UFC 170: Fighters with the Most to Gain

Dan Hiergesell@DHiergesellFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2014

UFC 170: Fighters with the Most to Gain

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    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Come Saturday, UFC 170 will feature a host of important bouts carrying ultimate implications.

    From a championship showdown featuring two Olympians to long-awaited promotional debuts, bounce-back candidacies to top contender opportunities, this weekend is sure to produce.

    Through each and every fight set to take place under the Las Vegas limelight, which fighters have more at stake? Which fighters have the most to gain?

    Look no further. 

5. Erik Koch

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    Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

    People have simply forgotten about Erik Koch.

    Once destined for featherweight glory, "New Breed" represented the next generation of MMA superstars. With a youthful evolution fueling his progression, he was simply that good.

    However, at some point, something went wrong.

    Koch hit a crossroad at 145 pounds and was simply unable to get past more complete fighters aiming for divisional gold.

    On the heels of making a move up to lightweight, the dynamic 25-year-old now has a chance to hit the reset button, re-establish himself in a top-heavy weight class and make another run at a title.

    Based on past expectations and a dire need to impress, Koch truly has a whole lot to gain this weekend opposite Brazilian Rafaello Oliveira. 

4. Jessica Eye

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    Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Spor

    When you take into account that Jessica Eye's recent victory over Sarah Kaufman at UFC 166 was overturned because of a failed drug test, the 27-year-old bruiser has a lot to prove this Saturday.

    Not for nothing, but most people believe Kaufman was the one who should have been awarded the split decision, not Eye.

    In any case, Eye has been granted a second chance.

    Blessed with Nick Diaz-type stand-up and the ability to push opponents to the brink of disaster, "Evil" will have another opportunity to showcase the world-class consistency that could one day lead to a title shot.

    As an outspoken bantamweight who recently made her UFC debut, Eye would benefit immensely with a victory over a top contender like Alexis Davis, who racked up two impressive wins in 2013.

    Currently sitting at 11-1, an emphatic finish would most certainly launch her to the top of the division.

    With the in-your-face mentality that she carries all the time, she'd cause problems for either Ronda Rousey or Sara McMann. 

3. Rory MacDonald

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    Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports

    Remember when Rory MacDonald was expected to take over for Georges St-Pierre and run a rather depleted welterweight division into the ground?

    As distant as that notion seems, it wasn't that long ago.

    Before Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler were busting heads, "Ares" was the one destined for perennial greatness.

    However, after a change in fighting style and a split-decision loss, the 24-year-old has been left gasping for divisional air.

    Fortunately, MacDonald is young enough and overly talented to the point where one definitive victory will wipe away his past transgressions and once again crown him the next big thing.

    The only problem is that the always dangerous and forever equipped Demian Maia stands in his way. As a perennial contender coming off his own crushing defeat, he too will be looking to impress on arrival.

    If MacDonald is able to avoid a Maia submission and implement some worthwhile ground-and-pound, people will start to understand why he was so hyped in the first place. 

2. Patrick Cummins

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    Debuting in fashion these days is like stopping a German tank with your bare hands.

    In other words, it's really difficult.

    However, when you make your debut opposite a destructive force like undefeated Daniel Cormier, the stakes are even higher. So you can only imagine how impressive and forever lasting a decisive debut would be this weekend for UFC newcomer Patrick Cummins.

    That's not to say Cummins isn't skilled. He is. However, when you attempt to fill the ginormous pay-per-view shoes of light heavyweight mainstay Rashad Evans, some people might consider that professional suicide.

    With that being said, crazier things than Cummins pulling off an upset and outscoring Cormier for three straight rounds have happened. However, until that happens, we'll just have to daydream as to how lucrative and promising Cummins' future would be if he entered the division in such fashion—even though it's highly unlikely.

1. Sara McMann

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    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    A victory for Sara McMann this weekend over Ronda Rousey would create a divisional firestorm similar to that of a Brock Lesnar return to lightweight (yeah, I went there).

    As absurd and unrealistic as that seems, it's true.

    Rousey, presumably the next poster child for the UFC, is such a polarizing figure in today's sport that a defeat at the hands of a rather collective and publicly unfamiliar name would cause atomic tidal waves.

    So, what exactly does that mean for the undefeated McMann?

    It's simple. Win and etch herself in history as the Olympic wrestler who took down the face of women's MMA.

    While an upset could potentially rid the women's scene of a memorable and increasingly marketable superstar champion, it would shed some light as to how good the rest of the crop heap truly is.

    So, when you think about it, McMann isn't just fighting for her right to hoist UFC gold. She's fighting to unveil a level playing field in the 135-pound division that before seemed comically transparent.


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