NEIL MAGNY VS. MICHAEL CHIESA
Welterweights looking to use 2021 as the year they move into title contention clash in Wednesday’s main event as divisional workhorse Neil Magny squares off with TUF 15 winner Michael Chiesa.
Magny returned to action following a 16-month layoff in March and immediately reminded everyone why he’s one of the best fighters on the roster, using his long jab, sharp footwork, and steady pace to outwork Li Jingliang. The Elevation Fight Team member followed up that effort with additional victories over Anthony Rocco Martin and former champ Robbie Lawler to extend his winning streak to three and cement his standing as a Top 10 fixture in the 170-pound weight class.
Chiesa picked up the biggest win of his career in his lone appearance of 2020, controlling the action and sweeping the scorecards in a clash with former interim title challenger and lightweight kingpin Rafael Dos Anjos at the end of January. Now 3-0 since moving to welterweight, “Maverick” appears to be firing on all cylinders and enters this year as arguably the most intriguing emerging contender in the division.
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This is a huge bout for each man and a terrific way to get the ball rolling at the top of the welterweight division. Both Magny and Chiesa would benefit greatly from a strong showing and quality victory as they continue to make their respective cases for contention, and the early start to their 2021 campaigns affords them ample opportunity to get two or three more fights in this year, if that’s how things shake out.
It should be an active, entertaining, and compelling year in the welterweight division, and this is a tremendous way to get things started.
Michael Chiesa | Top Finishes
Michael Chiesa | Top Finishes
WARLLEY ALVES VS. MOUNIR LAZZEZ
Welterweights also man the co-main event slot on this mid-week fight card as Brazilian veteran Warlley Alves faces off with intriguing sophomore Mounir Lazzez.
Projected as a potential title contender, Alves raced out of the gate to start his UFC career, amassing a 10-0 record including a submission win over Colby Covington before suffering back-to-back losses in 2016. Since then, the 30-year-old has gone 3-2 in a string of entertaining bouts, earning stoppage victories over Sultan Aliev and Sergio Moraes, while landing on the unhappy side of the stoppage against James Krause and Randy Brown.
Lazzez had MMA Twitter buzzing during his debut in July, as he weathered an early onslaught from Abdul Razak Alhassan before turning the tables and controlling the action over the final 12 minutes of the bout to earn a unanimous decision win. The 31-year-old holds a prior win over fellow UFC prospect Sasha Palatnikov and showed a diverse offensive arsenal in his debut victory, so it will be interesting to see what he can do for an encore here.
This is a tremendous opportunity for both men, as Alves gets the chance to affirm his veteran status and get back into the win column against an emerging talent with a solid amount of hype, while Lazzez can potentially pick up a second straight UFC win by knocking off a divisional mainstay who will be making the walk to the Octagon for the 12th time in his career.
IKE VILLANUEVA VS. VINICIUS MOREIRA
Ike Villanueva and Vinicius Moreira meet in this light heavyweight matchup between action fighters looking to start fresh after struggling out of the gates in their UFC careers.
The 36-year-old Villanueva had won four straight before getting called to the Octagon in May for a clash with Chase Sherman. After getting stopped in the second by “The Vanilla Gorilla,” a nasty cut ended his sophomore appearance opposite Jordan Wright in 91 seconds, sending him into this week’s matchup with Moreira on a two-fight slide and in dire need of a strong performance.
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After impressing on the Contender Series in 2018, “Mamute” has struggled through his first three UFC appearances, suffering consecutive first-round stoppage losses to Alonzo Menifield, Eryk Anders, and Paul Craig heading into this one. Moreira had a pair of assignments fall through in 2020, resulting in his clash with Villanueva being his first fight in 16 months.
Both men had solid success before matriculating to the UFC cage and are under the gun to get back to their winning ways here, so don’t be surprised if they each come out with a sense of urgency and a hunger to get things finished in a hurry.
ROXANNE MODAFFERI VS. VIVIANE ARAUJO
Top 10 mainstay Roxanne Modafferi looks to snap her pattern of alternating wins and losses in her first appearance of 2021 as she takes on Brazilian up and comer Viviane Araujo.
The 38-year-old Modafferi is 4-4 in her second tour of duty with the UFC, having alternated results beginning with her TUF 26 loss to Nicco Montano. After kicking off 2020 with an upset win over Maycee Barber, she dropped a tough fight to Lauren Murphy in June, but rebounded with a strong effort opposite Andrea Lee in September to secure her 25th career win.
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Araujo had her climb towards contention detoured at the end of 2019 when she dropped a unanimous decision to former title challenger Jessica Eye, but she got back on course with a win over Montana De La Rosa in her lone appearance last year. The 34-year-old Cerrado MMA representative has smooth footwork and solid striking, making her an intriguing emerging threat in a division.
The title picture in the flyweight division is wide open at the moment, as champion Valentina Shevchenko has continued to dispatch challengers without much trouble, meaning a second consecutive victory over a ranked opponent for either of these women would significantly bolster their chances of challenging for UFC gold somewhere down the line.
MATT SCHNELL VS. TYSON NAM
If sneaky-good fights with a strong potential of ending inside the distance are your thing, you’re in for a treat with this flyweight pairing between Matt Schnell and Tyson Nam.
The former MTV Caged star Schnell has only gone the distance twice in his 19-fight career and looks to get back on track after having his four-fight winning streak snapped by Brazilian contender Alexandre Pantoja. While Nam has been to the cards a few more times than his opponent on Wednesday, he’s similarly inclined to handle his business without the help of the judges, as he’s finished his last two opponents and earned seven of his last nine wins by stoppage.
While things are a little more clearly delineated at the top of the men’s flyweight ranks, everything south of the title picture is wide open, meaning there is a tremendous opportunity for Schnell and Nam to stake a claim to a place in the Top 10 and put themselves in the thick of the chase with a strong showing on Wednesday.
LERONE MURPHY VS. DOUGLAS SILVA DE ANDRADE
British featherweight Lerone Murphy looks to secure his second straight UFC victory and maintain his unbeaten record as he steps in opposite Brazilian veteran Douglas Silva de Andrade on the main card of this week’s mid-week show.
The 29-year-old Manchester native impressed in his promotional debut at UFC 242, battling Zubaira Tukhugov to a draw before returning to Abu Dhabi and collecting a first-round stoppage win over Ricardo Ramos in July to register his first victory inside the Octagon. Back on Fight Island for a third straight bout, “The Miracle” looks to build on his 9-0-1 record as he locks horns with another tough and dangerous Brazilian in Silva de Andrade.
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Silva de Andrade certainly has an edge in experience in this one, as Wednesday’s meeting with Murphy will be his eighth UFC appearance and the 31st fight of his career. He returned to featherweight following a 3-2 stay at bantamweight by registering a unanimous decision win over Renan Barao towards the end of 2019 and will look to secure his third win in four starts while bouncing the Brit from the ranks of the unbeaten at the same time.
Murphy has quietly shown a ton of potential and looks like someone to watch in the talent-rich featherweight division. While this isn’t the kind of high-profile assignment that usually draws a ton of eyeballs, it’s the type of quality pairing that should tell critics and observers a lot more about where he fits in the 145-pound ranks, and a strong showing against Silva could potentially catapult the streaking Manchester Top Team representative into a much bigger matchup next time out.
OMARI AKHMEDOV VS. TOM BREESE
Originally scheduled to take place on last weekend’s debut event, middleweights Omari Akhmedov and Tom Breese were shuffled back to this card at the beginning of last week, making Saturday’s loss Wednesday’s gain.
Akhmedov parlayed a six-fight unbeaten streak into the biggest opportunity of his career in 2020 — a showdown with former middleweight champ Chris Weidman. Though he landed on the wrong side of the results, it was the kind of performance that solidified the 33-year-old as a tough out in the lower third of the Top 15 and a dangerous potential foe for anyone looking to work their way into the middleweight rankings.
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Breese made his first appearance in nearly two years in February, but ran into a driven Brendan Allen, resulting in the first stoppage loss of his career. But the Birmingham native returned to the Octagon in October and showed why he was once considered one of the top prospects in the sport, bouncing KB Bhullar from the ranks of the unbeaten with swift, powerful strikes in less than two minutes.
As previously mentioned, the 185-pound weight class has been a sea of constant change over the last couple years and Breese has a chance to take a major step forward with a second consecutive victory this weekend. But Akhmedov is a savvy, seasoned hand with designs on getting back into the win column and restarting his own climb towards contention.
SUMUDAERJI VS. ZARRUKH ADASHEV
Flyweight prospect Sumudaerji makes his quickest turnaround to date in the UFC as he hustles back into the Octagon to square off with promotional sophomore Zarrukh Adashev on Wednesday evening.
The 24-year-old Sumudaerji went 1-1 in a pair of bantamweight appearances to start his UFC adventure, but dropped to the 125-pound weight class for his third outing and opened a lot of eyes. Working behind a long, quick, powerful left hand, “The Tibetan Eagle” made quick work of Malcolm Gordon, earning his second straight victory with a 44-second stoppage win while establishing himself as one of the top up-and-coming talents in the flyweight division.
Adashev returns for a second time, hopeful that this trip into the Octagon is more representative of what he brings to the table than his debut outing last June. Tabbed to replace Ryan Benoit on short notice opposite Tyson Nam, the 28-year-old Adashev had his modest three-fight winning streak snapped in sudden fashion, as the Hawaiian veteran detonated a right hand on his chin just 32 seconds into the contest.
Will Sumudaerji deliver another blistering effort and kick off his 2021 campaign by increasing his momentum or can Adashev pull the upset and pick up his first career UFC win?
DALCHA LUNGIAMBULA VS. MARKUS PEREZ
Finishers Dalcha Lungiambula and Markus Perez clash in this preliminary card pairing that could be a sleeper contender for Fight of the Night.
The 35-year-old Lungiambula made his promotional debut in June 2019, registering a third-round stoppage win over Dequan Townsend to push his record to 10-1. He returned four months later and landed on the wrong side of a similar result against streaking contender Magomed Ankalaev, and now he squares off with Brazil’s Perez in hopes of getting back into the win column after suffering his first loss in seven appearances last time out.
“Maluko” is looking to reverse his fortunes and start fresh in 2021. A flashy striker, the former LFA champ got knocked out by another former EFC champion, Dricus Du Plessis, last time out, and hopes to earn a measure of vengeance by doing the same to Lungiambula here.
Between the South African’s power and Perez’ willingness to live dangerously inside the cage, this one has all the makings of an early firefight where someone is left asking the official “What happened?” while his opponent parades around the Octagon in celebration of a stoppage victory.
FRANCISCO FIGUEIREDO VS. JEROME RIVERA
Francisco Figueiredo arrives in the UFC flyweight division eager to follow in his brother’s footsteps as he debuts against tough New Mexico product Jerome Rivera.
A little less than two years younger than his brother, UFC flyweight kingpin Deiveson Figueiredo, the 31-year-old “Sniper” is 11-3-1 overall and unbeaten in his last three. Though he’s fought an uneven collection of opposition over the last couple years, working with his brother and the team he’s assembled can only help the younger Figueiredo, who will need to set aside the pressure of living up to his brother’s exploits as he makes the walk to the Octagon for the first time.
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Rivera earned a win on Season 4 of the Contender Series, but didn’t secure a contract, only to receive a short-notice opportunity a couple weeks later. Though he landed on the wrong side of the results against Tyson Nam, it was a way onto the roster for the Luttrell/Yee MMA & fitness representative, who is 10-3 overall.
Can Figueiredo earn a victory to become the latest brother tandem to each score wins in the UFC or will Rivera spoil his debut and collect his first UFC victory in the process?
MIKE DAVIS VS. MASON JONES
Contender Series alum Mike Davis looks to build off his third-round stoppage win over Thomas Gifford here as he makes his third UFC start against promising promotional newcomer Mason Jones.
Davis was favored heading into his matchup against Sodiq Yusuff on Season Two of the Contender Series, which tells you how highly folks thought of “Beast Boy” back then. Though he lost that contest, Davis responded with consecutive stoppage wins under the Island Fights banner to earn a short-notice opportunity in the Octagon, then bounced back from that loss to Gilbert Burns to stop Gifford in October 2019.
Injuries kept him sidelined throughout 2020, but now he gets the chance to remind everyone of his potential with another prime assignment against a fellow talented lightweight as he welcomes Jones to the Octagon for the first time.
The 25-year-old Jones was a two-weight champion under the Cage Warriors banner, winning the lightweight and welterweight belts in his last two appearances. Just the second fighter to achieve the feat — Conor McGregor is the other, in case you’re wondering — “The Dragon” carries a 10-0 record and a ton of potential into his debut on Wednesday.
Both men have the potential to make some noise in the lightweight division going forward, so it’s going to be interesting to see how this one shakes out.
UMAR NURMAGOMEDOV VS. SERGEY MOROZOV
Bantamweight newcomers meet in their shared UFC debuts as Umar Nurmagomedov faces Sergey Morozov in this rescheduled bout from October.
The cousin of lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov, the 24-year-old Umar is 12-0 as a professional, including victories in each of his individual appearances under the Professional Fighters League banner in 2018 and 2019. With good size for the division and having come up in the sport surrounded by excellent training partners and coaches, Nurmagomedov has a ton of potential, but that also comes with an abundance of pressure, so it will be interesting to see how he handles it all this weekend on Fight Island.
The 31-year-old Morozov brandishes a 16-3 record as he makes the march to the Octagon for the first time. He’s won seven of his last eight appearances, including avenging his prior loss to American veteran Josh Rettinghouse, while his lone setback came against undefeated UFC featherweight Movsar Evloev.
VICTORIA LEONARDO VS. MANON FIOROT
Wednesday night’s action gets underway in the flyweight division as Contender Series grad (Class of ’20) Victoria Leonardo faces off with French newcomer Manon Fiorot in the opener.
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The 30-year-old Leonardo dominated Australian prospect Chelsea Hackett in November, pounding out a second-round stoppage win to punch her ticket to the Octagon. A six-time Invicta FC veteran who has fought a solid slate to this point in her career, “Fury” profiles as an intriguing new addition to the 125-pound ranks in 2021.
Fiorot made her professional debut in mid-2018, losing to Leah McCourt, but hasn’t looked back since, rattling off five straight victories, the last three of which have come by stoppage. There is an unknown element to the 30-year-old from Nice, as she’s faced largely unknown competition, but settled things inside the distance in four of her five victories heading into this one.
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