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Fighting:

What to watch for during the UFC’s busiest weekend

UFC on FX 4 takes place Friday in Atlantic City; UFC 147 slated for Saturday in Brazil

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Sam Morris

Gray Maynard speaks to the media before an upcoming fight in this file photo.

Dana White has long envisioned the UFC becoming popular enough worldwide that the promotion could hold multiple fight cards on the same day in different countries.

The UFC is coming awfully close to that with its schedule this weekend. White will rack up some impressive flying miles by attending UFC on FX 4 Friday in Atlantic City before making his way to Belo Horizonte, Brazil, for UFC 147 Saturday.

Over the course of 48 hours, the UFC will stage a total of 23 fights.

Here's five things to watch for during the UFC’s jam-packed weekend.

Who takes a major step forward in the lightweight division: Gray Maynard or Clay Guida?

Approximately 24 hours before the pay-per-view card gets under way, the UFC will stage its true main event of the weekend.

Don’t be fooled by seeing Gray Maynard (10-1-1 MMA, 8-1-1 UFC) and Clay Guida (29-12 MMA, 9-6 UFC) on free television at UFC on FX 4 — it’s one of the most exciting fights of the summer.

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Clay Guida takes a lap around the octagon after defeating Anthony Pettis in their bout at The Ultimate Fighter Season 13 finale Saturday, June 4, 2011.

Maynard hasn’t fought since Frankie Edgar knocked him out at UFC 136 to keep the lightweight belt and end their prolonged trilogy. Guida reached a title eliminator bout after winning four in a row but dropped a unanimous decision to current champion Ben Henderson.

Maynard and Guida are out of the lightweight title picture at the moment, but a win puts either of them right back in.

“There’s five or six guys right now at 155 pounds who are all one big punch or one big kick from being the No. 1 contender,” Guida said. “Winning isn’t enough for any of us.”

Maynard, a Durango High graduate, changed everything after losing to Edgar. He moved away from Las Vegas and now trains in San Jose, Calif., with American Kickboxing Academy.

He’s also traveled the world to different training camps in an attempt to nurture new skills.

“It was very frustrating not being able to get the win despite beating Edgar up, and it took a long time to get over it,” Maynard said. “But I’m back and I know I’m able to beat anyone in the division.”

How much does Wanderlei Silva have left?

A year counts as quite the turnaround for Las Vegas-based middleweight Wanderlei Silva.

White pleaded with the 35-year-old Silva to walk away from the sport after a first-round knockout loss to Chris Leben last July. Silva (34-11 MMA, 4-6 UFC) got his way in receiving another fight and responded by finishing Cung Le in the second round at UFC 139.

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Wanderlei Silva leaves the octagon after facing Chris Leben during UFC 132 Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Leben won by knock out 27 seconds into the first round.

Now he finds himself in a main event, facing Rich Franklin (28-6 MMA, 13-5 UFC) in a rematch from a fight he lost by unanimous decision three years ago.

“I am willing, motivated and very well-trained for this fight,” Silva said. “It wears you out, but getting this energy from the public gives me the drive for a great fight. I am very happy to be here.”

The victory over Le rejuvenated Silva’s career. But Le hadn’t fought in a year-and-a-half while focusing on his movie career.

Seeing how Silva matches up with Franklin, the 37-year-old former UFC champion, should be more telling to whether he can continue to compete at the sport’s highest level.

Can Mike Russow continue his Cinderella run?

Looking for a fighter who has surprisingly reached the top of his division in the UFC?

That conversation starts, and probably ends, with heavyweight Mike Russow. The full-time Chicago police officer is undefeated in the octagon despite entering two of his four fights as a 3-to-1 underdog.

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Mike Russow, left, of Illinois jumps onto Todd Duffee of Las Vegas after knocking him down in the third round of their heavyweight fight during UFC 114 on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

The odds are even more against Russow (15-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC) in his UFC 147 co-main event matchup with Fabricio Werdum (15-5-1 MMA, 3-2 UFC). Russow comes in as a 4-to-1 underdog in local sports books.

Russow will need to out-wrestle Werdum and avoid submissions. Werdum owns a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and has shown improved striking over the last few years.

It’s difficult to pinpoint any areas where Russow has an advantage. But that’s never set him back in the past.

Who wins this trilogy?

Mixed martial arts trilogies tend to happen for one of two reasons — either the two fighters are clearly the best in their divisions or they bring the best out of each other by providing memorable clashes.

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Sam Stout, of London, Ont., celebrates after knocking out Yves Edwards, of Austin, Texas, in the first round in their lightweight mixed martial arts bout at UFC 131, Saturday, June 11, 2011, in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Sam Stout (18-7-1 MMA, 6-6 UFC) and Spencer Fisher (24-8 MMA, 9-7 UFC) fall into the latter category. After six rounds worth of fireworks, Stout and Fisher renew their lightweight rivalry in Atlantic City.

The two last fought five years ago, when Fisher defeated Stout by unanimous decision. Stout took a split-decision victory when they first met at UFC 58 in 2006.

Both are coming off of losses to Brazilian grappler Thiago Tavares. That adds further intrigue to a bout that didn’t need it in the first place.

Is Ross Pearson a force at featherweight?

A handful of UFC lightweights have dropped from 155 pounds to 145 pounds since the promotion implemented the weight class at the beginning of 2011.

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Featherweights Ross Pearson poses on the scale during the UFC 141 weigh-in at the MGM Grand Garden Arena Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011.

“The Ultimate Fighter” 9 champion Ross Pearson may be one of the most promising. Pearson beat Junior Assuncao with a unanimous decision in his featherweight debut at UFC 141.

Pearson (15-5 MMA, 5-2 UFC) turns his sights to Cub Swanson at UFC on FX 4. The Brit was tough at lightweight — holding wins over the likes of Dennis Siver and Spencer Fisher — but could never get into the division’s upper echelon.

A win over Swanson and perhaps one other opponent could get him to that spot at featherweight.

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

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