This weekend marks a homecoming of sorts for the UFC, as the company makes its debut at The Theater at Virgin Hotels with a quality Fight Night show headlined by a clash of contenders in the bantamweight division.
While this is the first event to be held at this venue in its current iteration, the UFC hosted eight events there when it was previously known as The Joint and part of the Hard Rock Hotel, with the last appearance coming in December 2012.
One rebranding and more than a decade later, the UFC returns, bringing an entertaining fight card that is sure to set the tone for future events that touch down in The Theater.
Here’s a rundown of the matchups scheduled to take place on Saturday.
Main Event: Petr Yan vs. Merab Dvalishvili
Location: The Theater at Virgin Hotels — Las Vegas, Nevada
Where to Watch: ESPN+
Other Main Card Matches:
- Alexander Volkov vs. Alexandr Romanov
- Nikita Krylov vs. Ryan Spann
- Ricardo Ramos vs. Austin Lingo
- Said Nurmagomedov vs. Jonathan Martinez
- Vitor Petrino vs. Anton Turkalj
- Karl Williams vs. Lukasz Brzeski
- Raphael Assuncao vs. Davey Grant
- Sedriques Dumas vs. Josh Fremd
- Mario Bautista vs. Guido Cannetti
- Ariane Lipki vs. JJ Aldrich
- Victor Henry vs. Tony Gravely
- Tyson Nam vs. Bruno Silva
Main Event: Petr Yan vs. Merab Dvalishvili
Saturday’s event is capped by a massive fight in the bantamweight division, as former champ Petr Yan squares off with surging contender Merab Dvalishvili.
Yan enters on a two-fight skid, having dropped consecutive split decisions to current titleholder Aljamain Sterling and Sean O’Malley. The well-rounded Russian has just one victory in his last four outings, yet unquestionably remains one of the top talents in the ultra-competitive division but needs to get things moving in the right direction in order for that to continue to hold true.
Dvalishvili has won eight straight after beginning his UFC tenure with consecutive losses, using his unrelenting pace and voluminous wresting approach to suffocate and exhaust opponents. He wasn’t as prolific with his wrestling last time out against Jose Aldo, but the indefatigable Georgian has still amassed 46 takedowns during his current run of success, including hitting double digits twice.
There are a couple layers of added intrigue to this fight.
First, Dvalishvili is Sterling’s main training partner and best friend, which means he’s helped the champion prepare for “No Mercy” ahead of both their fights and the rivalry between Yan and Sterling is likely to spill over into this one.
Personal rivalries aside, this should be an outstanding fight between a pair of elite talents in the most competitive division in the UFC. In its simplest form, it profiles as a “striker versus grappler” battle, but both men are skilled in all facets of the game and should showcase the full complement of their skills in this one.
Co-Main Event: Alexander Volkov vs. Alexandr Romanov
The pairing of Alexander Volkov and Alexandr Romanov represents a clear clash of styles in a wide open heavyweight division. The tall, rangy Volvo enters off one of the best efforts of his UFC career — a first-round stoppage win over Jairzinho Rozenstruik last June — while Romanov returns to Las Vegas after suffering the first loss of his career last time out against Marcin Tybura.
Will Volkov collect a second straight stoppage win or can Romanov make an expedient return to the win column by picking up his biggest win to date?
Other UFC 285 Main Card Fights
Nikita Krylov vs. Ryan Spann
Originally slated to headline the February 25 event at the UFC APEX, Krylov was forced out of the fight with an illness on the day of the event, resulting in the pair being rescheduled here. The setup and stakes remain the same as they were last month, with each man entering on a two-fight winning streak, looking to take a major step forward in the light heavyweight division, and it will be interesting to see which one is more impacted by the delay when they finally stand across from each other this weekend.
Ricardo Ramos vs. Austin Lingo
Exciting featherweights Ricardo Ramos and Austin Lingo clash in a main card contest that is sure to get people out of their seats on Saturday night. This is Ramos’ first appearance since his outstanding spinning back elbow finish of Danny Chavez last summer, while Lingo makes the walk for the first time since the summer of ’21, carrying a two-fight winning streak and 9-1 record into battle this weekend.
Both men are offensively minded and ready to take a shot if it means landing one of their own, so don’t be surprised if this one results in one or each of them earning a bonus at the end of the night.
Said Nurmagomedov vs. Jonathan Martinez
The main event isn’t the only compelling bantamweight fight on the card, as Said Nurmagomedov and Jonathan Martinez collide in a battle of surging fighters looking to earn a fifth straight win. Nurmagomedov was getting outworked by Saidyokub Kakhramonov last time out before latching onto a ninja choke and securing the victory, while Martinez chopped down veteran Cub Swanson with leg kicks last October.
Each man has won six of seven inside the Octagon, and the winner should find themselves holding down a place in the rankings once the smoke clears and things reset early next week.
Vitor Petrino vs. Anton Turkalj
It’s a meeting of Dana White’s Contender Series alums in the light heavyweight division, as Vitor Petrino makes his promotional debut against “The Pleasure Man,” Anton Turkalj.
The 25-year-old Petrino is a protege of former TUF contestant Cristiano Marcello, and carries a 7-0 record with six finishes into his first UFC start this weekend. Turkalj didn’t earn a contract after securing a victory on the annual talent search competition last fall, but was called up on short notice soon after, losing to Jailton Almeida at UFC 279.
Both have shown flashes in their triumphs outside of the UFC, and now it’s time to find out which one will be able to parlay those successes into similar results on the biggest stage in the sport.
Karl Williams vs. Lukasz Brzeski
Karl Williams and Lukasz Brzeski clash in a meeting of DWCS grads looking to secure their first UFC victory this weekend.
Though he’s only been a pro for 25 months, Williams has already reached the highest level in the sport, posting a 7-1 record and four straight victories, capped by a unanimous decision win over Jimmy Lawson last fall at the UFC APEX. Brzeski finally made his promotional debut last August after earning a contract the previous summer, dropping a split decision to another DWCS alum, Martin Buday, after serving a nine-month suspension.
These are two smaller, more fluid heavyweights, as each checks in under 240 pounds, so it will be interesting to see if we get a fast-paced, dynamic battle once they step into the Octagon on Saturday night.
Raphael Assuncao vs. Davey Grant
Experienced bantamweights Raphael Assuncao and Davey Grant meet to determine which one will continue to serve as the dangerous veteran test just outside the Top 15 and which one will have to take a step back from that role going forward.
Assuncao halted a four-fight losing streak last time out, posting a unanimous decision win over Victor Henry that showed he still has plenty left in the tank, while the 37-year-old Grant snapped a two-fight slide with a third-round knockout win over Louis Smolka in May.
These are two well-rounded, seasoned competitors looking to further cement their standing in the ever-changing, ever-deepening bantamweight division. It should be an outstanding scrap between two men that can be technical, but also don’t mind getting after it.
Sedriques Dumas vs. Josh Fremd
Newcomer Sedriques Dumas looks to remain undefeated as he makes the walk for the first time against 29-year-old Pittsburgh native Josh Fremd.
The 27-year-old Dumas earned a contract with a 47-second submission win over Matej Penaz last August, extending his record to 7-0 with six finishes in the process. Fremd has struggled since getting called up to the big leagues, suffering consecutive losses to Anthony Hernandez and Tresean Gore after going 9-2 on the regional circuit and impressing UFC President Dana White at a Lookin’ for a Fight event.
Mario Bautista vs. Guido Cannetti
The fourth of five excellent bantamweight matchups on Saturday’s fight card features Mario Bautista and Guido Cannetti crossing paths as they each try to climb further up the divisional hierarchy.
Bautista enters on a three-fight winning streak, having earned each of his last two victories by submission while showing continued improvement and great variety in his attacks. The 43-year-old Cannetti arrives in the best form of his UFC career, having earned consecutive first-round stoppage wins over Kris Moutinho and Randy Costa to push his overall record to 10-7.
During his current run of success, Bautista has flashed the kind of skills that lead you to believe a future in the Top 15 is possible, while Cannetti has been able to channel his aggressiveness and capitalize when he has opponents hurt, which means this should be another spirited affair in the 135-pound ranks this weekend.
Ariane Lipski vs. JJ Aldrich
Ariane Lipski and JJ Aldrich meet in a matchup of veteran flyweights looking to rebound from stoppage losses in their most recent outings.
Lipski ventured up to bantamweight last August and was promptly turned back by fellow Brazilian Priscila Cachoeira, leaving her with a solitary victory in her last four trips into the Octagon. Aldrich had won three straight ahead of her last appearance, and started well in that one, only for surging contender Erin Blanchfield to clamp onto a guillotine choke midway through the second round that forced her to tap.
Both women like to work from boxing range, so there is a very real possibility this one starts quickly and continues being a competitive back-and-forth for as long as it lasts.
Victor Henry vs. Tony Gravely
Victor Henry and Tony Gravely share the Octagon in the night’s first bantamweight pairing, with each man looking to return to their winning ways this weekend.
The well-traveled Henry scored an upset win over Raoni Barcelos in his promotional debut last January before getting out-worked by Assuncao last time out. After earning wins in January and June, Gravely had his hopes for a three-win year dashed by Javid Basharat in September.
These are two well-rounded talents with more than 25 fights worth of experience, so no matter how it plays out, you’re sure to get a quality scrap when these two hit the Octagon on Saturday evening.
Tyson Nam vs. Bruno Silva
Flyweights open the show on Saturday, with hard-hitting veteran Tyson Nam facing off with the returning Bruno Silva.
Nam ended an 18-month absence with a first-round knockout win over Ode’ Osbourne last August in San Diego, giving him three stoppage victories in his last four trips into the Octagon. Meanwhile, Silva finally broke into the win column in March 2021 and followed it up with a second victory two months later, but hasn’t been heard from since.
Landing big power is the preferred approach for each of these two men, which means there is a very good chance that the UFC’s debut at The Theater starts with a bang!
UFC Fight Night: Yan vs Dvalishvili took place live from The Theater At Virgin Hotels Las Vegas on March 11, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive all the action at UFC Fight Pass!