UFC 177 Preview

On the plus side, we’re finally getting to see the UFC back on Pay-Per-View Saturday night, after a nearly two-month layoff. On the other hand, the card for the return event isn’t exactly what you would call star-studded.

Only one fighter outside of the Main Event is in the UFC.com rankings, and that is No. 10 Bethe Correia, of the woman’s bantamweight division. Even die-hard fans of the sport will have to work to get excited about a co-Main Event that features two fighters, Tony Ferguson and Danny Castillo, both ranked outside of the top 15 in the lightweight division.

The UFC is pinning all of its hopes for this card on the Main Event between TJ Dillashaw and Renan Barão. For the sake of the organization, it needs to be a better fight than the last time the two matched up. If it’s not, this card could leave fans feeling discontented with the Pay-Per-View purchase, a feeling that means trouble for a company with a niche group of followers. Here are the fights to look for at UFC 177. Let’s cross our fingers that there are some surprises.

Fight with the best KO/TKO Potential

Ramsey Nijem vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira

This main card fight between two young lightweights offers an interesting mix of styles that opens up some intriguing submission possibilities. Nijem was the runner-up on Season 13 of The Ultimate Fighter in 2011. So far in his brief UFC career, the 26-year old has flashed some tremendous power and his offensive game is excellent in all phases. His record is a somewhat pedestrian 9-4 but he’s finished five of his nine victories, including three in the first round.

Ferreira is a somewhat unknown commodity, but he’s undefeated as professional at 10-0 and he’s submitted six of the fighters he’s faced. His first fight in the UFC ended in 38 seconds when he forced Colton Smith to tap out with a rear-naked choke. Nijem’s takedown defense is not the most polished part of his game, and he is a very aggressive fighter, so the 29-year old Ferreira will have some opportunities to use his high-level grappling skills in close quarters and possibly make Nijem his seventh submission victim.

Key Quote: “I know he’s a tough guy and comes in strong and aggressive, but I’ve been training for his style of fighting. I’m going to be ready whether he wants to stand up or take me down.”-Carlos Diego Ferreira, on Ramsey Nijem

Related: UFC 177 Preview: The Fight To Watch

Most Underrated Fight

Yancy Medeiros vs. Damon Jackson

The first fight of the night on the Pay-Per-View card features two fighters with worlds of potential. They are both looking for a leg up in becoming established in the organization. Jackson, a Dallas native, is the current belt-holder in the featherweight division of the Legacy Fighting Championship, an MMA organization based in Texas. He’s considered a top prospect in the 145-pound division but on Saturday he’ll be moving up a weight class to face the lightweight Medeiros.

‘The Leech” Jackson is undefeated as professional, posting a 9-0 mark to this point in his career, and has left none of his fights up to the judges, winning by submission seven times and KO twice. His debut in the UFC, however, could be a different story. Medeiros is another talented youngster and he is solid at takedown defense, meaning this fight could turn into an upright brawl. This isn’t Jackson’s strength; he hunts takedowns throughout the fight, so he could be in trouble against the bigger Medeiros. If the 26-year old Jackson does find a way to win this fight, especially on only nine days notice, he’ll get a much more prominent opponent sooner rather than later.

Key Quote: “I feel really confident, it’s actually a good matchup, as far as he’s real similar to Leonard Garcia, the guy I just fought. It was a no-brainer to take the fight on short notice.” –Damon Jackson, on Yancy Medeiros

Most Intriguing Matchup

Tony Ferguson vs. Danny Castillo

This isn’t a fantastic matchup, considering it’s the co-Main Event on the card, but other than the Main Event, which I covered on Wednesday, this is the fight that promises the most fireworks.  Ferguson has put together a solid UFC career to this point, defeating Nijem with a vicious one-punch knockout in the first round to win Season 13 of TUF. The 30-year old is 5-1 in the UFC and he’s knocking on the door of the top 15, but he still lacks a marquee win. Beating Castillo is essential if he wants higher profile fights.

The 35-year old Castillo, a member of the Team Alpha Male group that has gained increased recognition with TJ Dillashaw’s ascent, has been fighting professionally since 2007 and has put together a solid career. He’s never been dominant but he’s had enough good victories to stick around. This fight does not match up well for “Last Call” Castillo, however. Ferguson is the more athletic and powerful fighter and it will be difficult for Castillo to find a way to take him down or score enough significant strikes to win rounds. Eventually, the older fighter will have to try to close the gap on Ferguson and that’s where “El Cucuy” should be able to do some damage.

Key Quote: “It’s kind of frustrating because I don’t feel like those are really true fans. The true fans know how talented Tony Ferguson is, and the true fans know how talented I am. I’ve put in the work. I’ve put in 4 or 5 fights on short notice, I’ve fought 3 or 4 guys that didn’t come in on weight; I kept my mouth shut and kept working.” –Danny Castillo, on the perception that his fight with Tony Ferguson isn’t worthy of a co-Main Event slot

And now for your viewing pleasure, the complete card for UFC 177:

Dylan Sinn is a freelance contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSinn or “like” CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.