This Saturday night, the UFC returns to Arena Ciudad de México in Mexico City for a landmark night in mixed martial arts, as the UFC heavyweight championship will be unified as part of an action-packed UFC 188 card.

UFC heavyweight champion fights for the first time since his UFC 166 win over Junior dos Santos to combat current UFC interim heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum. The two planned to see each other on the UFC 180 card last November, but when an injury befell Velasquez, Werdum would stay on the card, turn back the challenge of Mark Hunt, and claim the interim belt.

The big boys aren’t the only ones taking center stage on this card, however, as a long-awaited dream match in the lightweight division will finally come to fruition. as former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez does battle with former Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez. Both men comes off losses in this bout, with Alvarez lookng to rebound from a UFC 178 loss to Donald Cerrone, and former two-time UFC lightweight title contender Melendez coming off of a UFC 181 loss to former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis.

Also, after coming in ten pounds heavy for his UFC 183 bout with Tyron Woodley, which he then lost, The Ultimate Fighter 17 winner, Kelvin Gastelum, returns to middleweight to fight Nate Marquardt. Marquardt has seen the loss column in four of his last five bouts, and looks to get back to a consistent string of wins, starting with a solid performance on Saturday night.

Naturally, it wouldn’t be a UFC card if there weren’t plenty of things to watch for beyond those three contests.

Fighting Pride

Let us begin with the obvious, yes? In line with the norm for UFC cards that take place outside of the United States, UFC 188 carries an international presence. Some hail from a part of Mexico, and others from parts of the United States, with TUF 19’s Cathal Pendred as the lone representative of the Irish contingent, and headliner Werdum as the lone Brazilian on the bill. With a melting pot of fighters featured, the event itself promises a little of something for everyone from the locals to the out-of-towners.

The TUF Girls’ Turn

In a time where a number of women’s fights have clearly proven head and shoulders about quite a number of key men’s fights, it comes as no surprise that “The Tiny Tornado” Tecia Torres and Angela “Overkil” Hill were chosen to represent as the lone women on the card. Despite a number of wins by the judges’ scorecards and spectacular striking that she utilizes to outclass her foes on the feet, Torres can expect a wild night against Hill, who showed no qualms about standing in close quarters with an opponent when she took a decision from Emily Kagan back at The Ultimate Fighter 20 Finale.

Falling Down and Fighting Back Up

When it comes to UFC 188’s welterweight clash of Kelvin Gastelum vs. Nate Marquardt, the bout on paper could tell a tale of two comebacks, in a manner of speaking. On one hand, Gastelum’s aforementioned loss to Woodley, and inability to make weight for two welterweight bouts, now puts the TUF 17 winner in a position he has never seen before, as he not only finds himself back at middleweight, but also, he finds himself looking to rebound from his first professional defeat, which is not as easy to do as one would think in this sport.

In contrast, Marquardt has lost fights to the likes of Tarec Saffiedine, Jake Ellenberger, Hector Lombard, and Brad Tavares, with a win over James Te Huna sandwiched in between the losses to Lombard and Tavares, and a win over Gastelum could be huge in the sense of marking a career resurgence, if he can follow up with a consistent streak of wins afterwards. It may help Marquardt out to remember that Gastelum’s initial move to 170 was due in part to a strength disadvantage he felt when he defeated Uriah Hall, but plenty has changed between Gastelum’s upset of Hall and now, so come Saturday, that strength disadvantage could be no more, which could be bad news for “The Great”.

The Dream Fight

Many will recall the year 2010 for many reasons, one of which being that BJ Penn started that year as UFC lightweight champion, while Frankie Edgar would end the year with two wins over the former UFC two-division champion. In fact, many changed occurred in that year, but the two constants of that year stood outside of the UFC’s lightweight ranks in the form of then-Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez and then-Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez.

How dominant were they? At one time, the two dominated their respective divisions so thoroughly that, after a while, people began to talk about a Bellator/Strikeforce crossover bout between the two, not totally different from what fans saw on AXS TV a few weeks ago.

Still, we fast forward to now, when the sport’s premier combat league prepares to go south of the border, and both Melendez and Alvarez are coming off of losses. With most other lightweight fights, that would cause fans to shrug the bout off unless there were actual potential behind it, but Melendez and Alvarez remain top names in the division despite recent setbacks, and given the styles both men bring to the table, this bout promises to deliver as an instant classic, even if it comes five years later than the MMA community hoped.

The Most Dangerous Game

By now, it should be a lock that Cain Velasquez is going to find a way to defeat any man that stands in his way, and there is a near-certainty that Velasquez will show excellent cardio, phenomenally-precise striking for a heavyweight, and some of the sport’s best examples of an effective wrestling game. What happens, though, when Velasquez gets tasked with trying to do all of the above with the only man to have submitted two of MMA’s most revered heavyweights in Fedor Emelianenko and Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira?

Without question, that would result in the champion most dangerous title challenge to date, because whereas Antonio Silva and Junior dos Santos both had heavy hands, and in the case of former UFC heavyweight champion dos Santos, a violent head kick in his back pocket, neither had much of an answer for Velasquez when the bout hit the fence or the ground. Werdum’s reach stands at the same 77-inch measurement that the champion’s does, but he carries a three-inch height advantage, which will help him out as much on the feet as it will on the ground. With this in mind, the question isn’t whether or not Werdum can get it to the ground, but rather, where it falls within Velasquez’s best interests to take Werdum into the world he knows all too well.