UFC Boston preview: What to look for

UFC president Dana White once again stacks a Boston fight night card filled with talent when the organization returns to “Bean Town” this Friday. Rising prospects, a former middleweight champion, and a bitter rivalry fill the card to make for an exciting night of fights. Here’s what you need to know:

A Former Champion Tries a New Challenge

For fight fans, it doesn’t seem all too long ago that Chris Weidman (14-4, 10-4 UFC) defeated Anderson Silva to become the undisputed middleweight champion. After a fall from grace and losing four of his last five contests, Weidman is looking to revive his career with a move up in weight class against the undefeated Dominick Reyes (11-0, 5-0 UFC). Fighters moving from middleweight to light heavyweight have seen mixed results. While contenders Thiago Santos and Anthony Smith have had success at the heavier weight, Luke Rockhold showed difficulties in his most recent fight against a bigger opponent. Although Reyes is an excellent striker and holds the height advantage, there will be opportunities for Weidman to capitalize. Weidman is an elite grappler with three submission victories in the UFC and nearly twice the cage experience as Reyes.

Rodriguez vs. Stephens Has Fight of the Year Potential

Yair Rodriguez (11-2, 7-1 UFC) and Jeremy Stephens (28-16, 15-15 UFC) will step into the cage for the second time in the last four weeks this Friday in Boston. Their first contest, a main event bout last month at UFC Mexico, ended in 15 seconds after an accidental eye poke from Rodriguez. Since that time, both fighters have sent verbal jabs towards the other regarding the bout resulting in a subsequent physical altercation at a hotel lobby. The downside of the rematch is we only get a three round main event opposed to the originally scheduled five round headliner, but don’t let that deter you. Both fighters are known for putting on a show worth clearing your schedule for. The flashy Rodriguez is the winner of five fight bonuses in eight UFC appearances, the last coming in a last second (literally, last second) knockout of Chan Sung Jung at UFC Denver. The veteran Stephens has developed a loyal fan base for his hard hitting, no nonsense style and brings a career five “fight of the night” bonuses into the contest. The contrasting fighting styles along with a genuine disdain for the opposing fighter make this a can’t miss contest.

Does Greg Hardy Move the Needle?

The consensus feeling with the UFC has been that public perception will take a back seat to viewership numbers and pay-per-view buys. In the case of Greg Hardy, a former NFL defensive end turned MMA fighter, has the risk outweighed the reward? Hardy (5-1, 4-1 UFC) made headlines when he was announced as a contestant on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. With three knockout wins in his first three professional fights, Hardy was signed to a UFC contract and announced as the co-main event for his official UFC debut. He made a return to the co-main position in the following contest and has cemented himself as a main card UFC fighter, a spot usually reserved for more established fighters. Social media reactions have showed a negative response to Hardy being pushed into the spotlight, many viewers disagreeing with him even being on the roster after his checkered personal past. In the end, the UFC does not care if you are tuning in to cheer or jeer, only that you watch. It seems Greg Hardy’s name carries appeal as he heads into his fight against Ben Sosoli (7-2) Friday night.

Looking for a Future Star? This is the Card for You

If you share my enthusiasm for young, talented prospects who are the future of the sport, UFC Boston is sure to deliver. This card is littered with fighters who will assist the UFC into the next era. Specifically, keep your eyes on these three: Kevin Holland, Deron Winn, and Maycee Barber.

Holland (15-4, 4-1 UFC), unofficially nicknamed “Big Mouth” by Dana White, is one of the game’s rising stars. After an unimpressive decision win on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, White decided to give Holland a second opportunity as a last-minute replacement against Thiago Santos. Holland lost the decision but gained a plethora of fans (White included) for his resilient display. A three-fight win streak since that night sets him up for continued success against Brendan Allen (12-3, 1-0) UFC.

Take a glance at Deron Winn (6-0, 1-0 UFC) and instantly he will remind you of one fighter: former two-division champion Daniel Cormier. Not only do they share a similar physique, Winn and Cormier share a gym as both train under the tutelage of Javier Mendez at American Kickboxing Academy. Winn brings an accomplished wrestling resume to the sport and is quickly becoming one of the sport’s brightest young stars.

Maycee Barber (7-0, 3-0 UFC) rounds out the list of up-and-comers…and she’s barely old enough to legally buy an alcoholic beverage. Her three UFC fights weren’t just wins either, Barber put away her opponents with a barrage of strikes not often seen in the strawweight division. Barber hopes to keep the momentum rolling against her first real test, fellow rising prospect Gillian Robertson (7-3, 4-1 UFC).

 

UFC Boston begins with the prelims at 6pm ET followed by the main card at 9pm ET.  All fights can be watched on ESPN2.