CURTIS BLAYDES VS. ALEXANDER VOLKOV
Top-ranked heavyweights go toe-to-toe in this pivotal divisional contest as Curtis Blaydes goes in search of his fourth straight victory against Russian standout Alexander Volkov.
Blaydes’ evolution as a fighter has been exceptional over the course of his 11-fight UFC career, and outside of a pair of bouts against Francis Ngannou, the Elevation Fight Team member has been unbeatable. After dropping his debut to the feared top contender, the 29-year-old rattled off a six-fight unbeaten streak and since their second encounter in November 2018, Blaydes has picked up three more victories, most recently dispatching former champ Junior Dos Santos in January.
It’s hard not to think of Volkov’s position in the heavyweight ranks in terms of a “What If?” given that all that stands between him and a flawless 6-0 mark in the Octagon is a last-second loss to Derrick Lewis at UFC 229. If Volkov had held on for those final 11 seconds, would he have faced Daniel Cormier for the heavyweight title at UFC 230 instead of Lewis? Would he check in at seventh in the rankings, four spots behind Blaydes, if his only setback came in a championship clash?
And that’s assuming he would have lost to Cormier, who used his wrestling skills to ground Lewis and finish him with relative ease.
With the trilogy bout between Cormier and reigning champ Stipe Miocic officially on the books and Ngannou already having an unassailable claim to being next in line, Saturday’s main event is all about position. Blaydes is looking to cement his standing as third in line behind Cormier and Ngannou with a victory, while Volkov can force his way back into the Top 5 with a second consecutive triumph, and no matter how it shakes out, it should be one heck of a heavyweight clash to close out this weekend’s fight card.
JOSH EMMETT VS. SHANE BURGOS
Top 10 featherweights looking to improve their position in the ultra-competitive division lock horns in this one as Team Alpha Male staple Josh Emmett squares off with New Yorker Shane Burgos.
After rocketing into the Top 5 following his knockout win over Ricardo Lamas, Emmett slid down the rankings following his loss to Jeremy Stephens and the subsequent year he spent on the sidelines recovering from injuries. But the 35-year-old showed he’s still a force to be reckoned with in the featherweight ranks upon returning last spring, posting a third-round knockout win over Michael Johnson before following it up with a first-round finish of Mirsad Bektic a little less than four months later.
Burgos has posted a 6-1 record with three victories on either side of a hard-fought loss to Calvin Kattar thus far in his UFC career. After getting back into the win column with an impressive armbar finish of Kurt Holobaugh in the final quarter of 2018, the Tiger Schulmann MMA fighter collected a split decision win over divisional stalwart Cub Swanson in May before finishing Makwan Amirkhani at UFC 244.
While both men have some grappling skills in their back pockets in case of emergency, each man does their best work with their hands — Emmett brandishing greater power, and Burgos profiling as a more technical striker who drowns opponents with volume. The strategic battle to control the terms of the engagement and avoid returning fire should be riveting from the outset.
RAQUEL PENNINGTON VS. MARION RENEAU
Divisional fixtures looking to put rough patches behind them and start the second half of 2020 off with a victory meet in the 135-pound weight class as Raquel Pennington shares the cage with Marion Reneau.
Over the last two years, Pennington has struggled while fighting the schedule of a top contender. She got a championship bout against Amanda Nunes after myriad injuries left her sidelined for 18 months, followed that up with a decision loss to former champ Germaine de Randamie, edged out rising contender Irene Aldana, and then dropped another decision to another former champion, Holly Holm, earlier this year at UFC 246.
This weekend, the hard-nosed 31-year-old looks to avoid going 1-4 over her last five as she shares the cage with Reneau.
The 42-year-old gym teacher was on the rise thanks to a four-fight unbeaten streak that culminated with a second-round submission win over Olympic silver medalist and former title challenger Sara McMann, but since then, Reneau has dropped back to back contests by unanimous decision, first to Cat Zingano and most recently against Yana Kunitskaya.
Both women are deserving of their places in the Top 10, but each could certainly use a victory to help strengthen their position heading into the back half of the year.
LYMAN GOOD VS. BELAL MUHAMMAD
Lyman Good takes on Belal Muhammad in a clash between welterweights looking to make headway in the loaded 170-pound weight division.
Consistency has been an issue for Good since arriving in the UFC, as the Team Tiger Schulmann representative has alternated wins and losses through his first five starts. Last time out, the former Bellator champ got back into the win column with a dominant performance against Chance Rencountre at UFC 244.
After beginning his career in the Octagon with a 1-2 record, Muhammad has gone 6-1 over his last seven fights, with his lone setback coming against surging contender Geoff Neal in a tremendously entertaining back-and-forth fight at the start of last year. Since then, the Roufusport product and social media must-follow has collected consecutive wins over Curtis Millender and Takashi Sato.
The welterweight division is flush with talent and the competition to crack the Top 15 is tough, which should bring out the best in both Good and Muhammad on Saturday night in Las Vegas.
ROOSEVELT ROBERTS VS. JIM MILLER
Lightweights at opposite ends of the experience spectrum in the UFC meet here as Roosevelt Roberts makes the quick turnaround to face divisional wins leader Jim Miller.
Roberts made his fifth foray into the Octagon since graduating from Season 2 of the Contender Series at the end of May, collecting a second-round submission win over Brok Weaver to push his record to 4-1 in the UFC and 10-1 overall. The lanky lightweight prospect has now won two straight since suffering his first career setback and hopes to keep the momentum rolling here as he goes in search of his biggest victory to date.
While Roberts is still in the early stages of his UFC run, Miller has been plying his trade inside the Octagon for 13 years, standing as one of six men to register 20-plus victories in their UFC careers. After posting a pair of victories in 2019, the 45-fight veteran landed on the wrong side of the scorecards last time out against Scott Holtzman.
Can the prospect earn a second victory in a matter of weeks and take a big step forward in his career or will the sturdy veteran use his record-tying 35th UFC appearance to add another victory to his already impressive resume?
CLAY GUIDA VS. BOBBY GREEN
Calling this a clash of veteran lightweights doesn’t quite accurately represent the amount of experience Clay Guida and Bobby Green collectively bring to the cage this weekend.
Guida made his promotional debut at UFC 64 with a win over Justin James and has spent the last 14 years as one of the most beloved fighters on the roster, amassing a 15-13 record in 28 appearances. Saturday’s bout is the 52nd fight of his professional career.
Green kicked around the regional circuit for the first three years of his career and had five fights under the Strikeforce banner before matriculating to the UFC. After starting his time in the Octagon with four straight victories, the 33-year-old veteran is just 1-5-1 over his last six fights.
Despite their recent struggles, Guida and Green are the kind of veteran talents who can be counted on to bring it every time they set foot into the Octagon. While there may not be any major divisional significance to this matchup, these are the kind of pairings that have a tendency to steal the show on a night card like this and no one should be surprised if “The Carpenter” and “King” engage in a wildly entertaining scrap on Saturday night.
TECIA TORRES VS. BRIANNA VAN BUREN
Strawweights moving in opposite directions meet in this one as struggling divisional staple Tecia Torres shares the cage with streaking newcomer Brianna Van Buren.
A fixture in the Top 15 since the division’s UFC launch, the 30-year-old Torres has dropped four straight heading into this one, though she’s fought three of the last four women to hold the title and unbeaten Brazilian Marina Rodriguez during that stretch. Despite earning credit for her strength of schedule, the fact remains that Torres hasn’t collected a victory since out-pointing Michelle Waterson at UFC 218 and needs to get back into the win column and halt this troubling slide.
Conversely, Van Buren enters this matchup on a six-fight winning streak. Last time out, “The Bull” collected her first UFC victory, defeating fellow former Invicta FC titleholder Livia Renata Souza, and if she can maintain her momentum through this clash with Torres, the 26-year-old should land a place in the Top 15 and another marquee assignment next time out.
MARC-ANDRE BARRIAULT VS. OSKAR PIECHOTA
The action continues in the middleweight division, as Marc-Andre Barriault and Oskar Piechota square off in a matchup of once-promising additions to the 185-pound weight class in desperate need of a victory.
A two-division champion under the TKO banner, Barriault has gone 0-3 to begin his UFC career, dropping decisions to Andrew Sanchez, Krzysztof Jotko, and most recently Junyong Park. The native of Gatineau, Quebec arrived in the UFC on an eight-flight winning streak and is ready to put his rocky rookie campaign behind him and start fresh in 2020.
Piechota reached the UFC with a 9-0-1 record and pushed his unbeaten streak to 11 with victories over Jonathan Wilson and Tim Williams in his first two appearances inside the Octagon. But things have gone south for the Polish competitor since then, as Piechota has also suffered three straight losses heading into his showdown with Barriault on Saturday. Last time out, “Imadlo” was felled by a Punahele Soriano left cross.
Both men have shown flashes of promise at different points in their respective careers and are in equally great need of a victory, which should result in a spirited affair for as long as it lasts when these two step into the Octagon on Saturday night.
GILLIAN ROBERTSON VS. CORTNEY CASEY
Scrappy flyweight hopefuls collide in this one Gillian Robertson makes her first start of 2020 against Cortney Casey, who looks for her second win in as many months since relocating to the 125-pound weight class.
After going 3-2 while fighting a tough slate on the regional circuit, Robertson was part of the cast on Season 26 of The Ultimate Fighter, losing in the opening round to second seed Barb Honchak. Since then, the American Top Team representative has gone 4-2 in the UFC, winning two and then losing one, with all six of those fights ending inside the distance. Last time out, Robertson was on the business end of a first-round finish in a meeting with Maycee Barber in Boston.
Following a 10-fight run at strawweight where she showed tons of skill, but managed just a 4-6 record, Casey bumped up a division last time out and registered a first-round submission win over Mara Romero Borella. Now, the Fight Ready representative makes a quick return to the cage looking to build on her impressive performance from last month and improve upon her No. 15 ranking.
Don’t be surprised if this one turns into a scramble-fest, as both Robertson and Casey are strong grapplers who aren’t afraid to go to the ground with anyone.
FRANK CAMACHO VS. MATT FREVOLA
Gritty talents trying to find their lane in the ultra-competitive lightweight division meet in this one as Frank Camacho looks to halt Matt Frevola’s three-fight unbeaten streak.
The 31-year-old Camacho has vacillated between lightweight and welterweight throughout his career, splitting his first six UFC appearances evenly between the two divisions, posting a 2-1 record in his three prior lightweight bouts. After getting submitted by Beneil Dariush last time out, “Frank the Crank” will be looking to get back to the form that earned him bonuses in each of his first three UFC starts and produced a second-round stoppage win over Nick Hein this time last year.
Frevola punched his ticket to the UFC with a second-round submission win in the final bout of the first season of the Contender Series but was knocked out just one minute into his debut by Polo Reyes five months later. Since then, however, “The Steamrolla” has gone 2-0-1, battling Lando Vannata to an entertaining draw before earning decision wins over Jalin Turner and Luis Pena in his last two outings.
Given their respective histories of being in entertaining, competitive bouts, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if these two pair up to deliver a Fight of the Night-worthy scrap on Saturday evening.
ROXANNE MODAFFERI VS. LAUREN MURPHY
Flyweights positioned next to each other in the rankings meet in this battle of former Ultimate Fighter contestants as No. 6-ranked Roxanne Modafferi takes on seventh-ranked Lauren Murphy in this important clash in the 125-pound weight division.
Modafferi has alternated losses and wins during her second tour of duty in the UFC, however each of the last two women to beat her — Sijara Eubanks and Jennifer Maia — each missed weight en route to claiming victory on the cards. Following each bout, the 35-year-old “Happy Warrior” has responded with a strong performance. First, she edged out Antonina Shevchenko and then in January, the female pioneer handed rising star Maycee Barber her first career loss.
Murphy has been a fixture in the UFC since the summer of 2014, but like Modafferi, she joined the cast on Season 26 of The Ultimate Fighter in hopes of becoming the inaugural UFC women’s flyweight champion, only to get bounced in the opening round of the tournament by eventual winner Nicco Montano. Since then, the former Invicta FC titleholder has posted a 3-1 record, entering this weekend’s contest on a two-fight winning streak and with designs on moving past Modafferi in the rankings.
With champion Valentina Shevchenko having already handled two of the four women stationed ahead of these two veterans in the rankings and another, Joanne Calderwood, expected to challenge “Bullet” later this year, there is the potential for the winner of this one to become the clubhouse leader in the battle to determine the next title challenger in the flyweight division.
AUSTIN HUBBARD VS. MAX ROHSKOPF
Austin Hubbard was initially scheduled to face Joe Solecki on Saturday night, but with the Contender Series alum forced to withdraw from the engagement, “Thud” will instead welcome undefeated prospect Max Rohskopf to the Octagon for the first time.
The 28-year-old Hubbard has gone 1-2 in his first three UFC appearances, squeezing a good win over Kyle Prepolec between hard-fought losses to Davi Ramos and Mark O. Madsen that showcased the Elevation Fight Team member’s toughness and heart. Hubbard closed out his run on the regional circuit with a pair of quality wins over established opponents, acquitted himself well in his losses to Ramos and Madsen, and has proven to be a solid addition to the 155-pound weight class, even if the results haven’t always been there.
A standout wrestler at North Carolina State, Rohskopf has made a seamless transition to mixed martial arts, posting five wins in as many starts, earning each of those victories by way of submission. Based in Las Vegas and training under Brazilian jiu-jitsu legend Robert Drysdale, the 25-year-old newcomer’s best win came against Zach Zane back in September, when he finished the former Contender Series competitor in just 71 seconds.
This is a tremendous battle between lightweight prospects with differing pedigrees, as Rohskopf has been heralded as one to watch from the outset of his MMA career, while Hubbard is a battle-tested worker. The fact that it has come together on short notice adds another layer of intrigue to this fight but shouldn’t have any impact on what transpires inside the Octagon on Saturday night.