Dear UFC | Is Amanda Nunes being punished with co-main slot?

Amanda Nunes celebrates after defeating Miesha Tate during their women's bantamweight championship mixed martial arts bout at UFC 200, Saturday, July 9, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
(AP Photo/John Locher)

Will Demetrious Johnson be recognized as the greatest UFC champ ever if he breaks the record?

Demetrious Johnson has, for the better part of the past four years, built a strong case for his place on the Mount Rushmore of professional mixed martial arts. He’s firmly in the discussion as being one of the greatest fighters of all time, arguably surpassing Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, Georges St-Pierre and Fedor Emelianenko.

With both Jones and Silva testing positive in the past, St-Pierre absent from the cage for four years, and Emelianenko losing on numerous occasions since moving his career to North America, Johnson’s impeccable run as flyweight champion has only glistened more and more.

And yet despite all Johnson’s accomplishments, UFC president Dana White has allowed business differences to prevent him from calling “Mighty Mouse” the greatest fighter of all time — let alone the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet in 2017.

That may change come Saturday night, or perhaps in the final week leading up to the event. Selling Johnson as a noteworthy champion has always been a struggle, but he’s embarking upon a historic victory against Ray Borg. A win Saturday nets him 11 straight title defenses, officially leaving Silva’s previously untouchable record in the dust.

Is Amanda Nunes not in the main event as punishment for UFC 213?

The UFC has historically had a strict guideline to how it schedules any particular event: The championship fight always headlines the show. In the event that one night features two title fights, the heavier of the two champions goes on last. That hasn’t always been the case (re: UFC 189, UFC 194, UFC 205). But those rare nights featured Conor McGregor in the headlining slot, justifying the change.

UFC 215 does not feature a McGregor-type headliner, but it does feature a change in the company’s usual approach. Demetrious Johnson, champion at 125 pounds, is headlining over Amanda Nunes, champion at 135 pounds.

If you ask Nunes, she’s being placed in the co-main slot as a punishment for withdrawing from UFC 213 last-minute in July. White did admit to never wanting to have Nunes headline a show again after the fiasco, saying that she wasn’t a reliable person to have in the main event after she pulled out of her scheduled contest the morning of with a sinus infection.

Then again, there’s also the chance that the UFC wanted to end its night with a potential record-setting title defense.

Will Tyson Pedro be considered the next big thing at 205 if he beats Ilir Latifi?

Tyson Pedro is just two fights into his UFC career, undefeated after facing a pair of up-and-coming members of the light heavyweight roster. He faces Ilir Latifi on Saturday night’s main card, making both his pay-per-view debut as well as his first crack at somebody in the top 10.

A win extends his unbeaten record to 7-0, but more importantly, gives him a sliver of credibility as a true player at light heavyweight. The division is in dire need of talent now that the likes of Anthony Johnson (retirement) and Jon Jones (potential failed drug test) may be gone for the foreseeable future. Pedro, while not as proven as one would like, may fill that void sooner rather than later.

It’d be a similar journey taken by No. 3-ranked contender Volkan Oezdemir, who only made his UFC debut in February. After three straight victories, the previously unknown fighter is now on the cusp of receiving a title shot. That’s both because A) he’s knocked out some big players in the division and B) the light heavyweight class harbors undoubtedly the most shallow roster in all of mixed martial arts.

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