UFC 172: 5 Reasons to Watch

Dan Hiergesell@DHiergesellFeatured ColumnistApril 22, 2014

UFC 172: 5 Reasons to Watch

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    As if you already didn't know, Jon Jones will be defending his light heavyweight crown this weekend at UFC 172.

    The young champion will be battling arguably his biggest test of his unparalleled career as he meets heavy-handed Brazilian bruiser Glover Teixeira.

    But as fun and exciting as it will be to see Jones attempt to save face on the heels of a five-round war with Alexander Gustafsson, UFC 172 offers much more outside of Saturday night's main event.

    Here are five reasons to stay inside, dish out some dough and enjoy some sweet Octagon action.

Icing on the Cake: Gomi's Return

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    Guess who's back.

    No, not Arnold. More like, Takanori Gomi.

    The same Takanori Gomi who remains the only lightweight champion in Pride FC history and a guy who is one of the most revered mixed martial artists in Japanese history.

    Yeah, that one. He's back.

    Now, while it would be crazy to think that the 35-year-old journeyman has enough gas left in the tank to make any sort of title run, it's still nice to see a legend of the sport still competing at the highest level.

    It will be interesting to see how Gomi looks after more than a one-year layoff, but opposite a midtier opponent like Isaac Vallie-Flagg, it should be easy for The Fireball Kid to impress.

    His preliminary bout is just icing on the cake.

5. The Young Guns

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    With a combined age of 45 (just two years older than Dan Henderson), featherweights Max Holloway and Andre "Touchy" Fili serve as two of the very best up-and-coming fighters the UFC has to offer.

    The fact that both youngsters possess sharp striking and unorthodox tendencies on the feet suggest this main card opener could very well steal the show.

    If Fili is able to establish himself early like he did in his debut opposite Jeremy Larsen back in October, then he should be able to stay ahead of Holloway for the majority of the fight.

    But if Holloway is able to utilize his range and experience before Fili comfortably positions himself, it will be the Hawaiian who captures victory.

    In any case, this is a matchup of pure youth and potential as two of the tallest 145-pounders in the promotion go toe-to-toe to prove their top-10 worth.

4. The Flyweights

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    As shallow as the division is, it's always exciting to see a flyweight scrap scheduled to unfold on live television.

    Part of the card before the card, former top contender Joseph Benavidez and rising brawler Tim Elliott will lock horns on FOX Sports 1 right before the pay-per-view festivities begin.

    Both coming off crushing defeats to two men who will fight for the division title later this year (champion Demetrious Johnson and Ali Bagautinov), Benavidez and Elliott have a lot to fight for.

    But as desperate as they may be, it's their stylistic clash that could produce some of the most tantalizing action of the night.

    With Benavidez's explosive striking and elite wrestling, Elliott's aggressiveness and ability to scramble should be thoroughly tested.

3. Luke's Rise to Stardom

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    Luke Rockhold has star potential. There's no denying that.

    From his time in Strikeforce to his current stint in the UFC, Rockhold is one of only a few middleweights capable of standing out from the rest.

    However, until he starts winning fights in succession, the 29-year-old won't reach his full potential. That's where his matchup this weekend with veteran Tim Boetsch comes into play.

    If Rockhold is able to finish Boetsch in fashion, it would be back-to-back appearances in which he was able to stop a key divisional opponent, which in turn would shed any doubt regarding his abilities after his destruction at the hands of Vitor Belfort last May.

    Boetsch is no clown, so it's going to be a tough task to accomplish, but if Rockhold can keep his distance with fluent kickboxing and a defensive clinch game, the opportunity to finish should present itself.

2. Rumble's Resurgence

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    If there's ever a way to re-establish oneself in the eyes of a professional collapse, it would be to start knocking people out like they were immobile punching bags.

    Well, that is exactly what former UFC welterweight contender Anthony "Rumble" Johnson has done on the open circuit en route to forging a return to the UFC roster as a solidified light heavyweight powerhouse.

    Over the past few years, Johnson has displayed the sort of natural knockout ability that would have Chuck Liddell asking for more. The sort of power that causes immediate recoil.

    This Saturday will mark Johnson's return to the Octagon and the return of his heavy hands. Standing in his way will be a true top contender in Phil Davis.

    It will be up to Johnson to stay off of his back, inviting Davis to exchange while landing one of his patented knockout blows that has earned him a second chance in a top-heavy division.

1. The Cultivation of Greatness

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    UFC light heavyweight champion Jones has his doubters. Always has, always will.

    But after being consumed by the shadow of his five-round battle with Gustafsson back in September, a back-and-forth affair that many people believe the challenger won, Bones now has more to prove than ever.

    As the quintessential superstar of the sport, one who is without a doubt the UFC's biggest cash cow in the absence of Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva, the 26-year-old needs to regain the unheralded divisional dominance that fueled his legacy in years past.

    The quickest way to shake off his somewhat disappointing efforts opposite Gustafsson would be to defeat Teixeira this weekend at UFC 172 quicker than Jason "Mayhem" Miller can say nude sermons.

    If that happens, Jones will be able to re-establish this sense of unflappable excellence that reigned supreme just one year ago.

    For as close as Gustafsson was to beating the champ, Jones still remains the very best in the sport. His path to immortality is just encountering more hiccups than initially expected.


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