UFC on ABC just sounds so perfect to me.
As a man of a certain age, I remember ABC being an absolute juggernaut on the sports front back in the day. From Wide World of Sports to Monday Night Football and onto the NBA, there was something about seeing an event on ABC that signaled that it was important, and now the UFC makes another appearance on the network with an absolute banger of a card this weekend from the brand-new UBS Arena on Long Island.
Here’s a look at what’s on tap this weekend.
Brian Ortega vs. Yair Rodriguez
Perennial contenders in the featherweight division, Brian Ortega and Yair Rodriguez clash in what feels like an absolutely electric way to close out the show on Saturday.
Ortega returns for the first time since his championship encounter with Alexander Volkanovski last year at UFC 266. Much like his first shot at the title, the 31-year-old came out on the wrong side of the results, but he threatened the reigning champ with a pair of deep chokes that would have likely drawn a tap for anyone else, and remains one of the most opportunistic and dangerous fighters in the division.
Given how spaced out his fights have been in recent years, this is a relatively quick turnaround for Rodriguez, who dropped a unanimous decision to Max Holloway last November. The 29-year-old Mexican standout is flashy and inventive, but a little older and wiser now, too, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Rodriguez were to find a rhythm and rattle off the best run of his career beginning this weekend.
These two are must-see TV independent of one another, so they’re absolutely can’t-miss now that they’re paired together, and on network TV no less. Just a couple weeks after Volkanovski dispatched Holloway to settle their rivalry once and for all, this is another bout that is going to help clarify where everyone stands in the featherweight hierarchy and help set a course for the division in the back half of the year.
Michelle Waterson vs. Amanda Lemos
Michelle Waterson and Amanda Lemos clash in this meeting of Top 15 strawweights looking to get back into the win column in Saturday’s penultimate pairing.
Waterson’s last appearance came in May 2021, where she dropped a unanimous decision to surging contender Marina Rodriguez. Injuries scuttled a twice-scheduled clash with Amanda Ribas, but the 36-year-old veteran is finally healthy and cleared to return, and looks to jumpstart another attempted push up the divisional ranks by defeating Lemos this weekend.
After being one of the breakout stars of 2021, Brazil’s Lemos began her 2022 campaign with a main event assignment opposite former champion Jessica Andrade. Unfortunately for Lemos, things went south quickly, as she got stuck in a standing arm triangle choke and was forced to tap a little over three minutes into the opening stanza, ending her five-fight winning streak.
Both women remain ranked in the talent-rich division but have some work to do if they want to get back into the championship mix. Saturday’s co-main event is an excellent opportunity for either one to make a statement and catapult themselves to an even greater assignment next time out, and that should result in a competitive, entertaining scrap once the duo hit the Octagon this weekend.
Li Jingliang vs. Muslim Salikhov
Welterweight stalwart Li Jingliang faces off with surging dark horse Muslim Salikhov in the middle of Saturday’s main card in a bout that has greater divisional significance than many might think.
“The Leech” enters this matchup clinging to a place in the Top 15 and competing for the first time since getting defeated by Khamzat Chimaev last October at UFC 267. Previous to that, the 34-year-old Chinese fighter earned a first-round knockout win over Santiago Ponzinibbio that affirmed his standing as one of the top welterweights in the world, making him a perfect opponent for Salikhov at this juncture.
The 38-year-old “King of Kung Fu” enters Saturday’s contest on a five-fight winning streak, most recently defeating fellow veteran Francisco Trinaldo last June. This is the first assignment against a ranked opponent of Salikhov’s career despite his impressive record, and represents the kind of victory he needs in order to keep climbing further up the divisional ladder.
Will Li get back in the win column and halt Salikhov’s ascent or will welterweight get a new ascending name to watch closely?
Matt Schnell vs. Sumudaerji
Matt Schnell and Sumudaerji go head-to-head in this battle of talented, ranked flyweights.
You have to feel for Schnell, who has encountered nothing but tough breaks and tougher fights since his January 2021 win over Tyson Nam. He signed to fight Alex Perez, but Perez withdrew, leading to a bout with Rogerio Bontorin at bantamweight where the Brazilian missed weight prior to winning the fight, only to have it declared a no contest after Bontorin tested positive for a banned substance.
He was rebooked with Perez, who missed weight for their UFC 269 pairing, only for Schnell to be scratched at the 11th hour due to a medical issue. They tried once more in February at UFC 271, with Perez again missing weight and Schnell refusing to accept the fight. Three months later, he stepped in with Brandon Royval and got caught in a guillotine choke in the midst of a frenetic back-and-forth round.
After logging a pair of wins in quick succession upon arriving in the flyweight division, Saturday marks Sumudaerji’s first appearance in 18 months. The 26-year-old from China enters on a three-fight winning streak, having gone back-to-back against Malcolm Gordon and Zarrukh Adashev in his first two appearances at 125 pounds, but now faces his first real step up in competition.
Business is picking up in the flyweight division and how this one plays out should have a real impact on how things line up going forward.
Shane Burgos vs. Charles Jourdain
The main event isn’t the lone electric featherweight encounter on Saturday’s card, as New York native Shane Burgos welcomes French-Canadian Charles Jourdain to Long Island.
Burgos, who was born in the Bronx and now resides in Monroe, enters off a unanimous decision win over Billy Quarantillo and carrying a reputation as one of the most consistently entertaining fighters in a division filled with consistently entertaining fighters. He’s garnered four Fight of the Night awards in his UFC career, and while he’ll likely be gunning for a Performance of the Night bonus here, the 31-year-old just has a way of falling into back-and-forth battles every time he steps into the Octagon.
Charles Jourdain Wins By TKO | UFC Fight Night: Edwards vs Muhammad
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Charles Jourdain Wins By TKO | UFC Fight Night: Edwards vs Muhammad
Plagued by inconsistency early in his UFC career, Jourdain arrives UBS Arena riding a tidy two-fight winning streak but looking like an ascending talent to keep a close eye on. He closed out 2021 with a dominant victory (and Sparta kick) against Andre Ewell, and he signed up to face Ilia Topuria on short notice in a fight that didn’t happen because Topuria was scratched before collecting a first-round submission win over Lando Vannata last time out.
Burgos is a tough test for anyone and everyone and a tremendous measuring stick for where the promising 26-year-old Jourdain is at in his development. These two will most likely set the bar everyone else has to clear in order to collect a bonus on Saturday night, so be sure you’re locked in when these two hit your television screen this weekend.
Lauren Murphy vs. Miesha Tate
Former title challenger Lauren Murphy welcomes former bantamweight champ Miesha Tate to the flyweight division in Saturday’s main card opener.
A five-fight winning streak earned Murphy a championship opportunity last fall at UFC 266, but things did not go well at all for the former Invicta FC titleholder in her clash with Valentina Shevchenko. Now the 38-year-old looks to make an expedient return to the win column with a splashy win over the high-profile new arrival to the flyweight ranks.
After landing on the wrong side of things in a fight with Ketlen Vieira and seeing her close friend Julianna Pena ascend to the top of the bantamweight division, Tate opted to relocate to the 125-pound weight class, where she can make an instant impact with a win over Murphy. The 35-year-old looked good in her return to action against Marion Reneau a year ago and will look to tap into that form again here.
This bout has been postponed twice, but kept together each time, which tells you how pivotal a contest this could be. With champion Valentina Shevchenko always in need of challengers, a win for Tate could catapult her into a title opportunity, while a victory would cement Murphy as one of the top talents in the flyweight division.
Punahele Soriano vs. Dalcha Lungiambula
Powerful middleweights looking to snap two-fight slides clash here as Punahele Soriano shares the Octagon with Dalcha Lungiambula in the final preliminary card fight of the night.
A member of the Dana White’s Contender Series Class of ’19, Soriano earned first-round stoppage wins in each of his first two UFC appearances. He dropped a unanimous decision to Brendan Allen in his third bout, and landed on the wrong side of a debated split decision verdict in a fight with Nick Maximov last time out.
Lungiambula began his UFC tenure with a win over Dequan Townsend at light heavyweight, but he’s gone 1-3 since, losing to Magomed Ankalaev before decamping for middleweight, where he beat Markus Perez, but has since suffered back-to-back losses to Marc-Andre Barriault and Cody Brundage. The powerful fighter from the Democratic Republic of the Congo was a two-division champion under the EFC banner before matriculating to the UFC, and needs to return to that form if he hopes to avoid a third consecutive setback on Saturday.
Not only is this a battle of hungry competitors, but it’s also a clash between elite camps, as Soriano reps Xtreme Couture, while Lungiambula trains with the crew at Kill Cliff FC, formerly known as Sanford MMA. This should come down to which team prepped better and which athlete can find the others’ chin first.
Ricky Simon vs. Jack Shore
Ricky Simon and Jack Shore square off in this battle between talented Top 15 bantamweights on the rise.
Simon had an excellent 2021 campaign, going 3-0 capped by a second-round knockout win over Top 15 fixture Raphael Assuncao in December. He’s 8-2 in the UFC and 19-3 overall, showing an increased focus on working for finishes over his last three outings, and stands as the toughest test to date for his Welsh counterpart this weekend.
All Shore has done thus far is win every single fight he’s been in across both his amateur and professional careers, entering this contest with a 5-0 mark in the Octagon and a 16-0 record overall as a pro. After earning finishes in all but one of his first 13 appearances, Shore has gone to the cards in each of his last three outings, but he’s been no less dominant, showing an ability to rise to the challenge in front of him each time.
This is just a lovely bit of matchmaking that should produce a terrific fight between two undervalued talents in the 135-pound weight class. The victor should take another little step forward next time out, while the vanquished won’t fall too far back in the competitive division, setting up more exciting opportunities for each in the second half of the year.
Bill Algeo vs. Herbert Burns
Bill Algeo and Herbert Burns were each slated to face someone else on Saturday night, but when their respective opponents were forced off the card, the two agreed to stick around and square off against one another this weekend instead.
Algeo has alternated losses and wins over his first four fights in the UFC, but enters this weekend’s impromptu matchup with Burns off a quality win over impressive DWCS grad
Joanderson Brito in January. The native of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania was a fixture on the rugged East Coast regional circuit before getting the call to the Octagon, and should feel right at home stepping into battle in Long Island.
Burns was one of the top newcomers in the UFC at the midway point of 2020, having earned consecutive first-round finishes over Nate Landwehr and Evan Dunham to begin his UFC tenure. But the DWCS grad (Class of 2020) missed weight and got stopped by Daniel Pineda at UFC 252 and hasn’t fought since, sending him into this one as a bit of a question mark after nearly two full years on the sidelines.
Can Algeo break out of his win one, lose one pattern or will Burns rediscover the form that had him looking like an intriguing featherweight addition early in his UFC career?
Dustin Jacoby vs. Da-un Jung
Streaking light heavyweights collide in this one as Dustin Jacoby faces off with Da-un Jung.
After punching his ticket back to the UFC with a win on Season 4 of Dana White’s Contender Series, Jacoby has quietly gone 5-0-1 over his last six starts, entering Saturday’s contest having earned three straight victories. Last time out, “The Hanyak” scored a unanimous decision victory over durable Polish prospect Michal Oleksiejczuk, extending his overall unbeaten streak to eight.
Jung won his professional debut, lost his next two fights (at heavyweight) and hasn’t been beaten since. The 28-year-old South Korean has gone 14-0-1 over his last 15 bouts, including posting four wins and a draw in his first five UFC appearances. Last time out, “Sseda” stopped Kennedy Nzechukwu with a gnarly barrage of elbows along the fence just three minutes into their fight.
Someone’s unbeaten run is coming to an end and it should be all kinds of fun watching these two battle to decide who is catching their first loss in quite some time.
Dwight Grant vs. Dustin Stoltzfus
Dwight Grant makes the move up to middleweight to face off with Dustin Stoltzfus in this clash of Dana White’s Contender Series graduates.
Grant, who earned his UFC contract with a win on Season 2, went 3-4 over his first seven starts at welterweight, most recently suffering a second-round stoppage loss against Sergey Khandozhko in April. This will be his first fight in the 185-pound weight class since registering a win over Erik Purcell all the way back in October 2011.
A member of the Class of 2020, Stoltzfus has struggled since matriculating to the UFC, suffering losses in each of his first three outings and having been submitted in each of his last two. Based in Gamersheim, Germany, the 30-year-old will look to recapture the form that carried him to a 13-1 record prior to being called up the UFC in this one.
Will Grant make a successful return to the middleweight ranks or can Stoltzfus finally collect his first UFC victory?
Jessica Penne vs. Emily Ducote
The night’s festivities get underway in the strawweight division with an intriguing clash between resurgent veteran Jessica Penne and newcomer Emily Ducote.
Penne returned from a four-year absence last April and won a narrow split decision over Loopy Godinez, her first victory since defeating Randa Markos at the TUF 20 Finale in December 2014. She followed that up with a dominant first-round submission win over Karolina Kowalkiewicz, showing that she’s still got plenty to offer more than 15 years after her professional debut.
Ducote touches down in the UFC riding a three-fight winning streak that includes stoppage victories over Danielle Taylor and Alesha Zappitella in Invicta FC strawweight title fights. The 28-year-old is 5-1 since moving down to strawweight, with her lone setback coming against current UFC competitor Kanako Murata, with all but one of her victories coming inside the distance.
This is an excellent pairing that will answer questions about where each woman stands in the division and what to expect from them each throughout the rest of this year and beyond.
UFC Fight Night: Ortega vs Rodriguez, took place live from the UBS Arena in Long Island, New York on July 16, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards, and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC FIGHT PASS!