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Fight by Fight Preview: Fight Island Edition

Dive deep into the entire Fight Island card with this edition of Fight by Fight, featuring Calvin Kattar vs Dan Ige
CALVIN KATTAR VS. DAN IGE

Featherweights coming off the biggest victories of their respective careers waste little time getting back into the fray as Calvin Kattar and Dan Ige ready to potentially go five rounds in the midweek main event.

A couple weeks shy of his the four-year anniversary of his UFC debut, Kattar enters this one off a nasty second-round technical knockout win over Jeremy Stephens at UFC 249 where he laid out the veteran with a sharp elbow midway through the frame. It was an impressive return to the win column following last November’s decision loss to Zabit Magomedsharipov in Moscow and an affirmation that the New England Cartel member is a legitimate threat in the 145-pound weight class.

A week after Kattar flattened Stephens, Ige edged out Edson Barboza on the scorecards to extend his winning streak to six and claim a spot in the Top 10. The 28-year-old Hawaiian has proven his mettle over his last three outings (not that it was ever really in question) and has established himself as a tough out in the ultra-competitive division.

There is currently a quartet of fighters jockeying for top spot on the list of contenders in the featherweight ranks, and the winner of this one will slot in behind that group. Kattar has already staked out that territory, which makes his readiness to hustle right back into the cage and face the dangerous Ige all the more impressive, while the Las Vegas-based Contender Series alum can take his second major step forward in three months with a victory here.

Both men have shown a propensity for going forward and throwing hands, return fire be damned, so this featherweight main event should be electric from the outset.

Fight Island Free Fight: Calvin Kattar vs Jeremy Stephens
Fight Island Free Fight: Calvin Kattar vs Jeremy Stephens
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TIM ELLIOTT VS. RYAN BENOIT

Flyweight veterans meet in the co-main event, as Tim Elliott makes his third appearance of 2020 as he takes on Texas’ Ryan Benoit.

Elliott’s second stint on the UFC roster has been fairly reminiscent of his first run, as the frenetic Missouri native has struggled to find consistent success while frequently delivering entertaining performances. The 33-year-old enters this one mired in a three-fight slide, most recently getting submitted by Brandon Royval at the end of May in a bout that earned Fight of the Night honors.

Benoit has been plagued by injuries and inconsistency throughout his UFC run, alternating wins and losses over his last 10 dating back to his days on the regional circuit while being limited to just two appearances since the end of 2016. He ended a two-year hiatus with a split decision loss to AlatengHeili in December, and looks to register his first victory since November 2017 when he steps into the cage this week.

Both of these men need a victory to solidify their footing in the flyweight division, where a host of young talents have started making their presence felt.

JIMMIE RIVERA VS. CODY STAMANN

Bantamweight stalwart Jimmie Rivera takes on emerging contender Cody Stamann in this late addition to this week’s card.

A 13-year veteran and fixture in the Top 15 since arriving in the UFC six years ago, Rivera rattled off 20 consecutive victories after suffering a loss in his second pro fight, a run that included wins over Pedro Munhoz, Urijah Faber, and Thomas Almeida. He’s dropped three of his last four heading into this engagement, but it’s hard to knock the Team Tiger Schulmann representative too much as those setbacks have come against Marlon Moraes, Aljamain Sterling, and Petr Yan.

Stamann has rebounded from his own setback against Sterling with a three-fight unbeaten streak, most recently defeating Brian Kelleher in a featherweight assignment less than two weeks after the passing of his 18-year-old brother Jacob. The Michigan native, who now resides in Las Vegas, is 5-1-1 in his seven UFC appearances and can establish himself as a legitimate contender in the 135-pound weight class with a victory here.

It gets said repeatedly in this series but is no less true here: this is the type of fight every hopeful like Stamann needs to win in order to take the next step forward in his progression up the rankings. Rivera is a seasoned pro whose credentials are unquestionable, and it’s fights like these that ultimate determine whether or not a fighter is capable of breaking into the elite class of a given division.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JUNE 06: (L-R) Cody Stamman punches Brian Kelleher in their featherweight bout during the UFC 250 event at UFC APEX on June 06, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JUNE 06: (L-R) Cody Stamman punches Brian Kelleher in their featherweight bout during the UFC 250 event at UFC APEX on June 06, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

MOLLY MCCANN VS. TAILA SANTOS

The action shifts to the flyweight division in this one as “Meatball” Molly McCann goes in search of her fourth straight victory in a showdown with UFC sophomore Taila Santos.

The popular McCann dropped her promotional debut to Gillian Robertson in the spring of 2018 but has rattled off three straight unanimous decision victories since, showcasing the toughness and tenacity that made her a fan favorite during her run under the Cage Warriors banner. A winner of nine of her last 10 overall, McCann appears to have found her footing in the Octagon and is a name to watch in the wide-open flyweight ranks going forward.

Santos arrived in the UFC with a shiny 15-0 record, earning a contract with a unanimous decision win on the Contender Series in the summer of 2018. She made her maiden voyage into the Octagon six months later, landing on the wrong side of a split decision verdict against Mara Romero Borella, and now needs to prove that her extended run of success prior to reaching the UFC was as much about her talents as the level of competition she was facing.

With champion Valentina Shevchenko dominating the competition in the flyweight division, there is ample opportunity for fresh contenders to climb the divisional ladder in the 125-pound weight class. A strong showing for either woman has the potential to elevate the victor into the Top 15 and set up a marquee matchup later this year.

ABDUL RAZAK ALHASSAN VS. MOUNIR LAZZEZ

Welterweight finishers meet in this main card clash as Abdul Razak Alhassan returns to the Octagon against promotional newcomer Mounir Lazzez.

The 34-year-old Alhassan has gone 4-1 through his first five UFC appearances, registering four first-round stoppage victories and a split decision lost to current middleweight dark horse Omari Akhmedov. All 10 of his career wins have come inside the opening round and he needed just 43 seconds to dispatch welterweight wild man Niko Price last time out.

Alhassan has been out of action since that bout with Price at UFC 228 in September 2018 and looks to pick up where he left off as he makes his return against Lazzez.

The 9-1 Lazzez was born in Tunisia and represents Team Nogueira Dubai, making his UFC debut this week a home game. Lazzez has tremendous size for the division, and with eight of his nine victories coming inside the distance, it’s clear that he has the arsenal to be a dangerous new addition to the 170-pound ranks.

With 15 of their combined 19 victories coming in the first round, the chances of this one ending early are exceptionally high.

JOHN PHILLIPS VS. KHAMZAT CHIMAEV

Fresh off his first UFC victory, Wales’ John Phillips returns in search of a second straight triumph as he squares off with promotional newcomer Khamzat Chimaev in this middleweight clash.

An experienced hand and popular figure on the UK regional circuit prior to signing with the UFC, Phillips lost each of his first three appearances inside the Octagon, getting submitted twice before dropping a split decision to fellow vet Jack Marshman in a fun back-and-forth battle in London. He returned to action in September and finally collected his first victory, knocking out Alen Amedovski in 17 seconds to secure a Performance of the Night bonus in Denmark.

The undefeated Chimaev trains with the crew at Allstars Training Center in Stockholm, Sweden, home of Alexander Gustafsson, and enters this matchup having earned six finishes in as many appearances as a professional, competing mostly under the Brave Combat Federation banner. While most of his opponents to date will be largely unknown to a North American audience, Chimaev did earn a first-round stoppage win over 24-year-old American prospect Sid Wheeler a couple fights back, establishing himself as a solid international prospect in the process.

Will the battle-tested Phillips pick up a second consecutive victory or will Chimaev push his unbeaten run to seven with a win in his first foray into the UFC cage?

RICARDO RAMOS VS. LERONE MURPHY

Featherweight prospects collide in this one as Brazil’s Ricardo Ramos makes his second start in the 145-pound weight class against UFC sophomore Lerone Murphy.

After a 4-1 run in the bantamweight division, Ramos relocated to featherweight towards the end of last year, registering a first-round submission win over Eduardo Garagorri in his divisional debut. The 24-year-old was a highly regarded prospect when he first landed in the UFC and his performances to date provide no reason to believe that status should change even though he’s now competing in the talent-rich featherweight division.

Murphy makes his second trip to Yas Island in as many UFC appearances this week, having battled Zubaira Tukhugov to a draw in his debut there last September at UFC 242. The unbeaten British 28-year-old exceeded expectations in his first Octagon appearance and now has the opportunity to establish himself as someone to watch in the division if he can dispatch Ramos here.

MODESTAS BUKAUSKAS VS. ANDREAS MICHAILIDIS

Newcomers to the light heavyweight division collide in this one as Modestas Bukauskas squares off with Andreas Michailidis.

The 26-year-old Bukauskas returned from a 20-month absence in March 2018 and is undefeated since, rattling off six straight wins, including winning and defending the Cage Warriors light heavyweight strap in his last two outings. The Lithuanian, who fights out of England, has never been the distance in his 12-fight career, venturing beyond the second round only once, when he stopped Marthin Hamlet Nielsen to claim the vacant Cage Warriors title last June.

Michailidis has won seven of his last eight heading into his promotional debut this week on Fight Island, including a first-round knockout win over former UFC competitor Marcel Fortuna under the Titan FC banner two fights back. Like his opponent this week, “The Spartan” isn’t a big fan of the scorecards, with each of his last five wins coming inside the distance.

Light heavyweight is one of the rare divisions in the UFC where there is an immediate opportunity for new arrivals to make a splash and work their way up the hierarchy in relatively quick fashion. Given their history of ending fights in a hurry, don’t be surprised if the winner of this one registers the kind of victory that earns them an expedited push in the 205-pound ranks.

JARED GORDON VS. CHRIS FISHGOLD

Business shifts to the featherweight division in this one as England’s Chris Fishgold looks to get back into the win column in a bout against durable American Jared Gordon.

Fishgold parlayed a seven-fight winning streak that included a Cage Warriors lightweight title victory and three successful defenses into a UFC contract, but has gone 1-2 in the Octagon since, losing to Kattar and Makwan Amirkhani on either side of a submission win over Daniel Teymur. The 28-year-old has been a road warrior throughout his UFC run, competing in Canada, the Czech Republic, and Sweden ahead of this week’s bout in Abu Dhabi after logging 18 of his first 19 fights in Britain.

Gordon carries a 3-3 record in the Octagon into this one, but has dropped three of his last four after getting knocked out by Charles Oliveira in his most recent appearance last November. The New York native, who has been training with the Sanford MMA team in South Florida of late, deploys a “kill or be killed” approach inside the cage, which has led to several entertaining back-and-forth battles, but a trio of losses as well.

Featherweight is brimming with talent and there are new names working their way up the divisional ladder seemingly every week. That ups the ante for these two veterans as they look to right the ship and start making forward progress in the 145-pound weight class.

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 14: Jared Gordon of the United States poses during the Ultimate Media Day at Renaissance Hotel Sao Paulo on November 14, 2019 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 14: Jared Gordon of the United States poses during the Ultimate Media Day at Renaissance Hotel Sao Paulo on November 14, 2019 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

DIANA BELBITA VS. LIANA JOJUA

The first set of female flyweights to hit the cage this week is comprised of a pair of young UFC sophomores as Diana Belbita and Liana Jojua share the cage on Fight Island.

Belbita had her four-fight winning streak snapped by McCann in her promotional debut last October. Just 24 years old, the Romanian already has 18 fights under her belt, boasting a 13-5 record overall.

A native of Georgia, Jojua made her first trip into the Octagon back in September at UFC 242, landing on the wrong side of a third-round stoppage result against Canadian Sarah Moras. The 25-year-old had won five straight prior to that setback and will look to avoid the second two-fight slide of her career in this one.

Young fighters like Belbita and Jojua have the potential to make significant gains between each appearance and it will be interesting to see which one has improved the most since their respective debut losses. Neither wants to begin their UFC tenure with consecutive defeats, so expect a spirited affair from the outset.

JACK SHORE VS. AARON PHILLIPS

It’s a battle between an undefeated prospect and a returning veteran in the bantamweight ranks as Jack Shore welcomes Aaron Phillips back to the UFC.

The 25-year-old Shore pushed his unbeaten streak to an even dozen with a third-round submission win over Nohelin Hernandez in his UFC debut last September. The Welsh upstart has earned 11 of his 12 victories by stoppage and is a perfect 24-0 inside the cage dating back to his days as an amateur, making him one of the top prospects in the sport.

Phillips came out on the wrong side of the results in each of his first two UFC appearances a few years back, but has put together a five-fight winning streak since returning from a nearly three-year sabbatical to earn a second chance to compete in the Octagon. The 30-year-old Louisiana native earned finishes in four of those five bouts, which sets the stage for this matchup with Shore to be an all-action affair from start to finish.

Will Shore continue his unbeaten run towards the top of the bantamweight ranks or will Phillips hand him his first career loss while collecting his first UFC victory?

JORGE GONZALEZ VS. KENNETH BERGH

Promotional newcomers paired on short notice clash in this light heavyweight contest as Jorge Gonzalez squares off with Kenneth Bergh.

A pro since 2010, Gonzalez arrives in the UFC having won seven of his last eight appearances, including a first-round stoppage win over Ultimate Fighter alum Luke Barnatt three fights back. After suffering his first loss in over three years last August, “Street” rebounded with a 65-second submission victory over Marcos Rodriguez last time out.

The 31-year-old Bergh appeared on the Contender Series last summer, initially suffering a submission loss to Antonio Trocoli before the bout was deemed a no contest when Trocoli tested positive for a banned substance following the fight. It was the second time Bergh came up short in an attempt to gain entry into the UFC after losing to Eric Spicely in the fight to get into the house on Season 23 of The Ultimate Fighter.

Outside of those two instances, it has been nothing but success for the tattooed Norwegian, who bounced back from his encounter with Trocoli last summer with a pair of quick finishes in September and December, sending him into this one on a nine-fight unbeaten streak.

While new to the UFC, these two are not unfamiliar with each other, having been booked to face off against one another in the summer of 2018 as part of the pay-per-view card headlined by former UFC titleholders Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz. Two years later, they’ll meet inside the same cage where Liddell and Ortiz rose to fame.

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