Cerrone rebounded from his first-round loss to Anthony Pettis in January with a dominant unanimous decision win over K.J. Noons in May. The Team Jackson-Winkeljohn fighter with a serious mean streak has some of the best kickboxing in the division, and a sneaky good submission game if the fight happens to go to the ground.

And don’t think this is a one-sided match-up either.

The 28-year-old dos Anjos has developed into a very well-rounded, dangerous lightweight over the course of his 12-fight UFC career. After starting with consecutive losses, the Brazilian has gone 8-2 over his last 10, and enters this one having won four straight.

He may not be a big name, but dos Anjos has quietly been climbing the ladder in the 155-pound ranks, and knows how much a win over Cerrone will do for his career prospects going forward.

Now Things Really Get TUF

Horrible pun aside, Wednesday marks the start of the real test for Kelvin Gastelum, the underdog winner from Season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter.

After beating Uriah Hall by split decision in the December finale of the long-running reality TV competition, the young Yuma, Arizona native moves down in weight and begins trying to validate the hype and promotional push that comes with being part of the fraternity of Ultimate Fighter winners.

Unbeaten through his first six professional fights, the 21-year-old Gastelum showed real “diamond in the rough” markings during his time on TUF, and looks to be the kind of fighter that could blossom into a contender if given the chance to develop. Right now, he’s a good-not-great fighter – he’s got good wrestling, good hands, good submission skills – but isn’t dominant anywhere.

Give him time.

Wednesday serves as a serious litmus test for the latest TUF winner, as Gastelum steps in with Brian Melancon, an underrated relative newcomer who earned an impressive first-round stoppage win in his UFC debut at the start of July.

By the time the dust settles in this one, we’ll have a better understanding of what kind of prospect Gastelum is, and those are the kinds of fights that are always worth watching.

“Goyito” Returns

Through his first three UFC appearances, Erik Perez has looked like a legitimate prospect; someone capable of becoming a title contender in the next couple years. In those three outings, he’s earned three first-round stoppages, submitting John Albert in his debut before stopping both Ken Stone and Byron Bloodworth with strikes.

But this is where we’ll really find out if the affable, luchador-mask-wearing Greg Jackson student really does have a future in the upper echelon of the bantamweight division.

After cruising through a trio of lower-tier talents, Perez gets a major step up to take on Japanese veteran Takeya Mizugaki, a former title contender that has long been seen as the gatekeeper in the 135-pound weight class.

Should the 23-year-old Perez can get through Mizugaki – especially if he’s able to do it in impressive fashion – the highly marketable talent will be fast-tracked into contention in the bantamweight division. As a guy with the potential to be “in the mix” in the very near future, getting a chance to check him out on a mid-week fight card sure sounds appealing to me.

TUF 11 Alums

Court McGee and Brad Tavares were both members of Team Liddell during Season 11 of The Ultimate Fighter. You know – the one where Chuck and Tito were supposed to fight again, and then, lo and behold, Tito got hurt and had to pull out, much to the surprise of absolutely no one.

McGee ended up winning the show, and Tavares, still young and relatively inexperienced at the time, came off the series showing all kinds of promise. Three years and change later, they’re sharing space on the main card this coming Wednesday, both eager to continue their climb up the ladder in their respective divisions.

Now competing at welterweight, McGee looked solid winning his debut in the division against veteran Josh Neer back in February. The former heroin addict and alcoholic (he’s more than 2,600 days sober) takes on TUF: The Smashes winner Robert Whittaker, who knocked off another Ultimate Fighter winner, Colton Smith, back in May, adding extra intrigue to the pairing.

Tavares has won three straight and five of six overall in the UFC, continuing to hone the raw skills he showed during his time on TUF, developing into a potential dark horse contender in the middleweight division.

The 25-year-old Hawaiian has been hidden away on the preliminary portion of fight cards during his current three-fight run of success, but Wednesday’s match-up with Robert “Bubba” McDaniel – yet another TUF alumnus on this card – kicks off the main card, and should serve as a bit of a coming out party for Tavares.

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