The UFC has rolled into Cleveland with a stacked card for its first event in the city. There have been a lot of tremendous cards recently and MMA fans could easily be fatigued, but UFC 203 is an event that can't be missed and here is why.
1. Stipe Miocic returns in front of his hometown fans
Stipe Miocic won the UFC heavyweight championship by defeating Fabricio Werdum in his backyard in Brazil. Now Miocic gets to make his first title defense in front of his home crowd, a crowd that had gone over five decades without a championship until Miocic and shortly thereafter the Cavaliers brought titles back to the city.
Miocic also walks out to a Cleveland anthem titled "Till I Die" by a local rapper, Machine Gun Kelly. It could create for a very raucous atmosphere.
2. Alistair Overeem's pursuit of greatness
It is hard to believe Overeem has never been in a UFC title fight given his illustrious record, which includes being a former Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion, DREAM Heavyweight Champion, and K-1 World Grand Prix Champion. Overeem also held world titles in MMA and K-1 kickboxing at the same time, one of only two fighters to ever do so.
A UFC championship would cement Overeem's legacy.
3. CM Punk's debut
Former WWE superstar CM Punk quit the WWE in Cleveland, drove home and then decided to pursue another passion of his, MMA. CM Punk makes his MMA debut in Cleveland, which is poetic, but the jury is still out on him. Unlike Brock Lesnar, who had amateur experience as a wrestler, winning a Division 1 National Championship, CM Punk is very green.
His star power got him this shot, but can he compete? We'll find out on Saturday.
4. Who will Mickey Gall call out?
Mickey Gall is the man fighting CM Punk in his debut and has been training MMA for nearly a decade. Gall is vastly more experienced despite being in the early stage of his professional career, but he is smart. When making his professional debut, Gall called for a fight with CM Punk while Dana White was in the building for his show Lookin' For A Fight. He knew the UFC would need an opponent with a light record, and he fit the bill.
It was a savvy move that helped propel him to the UFC. If he wins, Gall has a name in mind to call out and further advance his career. Could be interesting to see who that person is.
5. Jessica Eye
Eye is another Cleveland native fighting in front of the hometown crowd. She fought Miesha Tate for a shot at Ronda Rousey and the title in July 2015, but she lost that fight and her career has spiraled downwards since. Eye has been enthusiastically talking about taking steps to identify what was wrong in the mental aspect of the game for her, setting out to correct it and getting on the right path. This fight could be the end of her three-fight losing streak and the beginning of a string of wins.
Eye, who is Miocic's teammate, also comes out to "Till I Die," except she had her own special version of the song recorded with her name inserted into the chorus.
6. Fabricio Werdum vs. Travis Browne
The last time they fought it was a title contender bout, meaning the winner would get a shot at the belt. This fight hasn't officially been labeled as such, given Browne's lower ranking, but a win for Werdum could earn him a rematch with Miocic if Miocic wins, or a shot at the belt. Browne is looking for a bounce-back win after losing to Cain Velasquez at UFC 200 and to get back a loss to Werdum.
7. Yancy Medeiros
Medeiros is a Diaz Academy prospect, but unlike the Diaz brothers he doesn't have the tough, mean persona. Medeiros jokes that they're mean muggers and he is a hugger. He isn't right. Medeiros is a happy person whose Snapchat will keep you smiling. Overall, just a fun person to watch.
Medeiros is 1-2 over his last three fights and is looking to get momentum going again.
8. Jimmie Rivera's first real test
Jimmie Rivera is 19-1 in his professional career, including 3-0 in the UFC, but he hasn't faced anyone of note yet. Enter Urijah Faber, the second-ranked bantamweight contender in the world and third-ranked bantamweight overall. A win establishes Rivera and puts him on a fast-track towards the top of the division. This could be Rivera's moment.
9. Jessica Andrade vs. Joanne Calderwood
The strawweight division has the tendency to steal the show at UFC events, and this clash between two top-10 ranked opponents could do so as well. Both fighters sit on the outside of the top-five and a win puts either into the title picture. The stakes are high.
10. Fight Announcements
The UFC likes to reward the pay-per-view buying crowd with information such as fight announcements. It was during UFC 199 that the promotion unveiled Brock Lesnar's return at UFC 200. Past UFC 204, there is still a lot of uncertainty about what the end of the year looks like. We know the event schedule, but we don't know who is headlining it. At this point last year, the UFC had already held a press conference discussing the fights for the end of the year—you might remember Conor McGregor taunting everyone on the stage.
The UFC won't announce every fight, but we might get some announcements.