UFC 190: Why it means so much to me, and why I have to watch it.

As many MMA fans are aware, UFC 190 will be taking place tomorrow. Go figure, it’s getting a lot of hate. The headliner is a squash match, the main card is littered with a bunch of “washed up” veterans, and a pair of Brazilian TUF Finales have made a “meh” card look even more diluted. Simply put, this card is, well, less than satisfactory.

Honestly, I agree with that sentiment. Two TUF finale bouts, a trio of so-called “depressing” old-timer fights, and a squash match are not good components of a high quality pay-per-view event.

And yet, I can’t help but care deeply for it. I’m not trying to convince anyone else to tune in. I am simply trying to explain, as thoroughly as I can, just why I’m so inclined to care so much more for this card than many others are. Why am I willing to put myself through this?

Well, for one, there’s the nostalgia factor.

This card is as nostalgic as can be. And by nostalgic, I mean reminiscent of the past few years. Ronda Rousey is the headliner, as planned. Granted, she just headlined a card in February, as well as one in 2014, but she was not the planned headliner for either card. The three previous cards that she headlined took place in March 2012, August 2012, and February 2013. Each of those three cards took place in one of the best, yet most regretful periods of my life. It was a time where I had some of my life’s best moments. However, I left so many opportunities on the table, that I’d recently begun to believe I’d never be able to forgive myself for passing up on them.

Sure, I straightened things out over the past two years, but regrets are hard to overcome. Well, as luck would have it, I’ve got a chance to recoup for some of those missed opportunities this weekend. I may still have regrets about the past, but this weekend will give me a chance to extinguish the pain and anguish that I had suffered through of late.

Go figure, on that same weekend same exact weekend where I get to patch up some major loose ends, Rousey is headlining a card that she was originally planned to anchor.

Anyways, back to the nostalgia factor. Rousey headlining is not the only reason why this card has me feeling nostalgic. There’s also the fact that both Nogueira brothers, yes, both of them, are going to be on the card. The last time the two were on the same card, back at UFC 140 Jon Jones overcame the Machida puzzle via standing guillotine. Granted, that was also the night that Big Nog’s arm was shredded by Frank Mir, but that’s okay, especially since Lil’ Nog finished Tito Ortiz in the opening round on that very evening.

Tomorrow night, Lil Nog, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, will be taking on Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. It will be a rematch of one of my favorite MMA fights ever, a classic PRIDE fight where Shogun won a thrilling unanimous decision over Minotoro at Critical Countdown 2005, over ten years ago.

Granted, both men are well over the hill, in the twilights of their careers, and it’s doubtful that they can replicate even half the magic they showcased in their classic bout from a decade ago. But, for nostalgia’s sake, I’m still looking forward to the fight.

And then, there’s Big Nog himself, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. The MMA legend fights in Brazil for the third time in his UFC career. While his UFC tenure has been rocky since he won the Interim UFC Heavyweight title back in February 2008 (he’s gone 3-5 since, with each loss coming via finish,) he is 2-0 in Brazil. His opponent is Stefan Struve, who, simply put, should win this fight. However, Struve has faced quite a lot of adversity lately, both inside and out of the octagon, so there’s a chance that he can win tonight.

All three of the men listed above, Minotauro Nogueira, Minotoro Nogueira, and Shogun Rua, are at the tail ends of their careers. Another man who can be added to that list is Antonio Silva. A black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Shotokan Karate and Judo, the man best known as “Bigfoot” was once a smashing machine. Each of his first nine wins came via knockout, as have 13 of his career wins (14 if you count his “submission” over Marcus Tchinda, which came via strikes in his second career bout.)

Silva was the first person to defeat the greatest Heavyweight in MMA history, Fedor Emelianenko via tko. He also pulled off a scintillating come-from-behind knockout victory over Alistair Overeem at UFC 156 in February 2013, and ended closed out his year with arguably the greatest Heavyweight fight in the history of the sport against Mark Hunt.

Since that epic bout, everything has gone south for the gentle yet brutal giant. He tested positive for elevated testosterone levels after the fight, lost his Fight of the Night bonus, and was subsequently suspended for nine months. Since his return, he has been brutally knocked out by resurgent heavyweights Andrei Arlovski and Frank Mir, each time in the first round, with both fights taking place in his home country. Mix in the fact that he had to have surgery to remove a tumor in his pituitary gland soon after the Arlovski bout, and it’s hard not to feel for him.

He now faces a fighter with arguably more knockout power than perhaps both of his recent foes, in Soa Palelei, once again in his home country. If he loses the fight in hellacious fashion yet again, it’s hard to imagine him not retiring, or at least being released from his UFC contract.

Tomorrow night could very well be the final time any of those four Brazilians partake in an MMA bout. It’s doubtful, but definitely a possibility. Granted, this could spell out relief for some fans, but it would still be a tough pill to swallow for others. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I want to tune in to the card, partially due to that very possibility.

Okay, enough of the “nostalgia factor,” The storylines showcased above may be come across as more so depressing than anything else. However, they are not the only reasons why I’m looking forward to this card.

The other fights are pretty enticing as well, for positive reasons.

The best set of this card is the televised prelim card. The opening televised prelim bout between Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belts Leandro Issa and Iuri Alcantara. Simply put, both men are finishers. Issa has only gone the distance four times in 17 professional bouts, and has won his last two UFC bouts, since being submitted by Russel Doane in January of last year. His opponent, Alcantara, has finished 25 of his 31 victims. He is 6-3 with a no contest inside the octagon, and is looking to get back on track, following a shocking upset loss at the hands of Frankie Saenz back in February. Both men will be looking for the kill, in what should be a fantastic bout.

The three remaining televised preliminary bouts may not be as entertaining, but they’re all relevant. Nordine Taleb has won all three of his UFC bouts, while his opponent, TUF: Brazil 3 Middleweight winner Warlley Alves, is a controversial 2-0 in the UFC. Both men want to make a statement, and the winner could find himself in a major bout sooner rather than later.

Then, it’s a Light Heavyweight matchup between Patrick Cummins and Rafael Cavalcante. Cummins is the former barista who coaxed Dana White into allowing him to take on current Light Heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier in the co-main event of UFC 170 last year. Cummins got annihilated in 79 seconds, but closed out the year with three straight wins. He earned himself a bout against Ovince St. Preux this at UFC on FOX 15 past April, but was knocked out in the final seconds of the opening round. If he wants to regain some traction, a win tomorrow night is a must.

Cummins opponent, Rafael Cavalcante, has had quite a roller coaster of a career. He is the quintessential “kill or be killed” type of fighter, with every fight ending via finish, until a smothering decision loss to Ryan Bader last June ended the streak. SInce knocking out Mohammad “King Mo” Lawal to win Strikeforce’s Light Heavyweight title in August 2010, “Feijao” has gone 2-3 with a no contest. The no contest stemmed from a failed drug test, which resulted in a year-long suspension, while dampening all of Feijao’s credibility.

Cavalcante is 1-2 inside the octagon, is facing a very good wrestler, and a loss could spell his release from the promotion. However, he has shown that he still has knockout power, and Cummins does not possess a great chin. This fight could wind up being more interesting than one would like to believe.

And then, there is the headlining prelim bout. The Welterweight showdown pits the resurgent Neil Magny against Brazilian Jiu Jitsu ace Demian Maia. Magny was one of only four contestants from the dreadful twelfth season of The Ultimate Figher, and began his UFC career with a 1-2 mark. Since then, he has won seven straight, including a UFC record five wins in 2014. He already has two wins this year, and finds himself ranked for the first time in his career.

Magny’s opponent, Demian Maia, is one of the greatest Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners in all of MMA. He has fought 20 times inside the octagon, going 14-6 in his eight years with the promotion. He submitted each of his first five UFC opponents, including former title challengers Nate Quarry and Chael Sonnen, before suffering a one-punch knockout loss at the hands of Nate Marquardt in August 2009. A win over Dan Miller in his follow up bout earned him a short-notice title bout against longtime champion Anderson Silva the following April, a fight that has garnered much notoriety ever since.

Maia has only submitted opponent since 2009, but that one submission was quite memorable. On October 13, 2012, at UFC 153, Maia choked out Rick Story in such a ferocious manner, Story’s nose began leaking blood. And although he has not submitted anyone since, his grappling is still quite a puzzle to overcome.

If Magny wins, he will likely find himself within the top ten in the division, and may be just a couple wins away from a potential title shot. If Maia wins, it will give him three straight wins, and six victories in his last eight bouts. Another win or two for him could land him his first Welterweight title chance. The fight might not be the funnest one on the card, but it’s definitely relevant.

Speaking of relevancy, the main card’s opening bout is as relevant as any on the card, barring the farcical main event. It pits two of the best female Strawweights on the planet: former Invicta title challenger Claudia Gadelha, and former WSOF champion and long-regarded #1 Strawweight Jessica Aguilar.

Gadelha, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt, has been craving a title throughout her entire career. Unfortunately, the cards have never been in her favor.

She began her career 10-0. She won her Invicta debut at Invicta FC 6 back in July of 2013, against then undefeated Straweight, and current Invicta Atomweight Champion Ayaka Hamasaki, via late third-round tko. The win garnered her a title shot against then champion Carla Esparza, in a bout expected to take place in December of that year. Unfortunately, on the night before the fight, she had to be hospitalized due to gastroenteritis, thus postponing the bout.

Four days later, Gadelha, along with ten other Strawweights, were signed by the UFC. While the other ten were showcased on TUF 20, Gadelha was signed straight into the UFC. She made her promotional debut the following April, and defeated Tina Lahdemaki via decision. The win garnered her a title eliminator bout against then relatively unknown Joanna Jedrzejczyk, last December, a day after the inaugural UFC Strawweight Championship. Gadelha gave the former Muai Thai champion quite a fight and, in the eyes of many fans and analysts, had done enough to garner the victory. Ultimately, Jedrzejczyk was given the split decision, and the title eluded Gadelha yet again. However, with a win tomorrow night, she will finally get her shot.

Standing in Gadelha’s way is none other than Jessica Aguilar. For years, she was viewed as the number one Strawweight fighter in the world. However, due to Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s surge to the UFC title, Aguilar has been set down to the #2 slot. However, it’s clear why she was ranked #1 for so long.

Aguilar has won 14 of her last 15 bouts, with the lone loss of that stretch coming against former Bellator 115 lb champion Zoila Frausto Gurjel, back in September 2010, via split decision. She has since defeated the likes of former Invicta and UFC Strawweight champion Carla Esparza, as well as the greatest Strawweight in MMA history, Megumi Fujii (although the latter bout was controversial beyond belief.)

Just over a month before the UFC signed Gadelha and ten other Strawweights, including former Aguilar victims Lisa Ellis, Angela Magana and Esparza, she signed with the World Series of Fighting. She fought three times for them in 2014, submitting Alida Gray to win the title in January 2014, before defending it twice later in the year. She was granted her release by the promotion this past May, so that she could join the UFC. She signed with the UFC on June 11th, and this fight was announced shortly thereafter. Simply put, it should be an excellent fight.

The rest of the main card may be stuffed with “washed-up” bouts, a squash match as a headliner, and a pair of unwanted Brazilian TUF Finale bouts, but I’m looking forward to each of those fights as well.

Granted, the Struve/Big Nog, Shogun/Lil’ Nog and Palelei/Bigfoot bouts may be depressing, but each on is virtually guaranteed to end via finish. I am a fan of all six men, so I’ll be a loser no matter what happens. But, it could be the last time I get to see most of them inside the octagon, and I don’t want to miss out on any of those fights.

Even the TUF Finale bouts have garnered my attention. None of the four combatants are well known to the masses. However, simply put, they are finishers. The one that are most likely to put on a show are the contestants vying for the Bantamweight Finale, Reginaldo Oliveira and Dlleno Lopes.

Oliveira (12-3) has had twelve of his fifteen fights end early, ten of which have ended in the first round. His opponent, Dileno Lopes (18-1,) has an even better resume.He has only gone the distance twice, has ended eleven bouts within the opening round, and can finish via knockout and submission. This fight could be a sleeper contender for “Fight of the Night” honors.

The Lightweight Finale bout between Fernando Bruno (15-2) and Glaico Franca Moreira (12-3) might not look as aesthetically pleasing on paper, but it could be fun. Bruno has almost as many decisions as he does submissions, but Moreira has seen only three of his fights go the distance. He is also on a better streak, having won nine of his last ten. Hopefully, this fight delivers.

As for the title fight, well, it is a squash match. Ronda Rousey is as big a favorite in this fight as there has ever been inside the octagon. I’m not going to pretend that I believe Bethe Correia has a chance in this one. However, the Brazilian has done quite a fantastic job being obnoxious, displaying delusion, and garnering notoriety in the process. Even if she gets crushed tomorrow night, as seemingly every logical person believes will be the case, it may actually be fun to see the destruction take place tomorrow night. I know I’ll be looking forward to it.

Overall, the card is more appealing, at least to me, than many are claiming it to be. Heck, even the Fight Pass prelims are decent! Hugo Viana was a contestant on the first and only decent season of TUF: Brazil. He may be a decision machine, and he has lost two of his last three fights via tko, but he’s still a decent fighter. His opponent, Guido Cannetti, is far from great. However, he does make for solid entertainment. He has never gone the distance, and has only gotten to the second round once. That fight was his most recent one, a second round submission loss to Enrique Briones at UFC 180 last November. A win tomorrow night will not get him a spot on UFC 200, but it would allow him to continue fighting inside the octagon. Who knows, he might win. If he does, it will be in exciting fashion.

As for the other Fight Pass bout, well, it shouldn’t be on Fight Pass. Vitor Miranda is a former Kickboxer with knockout power, ending 18 of his Kickboxing bouts, as well as seven of his MMA bouts, in that manner. He lost the TUF: Brazil 3 “Heavyweight” finale via decision to current Light Heavyweight Antonio Carlos Junior last May, but went back to his natural weight class of Middleweight, and stunned Jake Collier with a head kick knockout in the final second of the opening round of their bout in December.

Meanwhile, his opponent, Clint Hester, needs a win to finally get some respect from the UFC. The TUF 17 contestant won each of his first four bouts inside the octagon, but only fought on television on two of those occasions. Three of his first five octagon bouts, including his loss to TUF: Smashes winner Robert Whittaker, took place on Fight Pass. Tomorrow’s bout will mark the fourth time he will be fighting on the UFC’s digital network.

If either man wants to escape from the clutches of fighting on the online portion, they need a win. Both are knockout artists anyways, so this one should end with a bang.

So, there you go. Now everyone can understand why I care so much about this card. It means something to my mind, my eyes, and my soul. Granted, I’m one of those people who tunes into MMA whenever it’s available, even if it’s a local amateur card. But, it’s not often that a card means this much to me, especially when it’s so audibly reviled by many. Whether many people tune in or not, I will. I must. Regardless of what happens tomorrow night, I will remember it, for a long time to come.

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