On the Rise: Vancouver Edition

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The owner of the fastest knockout in the history of the UFC heavyweight division hasn’t competed in four years, as myriad injuries and illnesses have left the 33-year-old sidelined since July 2015. Once one of the most hyped prospects in the sport, Duffee is now a massive question mark as he readies to make his return this weekend against Contender Series alum Jeff Hughes.

Duffee is a physical specimen — a six-foot-three Adonis with the kind of musculature you’d envision when you conjure up the idea of an elite heavyweight prospect — and he’s shown a different kind of power than even most big men possess. All nine of Duffee’s wins have come inside the distance, including each of his three UFC wins, which he amassed in 164 seconds combined.

A four-year layoff that includes multiple surgeries and a nasty bout of MRSA would make talk of a comeback a non-starter in most instances, but given that he’s still relatively young and competing in the heavyweight ranks, the prospect of a fresh, healthy and ready to go Duffee making a return to competition is too intriguing to dismiss. He’s only ever lost to quality competition, and seeing him finally put it all together from this point forward wouldn’t even be one of the five weirdest career resurgences in the heavyweight division.

Hughes is an excellent measuring stick matchup for Duffee as well. A former LFA champ and long-time training partner of now two-time UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic who dropped a close split decision to Maurice Greene in his Octagon debut in March, the 31-year-old has some pop, but he’s also more than capable of making this one into a grind and testing Duffee’s gas tank.

Having already witnessed him coming back from extended hiatuses twice in the past, fans and observers are understandably approaching Duffee’s latest return with no expectations, but what if — and it’s a really, really big if — the third time is the charm?

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