Interim bantamweight champion Renan Barao was on the original marquee. | Photo: Sherdog.com
The fine people of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, have an Ultimate Fighting Championship event to call their own for the first time, as UFC 161 “Evans vs. Henderson” touches down on Saturday at the MTS Centre.
The injury bug went to town on this show, eliminating an interim bantamweight title bout, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and a handful of other fighters. On the bright side, let us hope all the venom has been exhausted, leaving UFC 162 happy and healthy on July 6.
How We Got Here: Plainly speaking, UFC 161 fell out of the injury tree and hit every branch on the way down. Renan Barao was set to defend his interim bantamweight title and 20-fight winning streak against Eddie Wineland, but a foot injury forced the Brazilian’s withdrawal. As a result, the Rashad Evans-Dan Henderson co-main event was reassigned as the headliner. The two light heavyweights find themselves on the rebound after dreadfully forgettable losses, Evans to Nogueira and Henderson to Lyoto Machida ... Since the lineup needed some oomph, Roy Nelson came charging in on his very strong white horse to add some name value. He replaces Soa Palelei and will face Stipe Miocic.
Useless Fact: The Nogueira brothers built their legacy on ahead-of-their time Brazilian jiu-jitsu and the ability to survive hellacious beatings. That resilience came with a price tag, however, and their 37-year-old bodies are cashing in. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira has faced a litany of injuries, surgeries and even a staph infection that required a five-day stay in the hospital. His twin brother is not too far behind. During his four years under the UFC umbrella, “Minotoro” has pulled out of four fights because of injury: Brandon Vera at UFC 109, Rich Franklin at UFC 133, Alexander Gustafsson at UFC on Fuel TV 2 and now his rematch with Rua at UFC 161.
Forever Young: During Henderson’s pre-UFC 161 media tour, he made it clear several times that while he is moving towards the end of his career he expects to fight for two more years. The former two-division Pride Fighting Championships titleholder turns 43 in August. Despite his age -- testosterone replacement therapy notwithstanding -- the two-time Olympian remains a viable contender for Jon Jones’ light heavyweight crown. How long that lasts could hinge on Henderson’s main event with Evans. Will he write another chapter in his incredible story or will history simply turn the page?
Awards Watch: Nelson has become the master of the Duck N’ Chuck -- lower your head and heave as much weight as you can into an overhand right. He has knocked out his last three opponents in the first round. Miocic will be the fourth ... This is yet another card where no bout stands out for a potential “Submission of the Night” winner. Several good Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts are paired with one another, but submission defense is part of earning that rank. Kenny Robertson’s WTF kneebar against Brock Jardine at UFC 157 remains firmly lodged in my brain. Expect Robertson to strike twice; this time, Sean Pierson becomes the victim ... It may sound cliché, but Alexis Davis and Rosi Sexton have more to prove in their matchup, making them leading contenders for the “Fight of the Night” bonus.