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Fight By Fight Preview | UFC Fight Night: Costa vs. Vettori

We're Back In Vegas Saturday With Another Stacked Card. Let's Break It Down.

PAULO COSTA VS. MARVIN VETTORI

Middleweight contenders coming off failed bids to claim championship gold begin their efforts to earn another title shot against one another here as Paulo Costa returns to face Marvin Vettori in what should be an explosive main event.

Costa has not competed since suffering a second-round stoppage loss to Israel Adesanya last September on Fight Island, which ended his 13-fight unbeaten streak. The Brazilian powerhouse had won each of his previous five UFC appearances, including stoppage victories over Johny Hendricks and Uriah Hall, as well as a hard-fought decision over perennial contender Yoel Romero, and remains an elite talent, but the division has shifted a great deal in his stead and now “The Eraser” looks to cement his position with a dominant effort on Saturday.

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Vettori is one of those fighters that rose in Costa’s absence, parlaying a December win over Jack Hermansson and an April triumph over Kevin Holland into a championship opportunity in June.

He landed on the wrong side of the results against Adesanya for a second time, again seemingly to his surprise, and arrives here aiming to start another impressive run like the five-fight winning streak he built between his tandem losses to the reigning champ.

These are two of the most aggressive, emotional fighters in the division, and with position in the divisional hierarchy at stake as they’re fresh of championship setbacks, it should mean a high-energy, all-action battle between these two on Saturday night.

GRANT DAWSON VS. RICKY GLENN

Grant Dawson squares off with Ricky Glenn in a co-main event battle between lightweights looking to build off impressive finishes in their last outings and take another step forward in the ultra-competitive 155-pound ranks.

Entering on an eight-fight winning streak and brandishing a 5-0 mark inside the Octagon, Dawson made a statement in his lightweight debut in March, finishing Brazilian veteran Leonardo Santos at the end of the third round. A highly regarded prospect during his days on the regional scene, the Glory MMA & Fitness representative has been as good as advertised since arriving in the UFC and stands as one of the top young talents in the lightweight division.

Grant Dawson Earns Last-Second Knockout | UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs Holland
Grant Dawson Earns Last-Second Knockout | UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs Holland
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Grant Dawson gets the late finish at UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs Holland


After a 31-month absence following major hip surgery, Glenn returned to the Octagon in June and needed all of 37 seconds to dispatch Joaquim Silva, dropping the Brazilian with a counter left as he came forward and getting him out of there with a left uppercut. Still just 32 years old and carrying a wealth of experience, “The Gladiator” is an intriguing addition to the lightweight ranks.

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This is an outstanding matchup for each man at this point in their careers, as Dawson gets the opportunity to face a savvy, dangerous veteran coming off a dominant effort, while Glenn has the chance to knock off a streaking hopeful and claim his momentum for himself. As is often the case, this one should come down to who dictates the terms of engagement and which man is able to have the greater success in their opponent’s preferred space.

JESSICA-ROSE CLARK VS. JOSELYNE EDWARDS

Jessica-Rose Clarks Finishes Alpar at UFC Vegas 11
Jessica-Rose Clarks Finishes Alpar at UFC Vegas 11
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Fan favorite Jessica-Rose Clark makes her return to the Octagon on Saturday night, squaring off with 2021 new arrival Joselyne Edwards in what should be a competitive, entertaining bantamweight affair.

Sidelined since suffering a torn ACL in her third-round stoppage win over Sarah Alpar last September, Clark looks to build on what was the most complete and dominant effort of her UFC career here. Finally comfortable competing in the 135-pound weight class and working with a great team at CSA, the self-described “Aussie Hooligan” is a name to remember and track in the wide-open bantamweight division.

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Edwards delivered the first upset of the year in the UFC back in January, turning up on short notice to out-hustle Wu Yanan on Fight Island on short notice. She made a quick turnaround to face Karol Rosa in February but landed on the wrong side of the results against the emerging Brazilian, and now returns for her third appearance of the year opposite “Jessy Jess.”

Can Clark pick up where she left off last September or will Edwards collect her second win over a tenured UFC talent this year?

ALEX CACERES VS. SEUNGWOO CHOI

Quietly streaking featherweights clash in this one as veteran Alex “Bruce Leeroy” Caceres takes on SeungWoo “Sting” Choi in a low-key stellar matchup with serious Fight of the Night potential.

Despite making his UFC debut more than a decade ago, Caceres is still only 33 years old and enters his 25th appearance in the promotion on one of the best runs of his career, having won four straight. Caceres has toggled between being too aggressive, too laconic, and perfectly locked in throughout his tenure, but has seemed to find the right balance these days, playing to his strengths without getting too far out in front of himself like he would at times in the past.

Highlight: SeungWoo Choi's 1st Round KO | UFC Fight Night: The Korean Zombie vs Ige
Highlight: SeungWoo Choi's 1st Round KO | UFC Fight Night: The Korean Zombie vs Ige
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After losing to rising star Movsar Evloev and dangerous Canadian Gavin Tucker in his first two UFC appearances, the 28-year-old Choi has rattled off three straight victories. He followed up his unanimous decision triumph over Youssef Zalal in February with a first-round stoppage win over Julian Erosa in June, picking up a Performance of the Night bonus for his efforts.

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This has the potential to be an action-packed, cover every inch of the Octagon type of battle as both Caceres and Choi look to earn the kind of win that will carry them closer to cracking the Top 15 in the deep featherweight division. One of them is going to leave with their winning streak intact and the other is going to have to deal with a frustrating setback, and the process of sorting out which is which should be all kinds of fun.

FRANCISCO TRINALDO VS. DWIGHT GRANT

Brazilian veteran Francisco Trinaldo makes his second start in the welterweight division on Saturday, angling to get back into the win column as he takes on Contender Series graduate Dwight Grant.

Trinaldo, who turned 43 over the summer, makes the walk for the 24th time in the UFC and 35th time overall on Saturday, hoping to rebound from a unanimous decision loss to Muslim Salikhov in his divisional debut in June. “Massaranduba” had won three straight prior to that contest and remains a durable, well-rounded veteran test for anyone that stands opposite him inside the Octagon.

Grant has gone 3-2 in the Octagon since earning a UFC contract with a second-round stoppage win over Tyler Hill on Season Two of Dana White’s Contender Series. Now training with the Alliance MMA crew in San Diego, the 37-year-old “Body Snatcher” scored a split decision win over Stefan Sekulic in April and looks to move to 4-1 over his last five with a victory over Trinaldo on Saturday night.

NICOLAE NEGUMEREANU VS. IKE VILLANUEVA

Light heavyweight bangers that like to settle things without the judges’ assistance meet here as Nicolae Negumereanu steps in against “Hurricane” Ike Villanueva.

Negumereanu posted a 9-0 record with nine finishes prior to arriving in the UFC, but has gone to the scorecards in each of his first two appearances inside the Octagon, dropping a decision to Saparbeg Safarov in 2019 before landing on the happy side of a split decision verdict against Aleksa Camur in June. The 27-year-old Romanian hadn’t seen the third round before his first two UFC appearances, and will look to get back to those fight-finishing ways this weekend.

Villanueva hasn’t seen the scorecards in nearly five years and has yet to see the third round through his first four UFC appearances. After registering a second-round knockout win to earn his first UFC victory in January, the 37-year-old Texan suffered his third loss in four fights five months later, getting felled by a vicious body kick from Marcin Prachnio in June.

With each of these men preferring to handle their business quickly and both looking to earn the kind of victory that cements their place in the division, don’t be surprised if this one starts hot and ends in a hurry.

JUNYONG PARK VS. GREGORY RODRIGUES

Upwardly ambitious middleweights meet in this intriguing preliminary card pairing as Junyong Park faces off with Gregory Rodrigues in a bout where the winner will leave on a four-fight winning streak.

Since losing his promotional debut to Anthony Hernandez in the summer of 2019, Park has picked up three straight decision wins to push his record to 13-4 overall. Last time out, “The Iron Turtle” thoroughly out-worked Tafon Nchukwi, despite what the majority decision verdict may otherwise indicate, showing improvements in all facets of his game.

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The first two of Rodrigues’ three consecutive victories came under the LFA banner, where he earned stoppage wins over Al Matavao and Josh Fremd to secure an opportunity to compete inside the Octagon. Just a few weeks after beating Fremd, the 29-year-old Brazilian outworked Dusko Todorovic to secure his first UFC win and extend his winning streak.

I say it all the time in this space, but it remains true: there are always more opportunities to climb the ranks in the middleweight division than most other weight classes, and a fourth straight win for Park or a second consecutive UFC triumph for Rodrigues should move them forward in the 185-pound weight class and land the victor across from a more established name next time out.

TABATHA RICCI VS. MARIA OLIVEIRA

Brazilian strawweights clash here as Tabatha Ricci moves back down after her promotional debut to welcome Maria Oliveira to the Octagon for the first time.

The 26-year-old Ricci stepped in on short notice up a division opposite French standout Manon Fiorot in June and the bout went predictably poorly for the diminutive Brazilian, with “The Beast” securing a second-round stoppage win. Now back in her natural weight class, the 5-1 Ricci has been training in various quality gyms over the last several months, readying for her return, and should make a much better impression this time.

A member of the Parana Vale Tudo team alongside Jessica Andrade and Karol Rosa, Oliveira already sports a 12-4 record despite being just 24 years old. She’s earned victories in her last two appearances, and her last setback came opposite current strawweight contender Marina Rodriguez, so it will be interesting to see what she brings to the table in this one and where she may fit in the division going forward.

JAMIE PICKETT VS. LAUREANO STAROPOLI

Middleweights looking to get things moving in the right direction meet here as Jamie Pickett and Laureano Staropoli square off in bout that was originally scheduled to take place two weeks ago.

Pickett needed three tries to secure a contract via Dana White’s Contender Series and hopes that formula replicates itself here as he makes his third trip into the Octagon still searching for his first win. After battling fellow Contender Series alum Tafon Nchukwi for three rounds last December, “The Night Wolf” got run over by Jordan Wright last time out, which dropped his record to 11-6 overall ahead of this one.

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Staropoli earned victories in each of his first two UFC appearances at welterweight, then suffered back-to-back losses to Muslim Salikhov and Tim Means, missing weight for the latter of those two clashes, resulting in his move to middleweight. He dropped a decision to Roman Dolidze in his first appearance in the 185-pound weight class in June, complaining about the Georgian’s lack of aggression while only having limited output himself.

KHAMA WORTHY VS. JAI HERBERT

Talented finishers on two-fight skids share the Octagon in this lightweight affair as Khama Worthy and Jai Herbert square off on Saturday night.

Worthy burst onto the scene two summers back, securing a first-round stoppage victory over Devonte Smith as a short-notice replacement, following it up with a third-round finish of Luis Pena 10 months later. Since then, however, the Pittsburgh native has been the one on the wrong end of the stoppages, having been felled by Ottman Azaitar and Jamie Mullarkey in back-to-back outings.

The former Cage Warriors lightweight champ Herbert has yet to taste victory inside the Octagon, having suffered a vicious third-round stoppage loss to Francisco Trinaldo in his promotional debut before getting submitted by Renato Moicano in June. “The Black Country Banger” had won six straight and 10 of 11 prior to arriving in the UFC, and will look to get back to that form here against Worthy.

Someone is leaving with a much-needed win and someone is departing with a third straight defeat; finding out who fills which role should be an entertaining exercise early in this weekend’s fight card.

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Highlight: Ricky Glenn Marks Return with a Big Statement | UFC Fight Night: The Korean Zombie vs Ige
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JEFF MOLINA VS. DANIEL LACERDA

Promising flyweight Jeff Molina makes his sophomore appearance inside the Octagon this weekend, welcoming Brazilian Daniel Lacerda to the UFC.

Another member of the burgeoning Glory MMA & Fitness crew from Missouri, Molina made a solid first impression in his UFC debut in April, rallying to secure a unanimous decision win over fellow newcomer Aoriqileng. Now riding an eight-fight winning streak, “El Jefe” looks to establish himself as one of the top young talents in the 125-pound weight class by turning in another strong effort and securing a second consecutive victory under the UFC banner as he makes the walk again this weekend.

The 25-year-old Lacerda brings an 11-1 record into his promotional debut opposite Molina, most recently having secured a second-round stoppage win in July. He held up a sign reading, “UFC, I’m ready” following that victory and gets the chance to prove it here by squaring off with the talented Dana White Contender Series graduate on Saturday.

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Flyweight is continuing to fill out and each of these men has shown flashes of upside, albeit against varying levels of competition. This one should help determine a baseline for where each currently stands in the division, and a greater understanding of how far they might climb in the next 12-18 months.

LIVINHA SOUZA VS. RANDA MARKOS

Strawweight veterans looking to get things moving in a positive direction to close out 2021 clash here as former Invicta FC champ Livinha Souza takes on TUF 20 alum Randa Markos in preliminary card action.

Souza has been inconsistent through her first five UFC starts, amassing a 3-2 record, but having dropped two of her last three. After looking like a potential contender following a largely impressive run under the Invicta FC banner and a quick submission win in her promotional debut, “The Brazilian Gangster” has struggled in her last few outings.

A fixture in the 115-pound weight class since its inception, Markos returns to Las Vegas on a four-fight slide and with a professional record of 10-11-1. Her last appearance against Luana Pinheiro was halted late in the first round after she hit the Brazilian with an illegal upkick and Pinheiro was deemed unable to continue. She’s been in there with the best the division has to offer and is better than her record and recent string of results would indicate, but Markos needs to prove that here.

Each of these women has the skills to be staples in the strawweight division — talented fighters that serve as tough outs for anyone looking to crack the Top 15 — and this could very well be a battle to determine who will carry that mantle and who might be plying their trade elsewhere in 2022.