After starting off the spring with a trip to the Canadian capital, the UFC will make a pair of trips to the Great White North over the next eight weeks, starting with this week’s return to Edmonton for UFC 240.
Headlined by honorary Canadian Max Holloway putting his featherweight title on the line against perennial contender and future Hall of Famer Frankie Edgar, the event at Rogers Place also features eight actual Canadians, including lightweight grappler Olivier Aubin-Mercier, veteran flyweight Alexis Davis and featherweight upstart Hakeem Dawodu.
The card also features a pair of Brazilian females making their second trips into the Octagon and a Canadian heavyweight whose arrival in the UFC feels overdue to those who track prospects and forecast these kinds of things.
Here’s a closer look at that trio of talented prospects.
This is the UFC 240 edition of On the Rise.
All Araujo did in her promotional debut was show up at UFC 237 on a couple days’ notice, fighting up two divisions, and delivering a blistering striking performance that culminated with her clocking Talita Bernardo and collecting a third-round stoppage win. This weekend, the Cerrado MMA representative returns to action and 125 pounds in a flyweight showdown with Davis.
Araujo looked outstanding in her debut ¬— her fluid striking, quick movements and vast speed advantage were on display from the outset as she bounced around the cage putting together combinations and taking the fight to Bernardo. That effort set the bar pretty high for the promising 32-year-old, who pushed her winning streak to four with the victory, but now she gets the opportunity to move to the 125-pound weight class after putting in a full camp and make an immediate impression there if she can hand the Canadian a third straight loss.
Born and raised in the Niagara Region, Davis has been a fixture in the UFC since the bantamweight ranks were added to the fold and remains a tough out in the middle of the flyweight division. Though she’s dropped her last two outings by decision, she also kicked off her run at 125 pounds with a close win over Liz Carmouche, who is set to challenge for the title later this summer.
Needless to say, if Araujo can go into the cage and replicate her debut performance against a durable, battle-tested veteran like Davis who has gone the distance with a trio of Top 15 fighters since the division’s inception, it will vault the Brazilian into the thick of the title chase and position her for an even bigger assignment next time out.
Frota missed weight for her promotional debut in February by a considerable margin and moves up to flyweight this time around as a result, where she’ll square off with submission specialist Gillian Robertson.
Undefeated heading into her bout with Livinha Souza in Fortaleza earlier this year, Frota gave the former Invicta FC champion all she could handle, hanging with “The Brazilian Gangster” in every phase before landing on the wrong side of a split decision verdict. It’s difficult to say what kind of impact the weight issue had on how the fight played out, but it will be interesting to see if Frota brings a comparable level of aggression and moxie into this bout with Robertson.
A member of the cast on Season 26 of The Ultimate Fighter, Robertson, who was born in Canada, but trains at American Top Team, has earned three wins in four starts since coming off the show, most recently securing a second-round submission win over Veronica Macedo in Prague.
Robertson is the kind of opportunistic grappler who will make Frota pay for tactical errors, so the 32-year-old will need to tighten up her technique and look to push the pace against the ATT product if she wants to bounce back from her first career setback on Saturday.
“The Bulldozer” first popped up on the radar when he earned back-to-back victories over Canadian UFC vets Victor Valimaki and the late Tim Hague and then again after he beat regional vets Tony Lopez, Joey Yager, and Rakim Cleveland in succession. It took a few more years and a return to his home province, but Boser finally got the call and will make the walk to the Octagon for the first time in the opening bout of the evening on Saturday.
The 27-year-old, who successfully defended his Unified MMA heavyweight title last time out with a fourth-round stoppage win over Jared Kilkenny, is 16-5-1 overall and a karate stylist, which isn’t something you see in the big boy ranks very often. In addition to having the finishing abilities that most heavyweights carry, the Bonnyville, Alberta native has also shown he’s capable of going the championship distance while maintaining a good pace, another element that could differentiate him from many of his contemporaries.
Boser makes his debut against fellow newcomer Giacomo Lemos, who brings a 6-0 record with five consecutive finishes into the UFC 240 opener. After starting his career in his native Brazil, Lemos’ last two fights have come in South Korea, where he won and successfully defended the Angel’s Fighting Championship Open Weight Championship.
Many feel this is a long overdue opportunity for Boser, so the pressure is on the Canadian newcomer to make the most of his debut and get the night started on a positive night for the home side.