I don’t have the answers. Watch the show.
Is muay Thai the right answer for Lyoto Machida?
In 15 career fights, the UFC’s light-heavyweight champion -- or as pronounced by Lyoto Machida himself, champeeon -- has rarely been tested by a high level of muay Thai. Thiago Silva has good stand-up, but few wins against top opposition; Sam Greco, virtually a pure kickboxer, took Machida the distance in 2004, but also outweighed him considerably. There’s not much precedence to draw on.
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is a muay Thai Tasmanian devil -- all arms and legs. Aggression and accuracy could be a proper solution to Machida’s head movement. So could a hammer. Rua can only pick one Saturday.
Does “Shogun” deserve his opportunity?
A multiple-time felon of Pride -- suspected in several attacks on mismatched Japanese -- Mauricio Rua has looked underwhelming in his UFC bid. A knockout over Chuck Liddell was a claimed return to form, but Liddell’s descent is a poor marker of recovery. Has the lack of other deserving challengers created a fight that shouldn’t really be happening?
Is Cain Velasquez being brought up too quickly?
Talk of title shots and gym terrors makes Cain Velasquez sound like a seasoned artist, but he’s only six fights into a career that’s expecting him to perform like he’s had 20. The inexperience showed against Cheick Kongo, who found his chin on multiple occasions. Ben Rothwell is a big test: hard to handle standing or grounded, and a fighter who’s gotten into deep water against Andrei Arlovski and others without wilting early. Velasquez might very well be the next heavyweight champion -- but he could still very well lose this fight.
Is Anthony Johnson St. Pierre’s next problem?
Barren: one way to describe the UFC’s welterweight division in the presence of Georges St. Pierre, who has rendered virtually every contender demoralized. That’s why fresh talent like Anthony Johnson makes for compelling television: depending on whom he fights and how he fights them, he could be shaping up to present problems for the champion -- particularly if he has some answers for the clinch and ties of judoka Yoshiyuki Yoshida. (Staying upright against GSP improves your night substantially.)
Are Spike’s live preliminary broadcasts a risk?
Basic cable wafflers might be persuaded to order UFC 104 Saturday based on the quality of the preliminary fights offered during a one-hour special on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET: Ryan Bader will take on Eric Schafer and Antoni Hardonk will face Patrick Barry. Good fights sell events, but a stinker -- a statistical possibility if every major event picks up this tactic -- could turn off fans who can’t spell “Machida” without cheating.