We're back in Las Vegas on Saturday once more before heading back to Houston for UFC 265 with UFC Fight Night: Hall vs Strickland. We're here to break down the full 15-fight card from top to bottom, culminating with the collision of two middleweight heavy hitters who are sure to deliver.
URIAH HALL VS SEAN STRICKLAND
Top 15 middleweights looking to take another step forward in pursuit of their championship ambitions clash in this weekend’s main event as Uriah Hall steps in with Sean Strickland.
It’s never been a question of talent with Hall, but rather if his mental approach could ever match his abundant skills. After battling inconsistency early through his first dozen UFC appearances, the former TUF finalist has been dialed in of late, rattling off four straight wins to emerge as an intriguing contender in the 185-pound weight class.
In his first eight months back in action following a two-year absence due to a gnarly knee injury suffered in a motorcycle accident, Strickland has gone 3-0 to force his way into the Top 15 and remind everyone why he was once a rising star in the middleweight ranks. Tough and technical, the California is unbeaten when fighting at 185 pounds and can move himself into the Top 10 with another victory on Saturday.
There are opportunities to climb the rankings available in the middleweight division at the moment because champion Israel Adesanya has preferred to stay active and has already fought most of the top-ranked fighters in the division. While a victory is unlikely to send either man into a championship opportunity next, it would put the winner on the cusp of contention, and one more win could land them a title opportunity in 2022.
CHEYANNE BUYS VS GLORIA DE PAULA
Cheyanne Buys and Gloria de Paula square off in this meeting of strawweights making their second appearances inside the Octagon, each eager to leave with their first UFC victory in hand.
Buys earned her UFC contract last summer on Dana White’s Contender Series, beating up Hilarie Rose for three rounds to secure her fourth straight victory and send her into her promotional debut with a little momentum. Initially slated to face Kay Hansen, a last-minute change left her in the cage with fellow newcomer Montserrat Conejo, who dragged her to the canvas and kept her there for long stretches to secure the victory.
The 26-year-old de Paula also graduated from the last season of DWCS, grinding out a win over Pauline Macias in November before being tagged to share the cage with former Invicta FC champ Jinh Yu Frey in her promotional debut. She dropped a unanimous decision to Frey with scores of 29-28 across the board and will look to bounce back this weekend against Buys.
Both of these women have shown flashes of potential in these early stages of their careers, so it will be interesting to see which one has made the more significant adjustments since their debuts when they step into the Octagon for a second time on Saturday.
NIKLAS STOLZE VS JARED GOODEN
Welterweights looking to rebound from disappointing results last time out meet here as Niklas Stolze squares off with Mounir Lazzez.
Tabbed as a late replacement last July, Stolze landed on the wrong side of a unanimous decision verdict opposite Ramazan Emeev in his promotional debut, which brought his four-fight winning streak to an end. But with a year between fights and a full camp to prepare for Lazzez, “Green Mask” will look to show more of what he can do when he steps into the Octagon for a second time on Saturday.
Lazzez garnered a great deal of buzz following his debut win over Abdul Razak Alhassen last summer on UFC Fight Island, but then ran into a motivated Warlley Alves at the start of the year, getting felled in the first round. The 33-year-old Tunisian rebounded from the only other setback in his career with three straight wins, including his UFC debut, and will look to start a similar run here when he faces off with Stolze.
RYAN BENOIT VS ZARRUKH ADASHEV
Saturday’s action gets underway in the flyweight division, as Ryan Benoit and Zarrukh Adashev square off in a battle of talented fighters looking to snap out of two-fight skids.
A pro since 2009, the 31-year-old Benoit has been limited to just two appearances since the tail end of 2017 as a result of myriad injuries. He dropped decisions in each of those contests — the first a split decision at bantamweight against Alatengheili, the second back at flyweight opposite Tim Elliott — but holds an earlier win over Sergio Pettis and battled current champ Brandon Moreno to a split decision, which shows the talent is there if he can stay healthy and stay active.
Adashev made his promotional debut on short notice last summer, replacing Benoit, actually, and was quickly stopped by veteran knockout artist Tyson Nam. He looked much better in his sophomore outing opposite Sumudaerji in January, where he dropped a decision to the emerging “Tibetan Eagle,” and will look to continue those positive improvements from fight-to-fight when he steps in against Benoit this weekend.
BRYAN BARBERENA VS JASON WITT
Veteran welterweights Bryan Barberena and Jason Witt square off this weekend in what should be an all-action affair in the 170-pound weight class.
Fighting for the first time since undergoing an emergency laparotomy a week before his November 2020 fight with Daniel Rodriguez, Barberena looks to pick up where he left off and build on his unanimous decision win over Anthony Ivy. A tough out who pushes everyone he faces to their limits, “Bam Bam” is a safe bet to be involved in the Fight of the Night each time he steps into the Octagon.
Witt has experienced quite the rollercoaster ride through his first three UFC appearances, suffering a 48-second loss in his ultra-short-notice debut, followed by a second-round submission win in his second outing before getting stopped in 16 seconds last time out. The pattern suggests it’s time for another upswing for the 34-year-old “Vanilla Gorilla” this time around, but it will take a return to the form that produced nine wins in 10 starts prior to his UFC arrival in order for Witt to make it happen.
This should be a demolition derby of a fight for as long as it lasts, as both men have something to prove and bring a rough-and-tumble approach with them each and every time they step into the cage.
COLLIN ANGLIN VS MELSIK BAGHDASARYAN
Competitors on Season 4 of DWCS, featherweights Collin Anglin and Melsik Baghdasaryan meet this weekend in their shared UFC debuts.
Anglin earned a contract with a hard-fought decision win over previously unbeaten Elevation Fight Team member Muhammad Naimov in September. After losing the second fight of his pro career, the 28-year-old Factory X Muay Thai representative has rattled off seven straight victories and will look to add to that run of success in his first UFC appearance this weekend.
A standout kickboxer who trains out of the Glendale Fighting Club and is represented by UFC Hall of Famer Ronda Rousey, Baghdasaryan also secured a victory in his appearance at the UFC APEX last year, pushing his record to 5-1 in the process. Still in the midst of his transition into mixed martial arts, “The Gun” is an intriguing addition to the featherweight ranks and is someone to keep tabs on, regardless of how this weekend’s matchup with Anglin plays out.
CHRIS GRUETZEMACHER VS RAFA GARCIA
Lightweights looking to get back into the win column meet here as veteran Chris Gruetzemacher squares off with UFC sophomore Rafa Garcia.
“Gritz” returned to the Octagon for the first time in more than two years last Halloween, sharing the cage with Alexander Hernandez. Unfortunately for the 35-year-old TUF alum, the bout lasted less than two minutes, and he exited the cage with his third loss in four fights since securing a victory in his promotional debut.
Garcia saw his unbeaten record fade away after accepting a short-notice assignment opposite Nasrat Haqparast earlier this year, but showed he belonged at this level in defeat. Now, with a full training camp behind him, the 26-year-old will look to return to the form that produced victories over UFC veterans Estevan Payan and Humberto Bandenay prior to his call-up in March.
DANNY CHAVEZ VS KAI KAMAKA
Featherweights looking to get things moving in the right direction again square off in this potentially explosive short notice pairing as Kai Kamaka steps up to face Danny Chavez.
After landing on the business end of one of the most debated decisions of the year last time out, Kamaka jumped at the chance to replace the injured Dooho Choi opposite Chavez this weekend. The 26-year-old Hawaiian thought he’d done enough to earn his first UFC victory on May 1 against TJ Brown, and he will be out to leave no question as to who is the better man when he gets back in there this weekend.
Chavez officially beat Brown in his promotional debut last August, then followed it up with a unanimous decision loss to Jared Gordon towards the end of February, battling hard, but ultimately getting outworked by the veteran New Yorker. Now the 34-year-old MMA Masters representative aims to return to the form that produced four straight victories prior to his 2021 debut while denying Kamaka the opportunity to experience success inside the UFC cage once more.
JINH YU FREY VS ASHLEY YODER
Jinh Yu Frey and Ashley Yoder lock up here in what should be an entertaining clash of strawweight staples on Saturday’s card.
After landing on the wrong side of the results in her first two UFC appearances, Frey finally broke into the win column with a gritty, hard-fought decision victory over Gloria de Paula last time out. The former Invicta FC atomweight champ has battled strong competition throughout her career and is more than capable of stringing together a handful of victories now that she’s established her footing in the UFC’s 115-pound weight class.
Don’t let Yoder’s 3-6 record inside the Octagon fool you: the TUF alum is a perennial tough out with a solid grappling base and developing striking that has shared the cage with a collection of veterans and hopefuls throughout her career. Athletic and aggressive on the canvas, the 33-year-old has never been finished in her career and has gone the distance in each of her first nine UFC appearances.
PHIL ROWE VS ORION COSCE
Two more DWCS alums clash in this contest, as “The Fresh Prince” Philip Rowe takes on Orion Cosce.
Injuries and a global pandemic delayed Rowe’s debut following his Season 3 victory over Leon Shahbazyan until this past February, where he dropped a decision to Gabe Green. Prior to that setback, the Fusion Xcel Performance representative has won seven straight and he’ll look to get back to that form now that he’s got the Octagon jitters out of the way when he squares off with Cosce on Saturday.
Cosce earned a contract last summer with a third-round stoppage win over Matt Dixon, a victory that pushed his record to 7-0 overall. The older brother of fellow UFC welterweight Louis Cosce, “Galaxy” has never gone the distance in his career and will look to avoid the same fate that befell his younger brother when he made his debut late last year.