The UFC Octagon makes another transatlantic trip this weekend, returning from Glasgow, Scotland to land at NYCB LIVE, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, in Long Island, New York for the third UFC on FOX event of 2017.
Saturday night, a host of proud representatives of the Empire State will cross the threshold into the eight-sided proving ground in an arena where guys named Bossy, Trottier, Potvin and Smith became the cornerstones of an NHL dynasty.
While a few familiar names on the main card will be looking to thrill the hometown fans, there are some preliminary card talents to keep an eye on as well.
This is the Long Island Edition of On the Rise.
After racking up seven straight victories on the East Coast regional scene, the Bronx-based featherweight has blown into the UFC and caused a storm, picking up where he left off under the CFFC banner with a pair of impressive victories in his first two appearances in the UFC cage.
While his debut win over Tiago Trator offered bits and pieces of what Burgos brings to the table, his sophomore effort opposite Charles Rosa at UFC 210 showcased “Hurricane Shane” at his best. The 26-year-old found his rhythm early and spent the first 10 minutes styling on the durable American Top Team product. Two minutes into the third, Burgos put Rosa away, pushing his record to 9-0 and elevating his status in the deep featherweight talent pool.
The Team Tiger Schulmann rep gets another New York assignment here, but it’s a step up in competition as he squares off with unpredictable Brazilian veteran Godofredo Pepey, who has collected a victory in four of his last five trips into the Octagon. If Burgos can keep his unbeaten record intact and put up another impressive performance, he’ll hit the final five months of the year on quite a roll and ready to make serious headway in the 145-pound ranks.
Last summer, Kennedy made his Octagon debut at home, striding out to the cage in the opening bout of the evening in Vancouver to a warm reception. Over 15 minutes, the local standout was able to get the better of Alessandro Ricci, adding a ninth slash to the tattooed tally of victories that adorns his rib cage.
For his second fight in the big leagues, the Revolution Martial Arts product played the role of the “road team,” venturing to Fortaleza, Brazil to take on hometown favorite Rony Jason in his backyard. Though he took a couple heavy shots from the former TUF Brazil winner, Kennedy was able to weather the storm, use his grappling and secure a second consecutive UFC victory to extend his winning streak to 10.
Big for the division and still adding to his overall game, the 24-year-old Kennedy is in no rush to climb the rankings, preferring instead to continue working on his craft and improving between each fight. Given that he’s already notched a pair of strong performances and knocked off a respected veteran in his own backyard, the Canadian upstart could find himself facing ranked opposition sooner than expected if he keeps adding new ink to his abdomen every four to six months.
Albini makes his UFC debut riding a nine-fight winning streak that includes seven stoppage victories. The 26-year-old is an intriguing new addition to a heavyweight division that is always in need of fresh, young talent.
Graduating to the UFC does come with a serious step up in competition though, as after battling mostly overmatched opponents under the Aspera FC banner in Brazil, “Baby” will share the cage on Saturday with double-tough veteran Timothy Johnson, who has posted a 3-2 record through his first five trips into the Octgaon.
Squaring up with the North Dakota native is a tremendous litmus test for Albini, who will immediately learn where he fits in the heavyweight ecosystem once his debut is over. There aren’t many divisions where you can walk in and immediately get a win over a Top 15 opponent, but that’s the opportunity before the Brazilian this weekend.
Can he make the most of it? Tune in Saturday to find out.