In its continued quest for global domination, the UFC lands in the Middle East for the very first time on Saturday with UFC 112: Invincible.
The partnership with Abu Dhabi based Flash Entertainment is a strategic one in that it strengthens the UFC's ability to promote its product in Asia as well as the Middle East. And that is why Dana White and company bring their product to the desert of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates this weekend.
"Invincible" features champions Anderson Silva and BJ Penn defending their straps against challengers Demian Maia and Frankie Edgar respectively. Perhaps the most intriguing part of the night, even moreso than seeing two of the World's top four pound-for-pound fighters in action, is watching the promotion's first ever outdoor event.
UFC 112 will indeed feature stars under the stars.
Of the fights themselves, the big story coming in is clearly Silva. The middleweight champ coming off of elbow surgery, hasn't fought since August and hasn't defended his title since last April will be facing a daunting task in jiu-jitsu world champion Maia.
Of course it isn't something he hasn't seen before. In fact last April he endured perhaps his least appealing fight when he fought BJJ artist Thales Leites to a five round decision.
Silva, 35, will be seeking his record 7th title defense as well as his 11th consecutive victory in the UFC, also a record. Not to mention a return that will bring satisfaction to his growing fan base and the brass of the UFC. Silva (25-4) is widely considered the best fighter in the world regardless of weight class, yet with fighters like Georges St.-Pierre, Lyoto Machida and Penn continually improving, it is paramount for "The Spider" to continue to impress.
There's really no reason to expect that he won't come Saturday. Maia (12-1) will be in his first title fight and while a world-class grappler, is nowhere near the caliber of fighter Silva is.
In the other title fight, expect a slightly more balanced fight. Edgar (11-1), while less experienced than Penn and certainly less talented than "The Prodigy" is still on a tear, having won six of his last seven fights including his last three over some big names like Sean Sherk and Hermes Franca.
Edgar brings an entertaining style which features a solid striking game to go with elite wrestling and ground game. No matter how good Penn is Saturday night, Edgar won't back down. He's tough, he's physical and that is why the UFC gave him this opportunity.
In the undercard action, UFC Hall-of-Famer Matt Hughes will take on the legendary family of Gracie in Renzo this time around. It is of course the Gracie's whom in large part are to thank for the creation of Mixed-Martial Arts and began a grappling championship in Abu Dhabi.
Also featured on the 112 event are: lightweights Terry Etim and Rafael Dos Anjos, middleweights Kendall Grove and Mark Munoz, as well as light heavyweights up-and-comers Phil Davis and Alexander Gustaffson.
Will Silva be able to continue to build to his legacy? How about Penn? How will the Abu Dhabi crowd receive the show and just what kind of effect will the outdoors atmosphere bring?
We will find out Saturday.