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UFC 138: A look at the promotion’s return to England

Chris Leben and Mark Munoz battle in first five-round non-title fight in UFC history

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Darryl Dyck / AP

Mark Munoz, left, of Vallejo, Calif., fights Demian Maia, of Brazil, in a middleweight mixed martial arts bout at UFC 131, Saturday, June 11, 2011, in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Don’t be fooled by the last two weeks passing without a UFC event.

The organization is not in anything close to an offseason. Starting next week, the UFC will stage cards on four consecutive weekends.

While anticipation is building for UFC 137 on Oct. 29 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, the next numbered event comes only a week later. UFC 138 takes place on Nov. 5 in Birmingham, England.

It’s the first major card since last year’s since UFC 120 that will air on free television, as Spike will broadcast the main card via tape delay in America. The main event pits middleweights Chris Leben and Mark Munoz in the first five-round non-title fight in UFC history.

“Where I’m at in my career, I want to have epic fights,” Leben said earlier this year. “I want to have fights that go in the history books. I want to put on a show.”

The bout with Munoz has the ingredients to produce something memorable. Both fighters are coming off of momentum-building wins.

Leben knocked out Wanderlei Silva in 27 seconds at UFC 132, while Mark Munoz fought off one of mixed martial arts’ best Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners in Demian Maia with a close decision victory at UFC 131.

The winner of the UFC 138 main event projects to be in the middleweight title discussion and only a victory or two away from a shot at the belt.

“If you’re making your weaknesses your strengths and improving as a fighter, then you’re going to reach the top sometime,” Munoz said. “That’s what I want to do.”

Read below for an introduction to the other 10 fights on the card.

Bantamweight Bout: Brad Pickett (21-4 MMA, 0-0 UFC) vs. Renan Barao (26-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) The winner of this co-main event matchup should find himself no more than one victory away from a title shot in the 135-pound division.

Welterweight Bout: Thiago Alves (18-8 MMA, 10-5 UFC) vs. Papy Abedi (8-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) Alves, who has gone a disappointing 1-2 since falling to Georges St. Pierre at UFC 100, welcomes the highly touted Swedish prospect to the octagon for the first time.

Lightweight Bout: Terry Etim (14-3 MMA, 5-3 UFC) vs. Edward Faaloloto (2-2 MMA, 0-2 UFC) Etim hasn’t fought in 19 months since losing to Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 112 and injuring his ribs in training.

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Anthony Njokuani goes after Andre Winner during their Lightweight bout at UFC 132 Saturday, July 2, 2011 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Njokuani won by unanimous decision.

Lightweight Bout: Paul Taylor (11-6-1 MMA, 4-5 UFC) vs. Anthony Njokuani (14-5 MMA, 1-1 UFC) In a favorite to take home Fight of the Night honors, the rising Las Vegas-based Njokuani takes on Taylor in the veteran’s hometown.

Light Heavyweight Bout: Cyrille Diabate (17-7-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) vs. Anthony Perosh (11-6 MMA, 1-3 UFC) Diabate and Perosh scored victories over Steve Cantwell and Tom Blackledge, respectively, earlier this year.

Welterweight Bout: John Maguire (16-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC) vs. Justin Edwards (7-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) Edwards has put on two impressive performances since his appearance on the 13th season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” even though one of them resulted in a close split-decision loss to castmate Clay Harvison.

Featherweight Bout: Michihiro Omigawa (12-10-1 MMA, 0-4 UFC) vs. Jason Young (8-4, 0-1 UFC) Most fighters with Omigawa’s record would be out of the UFC but his most recent loss, a decision setback to Darren Elkins at UFC 131, was highly controversial as Omigawa seemed to do enough to win.

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The Ultimate Fighter Season 13 fighter Chris Cope.

Heavyweight Bout: Rob Broughton (15-6-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) vs. Philip De Freis (7-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) Broughton, coming off of a loss to Travis Browne at UFC 135, accepted this fight as a late replacement to make it the only bout on the card that pairs two England natives against each other.

Welterweight Bout: Chris Cope (5-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) vs. Che Mills (13-4 MMA, 0-0 UFC) Cope came out of “The Ultimate Fighter” 13 looking like the most improved fighter, while Mills has won four straight entering his octagon debut.

Bantamweight Bout: Chris Cariaso (11-3 MMA, 1-1 UFC) vs. Vaughn Lee (11-6-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) Cariaso has dropped two of his last three, but they came to two of the division’s top prospects in Michael McDonald and Renan Barao.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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