Dana White drove past the construction site a few times, we presume, getting periodic glimpses of the Bangor arena rising from blueprint to foundation to concrete reality. And when the Cross Insurance Center opened for business less than a year ago, the UFC president was eager to bring his business Down East.
It’s not simply that White has a get-away-from-it-all vacation home in northeast Maine. He has a deep history there, too. Throughout his youth he paid extended visits to his grandparents in Levant, a few miles west of Bangor, and he even moved there from Las Vegas for his senior year of high school. He feels so connected that three years ago he donated $100,000 to his alma mater, Herman High, for the school’s athletic facility upgrade.
Hey, maybe it was a Who concert at dingy old Bangor Auditorium that inspired White to kick off UFC main cards with an arena-enlivening Baba O’Reilly. Those formative years …
So Saturday, when the UFC brings a Fight Night event to the 8,500-seat building (10 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1), it’ll be a homecoming of sorts for White. That doesn’t necessarily make it a special event for mixed martial arts fans, though. The 10-fight card has no title bouts, nothing even close. Only three of the evening’s competitors appear in the SI.com fighter rankings.
Still, there are entry points worth exploring.
The main event pits two light heavyweights on a hot streak. Ryan Bader (17-4), who is ranked No. 8, has won two in a row and five of his last seven, with the defeats coming against Glover Teixeira and Lyoto Machida. Don’t call them slouches. Call them recent title bout challengers. And next up in front of Bader is Ovince St. Preux (16-5), who is on a five-fight winning streak and has lost only once in his last 14. Just as Bader has rounded out his game beyond his wrestling roots, St. Preux no longer is pigeonholed as merely a former college football player (Tennessee, linebacker, 2001-04). These guys are looking to use each other as a springboard.
Other points of interest:
- Where have you gone, Grey Maynard? Once the most fearsome of lightweights, a mere flip of the switch away from putting out the lights on Frankie Edgar on two championship occasions, Maynard now is the one hanging on by a thread. After going unbeaten in the first 11 fights of his career, he’s won only one of his last five. His last two bouts ended in first-round knockout losses. Now he gets to contend with heavy-handed Ross Pearson, still peeved over being robbed in a head-shaking decision loss to Diego Sanchez in June, and looking to take it out on someone. Pearson needs some positive momentum. Maynard needs to stay concussion-free.
- So the “fly” in “flyweight” refers to flying under the radar? That’s once again the case for the 125-pound division, even at this low-key event. Jussier da Silva ranks eighth in the weight class in the SI.com tally, and his opponent, Zach Makovsky, is on a four-fight win streak that has the former Bellator bantamweight champ on the verge of the Top 10. Yet their bout isn’t part of the six-fight main card; it’ll “headline” the prelims, which begin at 8 p.m. on Fox Sports 2. Small fighters get a small spotlight.
- After Ronda, it’s all downhill? That seems to be the message the UFC is sending to Sara McMann, who was last seen going toe to toe with Rousey. On that night back in February, the champ needed just 1:06 to score her first career TKO. And now McMann, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling who is No. 4 among female bantamweights in the SI.com rankings, is facing promotional newcomer Lauren Murphy, who is unbeaten, with six KO’s among her eight victories. This appears to be a bout of consequence for the women’s game, yet it’s been relegated to the spot preceding da Silva vs. Makovsky. And so the rebuilding process begins.