The road to UFC 200: 10 burning questions

Okamoto picks best fights of loaded UFC spring (1:27)

ESPN MMA reporter Brett Okamoto shares which fights he's most excited to watch in a stacked spring schedule in the UFC. (1:27)

It's only March, but UFC 200 on July 9 is dominating its fair share of headlines.

That's to be expected any time a marquee card looms, but UFC 200 is far from the only thing happening in 2016. There are 10 events (featuring six title fights) on the UFC calendar between now and that event in Las Vegas.

In honor of all the "non-UFC 200" MMA bouts in the coming months, here are 10 questions I'm looking forward to having answered before July 9. These questions only pertain to fights already announced -- so anything like, "When and where will Ronda Rousey return?" or "Will Georges St-Pierre return at all?" don't make the cut.

April 10: UFC Fight Night in Zagreb, Croatia

Is Junior dos Santos, as we have come to know him, done?

There's an equally enticing side to this question, which is: How good is Ben Rothwell? But the bigger unknown here surrounds dos Santos. Four years ago, "Cigano" was the No. 1 heavyweight in the world. Then he lost twice to Cain Velasquez, in brutally taxing five-round fights, during which you probably found yourself saying, "Should Junior's corner stop this? I think Junior's corner should stop this." He hasn't looked right since, going 1-1 in his only two appearances in the past two years. He's only 32 and holds a dominant win against the current champion -- but he also endured 15 of the most abusive rounds anyone went through in the past three years. And lately, it's showing.

April 16: UFC on Fox in Tampa, Florida

Is Khabib Nurmagomedov the best lightweight in the world?

If not, who is? Rafael dos Anjos? That's the rematch to make if Nurmagomedov comes back from a two-year injury layoff and beats Tony Ferguson. Nurmagomedov decisioned dos Anjos in his last fight, back in April 2014. He's undefeated at 22-0 and, at age 27, entering his prime. It's quite possible the only thing that has kept Nurmagomedov from the throne is his own health. Ferguson, meanwhile, has flown criminally under the radar. This is one of the top fights on the UFC schedule this year, period.

April 23: UFC 197 in Las Vegas

Could Jon Jones prove (gasp) to be even better than before upon his return?

You know the deal. Jones, 28, is the only UFC champion to ever lose his title for disciplinary reasons. He was unbeatable before that, despite the extracurriculars he has since admitted to. At a news conference this month, Jones claimed he's now sober for the first time in his career. Will he be a better martial artist because of it? Is that even possible? And as much credit as Daniel Cormier deserves for holding the division down in Jones' absence, history will remember him as Jones' placeholder if he loses to him again. And DC knows that.

Will Henry Cejudo prove to be kryptonite for Demetrious Johnson?

If Cejudo, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist in wrestling, can't get it done, we may have run out of options for the UFC's only flyweight champion. With a win in April, Johnson would be two victories away from tying Anderson Silva's record of 10 consecutive title defenses. He isn't even 30 yet. What could that number look like by the time he's done?

May 8: UFC Fight Night in Rotterdam, Netherlands

Which bandwagon do we ride: Gunnar Nelson or Albert Tumenov?

They're both attractive in their own ways. Nelson has lost two of three and has always looked small for the division, but there are still plenty who believe in the stoic Icelander. Tumenov is a super violent 24-year-old out of Russia, with punishing stand-up and a five-fight win streak. The winner of this fight is going to come away with some steam. Who is it going to be?

May 14: UFC 198 in Curitiba, Brazil

Is Stipe Miocic the next UFC heavyweight champion?

He has a complete tool set. His 8-2 record in the UFC is terrific. It is possible, however, to poke at Miocic's resume if you want to. Four of the eight men he has defeated in the Octagon are no longer in the UFC. Another one of them, Roy Nelson, is 2-5 in his past seven bouts and faced Miocic on short notice. His past two wins were perfectly legit: TKO stoppages against Mark Hunt and Andrei Arlovski -- but champion Fabricio Werdum will be a step up from both of those. There have been 14 UFC heavyweight champions. Does Miocic feel like No. 15? I can't tell yet.

Is Anderson Silva still a title contender?

Silva will be 41 by the time he fights Uriah Hall in Curitiba. Despite his recent struggles (zero wins since 2012 and a one-year drug suspension), he's never far removed from a title shot. But if he loses to Hall (particularly if it happens in a convincing way), he will have likely moved under that "big fights, use as a draw" label, as opposed to "add to title mix" label.

May 29: UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas

Who calls early dibs on the future of bantamweight division?

Get ready for a battle of young, talented, marketable 135-pounders in Cody Garbrandt vs. Thomas Almeida. Neither has reached age 25 yet and neither has suffered a loss (Almeida is 20-0, Garbrandt 8-0). First time headlining a UFC card for both. Guaranteed action. There can only be one.

June 4: UFC 199 in Inglewood, California

Does a rematch between Luke Rockhold and Chris Weidman -- with both fighters healthy -- look any different than their first meeting in December?

Rockhold took the middleweight championship from Weidman in December. It was a well-deserved win and Rockhold solidified himself as not only the game's top middleweight, but one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world as well. Neither fighter was healthy, though. Weidman dealt with a broken foot during training camp. Rockhold was hampered by a staph infection. As good as the first meeting was, we were a bit cheated by those circumstances. Looking forward to No. 2.

June 18: UFC Fight Night in Ottawa, Canada

Has Rory MacDonald recovered from his five-round thriller against Robbie Lawler at UFC 189?

He will have had nearly one year to do so. MacDonald lost to Lawler via TKO in the fifth round of their title fight last July. He suffered a broken nose in the process, which he then re-broke months later when he attempted to come back too early. MacDonald, 26, should still have his best years ahead of him and he's a likely titleholder some day -- but will there be any lingering side effects from his fight of the year effort in 2015? He's also stated this fight against Stephen Thompson is the final fight on his UFC contract.