UFC Fight Night 34: Burning Questions Heading into UFC Fight Night 35

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistJanuary 4, 2014

UFC Fight Night 34: Burning Questions Heading into UFC Fight Night 35

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    Luke Rockhold and Costa Philippou headline Fox Sports 1's UFC Fight Night 35.
    Luke Rockhold and Costa Philippou headline Fox Sports 1's UFC Fight Night 35.Jason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports

    UFC: Singapore (aka UFC Fight Night 34) is in the books. The results are as follows:

    • Tarec Saffiedine defeats Hyun Gyu Lim by unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47, 48-47)
    • Tatsuya Kawajiri defeats Sean Soriano via submission (rear-naked choke) at 0:50 of the second round
    • Kiichi Kunimoto defeats Luiz Dutra by DQ (illegal elbows) at 2:57 of the first round
    • Kyung Ho Kang defeats Shunichi Shimizu via submission (arm triangle) at 3:53 of the third round
    • Max Holloway defeats Will Chope by TKO at 2:27 of the second round
    • Katsunori Kikuno defeats Quinn Mulhern by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
    • Royston Wee defeats Dave Galera by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26)
    • Mairbek Taisumov defeats Tae Hyun Bang by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
    • Dustin Kimura defeats Jon Delos Reyes via submission (armbar) at 2:13 of the first round
    • Russell Doane defeats Leandro Issa via submission (triangle choke) at 4:59 of the second round

    Next up? UFC Fight Night 35.

    Headlined by Costa Philippou vs. Luke Rockhold, fans should buckle themselves in for a night filled with, ahem, "rising talent," as the card has almost exclusively been filled with unproven fighters. There are just five names in the top 10 on this card and very little to look at in terms of title relevance.

    So what could there possibly be to discuss on this card? Find out right here!

What Will the Ratings Be Like?

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    This card might be an experiment by the UFC to test the waters on what kind of ratings a bad card can generate.
    This card might be an experiment by the UFC to test the waters on what kind of ratings a bad card can generate.Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    I've kicked off a lot of these Fight Night "Burning Questions" pieces with questions about ratings, but this is one of the most important ones. This is the event where the UFC figures out what the ratings will look like with a downright skeletal card.

    Dana White might have dismissed questions about the quality of upcoming Fight Nights, but there's no denying that this card simply doesn't stack up to any of the Fox Sports 1 events of 2013. Outside a moderately interesting main event between two middleweights that lie well outside contention, this is a card that has no name-brand fighters and no immediate title ramifications.

    That said, what if the ratings for this are comparable to events headlined by the likes of Glover Teixeira vs. Ryan Bader or Mark Hunt vs. Antonio Silva

    Most Fight Nights have drawn between 550,000 and 750,000 viewers. If this lands within that range, what will that mean to future cards? Will the UFC begin creating similarly shallow cards in order to bolster pay-per-view events? Is there any reason not to?

Who Will Stand out on This Card?

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    Derek Brunson is one of the skilled but almost completely unknown fighters on this card.
    Derek Brunson is one of the skilled but almost completely unknown fighters on this card.Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

    As stated, this is a very, very shallow card. Very shallow. Like...super shallow.

    With the exception of Dillashaw vs. Easton and Philippou vs. Rockhold, there are no recognizable names for non-hardcore fans. That means that there is a spotlight that is open for any of the other 18 fighters on this card to fill. Will anyone make the most of that opportunity?

    Will Dustin Ortiz jump into the flyweight title picture? Will Sam Sicilia score another big finish? Will Trevor Smith put on another memorable fight?

    We'll see!

Are We Going to See a New, Improved Charlie Brenneman?

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    Charlie Brenneman was released by the UFC for being a plodding wrestler before it was cool.
    Charlie Brenneman was released by the UFC for being a plodding wrestler before it was cool.Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    Who's that cage-fighting wrestler with the afro? Is Ben Askren getting his chance in the Octagon? Nope, it's Charlie Brenneman making his UFC return.

    That's right. "The Spaniard" is back.

    After back-to-back stoppage losses to Kyle Noke and Erick Silva in 2012, Brenneman was booted from the promotion. 2013 was a good year for the 32-year-old, though, and he has been on a 4-0 run since dropping to lightweight, which includes three submission wins.

    He is slated to face off with 6-0 Beneil Dariush, who is making his UFC debut. That gives Brenneman a great opportunity to shine. 

How Good Is John Moraga?

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    John Moraga was thrown into the deep end and drowned. How does he stack up to lesser flyweights?
    John Moraga was thrown into the deep end and drowned. How does he stack up to lesser flyweights?Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    After scoring stoppage wins over Chris Cariaso and Ulysses Gomez, John Moraga was thrown into the deep end of the flyweight division.

    With just two UFC fights to his credit, he was pitted against Demetrious Johnson. The champ would proceed to outclass Moraga in every way, beating him in every exchange, every scramble and every battle against the cage. It's very easy to look like a scrub against Johnson, though, as "Mighty Mouse" has been on quite the tear lately, which begs the question: How good is John Moraga?

    With a strong 13-2 record that includes eight finishes, his resume certainly looks legitimate. He has the wrestling credentials. His submission of Chris Cariaso, who was a terribly underrated bantamweight (and is now an underrated flyweight), definitely means something.

    What will that translate to against 12-2 Dustin Ortiz? We'll have to see.

Could Yoel Romero Be the Next Big Thing?

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    Yoel Romero could be the next big thing at 185 pounds.
    Yoel Romero could be the next big thing at 185 pounds.Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

    So hey, you know that Cuban guy? Olympic grappling credentials? Crazy knockout power?

    That's not Hector Lombard I'm talking about. I'm talking about Yoel Romero. The middleweight has sneaked up on many, but with an Olympic silver medal to his credit and all six of his MMA wins coming via knockout, it's hard not to be bullish about his future.

    While he has done nothing but impress in his brief time in the Octagon, Romero is undeniably jumping into the game at a later stage in the athletic life. He is 36 years old with just seven professional fights to his name (and just two have been in the UFC). 

    Still, with the UFC looking to build up its presence in central America, Romero combines heritage in a deceptively strong potential market with a fan-friendly, knockout-focused fighting style.

    If he scores another big win, we could see him actually start getting moved toward a title shot.

Is Mike Easton Doomed?

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    Mike Easton may be en route to a three-fight losing streak.
    Mike Easton may be en route to a three-fight losing streak.Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

    According to the rankings, this should be a close fight. Mike Easton is ranked as the No. 8 bantamweight in the UFC. His opponent, T.J. Dillashaw, is No. 7. 

    When it comes to the rankings, though, Dana White is at least a little bit correct when he calls all those hand-selected media members that do the rankings stupid.

    T.J. Dillashaw should be regarded as an enormous favorite over Mike Easton. Dillashaw was one competent judge short of an awkward teammate vs. teammate fight with Urijah Faber for the bantamweight top contender spot.

    Mike Easton? Well, he lost to Raphael Assuncao (whom Dillashaw was robbed of a win over) and most recently dropped a split decision to now-flyweight Brad Pickett. 

    To me, that spells doom for Easton. 

    Will he surprise me? I sure hope so. I have a soft spot for Taekwondo black belts like him. 

Will T.J. Dillashaw Pull a Urijah Faber?

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    T.J. Dillashaw is starting his climb back toward bantamweight title contention.
    T.J. Dillashaw is starting his climb back toward bantamweight title contention.Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

    As you likely grasped, T.J. Dillashaw is very good, and he should be in prime position for a title fight.

    Alas, he is not. He made the mistake of fighting in Brazil and, as a result, had two bad judges steal a title fight from the Team Alpha Male product. While in an ideal world, he would still be on a clear path to the belt...just ask Lyoto Machida about how much the UFC cares about bad decisions when it comes to picking top contenders.

    The thing is, 135 pounds is still very shallow at the top, and Dillashaw has all the skills to win. So will he take a page from the book of teammate Urijah Faber and take every possible fight he can in order to fast-track his way to a title shot?

    It would definitely be a smart thing to do, and two or three good wins over top-10 (or I guess top-15 these days) fighters could set him up for a title fight toward the end of 2014.

Which Middleweight Will Get Back on the Horse?

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    Costa Philippou and Luke Rockhold both desperately need a win to remain among the middleweight's elite.
    Costa Philippou and Luke Rockhold both desperately need a win to remain among the middleweight's elite.Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    This one is pretty straightforward. 

    Six months ago, Luke Rockhold was on the shortlist of potential opponents for then-champion Anderson Silva. Costa Philippou, meanwhile, was riding high on a five-fight winning streak that was capped by a signature knockout win over Tim Boetsch.

    Rockhold would get his face kicked off by Vitor Belfort. Philippou would get laid and prayed by Francis Carmont.

    Both of them have never seemed further away from a title fight.

    So now that they're facing off, which fighter will remain a serious contender and which will sink into the cavernous middle of the 185-pound pack?

    Make your predictions down below!