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Sport 5 burning questions heading into UFC on ESPN 11

21:07  19 june  2020
21:07  19 june  2020 Source:   mmajunkie.com

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The run of events at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas continues Saturday night with UFC on ESPN 11.

a man looking at the camera © Provided by MMAJunkie

The cards put on by the promotion since the schedule resumed in late April have run the gamut from the exciting to, well, the considerably less than exciting. That’s simply how things will play out in a mad scramble to put together shows amid all sorts of coronavirus pandemic-related restrictions at a time the company is laser-focused on getting in its full slate of 2020 cards.

This time around, we can say with confidence the card, on paper, appears to be solid from top to bottom, with plenty of reason to tune in from the opening fight on up to the main event.

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In the that main event, an important heavyweight bout will take place as the division rounds back into shape, with Curtis Blaydes, who has been knocking on the door awhile, taking on former Bellator champion Alexander Volkov. 

Without further ado, here are five burning questions heading into UFC on ESPN 11.

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Where will the Blaydes-Volkov winner land?

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Curtis Blaydes

Imagine, for a moment, that Volkov (31-7 MMA,  5-1 UFC) doesn’t lose focus during the closing seconds of a UFC 229 fight with Derrick Lewis he had all but sealed. Had Lewis not landed a buzzer-beater knockout, Volkov would be on an eight-fight win streak, six in the UFC, and no doubt high in the title mix.

As for Blaydes (13-2 MMA, 8-2 UFC)? Well, there’s no doubt about his “what if:” Blaydes is 8-2 in the UFC, and both of those losses have come to Francis Ngannou, which isn’t exactly a pair of defeats for which one should be ashamed.

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The top of the heavyweight division is once again coming back online, with champion Stipe Miocic and former titleholder Daniel Cormier set to meet Aug. 15. Presumably, Ngannou is next in line now that the mania of a potential Jon Jones fight has come and gone.

Blaydes is coming off his biggest career win with an impressive second-round stoppage of former champ Junior Dos Santos in January. Volkov shook off his shocking loss to Lewis, defeated Greg Hardy in November, and can prove he’s still a face near the top of the division with a win.

The winner of this fight isn’t going to vault ahead of Ngannou in the pecking order, but a strong performance here could put the winner in position to get into position should anything go awry in the UFC’s title plans.

Will Josh Emmett vs. Shane Burgos produce a new featherweight contender?

  5 burning questions heading into UFC on ESPN 11 © Provided by MMAJunkie

Shane Burgos (red gloves) at UFC 244. (Sarah Stier, USA TODAY Sports)

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A nifty little sleeper fight goes down at featherweight, where Josh Emmett and Shane Burgos throw down on the main card.

Team Alpha Male’s Emmett (15-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) has been on a win two, lose one run throughout his UFC tenure. He’s currently on one of his two-fight winning streaks, with finishes of Mirsad Bektic and Michael Johnson. A win over a streaking Burgos would finally break the pattern in which Emmett suffers a setback whenever it seems he’s about to take off.

Burgos (13-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC), like Emmett, made his UFC debut in 2016. He’s on a three-fight winning streak, with finishes of Makwan Amirkhani and Kurt Holubaugh wrapped around a decision over Cub Swanson. With a combined 18 career finishes between the two, this fight’s a fair bet to be an exciting battle, and the victor should mark himself on the short list at 145 pounds.

Can Lyman Good cap his comeback from COVID-19?

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Lyman Good (red gloves) at UFC 244 (Sarah Stier, USA TODAY Sports)

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Lyman Good made headlines back in April, when the former Bellator welterweight champion became the first UFC competitor to test positive for COVID-19. Good detailed his illness, which also affected his girlfriend and several of his teammates at Tiger Schulmann’s MMA, as well as his recovery from the virus.

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Now, Good (21-5 MMA, 3-2 UFC) has a chance to show that a person with even as difficult a job as fighting can recover from the virus, which has disrupted everyday life for months, and return to previous form. On top of that, Good has been dealing with recent death of his father.

It’s not like Good is getting a free pass in his return, either. Good will meet Belal Muhammad, who has won two straight fights and six of his past seven. The fight was originally scheduled for the ill-fated UFC 249 April 18 date in Brooklyn. Muhammad (16-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC) has won two straight and six of seven and is looking to take another big step up the ladder.

Good, for his part, has all three of his UFC wins by way of a finish. A strong win here would not only show he’s back, but that he’s ready to make the big run which has thus far eluded him in the UFC.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFAnoIbyLLA&w=1000&h=563]

Could Clay Guida vs. Bobby Green steal the show?

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Clay Guida.

Every once in a while, a fight between veterans is made that makes you instantly wonder why it didn’t happen sooner. Such is the case with the lightweight featured prelim bout between Clay Guida and Bobby Green.

The duo have a combined for 89 professional fights over 29 years of fighting experience, and most of that time they’ve fought in the same division. And they were, in fact, scheduled to fight in 2018, but Green had to withdraw from the fight.

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Saturday, the unconventional duo will finally cross paths. 

Both have awkward styles. Both are capable of putting together “Fight of the Night,” and in Guida’s case, “Fight of the Year”-caliber performances. Both are capable of head-scratching off nights, too, but usually in ways that are interesting rather than boring.

You never know what you’re going to get when either of these guys steps in the cage. But if you add in that Guida (35-19 MMA, 15-13 UFC) has dropped two of three and Green (24-10-1 MMA, 5-5-1 UFC) his past two, you get the sense this fight will have an urgency that will bring out the best out of both, making it very much worth watching.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0uDE_FIn38&w=1000&h=563]

Is Brianna Van Buren the real deal?

a man holding a ball: USA TODAY © USA TODAY USA TODAY

Brianna Van Buren. (Kyle Terada, USA TODAY Sports)

Those who tuned into Invicta Phoenix Series 1 on May 3, 2019 caught a tour de force performance byAmerican Kickboxing Academy’s Brianna Van Buren. In an eight-woman tournament, Van Buren (9-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) won a pair of one-round early fights, including a decision over Julianna Lima, then submitted veteran Kailin Curran in the second round of the finals to become Invicta strawweight champ.

BVB then went on to the UFC and once again made waves as she stymied a legit contender in Renata Livia Souza and earned a decision to end her four-fight winning streak.

All these signs seem to indicate Van Buren is legit. But you don’t really know if you’ll make it in the UFC’s deepest women’s weight class unless you can get past the always tough Tecia Torres. Torres (10-5 MMA, 6-5 UFC) has lost four straight, but they’ve all gone the distance, and three of the four — Zhang Weili, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and Jessica Andrade — have all held the championship. A win against a fighter who will no doubt be determined to prove she’s still relevant would be the clearest signal yet that Van Buren is on her way to big things.

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