Originally posted on hov-mma  |  Last updated 12/29/12

Cheerleader, Wrestler, UFC Fighter. Derek Brunson can now put all three on these things on his resume. Later tonight he'll been presented with the unique task of welcoming TUF Season 1 alum Chris Leben back inside of the Octagon. Brunson will be the first of many familiar Strikeforce faces to grace the cage in the coming months, he was called upon to replace an injured Karlos Vemola just weeks ago.

So why do fans love Chris Leben so much? Well for starters, his balls the wall brawler mentality companied with his stellar ground game and iron chin make him one of the most exciting fighters in the game. Expect him to test Brunson early tonight. The former undefeated 3-time Division II All-American has shown some weaknesses after dropping a hotly contested split decision to Kendall Grove for the ShoFight Middleweight title. A couple of months later he was knocked silly by "Jacare" Souza after spending just 41 seconds in the soon to be dead not so world famous "Hexagon" with him.

The Records: 

Chris Leben: 22-8 MMA, 12-7 UFC

Derek Brunson: 9-2 MMA, UFC Debut

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Leben: Before testing positive for Oxycodone and Oxymorphone, Leben was experiencing a roller coaster of a year inside of the cage. 2010 was on the most exciting years of Lebens career. Those couple of weeks during the summer where he beat Aaron Simpson then filled in for an injured Wanderlei Silva to submit Yoshihiro Akiyama really put him back on the map. On the first day of 2011 he was beaten badly by "The All-American" Brian Stann in such a way that would've ended a lesser mans career. He rebounded by taking out Wanderlei Silva at UFC 132 in just 27 seconds. To say Leben was jacked after this career defining performance would be an understatement. Remember this video? Then came the Munoz donkey punches followed by the 2nd positive drug test of his UFC career. Saturday night Chris Leben will be given the opportunity to make another come back once again.

Brunson: After starting his career 9-0 with four 1st Round knockouts, Brunson has dropped two in a row.

The Odds:

Leben: -170

Brunson: +140

Key Victims:

Leben: He's put together an impressive list that features Mike Swick, Patrick Cote, Jorge Rivera and Santiago, Alessio Sakara, Aaron Simpson, Yoshihiro Akiyama, and of course that giant feather you see in his camp would be none other than Wanderlei Silva.

Brunson: Lumumba Sayers. Chris Leben would look really good on this list for Brunson. 

What's at Stake?

Leben: You can always blame ring rust on any bad comeback loss right? I don't see Leben challenging for the title anytime soon, if ever again. I also don't see him losing his job. Chris Leben is a UFC guy until the day he retires, you could even make an argument to put him in the Hall of Fame. So a loss wouldn't the end of the world. A win however keeps him in the top 20 as a Middleweight where he belongs and gets him back to fighting bigger name opponents. This is one of your company guys who can headline any FX or Fuel card and put asses in the seats. People still want to see Chris Leben compete, and if given the opportunity he can still sell a fight with ease. 

Brunson: Saying a win over Leben would give his career a boost would be a gross understatement. If Brunson can upset Leben it's a signature win for him. He erases the Souza KO and starts his UFC career off with a bang. If he goes to sleep tonight he's just doing what everyone expected him to do. 

Prediction:

Every fight begins on the toeses. When these two southpaws it could be a really short night. For Brunson.  The wrestling pedigree of Brunson means absolutely nothing here. Sure he's good on the ground and has fantastic takedown defense to boot, but Leben is just a different monster than anyone he's ever beaten. Expect Brunson to become the 13th KO victim of "The Crippler" tonight. Welcome back Mr. Leben. Photo Props - Tracy Lee's Combat Lifestyle

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