You know the names atop the marquee.
You’re familiar with the veteran contenders that largely make up the remainder of the main card – fighters like Anthony Johnson and Glover Teixeira; Donald Cerrone and Rick Story. You’ve even gotten to know a couple of the emerging threats that will step into the cage this weekend like Cody Garbrandt and Neil Magny.
But who is flying under the radar? Who are the fighters that you’re not yet acquainted with that have the potential to show out on Saturday night and really make an impression?
Here are three to keep an eye on when they step into the Octagon at UFC 202.
This is On the Rise.
2015 was like a year of mixed emotions for Casey, as the 29-year-old strawweight got the call to the Octagon, but came up short in a pair of hard-fought decision losses to Joanne Calderwood and Seohee Ham. Both were road games for the Arizona-based competitor, as she faced the Scottish contender Calderwood on short notice in Glasgow before locking up with “Hamderlei Silva” in her native South Korea four months later.
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But in both outings, Casey showed her toughness and flashes of potential and, back in July, “Cast Iron” collected her first UFC victory, stopping Cristina Stanciu with a flurry of elbows on the ground midway through the first round. Riding high off that performance, Casey takes another step up in competition this weekend, stepping in with Ultimate Fighter Season 20 semifinalist Randa Markos in a bout that came together at the last minute, but carries a great deal of importance for both women.
With the 115-pound division still in its infancy and fighters still jockeying for position in the rankings, a win at UFC 202 has the potential to take Casey from being on the outside of the Top 15 looking in to smack dab in the middle of the rankings.
Following his victory Jonathan Meunier in Ottawa, Ontario earlier this summer, Covington declared himself ready to prove that he’s the best grappler in the division, calling for the opportunity to face Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace and fourth-ranked welterweight Demian Maia. While a meeting with the surging contender wasn’t going to happen, you have to applaud Covington’s conviction and desire to mix it up with the top talent the division has to offer.
A former All-American and two-time Pac-10 champ during his days at Oregon State, the 28-year-old Covington has shown potential, winning his promotional debut on extremely short notice in Macau and picking up a decision win over veteran Mike Pyle in another short-notice assignment two fights later. This weekend, the American Top Team product gets another chance to potentially make a statement when he welcomes 30-year-old regional vet Max Griffin to the UFC.
If he can add another impressive finish to his win total, “Chaos” could find himself climbing the ladder in the loaded welterweight division, bringing him one rung closer to those high-profile matchups he craves.
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Vettori is set to make his Octagon debut this weekend when he faces off with Alberto Uda in the second bout of the UFC 202 fight card. Just 22 years old, Vettori has collected five straight wins and finishes in nine of his 10 pro victories, but it’s his last two outings that really stand out.
At the close of last year, welterweight prospect scored a first-round stoppage win against battle-tested British veteran Jack “The Stone” Mason, knocking him out with a well-placed knee less than two minutes into the contest. As an encore, he tapped former Ultimate Fighter contestant Igor Araujo, catching the two-time UFC winner in a guillotine choke just over a minute into the opening stanza.
Fellow Italian newcomer Alessio Di Chirico impressed in his debut earlier this year and now Vettori is hoping to do the same, as he hopes to push his winning streak to six and establish himself as someone to track in the treacherous 170-pound ranks.