Showdown on UFC: Three big fights in Brazil

Rafael dos Anjos meets Evan Dunahm in an important lightweight fight.

Saturday’s UFC on Sportsnet: Belfort vs. Rockhold has plenty of reasons to keep fans glued to the tube. There’s a former champ, a Canadian light-heavyweight and some potential future stars that have yours truly intrigued.

Without further ado, here’s what I’ll be paying close attention to.

New Blood?

UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva has long maintained that he wants new challenge(r)s whenever he steps into the Octagon. Luke Rockhold, the last Strikeforce middleweight champion could be that guy, should he emerge victorious versus Vitor Belfort in the main event.

But, should “The Phenom” win, the self proclaimed “T-Rex” can make a claim for himself that he deserves a rematch with “The Spider.” Since losing to Silva, he has gone undefeated at 185 pounds, and nearly defeated Jon Jones in their 205-pound title fight. A defeat of Rockhold would see four straight wins, two of which are over top-10 talent.

Either way, the winner of this main event could see a title shot in the very near future.

Lightweight showdown

Not many people are paying attention to the ascension of Rafael dos Anjos up the lightweight ladder. He has won four of his last five fights, with many not agreeing with the split decision loss to Gleison Tibau. His knockout of George Sotiropoulos was a sight to behold; I was four rows away from that devastating finish, and it’s a moment that has been burned in my mind. Rafael’s last bout, a victory over Canadian Mark Bocek, sealed the deal for me. This guy is the real deal, yet is not getting the respect he deserves.

Watch UFC on Sportsnet: Belfort vs. Rockhold Saturday starting with the preliminary card at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the main card at 9 p.m. ET, all on Sportsnet ONE. In addition, catch three bonus online prelims at 4:30 p.m. ET on

His next challenge is Evan Dunham, once considered a serious threat in the division, who unfortunately has seen some dips in his career. But Dunham is still the same monster who stole the show in 2010, and while that was only three years ago, mark my words, a win over dos Anjos puts him either in the top 10, or at the very least, number 11.

The Halifax hulk

Canadian light-heavyweight Roger (The Hulk) Hollett will have his hands full in Brazil. He has a huge task ahead of him named Fabio Maldonado, who has cemented himself with a reputation of pure heart, guts and glory. Fabio’s last tilt vs. Glover Teixeira was a study in human perseverance and proved why the boxer is next to impossible to finish. But he has been before, twice actually via kneebar. The Brazilian does hold a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but Hollett, a strong wrestler, may be able to take advantage of that.

Standing and trading with Maldonado is obviously ill-advised, but putting him on his back and keeping himself square could be the way to go. Follow Fabio’s hips, while scoring points could see him land one stunner of a punch that could see a TKO finish. And should he win, “The Hulk” will officially put Halifax on the MMA map, giving the Maritimes two big names in the UFC.

The other, Cole Harbour, N.S.’s T.J. Grant, is one win away (next week) from getting a lightweight title shot.

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