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UFC 143: Preliminary Card Things to Watch For

MMAFrenzy kicks off our coverage of UFC 143 by taking a look at the Facebook and FX preliminary cards. Writers Chris Leslie and Bryan Robison take a look at what to look for this Saturday. Check back each day this week as we break down the main card before finishing the week with the main event, a UFC welterweight interim championship bout between Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit.

Bryan Robison’s Things to Look For

Will Dustin Poirier be able to not look past Max Holloway?

Poirier (Pictured) just turned 23 this month, but he is on the fast track to a title shot against Jose Aldo if he continues his current pace, as he has won his last four fights, including all three at 145 pounds.

He was originally expected to face Eric Koch, which would have certainly been a number one contender’s bout. Unfortunately, Koch withdrew due to injury, as did Koch’s replacement, Ricardo Lamas. Now Poirier faces UFC newcomer Holloway, who is 4-0 in his MMA career.

At 6’1, the Hawaiian is one of the few featherweights that is taller than the 5’9 Poirier.

With so many opponent changes, ending with a featherweight making his UFC debut, and with what is on the line, Poirier has a lot of pressure on him going into this fight.

Will Alex Caceres be able to continue his momentum at bantamweight?

After fighting on The Ultimate Fighter at 155 pounds, Caceres immediately dropped to 145, and now has a home at 135 pounds. He made his bantamweight debut in November, defeating Cole Escovedeo.

Now Caceres has a prime opportunity to develop momentum at his proper weight class.

In opponent Edwin Figueroa, Caceres gets an opponent who will look to do exactly what Caceres loves-strike.

The winner of the striking will likely determine the winner of the fight.

How long can Matt Brown stick around?

With four losses in his last five fights, Brown is really testing his nickname “The Immortal”.

A fan favorite on The Ultimate Fighter, Brown has not looked impressive in quite some time. All four losses in the last two years have come due to submission. But luckily for Brown, his opponent, Chris Cope, has never won a match with a submission. Cope is purely a striker, so Brown will be left with no excuses if he does not return to the win column.

Can Rafael Natal really fight just a week after a nearly six hour tennis match?

Oh, different guy? Sorry.

Chris Leslie’s Things to Look For

How will grappling standout Michael Kuiper fare in his UFC debut against former prospect Rafael Natal?

Kuiper is a black belt in judo and holds a purple belt in Gracie Barra Jiu-Jitsu, and he is only 22. He’s facing Natal, who other than having a name like the Australian Open runner-up, combines nasty legkicks with very good ground game of his own. Natal has good takedown defense, so we could learn where Kuiper’s standup is at pretty quick.

Is Edwin Figueroa a prospect or just roster depth?

Figueroa is a tough fighter without a doubt and in his two fights in the UFC that has been on full display. He had an absolute war with the fast-rising Michael McDonald in his UFC debut on only two weeks notice. He followed that up with a nice TKO over Jason Reinhardt in his last fight at UFC Live: Hardy vs. Lytle. Now it’s time to figure out where he stands in the division. Can he build on two impressive fights to start his own rise or will he stay on the undercards? We will find out Saturday.

What will the new intro be?

I know it is not quite the undercard still, but this Saturday’s UFC card is supposed to mark the end of “Gladiator Guy.” While I hope we do not have the same “Real Steal” opening that the fox cards have had, it will be interesting to see what marks the beginning of a new era.

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