lawler vs shields posterThis weekend is full of MMA action with Strikeforce airing Saturday night via Showtime and WEC pumping into tv sets over the Versus network on Sunday.

The Lawler vs. Shields main card includes some fights which can serve as springboards or burials for several careers. Indeed, every bout in a fighter’s career is important, but I’ll take a look here at why Saturday’s featured matches have increased significance.

Robbie Lawler vs. Jake Shields: This fight will occur at a catchweight, as Shields has made his career at welterweight and Lawler at middleweight. The main event serves up star power for those who came to know each man recently in the now defunct Elite XC. Outside of the classic grappler (Shields) vs. striker (Lawler) angle and name recognition, not much hinges on the outcome here.

Andrei Arlovski vs. Brett Rogers: Huge fight for both men. A win for Rogers would catapult him up the heavyweight rankings, and an Arlovski victory would serve as a solid bounce-back after being KO’d by Fedor. Should Arlovski lose, it would not be surprising to see him focus solely on boxing with coach Freddie Roach. Andrei has a clear advantage in this match-up on several fronts, but this is a massive opportunity for Brett to take on one of the world’s best.

Nick Diaz vs. Scott Smith: Both Smith and Diaz are coming off big wins and could further fuel some serious momentum in Strikeforce with a victory here. Look for this match to act an accurate gauge as to where each stand with their striking and grappling games. Diaz is a tough competitor but will face his toughest test as of late when meeting “Hands of Steel” Smith in the cage.

Phil Baroni vs. Joe Riggs: The “NYBA” going up against “Diesel” does not have much title shot implication, however it is a critical fight in both of their careers. Baroni has been busted for steroids before, lost several fights last year, and is in need of continuing his current win streak to silence the many critics who claim he is not elite. For Riggs, the youngster is a true veteran with 42 pro fights to his credit. A victory over Baroni would help to spark some of the former fire he exuded during his 2004 eight-fight tear and keep him on track to raising his stock in the sport. Riggs has publicly stated he’d love to return to his former employer, the UFC.

Kevin Randleman vs. Mike Whitehead: Randleman at 17-12, needs to get something going to keep a career in MMA alive. “The Monster” will face a tough test in taking on Mike Whitehead. Whitehead at 23-7, comes in as a favorite and presents a lot of problems for his opponent. Mike has big places to go with his career, but must best an aging Randleman to once again attract the calling of the big show.