— HOUSTON -- A lot matters on Saturday night. That's the takeaway feeling from fight week so far. In most events, you might have at most one championship match, or one fight that may determine a number one contender. More often than you'd like, you have nothing of any real meaningful consequence. But UFC 136 will have ripple effects on multiple divisions for the foreseeable future.
There are two title fights, there is one fight that may produce a long-awaited championship rematch, and there is a surging lightweight that plans to announce his arrival as a top contender. Further down the card, there's even a fighter who many believe could develop into MMA's next great heavyweight.
A few words about an important show…
UFC lightweight champ Frankie Edgar is brimming with confidence over his lightweight title fight with Gray Maynard. Even after nearly getting knocked out in their last encounter, Edgar believes his survival proves Maynard doesn't have the firepower to finish him. And Edgar has full faith in his style out-working Maynard's over five rounds.
Edgar wouldn't tip his hand on his own plan, but he mentioned that he expected Maynard to be more aggressive with his wrestling. In the last fight, Maynard focused mostly on his boxing and then used takedowns as a fallback when his energy levels were fading. Edgar thinks he'll see a more judicious mix of both this time around.
"I'm not going there thinking I have any kind of edge," Edgar said. "I know he's motivated to win. I'm going in there thinking I have to fight my heart out for this fight."
Maynard, usually quiet in media situations, has been quite candid about his feelings over the fight, saying that he learned his lessons from the last time out, when he expended most of his energy in the first round trying to finish Edgar and had nothing in reserve for the later rounds.
"I feel as if I'm prepared," he said. "I'm not like, 'Uh, I don't know if I did this right, or if I did that right.' Everything is all done. It's time to have fun."
It's the third and quite possibly last chance for a title for Kenny Florian. He lost to Sean Sherk back in 2006, and then to BJ Penn in 2011. And though he's had his share of success as well, for some, the inability to win a belt is threatening to define his career.
UFC president Dana White famously said that Florian "chokes" in big fights, and this week, White wouldn't utter that word in Florian’s presence, but alluded to the remark, saying that he hoped “Kenny can prove me wrong."
The odds are against him. Current featherweight champion Jose Aldo is a solid favorite in their bout, and on Friday, probable No. 1 contender in waiting Chad Mendes told NBCSports.com that he is expecting the champ to retain his belt.
"I think Aldo's going to come away with the win," he said. "I think both guys are good at the same things, but I just feel like Aldo's a lot more athletic and a lot more dangerous at everything he does."
The MMA world is relatively small, so it's not uncommon for fighters from opposite sides of the country, or even the world, to have some connection to each other. But the connection between Sonnen and Stann is a fun piece of irony.
When Stann made his MMA debut back in January 2006, Sonnen was the ringside announcer for his fight. In that bout, Stann stopped Aaron Stark, a fighter who had trained with Sonnen leading up to it. Sonnen's seen thousands upon thousands of matches and countless fighters making their debuts over the years, but Stann stuck out to him.
"I couldn’t stop Stark in a couple minutes of the first round, so I was impressed," he recalled. "I grabbed him after the fight, and said, ‘I think you’re really good, I just wanted you to know.’ I still think he’s really good. When he was green and didn’t know much about fighting, he won a world championship in the WEC at an upper weight class, so I don’t question his skills at all."
For a while, Stann went out to train with Sonnen at Team Quest before shifting camps. The two are still friendly, and it's part of the reason Sonnen hasn't fired a single bit of verbal ammunition at his opponent. Friendship be damned, with a possible fight with middleweight champ Anderson Silva at stake, the offensive firepower will be on display on Saturday night.
"You're going to see two guys who go in there and fight for the entire 15 minutes," Stann said. "We're not going to stop. And no matter how much respect we share between each other, we won't stop hitting each other until the last bell rings. Then we'll take a picture together."
Melvin Guillard has always been an exciting talent, but many onlookers have watched him with a sense of caution, worried that he would find a way to self-destruct. Those days seem to be behind him now. Guillard holds himself to a high level of maturity, both in and out of the cage.
On Saturday he faces Joe Lauzon, and he'll be aiming for his sixth straight win. Earlier this year, Guillard was vocal about asking for a title opportunity, but now he has pulled back a bit. Guillard says that new approach is about simple confidence. If he keeps winning, he knows he can't be denied a chance to fight for the lightweight belt. In his mind, he is on a collision course with history.
"It’s going to come," he said. "I just know it. It’s almost like knowing what the lotto numbers are before the lottery is played so I hit the jackpot. I just really feel I’m next in line, and I will be the world champion soon.