The UFC makes it return to the MGM Grand arena Memorial Weekend on May 24, in Las Vegas. The bantamweight championship will be on the line as champion, Renan Barao, will look to defend his belt against contender, T.J. Dillashaw. Daniel Cormier and Dan Henderson will duke it out in a UFC light heavyweight contest with title implications on the line. Also on the card, Robbie Lawler will look to bounce back from his title defeat against the heavy-handed Jake Ellenberger. The main event will be live on pay per view starting at 10 EST, while the UFC prelims will be shown on Fox Sports 1, with some being streamed on Fight Pass.
Renan Barao is on an incredible streak, going unbeaten in his last 32 fights. The budding Brazilian superstar is looking to defend his belt for the second consecutive time, while remaining unbeaten in seven UFC fights. T.J. Dillashaw is 5-1 in his last six contests, including a split decision victory in his last bout over Mike Easton, back in January. Daniel Cormier is on the brink of title contention and has stated that if he beats Dan Henderson, he will only fight for the title next and nothing else. Dan Henderson is also looking to sketch his name on the title contender list. With a miraculous finish of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, “Hendo” feels he should only be one victory a way from a title shot as well. The MMA Spotlight examines each bout on the main event and includes a few notables to look for on the prelims.
[C] Renan Barao (34-1) versus #4 T.J. Dillashaw (10-2) – Bantamweight Title Bout The skill set Barao possesses alone, sets himself apart from the bantamweight division, and makes him one of the best pound for pound best in the UFC. The champs 32 fight win streak cannot be ignored, Barao has not had a fight end in a decision since 2012, finishing fights by all means necessary has become Barao’s calling card since becoming a champion. Dillashaw is a well-rounded fighter, the type of fighter who’s aggressive nature could give Barao some fits if executed correctly. Stylistically this fight is a bad match up for Dillashaw, and quite frankly, Barao is a bad match up for any fighter in the division. There will be no hiccup in the champs reign of the division this weeked. MMA Spotlight has Barao winning by submission.
#4 Daniel Cormier (14-0) versus #6 Dan Henderson (30-11) – Light Heavyweight Bout The match up between the new light heavyweight and the highly touted, but aging MMA icon in two weight divisions. Daniel Cormier’s first showing in the light heavyweight division was impressive, but the lack of competition, which was no fault of his own, was somewhat mediocre. The names Cormier has beaten in the heavyweight division though, someone would wonder why he has not been given a heavyweight title shot by now. Fact is that Cormier moved down, and he wants a shot at champion, Jon Jones. To get there he will have to avoid the devastation of the “H-Bomb” at all costs. Dan Henderson may not be as nimble as he once was, and has become as predictable as ever in his career, the man just keeps finding a home for his thunderous right hand. That hand is lethal, just ask “Shogun” Rua after Rua laid waste to Henderson before “Hendo” landed that bomb on Rua’s nose. With Henderson the “puncher’s chance” phrase really hits home, but in every other aspect Cormier is on another level skill wise. Cormier may be one of the very few in the division who could dethrone Jon Jones, do not count on Henderson getting in the way; Daniel Cormier by TKO.
#5 Jake Ellenberger (29-7) versus #1 Robbie Lawler (22-10) – Welterweight Bout The juggernaut versus the ruthless, man those nicknames represent each fighter to a tee. This match up of contending welterweight fighters has fireworks written all over it, and justifiably makes some just plain old giddy. Lawler is coming off loss in a title fight to remember with Johny Hendricks. The number one contender will look to justify his position in the division and earn himself a rematch, a statement victory over Ellenberger would do just that. Ellenberger is looking for the same in a victory over Lawler. Both fighters are possibly a victory away from earning a shot for gold. The fans should expect heavy exchanges early, but do not expect this fight to last long. Lawler sounds determined and as “Ruthless” as ever; Robbie Lawler by TKO.
#6 Takeya Mizugaki (19-7-2) versus #10 Francisco Rivera (10-2) – Bantamweight Bout If you discount the one No Contest to Rivera’s record, he has won his last five fights, four of them coming by way of technical knockout or knockout. Mizugaki has an impressive overall MMA game and has won his last four fights by decisions. Both have a tendency to go wild in the striking department and become quite reckless. The MMA Spotlight predicts that Mizugaki will feel Rivera’s power quickly and look to take this fight to the mat. Mizugaki will not be finished by the heavy hands of Rivera, he will lose the fight though. Rivera by Unanimous Decision.
James Krause (20-5) versus Jamie Varner (21-9-1) – Lightweight Bout Things are not looking good for each fighter in the UFC as both have lost is devastating fashion in their last fights. Varner is in dire need of a victory after losing three of his last four fights, and riding a two fight losing streak. Varner is a loss away from being at the dreaded three mark, which usually leads to a fighter’s exit from the promotion. Krause is not in that bad of shape, he had won eight in a row before losing his last fight to Bobby Green. Krause has the brighter future in the UFC and could possibly make a run if he can get past Varner. It seems as if Varner’s confidence has dwindled a bit, which may leave him vulnerable if Krause overwhelms him early. Krause gets the Unanimous Decision victory, and Varner could potentially be handed his pink slip from the UFC.
Other notable fights include two Ultimate Fighter winners on the prelim card. Winner of the TUF Lesnar vs Dos Santos series, Tony Ferguson, will be taking on Katsunori Kukuno. Winner of the TUF Live series, Michael Chiesa, faces Francisco Trinaldo in a lightweight bout on Fox Sports 1.
One title on the line, and numerous title implications to be had, UFC 173 almost certainly will not disappoint the MMA community. Make sure to check in on the Guardian Liberty Voice for a follow-up upon the conclusion of Saturday night’s event.
Commentary by Justin Huffman
Guardian Liberty Sports Writer Leading the coverage in MMA