The UFC kicks off a run of eight straight weekends featuring an event with a card at the APEX in Las Vegas.
Headlined by a rescheduled heavyweight battle carrying significant divisional ramifications and featuring the final bouts in the four Road to UFC tournaments that began last summer in Singapore, this is the kind of event that is likely to produce at least a couple highlight reel finishes that everyone is still talking about on Monday.
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Here’s a closer look at what’s on tap this weekend.
Derrick Lewis vs. Serghei Spivac
Twelve weeks after they were originally scheduled to face off, veteran Derrick Lewis and surging Serghei Spivac clash in the heavyweight main event showdown.
Riding a two-fight losing streak and with just a single victory in his last four, Lewis returns to Las Vegas looking to tap into the fantastic form he’s always shown in “The Fight Capital” over the course of his UFC career. A perfect 8-0 when competing in Las Vegas, the former title threat has finished each of his last four Las Vegas assignments and will look to do the same on Saturday.
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Spivac makes his sixth consecutive start in Las Vegas, which he now calls home, this weekend, looking to build on a two-fight winning streak. Last time out, the streaking hopeful from Moldova collected a second-round stoppage win over Augusto Sakai, and if he can extend his record to 6-1 over his last seven by toppling Lewis this weekend, the division could have a new dark horse to keep tabs on.
While he’s struggled as of late, it’s important to note Lewis’ losses have come against fighters at the top of the division, a caliber of opponent Spivac has yet to encounter. If he gets by “The Black Beast” on Saturday, however, he could find himself standing opposite one of those competitors later in the year.
Da-un Jung vs. Devin Clark
In the co-main event, veteran light heavyweights Da-un Jung and Devin Clark look to start their year by getting back into the win column.
For the first time in his UFC run, Jung enters the Octagon coming off a loss. After going 4-0-1 in his first five appearances, the South Korean got into a slugfest with Dustin Jacoby on Long Island last summer, getting halted a little over three minutes into the opening round.
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Clark was stopped last time out, as well, falling to unbeaten Russian veteran Azamat Murzakanov in August. He’d out-hustled William Knight in a heavyweight encounter prior to that and carries a 7-7 UFC record into this showdown with Jung on Saturday.
This should line up as an interesting clash of styles, with Jung looking to keep things standing and at range, and Clark eager to close the distance and use his grappling skills. Whoever can successfully dictate the terms of engagement should leave Las Vegas with a victory in hand.
Marcin Tybura vs. Blagoy Ivanov
The evening’s other heavyweight battle features Marcin Tybura and Blagoy Ivanov sharing the cage in a clash of European veterans.
Tybura enters on the best run of his UFC career. Last time out, he halted the undefeated ascent of Alexandr Romanov by out-grappling “King Kong,” pushing his record to 6-1 over his last seven appearances.
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The 36-year-old Ivanov halted a two-fight slide in his most recent showing, turning aside Marcos Rogerio de Lima in May to advance to 19-4 with one no contest overall. Like Tybura, Ivanov is durable and experienced, going the distance in all six of his UFC assignments.
Both men thrive in the clinch, so this one is likely to be contested in close quarters along the fence, with each man looking to wear down the other and chip away with short shots in close. With the heavyweight division on the cusp of a change at the top, these two rankings stalwarts are battling to solidify their place in the hierarchy and secure the opportunity to face an ascending name next time out.
Dooho Choi vs. Kyle Nelson
Business shifts to the featherweight division as Dooho Choi faces off with Kyle Nelson in a clash of veterans looking to put a couple years of struggles behind them in 2023.
“The Korean Superboy” is now 31 years old, and Saturday marks his first appearance in three years. The dynamic power puncher enters on a three-fight losing streak, which began with his Hall of Fame clash with Cub Swanson and culminated with a second-round stoppage loss to Charles Jourdain at home in Busan in the final event of 2019.
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Nelson went 12-1 on the regional circuit to earn a call to compete on the biggest stage in the sport. Since landing in the UFC, “The Monster” has gone 1-4, sandwiching a technical knockout victory over Polo Reyes between two pairs of losses. Last time out, the Canadian dropped a unanimous decision to Jai Herbert in London.
Choi has a penchant for starting quickly and brandishing big power, while Nelson will likely look to slow things down, and tax the gas tank of the returning South Korean to see how his body holds up after a three-year layoff.
Yusaku Kinoshita vs. Adam Fugitt
In the main card opener, Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS) graduate Yusaku Kinoshita makes his promotional debut against Pacific Northwest sophomore Adam Fugitt.
The 22-year-old Kinoshita impressed on the final August event, stopping previously unbeaten Jose Henrique in the third round. Sporting a 6-1 record overall with six stoppage victories following an unbeaten amateur career that included five finishes, the Japanese prospect starts his UFC career as one to keep close tabs on in the welterweight division.
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Fugitt gave a solid accounting of himself in his short-notice debut opposite Michael Morales last summer at UFC 277, taking the undefeated Entram Gym representative into the third round. He earned a quick finish over Solomon Renfro at LFA 125 before that and profiles as the perfect first test for Kinoshita as he arrives in the Octagon for the first time.
Will the youngest secure a victory in his promotional debut or can Fugitt turn him aside and garner a win for himself?
Jeka Saragih vs. Anshul Jubli
Flashy Indonesian Jeka Saragih and confident Indian talent Anshul Jubli face off in the finals of the Road to UFC lightweight tournament.
A born showman, Saragih made it to the final pairing with highlight reel wins over Pawan Maan and Won Bin Ki, flashing devastating fight-ending power. Now 13-2 overall and riding a five-fight winning streak into this one, the 28-year-old has never seen the scorecards, and will be looking to keep that streak alive here.
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Jubli earned a walk-over victory in the opening round of the tournament when his bout with Sao Patrick Usami was cancelled when Usami had weight-cutting issues in June. He returned in October and collected a split decision win over KyungPyo Kim in a competitive, back-and-forth fight, moving to 6-0 overall with the victory.
Saragih has been one of the breakout competitors from the Road series, but Jubli showed strong conditioning and durability in Abu Dhabi. It’ll be interesting to see how much more each man has improved since their last appearance, and who will emerge victorious and earn a UFC contract.
JeongYeong Lee vs. Yi Zha
The featherweight finale features South Korea’s JeongYeong Lee squaring off with Chinese prospect Yi Zha.
Brandishing a 9-1 record and riding a six-fight winning streak, Lee needed a combined 78 seconds to dispatch Bin Xie and Kai Lu to earn his place in the finals. “The Korean Tiger” has earned finishes in seven of his nine wins and hasn’t lost since dropping a unanimous decision to Se Young Kim at Road FC 39 in the summer of 2017.
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Yi rides a three-fight winning streak into Saturday’s clash with Lee, following up his first-round submission win over Keisuke Sasu with a split decision win over Kokomo Matsushima to reach this weekend’s finale. The 26-year-old is 10-1 over his last 11 fights, with his only loss coming two years ago against fellow Road to UFC contestant Maimaitituoheti Keremuaili.
Will Lee keep cruising and collect another rapid finish or can Yi halt his winning streak and punch his ticket to the UFC?
Toshiomi Kazama vs. Rinya Nakamura
It’s an all-Japanese battle in the bantamweight finale, as Toshiomi Kazama faces off with Rinya Nakamura.
The 25-year-old Kazama outworked Maimaitituoheti in the opening round of the tournament, and then earned a walk-over win over Min Woo Kim in the semis when the South Korean failed to make weight. Owning a 10-2 record overall, the Brazilian jiu jitsu stylist has earned eight finishes, including six in the opening round.
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The favorite heading into the tournament, Nakamura has not disappointed, earning first-round stoppage wins over Gugan Gusman and Shohei Nose to reach the final pairing. A perfect 6-0 in his professional career, the 27-year-old “Hybrid” is a former Under 23 World Champion in freestyle wrestling, and plays to his strengths well.
Kazama looked solid in earning an upset win in the quarterfinals, but Nakamura has been a dominant force thus far, so it will be interesting to see which of these two Japanese fighters will emerge victorious and secure themselves a place on the UFC roster.
SeungGuk Choi vs. HyunSung Park
The flyweight tournament will be won by a South Korean, as SeungGuk Choi and HyunSung Park face off in Saturday’s finale.
Choi, who represents Korean Zombie MMA, posted unanimous decision wins over Rama Supandhi and Qui Lun to push his winning streak to five and earn a place in the final pairing. The 26-year-old is 6-1 as a professional, and has logged considerably more cage time than Choi, having gone to a decision in five of his seven appearances.
Park’s path through the tournament and overall career has been the opposite of Choi’s thus far. He earned first-round finishes over Jeremy Siregar and Topnoi Kiwram to advance to the finals of the 125-pound tournament and has earned stoppage wins in his last six victories.
Who will keep their winning streak intact and land a place on the UFC roster with a victory on Saturday in Las Vegas?
Ji Yeon Kim vs. Mandy Bohm
Ji Yeon Kim and Mandy Bohm face off in this battle of struggling flyweights eager to get things moving in the right direction again.
Kim earned three wins in her first five UFC appearances, but has been mired in a slump since, entering Saturday’s contest on a four-fight slide. Last time out, she fell on the wrong side of a split decision verdict against Joselyne Edwards, adding to a tailspin that extends all the back to the summer of 2020.
An undefeated 6-0 run landed Bohm the opportunity to compete on the UFC stage but thus far, “Monster” has struggled inside the Octagon. After dropping her debut against Ariane Lipski, the 33-year-old German veteran landed on the wrong side of the scorecards against DWCS grad Victoria Leonardo.
Both women prefer to do their work on the feet, so expect a back-and-forth striking battle for as long as this one lasts.
Junyong Park vs. Denis Tiuliulin
Ascending talents Junyong Park and Denis Tiuliulin meet in this preliminary card clash in the middleweight division.
Park went 2-0 in 2022, following a split decision win over Eryk Anders with a second-round submission finish of Joseph Holmes at the end of October. “The Iron Turtle” has gone 5-1 since dropping his promotional debut to Anthony “Fluffy” Hernandez, and could earn himself a date with an established name with a victory here.
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Tiuliulin made his short-notice debut in March, suffering a submission loss to undefeated DWCS graduate Aliaskhab Khizriev. He rebounded with an impressive stoppage win over Jamie Pickett in September, and looks to turn his first victory into the start of a winning streak on Saturday.
There is always room for advancement in the middleweight division, so it will be interesting to see which of these two adds another victory to their resume and takes another step forward this weekend.
Tatsuro Taira vs. Jesus Aguilar
Flyweight finishers face off in the opening bout of the evening, as Tatsuro Taira welcomes Jesus Aguilar to the UFC.
Undefeated in a dozen professional appearances with nine stoppages, Taira looks to earn his third straight UFC win on Saturday. After collecting a decision victory over Carlos Candelario in his promotional debut, the standout Japanese prospect submitted CJ Vergara late in the second round of their October meeting.
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Aguilar has earned eight straight victories, six of them inside the distance, three of the four coming by way of guillotine choke. The 26-year-old Mexican is a bit of a specialist, and will need to overcome a considerable height and reach deficit in order to keep his winning streak intact.
Will Taira remain unbeaten and spoil Aguilar’s first trip into the Octagon or will the newcomer upend the 23-year-old prospect and secure a ninth straight victory?
UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs Spivac took place live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada on February 4, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!