During last weekend’s event, every time Brendan Fitzgerald read the promo for Saturday’s fight card at the UFC APEX, an involuntary smile landed on my face and I felt myself getting excited.
He only mentioned one fight, the main event, and yet there I was, sitting alone in my office, grinning like an idiot because that main event — a clash between Brazilian power punchers Amanda Lemos and Jéssica Andrade — is one of the most interesting fights of 2022, and I knew from starting prep on this week’s slate that the rest of the card is full of intrigue and talent as well.
Fitz would read the promo and I would smile.
In a handful of days, Fitz will call the action, and I will be smiling, and you will be, too, because Saturday’s lineup is loaded with goodness.
Amanda Lemos vs Jéssica Andrade
Streaking Brazilian Amanda Lemos welcomes former champion and fellow Brazilian Jéssica Andrade back to the strawweight division in a main event pairing that is sure to be explosive and have an impact on how things line up in the championship chase.
Lemos really put it all together in 2021, entering off back-to-back victories and having pushed her winning streak to five while establishing herself as a legitimate threat in the 115-pound weight class. After smothering Livinha Souza in March and lighting up Montserrat Conejo in July, the 34-year-old edged out Angela Hill in December for her third win of the year.
The victory elevated Lemos into the Top 10 and made it clear that she could hang with tenured talents in the strawweight ranks. Now it’s time to find out if she’s ready to challenge for championship gold in the not too distant future.
Andrade exited the division after consecutive losses to Zhang Weili and Rose Namajunas, venturing up to flyweight and instantly positioning herself as a title contender with a first-round stoppage win over Katlyn Chookagian. Like everyone else that has faced Valentina Shevchenko of late, the Brazilian challenger was clearly defeated, but rebounded nicely with a first-round finish of Cynthia Calvillo.
She opted to move back to down to optimize her talents and make another run at the title, and if this second debut at strawweight is anything like her first fight at flyweight, Andrade will make a case for getting hustled to the head of the list of contenders on Saturday night.
This is a terrific matchup because while there are obvious similarities between the two, there are key differences in the way they deploy their weapons inside the cage that should make this a compelling back-and-forth to close out the show. The winner will unquestionably be in the thick of the chase in the strawweight division, with little more than one more win likely standing between them and a championship opportunity.
Alexandr Romanov vs Chase Sherman
Business shifts to the big boy ranks next as unbeaten Moldovan Alexandr Romanov locks horns with hard-charging American Chase Sherman in an intriguing heavyweight battle.
Sporting a perfect 15-0 record, Romanov steps in for Rodrigo Nascimento after being forced out of his original debut assignment opposite Ilir Latifi in February. The burly grappler has shown a wide array of takedowns and submissions through his first four UFC appearances, including a forearm choke that put Marcos Rogerio de Lima to sleep.
When Tanner Boser was forced out, Sherman jumped on the opportunity to step into the Octagon again, knowing that halting Romanov’s unbeaten run would do wonders for his standing in the division. The Mississippi native has dropped three straight, but shows up in Las Vegas with nothing to lose and everything to gain, which should prompt a massive effort from Sherman on Saturday.
Will Romanov keep things rolling or can Sherman score one of the biggest upsets of the year?
Clay Guida vs Claudio Puelles
Lightweights at very different stages of their respective careers share the Octagon in this one as 40-year-old veteran Clay Guida steps in with soon-to-be 26-year-old Claudio Puelles on Saturday.
Guida really is the UFC version of The Energizer Bunny — a man in perpetual motion both in his individual appearances and life in general. Last year, Guida competed three times, outworking Michael Johnson in February and submitting Leonardo Santos in December, with a debated split decision loss to Mark O. Madsen sandwiched in between.
Puelles, who celebrates his 26th birthday a couple days before the fight, ended an extended absence in 2021 and instantly showed he’s one to watch in the lightweight division. After handing Jordan Leavitt his first (and only) career loss in June, the Peruvian prospect scored a third-round submission win over Chris Gruetzemacher in December, clamping onto his second kneebar finish in four UFC victories.
Can the young-at-heart Guida add another win to his Hall of Fame resume or will Puelles keep his winning streak going by adding a victory over the experienced veteran this weekend?
Lando Vannata vs Charles Jourdain
As soon as this fight was announced, all I could picture was how the old Looney Tunes cartoons used to show to characters fighting as a rolling cloud of dust with random limbs poking out every now and again.
Sticking with the Looney Tunes theme, Vannata is akin to the Tasmanian devil — a blur of energy, activity, and ferocity that takes brief periods to rest before ramping himself up into a frenzied state once more. He looked outstanding in his divisional debut last May opposite Mike Grundy and looks to make it two straight at featherweight here.
Jourdain has some Daffy Duck to him, in that while he occasionally gets his beak knocked sideways, he’s back out there with the same energy, exuberance, and aggression the next time his name is called. The French-Canadian turned in an emphatic performance against Andre Ewell on the final card of last year and looks to build on it here.
There is no way this fight isn’t entertaining. I know that’s a risky statement, but neither of these guys have ever been in a boring fight individually, and now they’re being locked in the Octagon together, so expect action from the outset.
Maycee Barber vs Montana De La Rosa
Talented prospects looking to take the next step forward in their careers clash here as Maycee Barber and Montana De La Rosa do battle in a critical flyweight matchup.
After suffering a serious knee injury in January 2020, Barber returned to action last February, dropping a unanimous decision to Alexa Grasso that left her on a two-fight skid. She got back into the win column with a debated split decision victory over Miranda Maverick in July and looks to really start building momentum again when she steps in with De La Rosa this weekend.
A member of the cast on Season 26 of The Ultimate Fighter, the 27-year-old De La Rosa continues to show improvements each time out. She went unbeaten in 2021, salvaging a majority draw against Mayra Bueno Silva in February before collecting a second-round stoppage win over Ariane Lipski in June, and has quietly gone 5-2-1 through her first eight UFC appearances.
Barber reached the big stage with a ton of fanfare and hype, while De La Rosa crept in as the flyweight division was being built. They’ve each had positive moments and a couple setbacks, so it will be interesting to see which one of them uses this matchup as an opportunity to take a big step forward in the 125-pound weight class.
Preston Parsons vs Evan Elder
Welterweights meet in this preliminary card pairing, as Preston Parsons and Evan Elder each go in search of their initial UFC victory.
Parsons got selected for a short-notice assignment opposite Daniel Rodriguez last July and landed on the business end of the fight, succumbing to a torrent of unanswered strikes in just under four minutes. The 26-year-old Florida native had won four straight prior to that contest and seven of his previous eight bouts, including a victory over streaking lightweight Ignacio Bahamondes, and will look to bounce back here.
Elder makes his promotional debut on Saturday, replacing Louis Cosce after the DWCS grad was scratched at the start of the week due to COVID-19 protocols. The 25-year-old Sanford MMA representative is 7-0 for his career with five finishes, but takes a major step up in competition as he matriculates to the biggest stage in the sport this weekend.
Both fighters have outstanding finishing rates, so the chances are high this one ends inside the distance.
Jordan Wright vs Marc-Andre Barriault
Middleweights eager to rebound from stoppage losses in their most recent outings meet in this one as Jordan Wright takes on Marc-Andre Barriault.
Wright has alternated wins and losses since arriving in the UFC, scoring quick finishes over Ike Villanueva and Jamie Pickett, while suffering a similar fate in matchups against Joaquin Buckley and Bruno Silva. The Antoni Hardonk protégé has clear power and an impressive array of kicks, and is looking to show he can hang with the mid-pack set in the middleweight division.
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Barriault finally got into the win column in 2021, picking up victories over Abu Azaitar and Dalcha Lungiambula after starting his UFC tenure with three losses and a no contest verdict. But he got blitzed and stopped in 16 seconds by Chidi Njokuani in February, and now returns to Las Vegas aiming to rebound quickly and get things moving in the right direction again.
This should be an all-action affair for as long as it lasts, as Wright has never seen the third round and Barriault has never been averse to getting into a striking match. Someone is getting finished here.
Dwight Grant vs Sergey Khandozko
Veteran Dwight Grant looks to rebound from a split decision loss last time out in his first start of 2022, while Sergey Khandozko returns to action for the first time since the tail end of 2019 in this welterweight engagement on Saturday’s prelims.
The 37-year-old Grant has gone 3-3 since matriculating to the UFC following a second-round stoppage win on Season 2 of Dana White’s Contender Series. He edged out Stefan Sekulic on the scorecards at UFC 261 to begin last year, but then landed on the unhappy side of a similar split decision verdict in his October bout with Francisco Trinaldo, once again leaving him working to start building some momentum.
Khandozko made a pair of appearances inside the Octagon in 2019, earning a unanimous decision win over Rostam Akman in June before dropping a unanimous decision to Rustam Khabilov five months later. He’s been out of action since and had two bouts scuttled last year due to health issues, so it will be interesting to see how “Honda” responds to the time away when he steps in against Grant this weekend.
Will the DWCS grad get back in the win column or can Khandozko return from more than two years on the sidelines with a dominant, victorious effort in his Las Vegas debut?
Tyson Pedro vs Ike Villanueva
Action shifts to the light heavyweight division in this one, as Australia’s Tyson Pedro makes his long-awaited return to action opposite gritty veteran Ike Villanueva.
Pedro began his UFC career with first-round stoppage wins over Khalil Rountree Jr. and Paul Craig before getting stopped himself in three of his next four outings. He’s been sidelined thanks to myriad injuries and ailments since his December 2018 loss to Shogun Rua, but is finally healthy and still just 30 years old, making him an intriguing figure to track in the 205-pound weight class.
After winning four straight to earn a call to the Octagon, Villanueva has gone 1-4 on the big stage, dropping a second-round stoppage win over Vinicius Moreira between tandem two-fight skids. The respected Houston native has never been afraid to mix it up and take a shot to land one, so it will be interesting to see if he can push Pedro and find a finish of his own in this one.
Pedro showed a ton of promise early in his UFC career, but setbacks, serious injuries, and three years without an appearance make him a huge question mark as he finally makes his return. Villanueva is a perfect litmus test for the affable Australian, who will certainly be buoyed by the current success of his brother-in-law, surging heavyweight contender Tai Tuivasa.
Aoriqileng vs Cameron Else
Aoriqileng and Cameron Else clash here in a flyweight battle that could very well set the tone for the rest of the evening inside the Octagon.
Following a pair of entertaining appearances in 2021, Aoriqileng enters his sophomore year on the UFC roster still in search of his first victory. He gave his all in a fun scrap against Jeff Molina at UFC 261 in April before getting edged out on the scorecards by Cody Durden in November, showing heavy hands and a willingness to wade into the fire in order to land.
Else earned some quality finishes prior to arriving in the UFC, stopping Paddy Pimblett, Dylan Tuke, and Aidan James on the way to amassing a 9-4 record with nine first-round finishes. He dropped his promotional debut to Kyler Phillips in a bantamweight scrap in October 2020 but returns here at flyweight in hopes of getting back to his finishing ways.
Else has never been out of the second round and he’s facing a guy nicknamed “The Mongolian Murderer,” so yeah, I think it’s safe to say this should be a wildly entertaining, action-packed affair for as long as it lasts.
Marcin Prachnio vs Philipe Lins
Polish veteran Marcin Prachnio looks to build on a breakthrough 2021 campaign this weekend as he welcomes Philipe Lins back to the light heavyweight division.
Prachnio began his UFC tenure with a trio of first-round stoppage losses, but he reversed course last year, registering a unanimous decision win over Khalil Rountree Jr. in January before felling Ike Villanueva with a body kick in June. The last time Prachnio won consecutive fights, it grew into a seven-fight run of success, and you best believe he’s looking to do something similar here.
After logging his last six appearances at heavyweight, Lins moves back down to the 205-pound weight class in hopes of securing his first UFC win. The Brazilian veteran dropped a decision to Andrei Arlovski in his promotional debut in May 2020 and was stopped by Tanner Boser six weeks later in his sophomore outing, but hasn’t competed since, sending him into this one as a huge question mark.
Can Prachnio keep the good times rolling or will Lins finally break into the win column himself?
Dean Barry vs Mike Jackson
Saturday’s opener takes place in the welterweight division, as Irish newcomer Dean Barry squares off with the returning Mike “The Truth” Jackson.
Team Ryano’s Barry is just 4-1 in his mixed martial arts career but arrives on a three-fight winning streak, having collected each of those victories in the opening round. Last time out, the 29-year-old finisher needed just 21 seconds to dispatch Drew Lipton, and now he makes the transition to the biggest stage in the sport in hopes of maintaining his finishing ways.
Jackson is the third member of the “CM Punk Triangle” in the UFC, having lost to Mickey Gall in the “Winner Faces Punk” fight back in February 2016 before sharing the cage with the current AEW standout at UFC 225. Originally a unanimous decision win for the Houston native, the bout was ruled a no contest after Jackson tested positive for marijuana in his post-fight screening, meaning he arrives in Las Vegas still looking for his first MMA victory.
Will Barry continue making quick work of the opposition now that he’s in the UFC or can Jackson spoil his debut and snag a victory of his own?
UFC Fight Night: Lemos vs Andrade, took place on Saturday, April 23, 2022, live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses — and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!