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Mission Impossible: Abu Dhabi

Demian Maia, your mission should you decide to accept it, is to terminate the longest UFC winning streak of all time by defeating the greatest UFC middleweight of all time.

Frankie Edgar, your mission should you decide to accept it, is to dethrone the most dominant and naturally gifted lightweight in MMA history.

As always, should either one of you get caught by a blistering right hand, a crippling knee, or a stifling rear naked choke, the UFC will promote all footage of your actions. This tape will self-destruct… well, you get the point.

Much like the iconic 70’s TV show of the same name, UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi plays host this weekend to a small team of highly trained operatives attempting to take down two brutal kingpins against seemingly impossible odds. The brutal kingpins are of course UFC middleweight champion Anderson “The Spider” Silva and UFC lightweight champion B.J. “The Prodigy” Penn. Both have carved out legendary careers by absolutely obliterating anyone who dared challenge their divisional supremacy.

Rarely do we see a UFC event headlined by two red-hot 8 to 1 favorites and only once in a blue moon do we actually witness such favorites getting beaten. So, can heavy underdogs Maia and Edgar really pull off the unthinkable and achieve a duo of upsets like never before seen in UFC history? (Without relying on elaborate deceptions, hidden cameras, radio controlled referees, etc). Well, it’s not impossible.

Let’s start with Maia. The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu wiz finds himself in the unique position of challenging for UFC middleweight gold, despite being stopped in his tracks by Nate Marquardt just two fights ago. With Silva’s original opponent Vitor Belfort and back-up opponent Chael Sonnen both succumbing to injuries, fortune indeed appears to have smiled upon the Sao Paulo native.

The bad news is he’ll be facing arguably the greatest striker to ever strap on a pair of MMA gloves. A man so good, he routinely makes world class fighters look plain ordinary. It appears a foregone conclusion that Maia will get knocked out unless he can get it to the canvas pronto. There, armed with a cache of ultra-slick submissions, he at least stands a grapplers chance. The problem is, although he possesses tidy trips and effective scrambles, scoring a takedown against Silva has proven notoriously difficult without first being served an eight-limbed Thai style beat down. And even if Maia does manage to bring the fight south, he’ll still have to deal with Silva’s oft-overlooked but very deadly ground game.

Simply put, Maia’s only chance of flying out of the desert the newly crowned UFC Middleweight Champion is to somehow pull off a miraculous submission of “Ryo Chonan” proportions.

That brings us to Edgar. Seldom have we seen such a high-quality fighter appear to be so completely outgunned. That’s a testament to the brilliance of Penn, who’s miles ahead of the rest of his division. The reigning lightweight champion was so dominant against Diego Sanchez in his last title defence, it prompted UFC boss Dana White to comment on Sanchez, “He’s about as busted up as I’ve ever seen a guy.”

So coming into the fight, Edgar looks to be left with two decidedly unpleasant choices. Either attempt to take Penn down and try his luck rolling with one of the most highly-skilled grapplers to ever grace the Octagon, or test his boxing skills against a man who possesses superior timing, accuracy and punching power. Both options seem a virtual death sentence, on paper anyway.

His one and only glimmer of hope may be to utilize his crisp striking and strong wrestling in the clinch, à la Georges St.Pierre, to wear down and out-hustle the champion. No easy task against a guy who has the definite edge in…well, pretty much everything.

Mission Impossible? There’s no such thing. Just ask a 42 to 1 underdog named James “Buster” Douglas.

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