The lack of relevancy that marks UFC Fight Night 26's main event is more than made up for with a stacked undercard.
While Chael Sonnen and Mauricio Rua are some of the organization's bigger draws they won't get a light heavyweight title shot anywhere in the near future. The winner of a heavyweight co main event between Alistair Overeem and Travis Browne can't say the same however. And there are plenty of fighters on the card who linger on the cusp of big opportunities.
Three former champs two The Ultimate Fighter winners three TUF finalists and the key heavyweight matchup are a few of the notable additions to the UFC's live event debut on the new FOX Sports 1 which went live today..
UFC Fight Night 26's main card features six fights but a total of 10 bouts will be seen live on FOX Sports 1 starting at 6 p.m. ET (3 p.m. PT). Facebook prelims kick off at 4 30 p.m. ET.
The event which takes place at Boston's TD Garden hasn't exactly gone off without a hitch. Political opposition from the city council's president licensing issues with the state's athletic commission and union backed protests added to the challenge of mounting a successful event. The issues weren't enough to keep it from going forward though UFC President Dana White said they may keep the promotion from coming back to Beantown any time soon.
There also were fears the event wouldn't be available in the 90 million homes promised for the channel's debut. Those were allayed this week when FOX struck agreements with several major cable providers. According to White (and a very eager Sonnen) UFC Fight Night 26 will be available in 93 million homes. The visibility is crucial as FOX shepherds the promotion into the mainstream as one of six major sports franchises on the channel. And why not lead off with a fighter who's perhaps most comfortable in the spotlight
Sonnen (27 13 1 MMA 6 6 UFC) isn't setting any records with his UFC win percentage but he might be for the amount of business he's able to generate without a title. The masterful promoter is no longer ranked at 185 pounds where he fought the best stretch of his octagon career and plans to return after the event. Yet he'll headline his third straight event after losing a rematch to former middleweight champ Anderson Silva and most recently falling to light heavyweight champ Jon Jones. While he's taken more shots at his nemesis Wanderlei Silva than Rua in the buildup to Saturday his presence should sell the card to casual fans.
Rua (21 7 MMA 5 5 UFC) who briefly held the UFC light heavyweight belt isn't the showman outside the cage as Sonnen is but he still garners interest despite the rocky road of his UFC career. It's been four years since the Brazilian put together a win streak and injuries have repeatedly hindered him. In his most recent outing the 205 pound division's brightest prospect current No. 1 contender Alexander Gustafsson outpointed him which cast doubt on Rua's ability to compete with the young lions of the sport. Despite that setback his stature as a former PRIDE and UFC titleholder buys him the ability to get back into the title picture perhaps more quickly than Sonnen whose UFC record at 205 pounds is 0 1.
There's little doubt as to how the headliner will shape up inside the cage though some might break it down a little too simplistically. While Sonnen is a far better wrestler than Rua he's unlikely to spend the entire fight diving for the Brazilian's legs. He's more apt to force his opponent to fight backward and stuff him against the cage before attempting a takedown. Rua isn't particularly offensive off his back save for a kneebar he likes to apply to wrestlers and if Sonnen is able to rinse and repeat with his strategy he should win a decision.
Rua's best chance of putting himself back in the win column is to catch Sonnen in transition with a quick kick or punch. While he tends to swing wide with his punches and be predictable it's possible his recent work with boxing guru Freddie Roach will have added some straighter and more powerful attacks to his arsenal. If he couples punches with some stiff leg kicks to take the spring out of Sonnen's step or perhaps some knees from the clinch he'll have a good night.
Betting lines are almost even for the main event with money narrowly favoring Sonnen to win.
OTHER MAIN CARD BOUTS
Travis Browne (14 1 1 MMA 5 1 1 UFC) vs. Alistair Overeem (36 12 MMA 1 1 UFC) As a former Strikeforce and K 1 champion Overeem is a star and according to Browne has the persona that will keep him afloat in the heavyweight division longer than the average fighter. But Overeem also has encountered devastating setbacks that have removed a lot of his luster after his high profile signing two years ago. He was effectively benched for a year after failing a pre fight drug test that scratched a title fight at UFC 146 with now former champ Junior dos Santos and in his return appearance Antonio Bigfoot Silva knocked him out. If unable to get past Browne it could be devastating for his title aspirations. It could also make him an expensive line item for any card which might be the greatest danger to staying under contract.
And Browne as it turns out is no easy opponent. He's younger has less miles on his body and arguably is faster on his feet than the hard slugging former kickboxer. He's certainly lighter than the bulky Overeem who will tip the scales at more than 250 pounds. If able to slip punches and counter with his own or take Overeem to the mat Browne could pull off the upset. He's a 2 1 underdog but don't count him out.
Yuri Alcantara (28 4 MMA 3 1 UFC) vs. Urijah Faber (28 6 MMA 4 2 UFC) Faber remains in a holding pattern while bantamweight champs Dominick Cruz and Renan Barao recover from injuries and Alcantara is the latest opponent who hopes to launch his career with a win over the former WEC champ. Alcantara has beaten solid opposition in Ricardo Lamas and Michihiro Omigawa but most of his wins are against unheralded competition. That's the likely explanation for the list of submissions and TKOs that fills his record but against Faber he's got a tough road. The two time UFC title challenger has proven tough to submit and tough to hit when not fighting the best in the world and Alcantara will have to pull off a brilliant surprise to be the exception. So far bettors favor Faber to stay in line for a title as a 2 1 favorite.
Matt Brown (17 11 MMA 10 5 UFC) vs. Mike Pyle (25 8 1 MMA 8 3 UFC) Originally set to face onetime welterweight title challenger Thiago Alves Brown was tapped to meet veteran Pyle when an injury took Alves out of the equation. It's an even more relevant fight to the division as Brown is riding a five fight win streak while Pyle has won his past four. However it's a stylistically tougher matchup for Brown who's a relentless attacker on his feet but has shown consistent weakness in submission defense. Pyle not only is vastly improved as a striker but he has the option of taking the fight to the ground where he has the advantage. It's a dangerous and compelling fight for both and could put the winner within one or two fights of a title shot.
Michael Johnson (12 8 MMA 4 4 UFC) vs. Joe Lauzon (22 8 MMA 9 5 UFC) The Ultimate Fighter 12 finalist Johnson gets a stiff challenge with Lauzon who fights on home turf and has a penchant for nabbing submissions. That just happens to be Johnson's weakness and unless he's able to stay on his feet and make the crafty Lauzon pay it could be a quick night for him.
The official UFC Fight Night 26 card includes
MAIN CARD (FOX Sports 1 8 p.m. ET)Mauricio Rua vs. Chael Sonnen Travis Browne vs. Alistair Overeem Yuri Alcantara vs. Urijah Faber Matt Brown vs. Mike Pyle Uriah Hall vs. John Howard Michael Johnson vs. Joe Lauzon PRELIMINARY CARD (FOX Sports 1 6 p.m. ET) Michael McDonald vs. Brad Pickett Max Holloway vs. Conor McGregor Mike Brown vs. Steven Siler Diego Brandao vs. Daniel Pineda PRELIMINARY CARD (Facebook 4 30 p.m. ET) Manny Gamburyan vs. Cole Miller Cody Donovan vs. Ovince St. Preux Ramsey Nijem vs. James Vick For more on UFC Fight Night 26 stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site. Edit this article