Five things to watch for at UFC 100
A Brock Lesnar win over Frank Mir would do wonders for the UFC's heavyweight class.
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Stylewise and sizewise, Thiago Alves matches up well against Georges St. Pierre.
Michael Bisping can prove his legitimacy at middleweight by beating Dan Henderson.
Rolling the dice: Dan Henderson's wrestling background will come in handy against Michael Bisping.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship has carved out a historic corner for UFC 100. Despite the fact that more than 100 UFC shows have gone in the books, the symbolic century mark transforms this July event from usual summer sizzle show to organizational milestone.
The Mandalay Bay Events Center plays host to the card Saturday in Las Vegas. Here are five things to watch for come fight night, one for every finger in the fist.
Twenty-five minutes of fame
Brock Lesnar, a former professional wrestler and national collegiate wrestler, first saw Octagon action when Frank Mir submitted him in the first round at UFC 81. With a chance at redemption and an opportunity to claim the UFC's undisputed heavyweight title, Lesnar's shocking size, strength and athleticism look to overcome Mir's experience and technique.
Should Lesnar win, a trilogy is in order; a third fight could propel both to superstardom, as it did with Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture's three-fight saga. However, Mir has come into his own, mentally and physically, after a nearly career-ending 2004 motorcycle accident. Stopping Lesnar again would dispel any referee-related controversies (Steve Mazzagatti cited the Minnesotan for a hit to the back of the head) left over from the first bout.
Over 500 pounds of compelling fight move the division further away from the longtime lull that was pre-UFC 68. With top billing on a blockbuster card, an exciting clash could help heavyweights capture the imagination of all fight fans, as only their massive frames and larger-than-life personalities can.
The French-Canadian appears unstoppable and has looked like a mistake-free fighter. Alves' strikes, though, are heat-seekers. The Brazilian's size matches up well and aids his powerful sprawl-and-brawl game plan perfectly. St. Pierre has suffered damage inside the Octagon only from strikes: against B.J. Penn at UFC 58 and during Matt Serra's "Rocky"-like upset at UFC 69. The Greg Jackson-trained fighter is a master strategist, but Alves' American Top Team pedigree ensures he will be ready to take out another welterweight juggernaut, just as he did Matt Hughes at UFC 85.
It's a showdown between elite, complete fighters, each with a decisive advantage standing or on the ground. The youth and skill present in this bout mean the winner could enjoy a lengthy reign at the top of the 170-pound division.
An entire season of "The Ultimate Fighter" hyped American Olympian Dan Henderson's matchup with Brit Michael Bisping. Henderson, who spent nearly nine years fighting in Japan, finally had a chance to endear himself to stateside fans, as Bisping reprised his role as the reality show's antagonist. A win could earn Henderson a chance at redemption against middleweight champion Anderson Silva. Bisping, meanwhile, can solidify himself as a top fighter. The bout represents a stern test that forces him to battle a legend for a chance to claim his own crack at the middleweight crown.
Elsewhere, the UFC's Trojan horse into Korean and Japanese MMA markets, Yoshihiro Akiyama, debuts on American soil against hot-and-cold middleweight Alan Belcher. Akiyama, known for his well-roundedness in the cage and in his wardrobe, brings 12 finishes and only one defeat (plus two no-contests) into the Octagon. In Belcher, he faces a fighter hitting his stride after defeating common opponent Denis Kang in his previous outing at UFC 93. The winner -- based on popularity, merit or both -- emerges alongside the Nate Marquardt-Demian Maia winner in the contender shuffle.
In addition, "The Ultimate Fighter 7" runner-up C.B. Dollaway looks to continue recapturing the momentum Amir Sadollah took from the Arizona State wrestler when he meets fellow TUF alumnus Tom Lawlor in preliminary action. It marks Lawlor's first bout at middleweight. Will the divisional shift help or hamper his dynamic personality?
Battle for respect
It has been an uphill battle for welterweight Jon Fitch. After Fitch tied Royce Gracie's record for consecutive Octagon wins (eight) -- a record now held by Silva at nine -- St. Pierre battered the former Purdue Boilermaker for five rounds at UFC 87, knocking him back down to preliminary action at UFC 94, where he bested Akihiro Gono.
At this landmark show, Fitch gets his due on the main card with a chance to avenge the technical-knockout loss suffered to Paulo Thiago by his teammate, Josh Koscheck, at UFC 95. The undefeated Brazilian was battered before scoring the upset over the top-10 welterweight. Defeating a former title challenger like Fitch would prove it was no fluke. For Fitch, an emphatic win could see him return to title contention.
If Alves captures the belt, Fitch's win against him could interject him into a title fight with a revenge plotline. Otherwise, it would build him back toward his desired rematch with St. Pierre.
An era fight
UFC 100 features Hall of Famer Mark Coleman. The Ohio State University wrestler debuted at UFC 10 and made his name winning multiple early UFC tournaments and the heavyweight title. Stephan Bonnar ushered in "The Ultimate Fighter" era in a game-changing fight with Forrest Griffin in 2005.
Both were demoralized in their last bouts. A Coleman win allows the 44-year-old to hang on to the fight game a bit longer. For Bonnar, beating a legend would serve as a nice résumé-builder to keep him afloat in the light heavyweight division's deep waters.
Young talent rounds out the card, and none of it seems more promising at this point than Jon Jones. His exciting style and stellar wins over Andre Gusmao and Bonnar have made him a hot prospect. He battles Jake O'Brien, a strong, experienced wrestler. A win keeps Jones' hype train from unexpected stops.
Elsewhere, young-gun lightweights Mac Danzig and Jim Miller vie for a win after being beaten soundly by Josh Neer and Gray Maynard, respectively, in their most recent outings. The well-rounded fighters were gritty in defeat and infuse the unaired portion of the event with surefire action.
In welterweight action, Korean judoka Dong Hyun Kim looks to erase the memory of a loss-turned-no-contest against Karo Parisyan by throwing Canadian prospect T.J. Grant under the bus. Grant hopes to push his UFC record to 2-0 and his overall winning streak to six.
Finally, the night opens with lightweights Matt Grice and Shannon Gugerty looking to gain some traction at 155 pounds. The combatants have combined for two wins in five appearances, and both lost their most recent fights despite solid pre-UFC ledgers.
Danny Acosta is a contributor to Sherdog.com.