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UFC 200 preview: Brock Lesnar return a teaser or something more?

By Dave Doyle, The Sports Xchange

The Ultimate Fighting Championship is pulling out all the stops for the landmark UFC 200 on Saturday night in Las Vegas, putting together a card with three title fights and 10 current or former world champions for the show at the new T-Mobile Arena.

But that didn't seem quite enough, so the company added an 11th former champ a few weeks before the event: Former UFC heavyweight titleholder Brock Lesnar, who makes his return after a five-and-a-half-year MMA absence to meet popular slugger Mark Hunt in the evening's co-feature fight.

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"I don't want any regrets," Lesnar said. "So that's how simple it really was. Because I just didn't want to be a wrestler all the rest of my days on this earth wondering, why didn't I step back in the cage again?"

Lesnar is on loan from World Wrestling Entertainment, but don't let their scripted outcomes fool you: The 37-year-old Lesnar, who recently relocated from South Dakota to Saskatchewan, has a legitimate wrestling pedigree that included an NCAA championship at Minnesota. He used that wrestling base to bully his way to the UFC title in 2008, a run which culminated with a victory over Frank Mir at UFC 100, which remains the biggest-money event in UFC history.

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Lesnar (5-3), though, got blitzed by skilled strikers Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem in his last two fights before leaving the sport. That's long gnawed at him, and he's confronting his demons head on by facing Hunt (12-10-1), one of the hardest-hitting competitors in mixed martial arts history. The 42-year-old New Zealander boasts nine of his 12 career wins via knockout, including a first-rounder over Mir in March.

"Is he better than I am at standup? Of course he is," Lesnar admitted. "Is he a better wrestler than me? (Heck) no. And he'll probably tell you that too. So I mean, that's why we're fighting. We're going to see, see who the best man is with their discipline."

Whether this is a one-night-only return or the leadup to something bigger, Lesnar refuses to say.

"It's maybe a teaser," Lesnar. "We'll see what happens. I have no idea. I'll never say never. We'll see. We'll get through Saturday and we'll see what happens."

Only a return as spectacular as Lesnar's could overshadow the evening's nominal main event, the light heavyweight title fight between champion Daniel Cormier (17-1) of San Jose, Calif., and former longtime champ Jon Jones (22-1) of Albuquerque, N.M.

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Jones handed Cormier his only career loss via unanimous decision in Jan. 2015, but was stripped of the title three months later following a hit-and-run incident in his hometown. Cormier won the vacant title in his absence, and was scheduled to fight the returning Jones in April. But Cormier had to pull out due to a leg injury, and Jones instead defeated Ovince Saint Preux via unanimous decision.

Jones looked sluggish in the performance, which he attributed to both ring rust and his lack of preparation time for a substitute opponent. Cormier, however, has maintained Jones peaked during his hard-living days and is not the fighter he once was, something to which Jones disagrees.

"I feel great," Jones said. "How can you convince someone that getting sober and living more healthy will make you older? I beat him in the prime of my partying. So, we'll see. We'll see who's the 40-year old on Saturday."

In the evening's other two title fights, Miesha Tate (18-5) of Tacoma, Wash., makes her first defense of the women's bantamweight title, as she takes on knockout artist Amanda Nunes (12-4) of Salvador, Brazil. Tate brings a five-fight win streak into the fight; Nunes has won three in a row. And former featherweight champion Jose Aldo (25-2) of Manaus, Brazil, takes on former lightweight champ Frankie Edgar (20-4-1) of Toms River, N.J., with an interim featherweight title at stake. This is a rematch of a 2013 fight won by Aldo via a tight unanimous decision.

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