Anthony Smith vs Devin Clark
Former title challenger Anthony Smith looks to snap a two-fight slide and begin the road back to contention on Saturday night, but standing in his way is the steadily improving Devin Clark.
Smith entered 2020 firmly entrenched in the title picture in the light heavyweight division after rebounding from his championship loss to Jon Jones by submitting Alexander Gustafsson in June of last year. But after an ugly loss to Glover Teixeira in May, “Lionheart” landed on the wrong side of a takedown-heavy decision loss to Aleksander Rakic at the end of August that left him searching for answers.
Clark has had the opposite type of year thus far, going 2-for-2 with decision wins over Dequan Townsend and Alonzo Menifield to bring his record to 6-4 in the UFC and 12-4 overall. The 30-year-old “Brown Bear” is a strong wrestler who tends to grind out opponents, with each of his six UFC wins coming by way of decision.
This is a crucial matchup for each man, but for very different reasons, and a potentially interesting stylistic clash as well, given Clark’s wrestling pedigree and how things played out for Smith last time out. With so much on the line for both men, don’t be surprised if we see a fast start on both sides before these two settle in for what should be a compelling chess match.
Josh Parisian vs Parker Porter
Blaydes and Lewis aren’t the only heavyweights stepping into the Octagon on Saturday night, as Contender Series alum Josh Parisian makes his promotional debut earlier on the main card in a clash with UFC sophomore Parker Porter.
Parisian traveled a long road to finally reach the UFC roster, having competed on Season Two of the Contender Series, Season 28 of The Ultimate Fighter and logging six more starts before finally securing his contract with a win this summer over Chad Johnson. Now riding a six-fight winning streak (all finishes), the 31-year-old heavyweight newcomer has a chance to keep it rolling and start making headway in his new surroundings as he steps in with Porter this weekend.
RELATED: Josh Parisian Recalibrates
A veteran of the New England regional scene, Porter made his first foray into the UFC cage in August, landing on the wrong side of a first-round stoppage result. The 35-year-old is slightly undersized for the division at just six-feet tall, but has good quickness and a variety of different finishes to his name.
In a division where it only takes a couple quality victories to start knocking on the door of the Top 10, pairings like this one carry importance. Combine that with the fact that neither of these men are big fans of going the distance and it should result in an action-packed affair that wraps up in less than 15 minutes.
Amir Albazi vs Zalgas Zhumagulov
Flyweight sophomores Amir Albazi and Zhalgas Zhumagulov lock horns in what should be an entertaining back-and-forth battle.
Albazi secured a victory in his short-notice debut back in July, jumping in against Malcolm Gordon and submitting the Canadian via triangle choke late in the opening round. The 27-year-old, who trains with the London Shootfighters squad, sports a 13-1 record with his lone loss coming against UFC alum Jose “Shorty” Torres and eight of his last nine victories coming by stoppage.
Zhumagulov landed on the wrong side of the results in his first foray into the Octagon, dropping a decision to Raulian Paiva in a close, competitive battle. Prior to that bout, the 32-year-old had earned four straight victories, including going back-to-back-to-back against Tyson Nam, Tagir Ulanbekov, and Ali Bagautinov.
There is a tremendous collection of new names and emerging talents being assembled in the 125-pound weight class and these two have shown flashes of having Top 15 potential in the not-too-distant future.
Miguel Baeza vs Takashi Sato
Welterweight finishers coming off their most impressive victories to date collide here as Miguel Baeza and Takashi Sato square off in a South Florida showdown.
The undefeated Baeza, who graduated to the UFC after securing a victory over Victor Reyna on Season Three of the Contender Series, followed up his debut stoppage win with an even more impactful performance in his sophomore showing, rallying from getting dropped early to finish veteran Matt Brown just 18 seconds into the middle stanza. Now 9-0 overall and 2-for-2 in the UFC, “Caramel Thunder” is certainly someone to watch in the 170-pound weight class going forward.
Sato delivered the best performance of his four-fight UFC career in June, making quick work of late replacement opponent Jason Witt, knocking out “The Vanilla Gorilla” in 48 seconds to bring his Octagon record level at 2-2. The 30-year-old has only gone the distance three times in 19 career fights, and stands as a solid step-up in competition for the emerging prospect Baeza in this one.
As a fun little wrinkle, this is a friendly South Florida rivalry fight, as Baeza represents MMA Masters and Sato trains with the crew at Sanford MMA. Though there is no beef between the two combatants, bragging rights are always on the line in these types of matchups, so the chance to register another victory and be one-up on your neighborhood rivals should result in an entertaining encounter once these two hit the cage this weekend.
Spike Carlyle vs Bill Algeo
Saturday night’s action gets underway in the featherweight division, as Spike Carlyle and Bill Algeo go head-to-head, each man looking to get back into the win column after landing on the wrong side of the results last time out.
Carlyle collected an impressive debut victory in February, stopping Contender Series alum Aalon Cruz in less than 90 seconds. But three months later, “The Alpha Ginger” faded hard against another Contender Series graduate, Billy Quarantillo, suffering a unanimous decision loss that brought his five-fight winning streak to a halt.
A fixture on the East Coast regional circuit, Algeo made a quick turnaround in August to fill in opposite veteran Ricardo Lamas on short notice, stepping into the Octagon 16 days after posting a unanimous decision win at CFFC 83. The 31-year-old has only ever lost to quality competition and has a wealth of experience, which he’ll look to lean on this weekend as he goes hunting for his first UFC victory.
Carlyle has been uneven through his first two appearances in the Octagon and Algeo’s debut wasn’t a fair representation of what he’s capable of doing with a full camp, so it will be interesting to see which one of these two featherweights is able to right the ship and give a good accounting of themselves on Saturday night in Las Vegas.
Ashlee Evans-Smith vs Norma Dumont
Action shifts to the bantamweight division as veteran Ashlee Evans-Smith welcomes UFC sophomore Norma Dumont to the 135-pound weight class for the first time.
Ten fights into her pro career, Evans-Smith has yet to find consistency inside the cage, arriving in Las Vegas with a 6-4 record that includes a 3-4 mark inside the Octagon. “Rebel Girl” hasn’t fought since February 2019 when she dropped a unanimous decision to Andrea Lee, withdrawing from an August date for undisclosed reasons before COVID-19 wiped out the March fight card in London, England.
Dumont made her promotional debut back in February, taking on Megan Anderson at featherweight, and things didn’t go so well for the Brazilian. After suffering the first loss of her career, the 30-year-old is moving down in weight to a division where she is a much better fit in hopes of rediscovering the form that landed her a call to the UFC cage in the first place.
This matchup should help clarify where Dumont fits on the UFC roster, as she was clearly outsized and outgunned against Anderson. Evans-Smith is the perfect steely veteran to serve as a measuring stick for the Brazilian, and the way this one shakes out will have a massive impact on what the first quarter of 2021 looks like for each of these women.
Martin Day vs Anderson dos Santos
Bantamweights looking to snap two-fight skids and secure their first UFC victories clash here as Martin Day squares off with Anderson dos Santos.
Day returned from a near two-year hiatus in July and looked terrific out of the gate against Davey Grant, but midway through the third, the former Ultimate Fighter finalist landed a left hook that ended the fight in a flash. The 32-year-old Hawaiian has quick hands and is far better than his 0-2 record inside the Octagon would otherwise suggest.
The Sao Paulo native dos Santos has also dropped consecutive contests since arriving in the UFC, landing on the wrong side of unanimous decision verdicts in bouts against Nad Narimani and Andre Ewell. “Berinja” has struggled with inconsistency since beginning his career with a dozen wins in his first 13 starts and arrives in Las Vegas searching for his first victory in two years.
Set their records aside and trust me when I tell you that this is a fight you’re going to want to make a point of watching because Day and dos Santos are both aggressive strikers who are more than willing to take a shot to land a shot. Couple that with the urgency both carry into this contest and it wouldn’t be surprising if this one is the clubhouse leader in the Fight of the Night race heading into the main card.
Gina Mazany vs Rachael Ostovich
It’s a bout between flyweights looking to get back into the win column as veteran Gina Mazany takes on Ultimate Fighter alum Rachael Ostovich.
The tough-as-nails Mazany has faced a rough slate in her five UFC appearances, opening against Sara McMann on short notice before beating Wu Yanan in her sophomore showing. She then dropped consecutive contests to Lina Lansberg and Macy Chiasson, and was most recently on the business end of a short-notice loss courtesy of Julia Avila in May. Now, back in her natural weight class and with the benefit of a proper training camp, the Las Vegas-based veteran goes in search of her second UFC victory against Ostovich.
Following a 3-3 start to her career that included two wins and two losses under the Invicta FC banner, Ostovich was a part of the cast on Season 26 of The Ultimate Fighter, where she advanced to the quarterfinals before earning a victory over Karine Gevorgyan at the finale. Since then, however, the 29-year-old Hawaiian has suffered back-to-back submission losses, first to Montana De La Rosa and most recently to Paige VanZant at the start of last year.
Neither of these women are interested in collecting another loss, so expect them to come out aggressively and leave it all inside the Octagon when they meet on Saturday night.
Jonathan Pearce vs Kai Kamaka
Contender Series grad Jonathan Pearce looks to rebound from a loss in his promotional debut when he takes on streaking Hawaiian Kai Kamaka III in what should be a spirited showdown.
Pearce pushed his winning streak to five with his contract-winning turn against Jacob Rosales last summer in Las Vegas, but then got thrown into the deep end in his debut, landing on the business end of a 93-second thrashing at the hands of Joe Lauzon. Now the Fight Ready representative looks to get back into the win column and secure his first UFC victory when he steps in opposite Kamaka on Saturday night.
The 25-year-old Kamaka looks for his second UFC victory in as many appearances and a seventh straight win overall as he fills in for Sean Woodson on short notice this weekend. Back in August, he outworked Tony Kelley in an entertaining scrap to secure a victory in his debut under comparable circumstances, and he’ll aim to replicate that effort this weekend.
This is an opportunity at a fresh start in a new division for Pearce, who is fighting at featherweight and making his first appearance in over a year. While a late shift in opponents is never ideal, posting a victory over a game, emerging talent like Kamaka would be a great way to establish himself in a new division.
For Kamaka, this is an unexpected chance to secure a second consecutive victory and put his name on the growing list of promising up-and-comers to track in the talent-rich 145-pound ranks heading into 2020.
For fans, this is a quality pairing that should produce a great deal of back-and-forth action on Saturday night.
Sumudaerji vs Malcolm Gordon
Talented 24-year-old Sumudaerji returns to the Octagon in search of his second straight victory in a matchup against Canadian veteran Malcolm Gordon.
“The Tibetan Eagle” debuted in the UFC two years ago, losing to veteran Louis Smolka by armbar. Just under a year later, he took on Andre Soukhamthath and crafted a masterpiece, sweeping the scorecards and collecting a couple of 10-8 frames along the way to securing his first UFC victory. Already 16 fights and five years into his pro career, the best is still yet to come for Sumudaerji.
A standout on the Canadian regional scene for a number of years, Gordon was out of action for more than a year when he had his four-fight winning streak stopped by Albazi in their joint UFC debuts earlier this summer. The 30-year-old Adrenaline Training Centre representative has faced solid competition throughout his career and has only gone the distance twice in 16 appearances, so expect Gordon to come out looking to push the pace and end things quickly this weekend.
After defeating Soukhamthath in impressive fashion last time out, this matchup with Gordon is a solid step-up in competition for the promising Sumudaerji, while also giving the Canadian veteran a chance to get back into the win column with a victory over a talented up-and-comer in the flyweight division.
Luke Sanders vs Nate Maness
Once an unbeaten rising star after an 11-0 run on the regional circuit to begin his career, Sanders has struggled with injuries and inconsistency since arriving in the UFC. He’s been limited to just six appearances in the last five years, managing a 3-3 record, and heads into this one looking to build off his second-round stoppage win over former bantamweight kingpin Renan Barao.
The 29-year-old Maness made his promotional debut in August, registering a unanimous decision win over Johnny Munoz Jr. to push his record to 12-1 overall. The former TKO bantamweight champ’s lone loss came against UFC vet Taylor Lapilus, who went 3-1 inside the Octagon.
This is another in a long line of perfectly matched fights that should provide answers to lingering questions about both fighters.
Can Sanders secure a second straight victory and finally build some momentum? How will Maness acquit himself against another seasoned veteran? And do either have the potential to become dark horse contenders in the stacked bantamweight division going forward?