UFC Norfolk Preview: Familiar Classics Battle it Out

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UFC Norfolk will be honoring the troops with a throwback fight card that features several of the Octagon’s old school veterans.

It is no easy task following the electric UFC 217, but several fan favorites will be competing in Norfolk, Virginia for the first UFC fight night of November.  Former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis meets Dustin Poirier in the main event and the undercard will feature veterans Matt Brown, Diego Sanchez, Andrei Arlovski and more in exciting bouts.

Not for lack of trying, but Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier is still looking to re-inject momentum into his career.  In 2016, he had a four fight win-streak snapped by Michael Johnson in a bout where many felt Poirier would be looking at a top four opponent had he won.  Disappointingly, Johnson would go on to book a fight with top-ranked Khabib Nurmagomedov in Madison Square Garden in a fight that would have figured to go to “The Diamond” had he been successful.

Instead, Poirier took the re-building route.  He faced a tenacious Jim Miller in February and sustained a leg injury during the course of the bout.  The usually destructive Poirier was hampered and had to settle for a decision against the veteran.  It was nothing to scoff at, but not a performance the commanded the attention of the division either.

He would get a huge opportunity several months later, facing former champion Eddie Alvarez in his first bout since losing the title.  Stylistically, the bout was guaranteed to bring fireworks.  Poirier did well against Alvarez, but in the second round he encountered controversy when the former champion hit Poirier with illegal knees and the fight was declared a No-Contest.  While a rematch was speculated, it was announced over the summer that Poirier would instead face Anthony Pettis.

“Showtime” recently returned to the winner’s circle with a big win of his own over Jim Miller this past July.  The victory came after an unsuccessful experiment at featherweight where he was clearly drawn out and depleted in fights due to the cut.  The drop down was a desperation move after having gone 0-3 at lightweight.

The stretch has led to a lot of questions from the public.  After having gone through long stretches of inactivity due to injury, were the 30 year old Pettis’ skills already diminishing from the wear and tear?  For a fighter who was once a gem of the promotion, the abrupt halt to his success was stunning.  At a time when the lightweight division awaits Conor McGregor’s return, the fight is critical toward the pecking order as other key lightweight bouts are set to take place in the next months.

In the co-main event, a clash between Matt Brown and Diego Sanchez carries plenty of nostalgia.  “The Immortal” has already announced that the fight will be the last of his career.  His arc has been a fascinating one to say the least.  He was a participant on The Ultimate Fighter Season 7 but didn’t make waves during his run.  When he dropped three straight fights, people were shocked that Brown was given another fight as they had believed that “The Immortal” was due to receive his walking papers from the promotion.

What came next was among the most successful stories of the past decade.  Brown would go 8-1 over the next three years, including a seven fight win-streak.  In the process, he grew his reputation as one of the most destructive forces in the welterweight division.  He was a terror to the division, losing only to the elite and putting on classic performances against the likes of Robbie Lawler and Donald Cerrone.

Diego Sanchez has had his place in history set since he won the inaugural Ultimate Fighter over a decade ago, and has engaged in some of the most memorable battles inside the Octagon since then.  That said, Sanchez is currently 3-5 and it is apparent that his own finale is quickly approaching after multiple first round losses.  Against Brown, he has an ever-willing dance partner with which to put on another classic slugfest.

Rounding out the action, Joe Lauzon encounters Clay Guida in a battle of UFC veterans.  Both men have seen the UFC grow from cult phenomenon to industrial machine.  Along the way, they’ve cemented reputations as two of the most exciting fighters in the promotion.  Lauzon has among the most performance bonuses ever by a single fighter in UFC history and Guida’s battles with Roger Huerta and Diego Sanchez live on in the memories of die-hard fans.  They are a fitting opener for a night full of throwback stars.

That’s only a few of the bouts on Saturday.  Longtime UFC veterans like former champion Andrei Arlovski and Nate Marquardt will also see action on the main card.  Uniquely, UFC Norfolk feels like an event carried more by a theme than the storylines of a few fights.  The card is chalk full of throwback names and stars that will give the most loyal members of the fan base plenty to reminisce about.  And hopefully, some more memories to add to the collection.

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