by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Three Top Contenders Return At UFC 59

Parisyan, Tanner and Terrell Look To Make Big Comebacks In California

By Damon Martin, MMAWeekly

While Tito Ortiz making his official return to the octagon might the biggest story at UFC 59, three veterans will hope to re-establish their dominance with strong showings at the debut event for the organization in California. Karo Parisyan, Evan Tanner and David Terrell will all be looking to reclaim a spot at the top of the contender’s list when UFC 59 comes to a close.

For Karo Parisyan, the long road to recovery can be a tough one to travel, especially when only months ago he was preparing for his first title shot versus Matt Hughes when a pectoral muscle injury sidelined him and forced him to back out of the fight. Before the scheduled fight with Hughes, Karo Parisyan had started to show the kind of fire that the UFC looks for in any potential champion.

At UFC 53, Parisyan took on Renzo Gracie student, Matt Serra and for three rounds battled the veteran on the feet and on the ground, almost catching the Gracie trained jiu-jitsu specialist in an armbar at one point in the fight. He also showed that he wasn’t going to back down from any subtle intimidation when Gracie, who was in Serra’s corner, started to shout to his fighter that Karo was tired, amongst other things, and Parisyan was fast to respond with a hand gesture towards the corner that wasn’t signifying that Gracie was #1.

Karo Parisyan walked out with a unanimous decision win, his fourth in a row, defeating fighters such as Nick Diaz and Chris Lytle along the way. It was then announced that Karo would face champion Matt Hughes for the title, but a training injury put an end to his title hopes. Now Parisyan returns to face veteran fighter Nick Thompson, knowing that Hughes will be facing Royce Gracie in May and is already set to fight Georges St. Pierre for the title after that. Karo is a very good fighter who never seems flustered in any fight, and he needs to turn his angst from losing his title shot into a great performance, proving why he deserves to be mentioned along with the top 170lb fighters in the world.

Evan Tanner has felt the accomplishment of being a champion and will now try to climb back up the ladder of success after feeling the sting of defeat in back to back losses for the first time in over 30 professional fights. Tanner reached the pinnacle of MMA when he defeated David Terrell at UFC 51 to win the middleweight title, but his reign at the top was short lived after running into Rich Franklin at UFC 53. Besides an early knockdown in the first round, Tanner never got into sync in the fight, and was punished for the better part of 4 rounds until the referee stopped the fight and declared Franklin the new champion.

When Evan Tanner made his most recent appearance in the UFC, he took on Canadian fighter David “The Crow” Loiseau at Ultimate Fight Night in October 2005. Tanner looked good early in the fight, even taking Loiseau’s back for part of the first round, but in the second, it was the Canadian’s strikes that opened a deep cut on Tanner’s face that caused a doctor’s stoppage and handed him a second straight loss.

Tanner will be facing WEC veteran Justin Levens on fairly short notice after Jeremy Horn, who was originally scheduled in the fight, was injured during training and had to drop out. Levens trains with veteran fighter Marco Ruas, but will be making his first appearance in the UFC and has a tall order facing a veteran like Evan Tanner. Tanner knows that a loss in this fight could put an end to his UFC career so winning will be the only thing on his mind come Saturday night.

After more than a year since his last fight in the UFC, David Terrell will finally return to the octagon to take on current WEC light heavyweight champion, Scott Smith in a battle that could end up being the show stealer at UFC 59. Terrell, who trains out of the Cesar Gracie camp in California, was rumored to have put on a lot of muscle while he was rehabbing from multiple injuries and reports from his camp said that he was considering a fight at 205lbs, but he has cut the weight and will return to the middleweight division.

Terrell made a meteoric rise in the 185lb weight class after defeating perennial #1 contender Matt Lindland in his UFC debut. Too much, too soon was the phrase used for Terrell when he was given a title shot at UFC 51 to crown the first middleweight champion since Murilo Bustamante gave up the title when he left the organization. Terrell took on the afore mentioned Evan Tanner in the title fight, and the former Pancrase competitor looked very good in the opening minute of the fight, but after being taken down, Terrell looked almost panicked as Tanner opened up a barrage of strikes, forcing the referee to call a stop to the fight, giving the title to Tanner and putting Terrell on the sidelines until now.

Terrell will be facing off against Scott Smith, who could end up being a very dominant fighter in the near future, but is getting no easy test by facing David Terrell in his first UFC appearance. Smith trains with the Capital City Fighting Alliance and has defeated some very good opponents including Justin Levens, Tait Fletcher and Terrell’s teammate, Tim McKenzie. Terrell will need to focus and hope that the long layoff won’t affect his performance against a very hungry and ready Scott Smith.

For all three veterans, UFC 59 will be a proving ground after facing some tough defeats, injuries and long layoffs, and none of them want to walk away defeated. Karo Parisyan will face Nick Thompson, Evan Tanner will take on Justin Levens, and David Terrell fights Scott Smith, Saturday night, live at the Pond in the UFC’s debut event in Anaheim, California.