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By: Chris Park, MMATorch UK Specialist
The UFC will return to the UK this evening for the first time in over twelve months as Chris Leben and Mark Munoz take part in the first ever five-round non title main event at UFC 138.
The LG Arena in Birmingham will set the stage, and at the open workouts this week Munoz looked anything but a man involved in a main event. Smiling and laughing his way through the press call, Munoz was as relaxed as a fighter can get. Leben on the other hand looked very much on edge.
In response to his involvement in this historic fight Munoz joked, "Hey, maybe It'll get me on Jeopardy. You're gonna see my name in trivial pursuit."
While this fight isn't an obvious choice to headline a UK card, it will see the winner move a step closer to a title shot; and despite the two round extension, it is unlikely the fight will go that far.
The fight that UK fans are looking forward to most is the highly anticipated UFC debut of Brad "One Punch" Pickett.
Pickett is a favourite amongst cult fans. After great success domestically, Pickett uprooted to Florida to pursue a career in the now dissolved WEC. Following the merger with the UFC, Pickett was then slated to face former long-term Bantamweight Champion Miguel Torres, but was forced to withdraw through injury.
This event will finally see Pickett in the UFC against a very tough opponent in Renan Barao; a man who has not lost since his debut back in 2005.
Pickett seems ready for the challenge but still refused to get carried away with being a UFC fighter.
"It hasn't happened yet," he said. "Until I am in there on Saturday I'm not a UFC fighter."
With the loss of Paul Taylor vs. Anthony Njokuani my new choice for fight of the night is Papy Abedi vs. Thiago Alves. While I still believe Alves will win the fight, I feel it will be much tougher on The Pitbull than people expect and my hope is it will draw out the best that Alves has to offer.
Terry Etim is back in the Octagon after an 18-month absence and will look to get his career back on track against Eddie Faaloloto. Of all the fighters to come out of the UK, it is Etim who is widely considered to be the one who could go on to finally hold a UFC title.
He was due to face Joe Lauzon before his string of injuries began, and that is a fight for the future should he get past Faaloloto on Saturday night.
"I wanna fight as many times as possible," Etim said this week. "I'm back now and want to fight as much as possible. I'm not looking past Saturday but that would be a great fight (against Lauzon) for the future."
With the recent reshuffle, Anthony Perosh vs. Cyrille Diabate has wangled it's way into the opening fight slot. I don't see Perosh giving Diabate anything he can't handle but a victory here won't do a great deal to Diabate's standing in the division.
Chris Leben vs. Mark Munoz: Leben via KO/TKO Round 2
Brad Pickett vs. Renan Barao: Pickett via Split Decision
Thiago Alves vs. Papey Abedi: Alves via TKO Round 3
Terry Etim vs. Eddie Faalaloto: Etim via TKO Round 1
Cyrille Diabate vs. Anthony Perosh: Diabate via TKO Round 1
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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