MICHAEL JOHNSON VS JUSTIN GAETHJE
Among hardcore MMA fans, there has been no UFC debut more highly anticipated in the last couple years as that of Mr. Justin Gaethje. A free-swinging slugger who always operates with an all or nothing mindset, Gaethje is a fan favorite for a reason. That being said, he’s got a tough task ahead of him in Michael Johnson, and with “The Menace” feeling like he’s in a position to defend his turf, he’s more fired up than usual for this one. That’s good for us watching but might be bad for Gaethje if he gets too wild and leaves himself open for one of Johnson’s heat-seeking missiles.
DHIEGO LIMA VS JESSE TAYLOR
Redemption was the theme of this season of The Ultimate Fighter, and what better redemption story is there than that of Jesse Taylor. Of course, Dhiego Lima has his own ideas when it comes to what goes down in the Octagon tomorrow night, but what a feel good story it would be to see “JT Money” secure the TUF title many believed he would have gotten years ago.
MARC DIAKIESE VS DRAKKAR KLOSE
On a stacked weekend of fights, this lightweight battle between Marc Diakiese and Drakkar Klose has the potential to steal the show. Both are top prospects at 155 pounds with the unbeaten records to prove it. And while that may cause some in that same position to fight safe, these guys are both going to bring it on Friday simply because with all the talk going on between them in the past few weeks, not being the one with bragging rights is simply not acceptable.
JARED CANNONIER VS NICK ROEHRICK
Jared Cannonier vs. Steve Bosse was expected to be a bonus-winning war at 205 pounds, and while fans were disappointed when Bosse was forced out of the bout due to injury, unbeaten newcomer Nick Roehrick has the opportunity to make an immediate impact on short notice. And with high stakes like that, the Coloradan won’t be sitting back and waiting for the fight to happen. As for Cannonier, it’s up to him to spoil Roehrick’s debut in the most emphatic way possible.
BRAD TAVARES VS ELIAS THEODOROU
One of only two fighters left on the UFC roster from season 11 of The Ultimate Fighter, Brad Tavares has established himself as a tough out at 185 pounds over the last seven years. But now it’s time for the 29-year-old to make his move, and if he can stop the rise of Elias Theodorou on Friday, it will send a message to the rest of the middleweights that he’s ready for the top guns of the division.
JORDAN JOHNSON VS MARCEL FORTUNA
Marcel Fortuna, “The Jiu-Jitsu Guy,” showed off some pretty nasty striking in his UFC debut – at heavyweight. Now he’s back at 205 pounds and people are waiting to see what other tricks he has up his sleeve when he takes on unbeaten Jordan Johnson. This is another fight with Diakiese-Klose potential that fans should keep an eye on.
JAMES KRAUSE VS TOM GALLICCHIO
Back in the UFC after making a run at the TUF 25 crown, James Krause will be the favorite heading into his bout with fellow semifinalist Tom Gallicchio. But like Jesse Taylor, New Jersey’s Gallicchio has that quality that makes you want to root for him to make the most of a UFC debut that took two seasons of TUF for him to get. Yeah, we can be sentimental here, too.
ANGELA HILL VS ASHLEY YODER
Angela Hill didn’t get the win in her return to the UFC against Jessica Andrade, but she made an impression and picked up a Fight of the Night bonus, both of which put her in the favorite position heading into her bout with Ashley Yoder. But Yoder got positive reviews for her recent loss to Justine Kish as well, and she’s not going to play underdog tomorrow night. She’s showing up to get the win, setting the stage for what should be an interesting clash of styles.
ED HERMAN VS CB DOLLAWAY
One of my favorite fights on this card pits a couple of seasoned vets against each other. And while Ed Herman and CB Dollaway aren’t knocking on the door of the top 15 at 205 pounds yet, expect these two to fight like a title is on the line as they match wits and fists in a fight that is pivotal for both of them.
JESSICA EYE VS ASPEN LADD
The fact that Aspen Ladd is making her UFC debut with a 5-0 record against one of the most experienced fighters in the bantamweight division in Jessica Eye shows just how highly those in the know think of Ladd. If she lives up to the hype on Friday and defeats the hungry Ohioan, we may be seeing a star born at 135 pounds.
GRAY MAYNARD VS TERUTO ISHIHARA
Gray Maynard can rest easy tonight, knowing that he will not be facing Ryan Hall tomorrow. On the losing end of one of the most bizarre fights in recent history, Maynard won’t have to look hard to find Teruto Ishihara, but he will have to watch out for the bombs the Japanese prospect will be throwing at him. How Maynard takes those shots will determine if his comeback at featherweight continues.
TECIA TORRES VS JULIANA LIMA
The first bout of the night pits two of the more underrated strawweights in the world against each other, and while Tecia Torres and Juliana Lima have yet to set the division on fire in recent bouts, a big showing on the first fight of International Fight Week could do wonders for their second-half schedule in the Octagon.