Posted 04/18/2014 by McKinley Noble in MMA in Florida

UFC on Fox 11: Saturday’s 5 Biggest Mysteries

Every good MMA card is filled with intrigue, and by that definition, UFC on Fox 11 looks fantastic.

In one of the year’s best free UFC cards so far, this Saturday night will see 26 fighters step into Florida’s Amway Center. Every single one of them has something to prove, but there’s five in particular that’ll potentially steal the show. These are the mysteries surrounding them that’ll soon be solved.


Travis Browne’s Ground Game

In a relatively short five years climbing up the ranks of the 265-pound division, Travis “Hapa” Browne has surprisingly become one of the UFC’s best heavyweights.

Joe Rogan, probably: "Travis Browne is a BEAST. He's a MONSTER. He's a KILLER. He is everything I fear about LIFE."

Joe Rogan, probably: “Travis Browne is a BEAST. He’s a MONSTER. He’s a KILLER. He is everything I fear about LIFE.”

Even with the weight class looking relatively shallow in the looming shadows of champion Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos, Browne’s rise towards the top is no small feat, as he’s beaten a number of more experienced fighters at their own game. Yes, Josh Barnett, Alistair Overeem, and Gabriel Gonzaga are old farts, but smashing them in 2014 is still very impressive.

Against Fabricio Werdum, the biggest question is Browne’s grappling. If he needs to use it, will he survive being on the mat? That’s not so easy to determine.

Obviously, the big selling point is that Werdum—a 19-time Jiu-Jitsu medalist—submitted “all-time great” Fedor Emelianenko at the height of his reign.

Browne is certainly not an all-time great just yet, but as evidenced in his last few fights, he can take a beating and give one out in equally violent amounts.


Miesha Tate’s Mental State

Rousey literally beat the happiness out of Tate. One judo flip for every smile she smirked. (H/T @ZProphet_MMA)

What point is there in a Miesha Tate victory?

Holding two losses to Ronda Rousey and a rough 0-2 start in the UFC’s women’s division, “Cupcake” Tate couldn’t be further away from a title shot, but the more important question may be her mentality.

After the first defeat to Rousey in Strikeforce, Tate openly considered retirement. During the UFC 168 post-fight conference, Tate looked like she wanted to die. Perhaps beating Liz Carmouche will come down more to mind-over-matter, rather than striking or takedowns.


Donald Cerrone’s Wrestling

"I have zero regard for my own personal safety!"

“I have zero regard for my own personal safety!”

Even though he prefers using his stand-up game to win fights, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone is known to be a fantastic wrestler. However, he only pulls out that trick when he’s faced with a wrestling threat. Edson Barboza, a striker equally as talented as Cerrone, won’t be pressing the action with double-leg takedowns.

Therefore, it stands to reason the Cerrone can wrestle his way to a win if he wants.

Whether or not he’ll attempt to do so may be the key to victory. Striking with Barboza is risky, after all. Fortunately for him, he’s dealing with a guy who risks his life in rock climbing accidents.


Khabib Nurmagomedov’s 21-0 Streak

According to FightMatrix, there are only seven MMA fighters in recorded history with a longer winning streak than Khabib Nurmagomedov.

He's probably the only bear wrestler, too.

He’s probably the only bear wrestler, too. (H/T Fox Sports)

In that context, it’s rather baffling that the UFC hasn’t made a star out of the Dagestani fighter with his gaudy 21-0 record, a mark that’s been tested with some grueling matchmaking against the likes of Pat Healy, Abel Trujillo, Thiago Tavares, Gleison Tibau, and Kamal Shalorus.

Obviously, UFC matchmaker Joe Silva smells a rat when it comes to inflated regional MMA records.

But Khabib has remained undefeated with a 5-0 UFC stint against all odds, so from a fan’s perspective, he’s as clean as a sheet.

Plus, if he can beat Rafael dos Anjos, that’s going to shut up a lot of other Top 5 fighters avoiding him.


Thiago Alves’ Two-Year Layoff

There’s a real good chance that former title contender Thiago Alves, now 30 years old, has missed his prime fighting years.

Roughly 25 months on the bench and a triple batch of injuries will do that, but the added downside for Alves is that he’s getting a quietly dangerous return fight in Seth Baczynski.

At 2-4 in his last six fights, a defeat here could mean retirement for “Pitbull”—or the unemployment line.

So how will Alves look with that much ring rust?

Remember THIS Thiago Alves? I miss that guy. (H/T CagePotato)

For the sake of good ‘ol world-class MMA violence, let’s just hope that he’s been icing his knees, keeping his back reasonably healthy, and spending a good bit of his recovery time out on the good ‘ol jogging track.


McKinley Noble is an MMA conspiracy theorist. His work has appeared in NVisionBleacher Report, PC World, Macworld, GamePro, 1UP, MMA Mania and The L.A. Times. Follow him at @KenTheGreat1 on Twitter.

McKinley Noble