Back in upstate New York for the first time since UFC 210, this weekend’s debut event in Rochester isn’t even sneaky-good — it’s just a straight up terrific fight card.
With an intriguing pair of welterweight matchups closing out the show and twin fights on the women’s side that carry legitimate title implications, Saturday’s event at Blue Cross Arena is not only one that is going to get fight fans in “The Flower City” buzzing, but also one that will help dictate how things shake out in several key divisions as we head into the second half of the year.
Here is a closer look at one of the women involved in this weekend’s critical featherweight contest, as well as a Canadian newcomer making a quick turnaround and an unbeaten middleweight prospect looking to regain some momentum after some time away.
This is On the Rise: Rochester Edition.
The 28-year-old Montreal-born, Orlando-based Spencer wrapped up a three-year, six-fight unbeaten run under the Invicta FC banner last November by winning the vacant featherweight title by tapping out Pam Sorenson late in the fourth round. Signed by the UFC a few months later, the “Feenom” has a chance to instantly establish herself as a bona fide contender when she squares off with Megan Anderson this weekend.
A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt representing Jungle MMA, Spencer faced little adversity prior to her bout with Sorenson, but showed her grit and resolve in claiming the title and earning a call-up to the biggest stage in the sport. She has earned four stoppages in her six starts, including her last two appearances, which highlights her resolve and continued development as a fighter.
While many fighters are able to dominate in the early stages of their careers, only to falter when the competition gets tougher, the UFC newcomer rose to the challenge, making relatively quick work of Helena Kolesnyk before submitting Sorenson last November. Now the UCF grad squares off with the woman she replaced atop the featherweight division under the Invicta FC banner, jumping in with Australia’s Anderson in a bout that could very well determine the next title challenger in the 145-pound weight class.
Anderson secured her first UFC win last time out, but it wasn’t the kind of finish she was hoping for, as her bout with Cat Zingano was halted a minute into the opening round due to an eye injury Zingano sustained after Anderson connected with a high kick.
This is a major step up in competition for the promotional newcomer, but a win over Anderson catapulted Holly Holm into a championship showdown with Amanda Nunes and a victory this weekend could potentially do the same for Spencer.
After claiming the TKO featherweight title late last year, Jourdain successfully defended the belt for the first time early last month, scoring a fifth-round stoppage win over BAMMA vet Damien Lapilus, who replaced UFC vet Jesse Ronson on the day of the fight. Two weeks later, he was back in the gym, having received the call to compete this weekend, where the 23-year-old will move up in weight and square off with hometown favorite Desmond Green.
Jourdain has been one of the breakout talents under the TKO banner since the French-Canadian promotion’s re-launch, amassing an 8-1 mark with eight finishes. Since suffering the lone loss of his career to TJ Laramie at the close of 2017, “Air” Jourdain has responded with four consecutive victories, never going beyond the second round in his trio of triumphs last year before dispatching Lapilus in the fifth frame last month in Montreal.
Now the explosive finisher gets the chance to make an instant impression in his UFC debut by locking horns with Green, who won a state title wrestling at Rush-Henrietta High School before starring on the wrestling mats for the University of Buffalo. The 29-year-old is just 3-3 in the Octagon, but enters off his best performance to date, a first-round stoppage win over Ross Pearson at the end of March in Philadelphia.
After enjoying “home field advantage” throughout his TKO run, Jourdain will be entering hostile territory in his first foray into the UFC cage, but if he can go on the road and up in weight while keeping his winning streak intact, the newcomer will establish himself as someone to keep close tabs on as things heat up this summer.
Very seldom do you see an emerging fighter garner a pair of stoppage victories inside the Octagon and then press pause on their promising career, but that’s exactly what Giles did.
The undefeated middleweight hasn’t fought since his December 2017 victory over Antonio Braga Neto, having committed the last year and change to life outside of the Octagon, including getting married and completing his time at the police academy. Now, with his law enforcement career set in motion, the 11-0 upstart is poised to return to the cage, squaring off against gritty veteran Zak Cummings on the preliminary card this weekend in Rochester.
While the time away has certain halted his momentum, the 26-year-old is definitely a prospect on the rise in the currently wide-open middleweight ranks. Prior to arriving in the UFC, Giles earned victories over current LFA champ Brendan Allen, TUF 19 alum Josh Clark and Ryan “Superman” Spann, who just faced off with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira last week at UFC 237 in Rio de Janeiro.
He followed those performances up by scoring stoppage wins over James Bochnovic and Braga Neto during his 2017 campaign in the UFC cage and now looks to restart his climb up the ranks by taking out Cummings.
The 34-year-old Missourian returned to the middleweight division last time out and scored a unanimous decision win over fellow vet Trevor Smith, giving him three wins in his last four outings. Cummings is cagey and durable and a quality litmus test for the returning Giles, but if the unbeaten prospect can push his winning streak to an even dozen on Saturday, he should find himself in the fast lane towards the top of the middleweight division going forward.