The final fight card of February turns the spotlight on the lightweight division, with four of the dozen bouts slated to hit the Octagon this weekend at the UFC APEX featuring competitors that call the 155-pound weight class home
It’s been an exciting month of action thus far and there is no reason to believe that will change this weekend. Here’s a closer look at what’s on tap.
Islam Makhachev vs. Bobby Green
Despite losing his original opponent, streaking contender Islam Makhachev gets the opportunity to remain on the fight card and pursue a tenth straight victory as Bobby Green makes a quick turnaround to step into this main event assignment on Saturday.
Makhachev has been steadily working his way up the divisional ranks for the last six years, cobbling together a nine-fight winning streak where he looks more and more like the future champion his teammates and training partners have been saying he will be all along. Last year, the 30-year-old posted a trio of stoppage wins to push his record to 21-1, capping the impressive run with a first-round submission finish of Dan Hooker at UFC 267 in Abu Dhabi.
A veteran of more than 40 fights, 18 of which have come inside the Octagon, Saturday marks Green’s first headlining assignment in the UFC. The 35-year-old from Fontana, California closed out 2021 with a first-round knockout win over Al Iaquinta at Madison Square Garden and began his 2022 campaign with a unanimous decision victory over Nasrat Haqparast at UFC 271.
As much as not seeing Makhachev take on Beneil Dariush, who was forced out with a leg injury, is disappointing, this is an outstanding short-notice option, as the surging fighter from Dagestan remains on the card and faces a stern test in the form of a battle-tested divisional stalwart who has never looked better.
Can Makhachev navigate the changes and move another step closer to challenging for championship gold or will Green secure his second win of the month and inject himself into the title conversation in the process?
Misha Cirkunov vs. Wellington Turman
Middleweights occupy the penultimate spot on Saturday’s fight card as Misha Cirkunov makes his second start in the 185-pound weight class opposite Brazil’s Wellington Turman.
A former ranked light heavyweight, Cirkunov made the move down a division in the latter half of last year, landing on the wrong side of a split decision verdict in his debut against Krzysztof Jotko. The Latvian-Canadian judoka has earned all his UFC wins by stoppage and should be a lot more comfortable in his new division this time around.
The 25-year-old Turman has struggled to find consistency since arriving in the UFC as a 22-year-old with a 15-2 record. Last time out, he snapped a two-fight skid with a split decision win over Sam Alvey, and he jumped at opportunity to replace Makhmud Muradov against Cirkunov here, hoping to earn a second straight victory and finally build some momentum to start the year.
Cirkunov will have the physical advantages he was searching for after constantly feeling undersized and outmuscled at light heavyweight, while Turman is nine years his junior and holds a considerable speed advantage on the feet. Where the fight takes place and who is able to dictate the terms of the battle should determine how this one plays out.
Ji Yeon Kim vs. Priscila Cachoeira
Flyweight division staples Ji Yeon Kim and Priscila Cachoeira clash in this main card meeting, with each woman looking to return to the win column and get 2022 started on a positive note.
Kim was slated to make her season debut towards the end of January, but Poliana Botelho was forced to withdraw from the matchup for a second time, resulting in the South Korean veteran being re-booked here. Entering on a two-fight skid and sporting a 3-4 record inside the Octagon, Kim has settled into training at Syndicate MMA and is eager to show the improvements she’s made since relocating to Las Vegas.
Cachoeira had a bad couple of days to end her 2021 campaign, missing weight for her UFC 269 date with Gillian Robertson before getting submitted in the final second of the opening round. The fact that the Brazilian had earned consecutive stoppage wins prior to her loss to Robertson likely secured her this opportunity to get back into the win column, and you can be certain she’s aware of how critical a victory is this weekend.
Each of these women like to come forward and get after it at all times, so the fact that each is eager to kick off their 2022 fight schedule with a strong showing and a much-needed win means we should get a spirited battle from these two on Saturday.
Arman Tsarukyan vs. Joel Alvarez
Lightweights that have traveled comparable paths since arriving in the UFC collide here as Arman Tsarukyan and Joel Alvarez battle for a place in the Top 15.
Tsarukyan made his promotional debut in April 2019 opposite Makhachev, giving this weekend’s headliner a run for his money in a bout that resulted in the newcomer collecting a Fight of the Night bonus and a ton of recognition despite suffering a loss. Since then, the 25-year-old has rattled off four straight victories, capped by a first-round stoppage win over Christos Giagos that earned him a Performance of the Night bonus in September.
Alvarez debuted two months earlier than his opponent this weekend, but suffered a similar fate, landing on the wrong side of a unanimous decision result against Damir Ismagulov. In terms of pure results, the Spaniard has been even more impressive than Tsarukyan over his last four, collecting a four-pack of finishes, but he’s missed weight for each of his last two fights, which takes a little bit of shine off those efforts.
This is a tremendous pairing between two ultra-talented lightweights that have been steadily working their way up the divisional ladder and show genuine promise as contenders. Tsarukyan evokes comparisons to Makhachev, while Alvarez’s height and length make him a handful for anyone in the 155-pound weight class.
There are a ton of ascending talents jockeying for position in the lightweight division at the moment, with the winner of this one very much in the mix for a date with a Top 10 fighter or another fellow streaking hopeful next time out.
Rong Zhu vs. Ignacio Bahamondes
Highlight: Ignacio Bahamondes Earns Wheel Kick Knockout | UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs Gastelum
Highlight: Ignacio Bahamondes Earns Wheel Kick Knockout | UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs Gastelum
Rong Zhu and Ignacio Bahamondes make their third trips into the Octagon together in this meeting of young talents looking to build off their first UFC victories on Saturday night.
One of the youngest fighters on the roster, Rong dropped a decision Rodrigo Vargas in his promotional debut at UFC 261 in April, but rebounded with a dominant effort and third-round finish of Brandon Jenkins just under five months later. The 21-year-old already has 22 appearances and 18 wins under his belt and should only continue to improve as he keeps facing high-level competition and developing his skills.
The 24-year-old Bahamondes earned his UFC contract with a second-round knockout win over Edson Gomez on Season 4 of Dana White’s Contender Series. Like Rong, he dropped his debut, landing on the short-end of a split decision verdict opposite veteran John Makdessi before rebounding with a third-round knockout win over Roosevelt Roberts in his sophomore showing.
Rong has the edge in experience, while Bahamondes is considerably taller and carries a four-inch reach advantage into this one. Both train with great teams — Rong has been stationed at American Top Team for the last several months, while Bahamondes works alongside Yair Rodriguez and Belal Muhammad at the VFS Academy in Chicago — which means each should be fully prepared and firing on all cylinders when they step in opposite one another this weekend.
Armen Petrosyan vs. Gregory Rodrigues
Middleweights with a penchant for finishing fights meet here as Armen Petrosyan makes his promotional debut against streaking Brazilian Gregory Rodrigues on Saturday.
Petrosyan secured a UFC contract with a first-round knockout win over Kaloyan Kolev last October on Season 5 of Dana White’s Contender Series. It was the 31-year-old kickboxer’s sixth career MMA victory, all of which have come by way of stoppage, and now he gets an immediate opportunity to make a splash in the 185-pound weight class by stepping in with Rodrigues this weekend.
Since landing on the wrong side of things in his appearance on Season 4 of the Contender Series, the 30-year-old Rodrigues has rattled off four straight victories, three of which have come by stoppage, including a second-round finish of Junyong Park last time out. Training with an elite collection of talents at Sanford MMA, the Brazilian “Robocop” heads into this one looking to show he’s on a different level than Petrosyan while pushing his winning streak to five.
There has been a great deal of activity in the middleweight division as of late, and while these men are currently a few steps away from breaking into the rankings, an impressive effort from either one on Saturday would bring them one step closer to reaching the Top 15.
Josiane Nunes vs. Ramona Pascual
Streaking finisher Josiane Nunes looks to secure her second consecutive UFC victory as she welcomes Ramona Pascual to the Octagon for the first time in this potentially explosive bantamweight pairing.
The 28-year-old Nunes was at a considerable height and reach disadvantage in her promotional debut last August, but that didn't stop her from felling Bea Malecki in the first round. The victory pushed her winning streak to seven and her lone setback came against surging flyweight contender Taila Santos, which should give you an indication of how good "Josi" is inside the cage.
A member of the deep women's collective training at Syndicate MMA in Las Vegas, the 33-year-old Pascual carries a 6-2 record and a four-fight winning streak into her promotional debut this weekend. Each of her last three victories have come in the opening round, with her most recent triumph being a one-minute finish of Shamir Peshawa under the Invicta FC banner in January.
Someone's winning streak has to come to an end, but will it be Nunes or Pascual dealing with the unfamiliar taste of defeat this weekend?
Terrance McKinney vs. Fares Ziam
Young, talented lightweights meet as Terrance McKinney makes his long-awaited sophomore appearance inside the Octagon against promising French fighter Fares Ziam.
McKinney delivered one of the best debuts of 2021 in June, rolling into UFC 263 on four days’ notice and registering a seven-second knockout win over Matt Frevola, dropping the veteran with a crisp one-two right out of the chute. The Spokane native earned a four-pack of first-round finishes last year and looks to add to that total with another dynamic performance in his sophomore appearance on Saturday.
After dropping his short-notice debut at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi, the 24-year-old Ziam has collected consecutive decision wins, out-hustling Jamie Mullarkey before surviving a late charge from Luigi Vendramini at UFC 263 in June. Tall and rangy for the lightweight division, “Smile Killer” has won seven of his last eight and has fought some experienced foes, which makes him an interesting dance partner for McKinney this weekend.
Jinh Yu Frey vs. Hannah Goldy
Strawweights looking to build on recent strong results meet here as Jinh Yu Frey squares off with Hannah Goldy.
After landing on the wrong side of the result in her first two UFC appearances, Frey has bounced back with consecutive decision wins over Gloria de Paula and Ashley Yoder. The former Invicta FC atomweight champ appears to finally be settled in the 115-pound weight class, and her wealth of experience, combined with training with a strong team at Fortis MMA, makes her someone to keep close tabs on going forward.
Like Frey, Goldy suffered consecutive losses to begin her UFC tenure, dropping decisions in fights with Miranda Granger and Diana Belbita after starting her career with five straight victories. But she broke into the win column back in September with a first-round submission finish of Emily Whitmire and will look to build on that success — and the recent positive results garnered by the Fusion X-Cel team — this weekend in Las Vegas.
Will Frey make it three-in-a-row or can Goldy get a second consecutive UFC win?
Alejandro Perez vs. Jonathan Martinez
Bantamweight division fixtures Alejandro Perez and Jonathan Martinez each got back into the win column last time out. This weekend, they square off on the preliminary card to see which one will add a second straight victory to their resume.
A seven-fight unbeaten streak helped carry Perez into the Top 15 before consecutive losses dropped him from the rankings. After more than two years away, he resurfaced last October and secured a Performance of the Night bonus for his second-round, scarf hold armlock finish of Johnny Eduardo, instantly establishing himself as an intriguing veteran presence in the bustling bantamweight division.
Martinez entered 2021 on an impressive five-fight run that had him waiting in line for a chance to crack the rankings, but a second-round knockout loss to Davey Grant in March knocked him back a few steps. Originally scheduled to face Kris Moutinho in October, Martinez ended up earning a unanimous decision win over Zviad Lazishvili, who replaced Aaron Phillips, who replaced Moutinho, in a performance that showed his professionalism and focus amidst a great deal of change and uncertainty.
There is no better division in the UFC at the moment than the bantamweight division, and as such, every contest in the 135-pound ranks carries a little more importance and a little more juice, and this one is no different. Expect Perez and Martinez to get after it from the outset on Saturday, with the winner moving up the divisional ladder another step.
Ramiz Brahimaj vs. Michael Gillmore
Ramiz Brahimaj looks to put his loss earlier this year behind him in quick order as he steps in on short notice to face TUF 29 competitor Michael Gillmore in this welterweight contest.
A member of the Fortis MMA crew, Brahimaj has alternated results through his first three UFC appearances, chasing his debut loss to Max Griffin with a first-round submission win over Sasha Palatnikov before dropping a decision to Court McGee earlier this year. The Bronx native and U.S. Army veteran is 9-4 overall and at his best when he’s dictating the terms of engagement, which he should look to do again here.
Gillmore tagged in for Miles Hunsinger when the Team Ortega member was unable to compete on last year’s Return of The Ultimate Fighter. He fell to Gilbert Urbina during the season, lost to Andre Petroski at the finale in August, and now moves down to welterweight in hopes of securing his first UFC victory.
Victor Altamirano vs. Carlos Hernandez
Two members of the DWCS Class of ’21 kick off Saturday night’s festivities in the flyweight division, as Victor Altamirano and Carlos Hernandez meet in their joint UFC debuts.
Altamirano battled returning Contender Series alum Carlos Candelario on last season’s first episode, landing on the favorable side of a split decision verdict. Now riding a four-fight winning streak and sporting a 10-1 record overall, the former LFA flyweight champion comes from a karate background and deploys an in-and-out, point-fighting style reminiscent of Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson inside the cage.
A teammate of Ignacio Bahamondes at the VFS Academy, Hernandez punched his ticket to the UFC a few weeks after Altimirano by also landing on the happy side of split 29-28 scorecards. Since losing his professional debut to Cuban wrestler Gustavo Balart, the 28-year-old Hernandez has collected seven consecutive victories and will look to make it eight this weekend.
UFC Fight Night: Makhachev vs Green took place on Saturday, February 26, 2022, live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses — and relive all of the action on UFC Fight Pass.