While the UFC 161 card is headlined by a couple well-established veterans in Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson, the event also presents an opportunity for other fighters to shine. Those that do will move up cards in the future.
Even though the card took a hit when Renan Barao was forced to pull out due to injury, there are enough evenly matched bouts to make for an exciting night of action. The other fighters are hungry to make a statement, and the door is wide open for somebody to steal the spotlight.
Knowing that, let's take a closer look at three fighters with golden opportunities to pick up crucial victories on Saturday night. If they take advantage, one day they may look back at UFC 161 as the turning point for their careers.
Jimmo made an instant impact during his UFC debut last July. He knocked out Anthony Perosh in seven seconds, turning a lot of heads in the process. He wasn't able to back it up, though. His next fight was a unanimous-decision loss to James Te-Huna.
So now Jimmo goes up against Igor Pokrajac with a lot to prove. While nobody expects him to score another knockout within the first 10 seconds, he must prove that result wasn't just a fluke.
The Canadian possesses a well-rounded skill set, which needs to be on full display against Pokrajac. If he's able to put together the type of comprehensive performance he's shown in other promotions and get a rebound victory, his stock will begin to rise again.
Jordan is always interesting to watch because he possesses terrific raw power and isn't afraid of getting into a slugfest. That said, the key to him taking the next step is illustrating further progression in other areas and not just relying on the knockout.
Each of the American's last two losses, to Cheick Kongo and Devin Cole, came by unanimous decision. He hasn't won by decision in more than three years. It's an example of how he's overly reliant on winning fights early. If it doesn't work out, he loses.
Luckily, he goes up against another brawler in Pat Barry, who's only had one fight go the distance in 13 career bouts. While that helps Jordan, it's also good opportunity for him to show off some versatility and perhaps play a little more defense early. Whatever it takes to score the win.
Woodley is the fighter to watch on the preliminary card. The 31-year-old former wrestler was very impressive in his UFC debut fight. He knocked out Jay Hieron in 36 seconds. But, as discussed concerning Jimmo, backing it up is just as important.
He gets a chance to do that against Jake Shields. The veteran had his last victory overturned after failing a post-fight drug test and is on the road to redemption. A lot of eyes will be on him, which gives Woodley a chance to enjoy the attention, as well.
After starting his MMA career as a submission specialist, he's been able to improve his overall approach. Beating Shields would show how far he's come, prove the victory in his first UFC fight was a sign of things to come and keep him trending in the right direction.
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