Featherweight is one of the most competitive, consistently entertaining divisions in the UFC and this bout will have an immediate impact on the complexion of the 145-pound ranks.
Unbeaten in five Octagon appearances and brandishing a 13-fight winning streak overall, Magomedsharipov has spent the last two years living up to the advanced billing that preceded his arrival on the biggest stage in the sport. He’s equal parts flashy and fundamental, showing creativity with his striking, but a strong, technical base when it comes to his grappling, which makes him a considerable threat, even in a division as flush with talent as featherweight.
Kattar is the contender no one really saw coming and some still discount now. The 31-year-old Massachusetts native is 4-1 in his first five UFC starts and enters his first main event assignment on the strength of back-to-back first-round stoppage wins. On the whole, he’s fought a tougher slate than Magomedsharipov and had more top-end success, having earned wins over the likes of Andre Fili, Shane Burgos, and Ricardo Lamas.
This is a classic matchup between a highly touted fighter tagged for superstardom and the quiet professional who has simply handled his business without much fanfare and it should set a clear course for each man heading into 2020.
Initially Volkov was slated to headline this week’s return to Moscow opposite former champion Junior Dos Santos, but when “Cigano” came down with an illness and was forced from the matchup, Hardy stepped up to create an arguably more intriguing heavyweight clash.
The towering Russian is a Top 10 fixture and proven commodity in the big boy division, sporting victories over veteran stalwarts like Timothy Johnson, Roy Nelson and Stefan Struve, as well as a fourth-round finish of former champ Fabricio Werdum. Last time out, Volkov was seconds away from a seventh consecutive victory and potentially punching his ticket to a title shot when he got clipped and finished by Derrick Lewis at UFC 229.
He hasn’t fought since and it will be interesting to see what kind of impact that result and the subsequent time off had on the 31-year-old fighter.
Hardy has been one of the most active fighters on the roster this year, his first in the UFC, as this will be his fifth appearance in 2019 and second fight in less than a month. It has been an up-and-down rookie campaign for the former NFL defensive end, who has shown flashes of potential, but can’t seem to avoid controversy or intense criticism.
Many have longed to see the heavyweight novice take a step up in competition and now Hardy is bypassing a series of bouts with the heavyweight middle class to jump into the Octagon with one of the best in the world. It’s a high risk, high reward proposition for the American Top Team representative, especially just 18 months into his pro career, but it should provide a clear picture of where he fits in the heavyweight ranks going forward.
Imadaev made his promotional debut in April, dropping a majority decision to Max Griffin in a heated grudge match between two fighters who 100 percent do not like each other. After a slow start and a point deduction for grabbing the fence, the 24-year-old started to find his footing and tried to rally down the stretch, but Griffin was able to hang on and squeak out the victory.
Roberts enters this one on the first two-fight slide of his career, having suffered a controversial submission loss to Claudio Silva in March before getting knocked out by Michel Pereira two months later. The British veteran has teased a run at the rankings in the past, but has yet to string together the performances needed to reach that level and a third consecutive loss could scuttle those plans for the foreseeable future.
Will Imadaev take a step forward in his sophomore appearance in the Octagon or will the seasoned Roberts send him home with a second straight defeat?
Light heavyweights at opposite ends of the career spectrum meet in this one as Herman ventures to Moscow to square off with Ibragimov.
A finalist on Season 3 of The Ultimate Fighter, Herman is in the twilight of his career, but continues making the walk to the Octagon and putting on fun fights. The 39-year-old ended a three-fight skid that tracked all the way back to UFC 201 with a first-round finish of Patrick Cummins last time out and could establish himself as an interesting veteran presence just outside the Top 15 with a win here.
Replacing the injured Gadzhimurad Antigulov, Ibragimov looks to get back in the win column after getting bounced from the ranks of the unbeaten in his promotional debut back in August. The 24-year-old went shot-for-shot with Da-un Jung in a wild affair that lasted just two minutes and it will be interesting to see if he’s a little more cautious and careful this time around as he squares off with one of the elder statesmen on the UFC roster.
This is a terrific welterweight clash between a fighter looking to restart his momentum and one needing a quality victory to carry him to the next level of competition in the loaded 170-pound weight class.
After an up-and-down four-year run at lightweight, Martin changed divisions and put together the best run of his UFC career, rattling off four straight victories to emerge on the fringes of the Top 15. But his winning ways ended with a majority decision loss to Demian Maia in June and now the 29-year-old needs to reset and regroup in order to make another run at cracking the rankings.
Emeev is a perfect 3-0 inside the Octagon, has won seven straight overall and sports a shiny 18-3 record for his career, but he’s yet to beat anyone of great substance since shifting to welterweight. He’s gone the distance in all three of his prior UFC appearances, often looking content to ride out rounds and simply play it safe, but Martin should force him to engage from start to finish.
Can the Russian establish himself as someone to pay attention to in the welterweight division or will Martin get back in the win column and regain the momentum he carried into his clash with Maia this summer?
New names in the light heavyweight division connect in this one as Gamzatov makes his promotional debut against Abreu.
Unbeaten in 13 career fights, Gamzatov is one of several newcomers slated to compete on Saturday night that carries a ton of intrigue and potential upside. The 29-year-old started fighting in North America four fights back and maintained his winning ways, posting victories over UFC vets Rodney Wallace and Eddie Gordon during that time.
Abreu dropped his first appearance in the Octagon, but rebounded with a unanimous decision win over Sam Alvey in his sophomore appearance in the UFC cage. He’d won seven straight before dropping his UFC debut and now that he’s back in the win column, the 26-year-old is looking to go on a little run and establish himself as a force in the wide open light heavyweight division.
Another clash in the light heavyweight division, this one features two fighters who have already started making an impression and look to close out 2019 by creeping one step closer to cracking the Top 15.
Ankalaev arrived in the UFC with a perfect 9-0 record and was seconds away from extending his winning streak to double digits before getting caught in a tight triangle choke in the closing moments of his bout with Paul Craig. Since then, the promising Russian has rebounded with consecutive victories, stopping Marcin Prachnio and scoring a decision win over Abreu.
A two-division champion under the EFC banner, Lungiambula made a splash in his June debut, collecting a third-round stoppage win over Dequan Townsend to push his winning streak to six. The 34-year-old is an absolute powerhouse and it will be interesting to see how he progresses now that he’s settled in at light heavyweight and has his first trip into the Octagon out of the way.
A divisional stalwart and a streaking upstart meet here as Khabilov looks to get back into the win column opposite Khandozhko, who returns for his second UFC appearance.
There was a time when Khabilov was tabbed as a future title contender, but a pair of losses, coupled with various injuries, stalled his ascent. He’d cobbled together a six-fight winning streak without much fanfare heading into this year, but had his run of success snapped by Diego Ferreira in late February.
Khandozhko made his promotional debut in June, earning a hard-fought decision win over Rostam Akman in Stockhom. The victory extended the 27-year-old’s winning streak to three and now he gets the opportunity to make a greater splash by locking up with one of the more seasoned competitors residing in the middle of the lightweight pack.
A spot in the rankings isn’t hanging in the balance here, but a win for either man would be a great way to end the year and set themselves up for greater opportunities in 2020.
Another promotional newcomer who has exhibited all kinds of promise on the regional circuit, Kopylov makes his first trip into the UFC cage on Saturday in a clash with Roberson, a Contender Series alum still in the formative stages of his transition to mixed martial arts.
The 28-year-old Russian was expected to make his debut in April opposite middleweight fixture Krzysztof Jotko, but an injury forced him from the contest and pushed his debut back to this weekend. Kopylov is a perfect 8-0 in his career, with all of those victories coming by way of stoppage, including a pair of fourth-round endings in his last two appearances.
A former kickboxer, Roberson earned his way into the Octagon by scoring a 15-second stoppage win over Ryan Spann on the first season of the Contender Series and has gone 3-2 over his two years on the roster, alternating wins and losses. After stepping up to light heavyweight to face Glover Teixeira at the start of the year, “Baby K” moved back down to his natural surroundings at middleweight and scored a split decision win over Wellington Turman last time out.
Nurmagomedov finally moves to the UFC following an eight-fight run under the World Series of Fighting and Professional Fighters League banners, debuting on Saturday against the durable German veteran Zawada.
The 29-year-old welterweight has been under intense scrutiny for the last several years as many expected him to have a similar career trajectory as his cousin and training partner, reigning UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. Although there have been a couple hiccups along the way, he still arrives in the UFC with a 15-2-1 record and wins over the likes of Matthew Frincu, John Howard and Matt Secor.
Zawada has gotten off to an 0-2 start in his UFC career, but his performance has been significantly better than his record indicates, as he pushed Danny Roberts to his limits on short notice in his debut before being felled late in a bout with streaking welterweight Li Jingliang last time out.
This will be an interesting initial test for the highly regarded Nurmagomedov and another opportunity for Zawada to upset the apple cart while searching for his first UFC victory.
Towering by lightweight standards, Yakovlev and Roberts meet in a clash of fighters coming off very different results in their last outings.
Yakovlev ended a 29-month absence in April, returning to the cage in St. Petersburg and securing a second-round submission win over Brazilian Alex da Silva. The veteran has split his time between lightweight and welterweight, but seems to be a better fit at 155 pounds, where his long, lanky frame usually give him distinct advantages.
That won’t be the case on Saturday, however, as Roberts matches him in the height department (both are six-foot-one) and has a one-inch shorter reach. While Yakovlev is coming off a comeback win, Roberts enters off the first loss of his career, a frustrating unanimous decision setback against veteran Vinc Pichel.
The California-based Roberts impressed in his first two appearances coming off the Contender Series and still profiles as a long-term prospect in the lightweight division, but this is a tough road assignment for the 25-year-old.
A frustrating 11 months comes to an end for Clark on Saturday as she returns to action for the first time since June 2018 in a rematch with Kianzad, a fellow Invicta FC alum still searching for her first UFC triumph.
Scheduled to face Andrea Lee last December, Clark was scratched late due problems with her weight cut. After relocating to the bantamweight ranks, she tore ligaments in her foot prior to her bout with Talita Bernardo in May and has been on the sidelines since. Now, after 17 months without a fight and nearly two years without a victory, the Las Vegas-based fan favorite will finally step back into the Octagon and attempt to even the score with Kianzad.
Kianzad made her way to the finals of the featherweight competition on Season 28 of The Ultimate Fighter, losing to Macy Chiasson. She rebounded with a win over Iony Razafiarison under the Superior Challenge banner, then was called back to the UFC cage for a bout against Julia Avila, where she landed on the wrong side of a unanimous decision verdict.
Both these women are skilled, seasoned veterans, so don’t be surprised if they team up to deliver an entertaining scrap early in the night in Moscow.
Bantamweights looking to get back in the win column clash in this one as Popov makes his second trip into the Octagon against the British veteran Grant.
Popov carried a 10-fight winning streak into his UFC debut in June, but ran into a rejuvenated Eddie Wineland, who used every bit of his experience advantage and sharper striking to piece up and put away the newcomer. The 35-year-old dominated on the regional circuit, so it will be interesting to see if he can get back to his winning ways now that he’s not sharing the cage with such a seasoned fighter.
Grant’s UFC run has been plagued by injuries, as he’s competed only three times since falling to Chris Holdsworth in the bantamweight finals on Season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter. He went more than two years before returning to beat Marlon Vera, then lost to Damian Stasiak eight months later, and then had another two-year absence before getting submitted by Manny Bermudez last time out.
Back for the first time since that July 2018 bout, there is no way to know what to expect from the good-natured bantamweight from Bishop Auckland, England, but he’s always been down for a scrap and this pairing with Popov should give him every opportunity to entertain on Saturday night in Moscow.