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Fight Coverage

UFC 250: Fight by Fight Preview

Preview the entire UFC 250 fight card with this edition of Fight by Fight
Amanda Nunes vs Felicia Spencer

Saturday night, Amanda Nunes seeks to make history by becoming the first fighter — male or female — to successfully defend UFC gold in two different weight classes while holding both belts simultaneously as she puts her featherweight title on the line against talented challenger Felicia Spencer.

This is the first time “The Lioness” will defend the featherweight title she claimed in impressive fashion at UFC 232, but the seventh consecutive championship bout for the dominant two-weight world champion, who has sat atop the bantamweight ranks for nearly four years and successfully defended that belt on five occasions.

For the 29-year-old Spencer, it’s a chance to shock the world by defeating arguably the greatest female fighter of all-time in just her fourth trip into the famed UFC Octagon.

After capping her six-fight run under the Invicta FC banner by claiming the vacant featherweight title, Spencer graduated to the UFC and quickly established herself as a contender by submitting Megan Anderson in her promotional debut. The Montreal-born, Orlando-based fighter earned a tremendous amount of respect for going the distance with Cris Cyborg in her sophomore effort, and scored a one-sided, bounce-back win over Zarah Fairn earlier this year to cement her standing as the top contender in the 145-pound weight class.

Will the Brazilian champion show once again why she is the queen of the jungle or will the unflinching challenger saunter into the Octagon and usher in a new era in the featherweight division?

Tune in Saturday night to find out.

UFC 250 Inside The Octagon: Nunes vs Spencer
UFC 250 Inside The Octagon: Nunes vs Spencer
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Raphael Assuncao vs Cody Garbrandt

Bantamweight standouts looking to halt frustrating skids meet in this one as former champion Cody Garbrandt returns to take on Top 10 fixture Raphael Assuncao.

Assuncao made his divisional debut on August 27, 2011 and has been a staple of the rankings ever since, boasting victories over Sterling, TJ Dillashaw, Pedro Munhoz, and Marlon Moraes, to name a few. Timing has been the Brazilian’s greatest nemesis over the last several years, as injuries halted his initial momentum and congestion at the top of the division detoured his second push towards a title shot.

Now after an eight-year stretch where he went 11-1 with his only loss coming in a rematch with Dillashaw, the 37-year-old enters this weekend’s event on a two-fight slide and facing questions about his place in the pecking order in the increasingly deep and always competitive bantamweight division.

If Assuncao is the climber who has scaled 95 percent of the mountain, but never reached the peak, Garbrandt is the intrepid explorer who raced to the top, jammed his flag into the peak, and then lost his footing, leading to him tumbling down the other side of the hill. “No Love” managed to exceed the lofty expectations that were affixed to him as an undefeated prospect coming out of Team Alpha Male, going from making his UFC debut to winning championship gold in just under two years.

But it’s not just that he was able to make such a rapid climb that made Garbrandt stand out; it’s how he did it. He starched the previously unbeaten Thomas Almeida in his first main event assignment, followed it up with a 48-second win over Takeya Mizugaki, and then orchestrated one of the most impressive championship performances to date in dethroning Dominick Cruz at UFC 207, styling on the champion while sweeping the scorecards to complete his two-year, six-fight masterpiece.

Since then, however, it’s been tough sledding for the former titleholder, as Garbrandt has been stopped in three straight, including back-to-back bouts against arch rival Dillashaw. Now more than a year removed from his first-round loss to Pedro Munhoz at UFC 235, Saturday’s bout with Assuncao represents an opportunity for the Ohio native to end his tumble down the rankings and potentially begin another climb towards the division’s summit.

Aljamain Sterling vs Cory Sandhagen

With the bantamweight title now officially vacated, this already terrific matchup now takes on even greater significance as Aljamain Sterling and Cory Sandhagen throw down in what could turn out to be a bout to determine the first challenger for whomever ends up with the belt later this year.

Tabbed as a future contender from the jump, Sterling’s road to this point hasn’t been straightforward, and he seems better for it. After racking up victories in each of his first four UFC starts (and his first dozen fights overall), the Serra-Longo Fight Team member dropped back-to-back split decisions to Bryan Caraway and Raphael Assuncao, won two fights, and dipped into Marlon Moraes’ knee a minute into their crucial divisional matchup in early December 2017.

Since then, however, the 30-year-old New Yorker has been on a roll, fighting to his full potential while posting victories over Brett Johns, Cody Stamann, Jimmie Rivera, and Pedro Munhoz.

Sandhagen’s ascent has been quite different. The Elevation Fight Team member arrived with little fanfare and zero expectations from onlookers but amassed five wins over his first two years on the UFC roster to establish himself as a viable threat in the talent-rich 135-pound weight class.

Content to let his work speak for him, Sandhagen’s track record in the Octagon is as impressive as you’ll find for any fighter through his first five appearances. In his sophomore showing, he survived a nasty first-round armbar to beat Brazilian veteran Iuri Alcantara, and in his final two appearances of 2019, the 28-year-old posted consecutive decision wins over perennial contenders John Lineker and Raphael Assuncao.

You could make a credible case for either Sterling or Sandhagen, each already having done enough to merit a championship opportunity, but that’s not how things have shaken out for the tandem bantamweight hopefuls. That being said, once the smoke clears after this one, it will be incredibly difficult to deny the victor and opportunity to fight for UFC gold later this year.

Rise of Cory Sandhagen
Rise of Cory Sandhagen
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Neil Magny vs Anthony Rocco Martin

Welterweight standouts Neil Magny and Anthony Rocco Martin go head-to-head this weekend in a bout to determine which of them gets to carry the title of being the most criminally underrated fighter in the division.

Magny spent 16 months on the sidelines, working with USADA to clear himself of any wrongdoing following an anti-doping violation in the spring of 2019, and when he returned to the Octagon in March, he wasted no time reminding people why he’s been a top welterweight for the last several years.

Cleared from his drug-testing ordeal, a rested and healthy Magny strolled into the cage and pitched a shutout against Li Jingliang at UFC 248, working behind his trademark long jab to sweep the scorecards and register his first victory since beating Craig White in Liverpool 22 months earlier. It was an immediate and sharp reminder that the Elevation Fight Team member is one of the top talents in the 170-pound weight class and immediately hustled Magny right back into the mix in the welterweight division.

As for Martin, he returned to the welterweight ranks just over two years ago after a five-year, 11-fight run at lightweight. In that time, he has posted a 5-1 record with wins over Ryan LaFlare, Jake Matthews, and Ramazan Emeev, and his lone setback coming against Brazilian standout Demian Maia.

Like Magny, Martin is a technician who works off his sharp boxing and strong grappling skills, suffocating opponents with pace and volume rather than getting them out of there with a single shot.

Both of these men have the credentials to merit a place in the Top 15 and whomever emerges victorious this weekend should land himself a place in the rankings when they update next.

Eddie Wineland vs Sean O'Malley

The third critical bantamweight pairing set to take place on Saturday night features arguably the division’s most intriguing prospect, as “Sugar” Sean O’Malley makes his second start of the year against battle-tested veteran Eddie Wineland.

They don’t make ’em much more seasoned or salty (in a good way) than Wineland, a 38-fight veteran who has spent his entire career competing at 135 pounds, facing an assortment of prospects, contenders, and fellow divisional fixtures along the way. Limited to just a single appearance each of the last three years, Wineland halted a two-fight slide last time out, stepping into the cage at UFC 238 and collecting an impressive second-round stoppage win over Grigorii Popov in Chicago.

O’Malley ended a two-year absence earlier this year with a first-round stoppage win over Jose Quinonez, pushing his record to 11-0 and re-establishing the MMA Lab product as the most intriguing young fighter in the division, if not the entire UFC. Now 25 years old, the breakout star from the first season of the Contender Series showed improved patience and precision in his win over “Teco” in March, stinging him with punches and kicks from the outside before a pair of right hands and a high kick opened the door for “Sugar” to collect the finish.

There has been a great deal of hype surrounding O’Malley since his coming out party on the Contender Series and thus far, he’s justified it all. Wineland represents another step up in competition for the charismatic, unbeaten youngster, and this fight should provide another strong indication of where O’Malley is at in his development.

Will “The Sugar Show” keep rolling on or will the grizzled veteran teach the promising upstart a lesson on Saturday?

Alex Caceres vs Chase Hooper

Business shifts to the featherweight division for this interesting matchup between 20-year-old UFC sophomore Chase Hooper and Ultimate Fighter alum Alex Caceres.

Caceres is in his 10th year on the UFC roster and is still just 31, a reminder of his early start and the journey it has been for “Bruce Leeroy.” Throughout that time, Caceres has flashed talent and potential, but too often, those bursts of brilliance have been followed by perplexing efforts. He’s had one winning streak of more than two fights and hasn’t won back-to-back contests since 2016, while only dropping more than two consecutive bouts once during his UFC career.

He is 10-10 with one no contest result overall heading into this weekend’s date with Hooper and, honestly, that feels like the exact right record for the mercurial talent to have after 21 appearances in the Octagon.

Hooper first gained the attention of the UFC audience with a strong effort in a unanimous decision victory over Canaan Kawaihae on the second season of the Contender Series, where he landed himself a development deal. The 20-year-old spent his next three fights continuing to sharpen his skills and gain experience on the regional circuit before finally making his debut last December with a second-round submission win over Daniel Teymur at UFC 245.

“The Dream” had a breakout week back in December, increasing his profile with a quality win and some outstanding social media work centered around the idea that he’s Ben Askren’s son. Now he gets the chance to run his unbeaten streak to 11 by taking on one of the longest tenured fighters in the division on Saturday night.

Featherweight is rich with talent at the moment and Hooper doesn’t turn 21 until the fall, so there is no express need to expedite his climb up the rankings. Caceres is an outstanding test for the emerging youngster from the Pacific Northwest and how this one shakes out should provide greater insights on how quickly fans can anticipate Hooper becoming a factor in the 145-pound weight class.

UFC 250: Nunes vs Spencer – My Domain
UFC 250: Nunes vs Spencer – My Domain
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Ian Heinisch vs Gerald Meerschaert

Middleweights looking to make a move up the rankings but coming into this fight from different directions clash in this meeting between Ian Heinisch and Roufusport veteran Gerald Meerschaert.

After rocketing out of the chute with a pair of impressive victories over Cezar Ferreira and Antonio Carlos Junior to start his UFC run, the 31-year-old Heinisch has landed on the wrong side of the results in each of his last two appearances, dropping unanimous decisions to Derek Brunson and Omari Akhmedov. He’s switched up his training situation, parting ways with Marc Montoya and the Factory X crew, and hopes to begin a fresh start and another run at the top of the division on Saturday night.

A 42-fight veteran who has spent the last four years and change plying his trade in the UFC, Meerschaert enters this one off a third-round submission victory over Deron Winn and having turned in four straight quality efforts. Even though he came out on the unhappy side of split decision verdicts against both Kevin Holland and Eryk Anders during that stretch, both were contests where a case could easily be made for “GM3” doing enough to earn the victory and a win in either or both contests would drastically shift the way observers view him head into this one.

As has been said routinely in this space over the last several weeks, middleweight has been undergoing major renovations for the last several years and the door is still open for seasoned, talented fighters like Heinisch and Meerschaert to put together a few strong performances and work their way into the Top 15.

Cody Stamann vs Brian Kelleher

An intriguing late addition to the lineup is a featherweight bout between bantamweight standouts Cody Stamann and Brian Kelleher.

Stamann was initially slated to face Raoni Barcelos at the end of March before the event was scuttled, only to then have the streaking Brazilian be unable to compete as the UFC looked to rebook the contest for this weekend’s show. After getting back into the win column with a victory over Alejandro Perez last March at UFC 235, Stamann walked away from the Octagon unsatisfied after battling Song Yadong to a debated majority draw verdict in December.

He’ll finally get the chance to get that sour taste out of his month on Saturday when he takes on Kelleher, who registered an impressive second-round stoppage win over Hunter Azure in Jacksonville last month and has posted consecutive finishes over Contender Series graduates heading into this one.

Bantamweight is currently undergoing a shake up and this bout definitely factors into the mix when it comes to sorting out the rankings in the 135-pound weight class, with Stamann looking to maintain his place in the Top 15 and “Boom” hoping that a third straight finish can propel him into that exclusive group.

Charles Byrd vs Maki Pitolo

Contender Series graduates angling to start 2020 with a return to the win column meet in this middleweight contest as Charles Byrd welcomes Maki Pitolo back to the 185-pound weight class.

After earning two finishes in five weeks during the first season of the Las Vegas-based summer talent search series, Byrd rolled into the Octagon and kept his hot streak going with a first-round submission win over John Phillips in his promotional debut. Unfortunately, it’s been downhill ever since, as the 36-year-old has since lost back-to-back appearances by TKO, first against British banger Darren Stewart, followed by a rapid loss to rising star Edmen Shahbazyan.

Pitolo also broke through with a standout performance on the Contender Series, impressing Dana White & Co. with his first-round stoppage win over returning competitor Justin Sumter early last season. He dropped down to welterweight for his promotional debut but landed on the wrong side of the cards against Australian veteran Callan Potter at UFC 243, prompting a return to the middleweight ranks.

Both men are in need of a victory and fight at a high pace, which means this one should be an all-action affair for as long as it lasts on Saturday night.

Jussier Formiga vs Alex Perez

Flyweights in the thick of the title chase square off here as perennial contender Jussier Formiga takes on California’s Alex Perez.

Entrenched in the Top 5 for all of his seven-year run in the UFC, Formiga is one of the most talented and decorated fighters yet to fight for championship gold inside the Octagon. The former Shooto Brazil and Tachi Palace Fights standout has faced just about every contender to pass through the 125-pound ranks during that time, and though he’s currently on a two-fight slide, Formiga is also the only man to defeat championship hopeful Deiveson Figueiredo as well.

A graduate from Season One of the Contender Series, Perez has quietly put together a 5-1 record inside the Octagon with stoppages in three of his five wins and his lone loss coming against title challenger and divisional stalwart Joseph Benavidez. The Team Oyama product continues to get better each time out and is coming off arguably his best performance to date in January, where he collected a Performance of the Night bonus for his first-round submission win over Jordan Espinosa.

With the title picture set to be cleared up later this summer, this bout will be crucial in helping to establish a queue of contenders as business in the 125-pound weight class ramps back up heading into the second half of the year.

Alonzo Menifield vs Devin Clark

An undefeated light heavyweight upstart looking to continue his climb up the divisional ladder gets his toughest test to date in this one as Alonzo Menifield squares up with “Brown Bear” Devin Clark.

A member of the Fortis MMA team that has been making waves over the last couple years, Menifield is an explosive finisher who has yet to go the distance in any of his nine professional appearances. In fact, the 32-year-old has only been to the second round twice in his career, while neither of his first two UFC opponents have lasted more than four minutes in the Octagon with the powerful Contender Series alum.

Clark will look to change all of those trends on Saturday when he steps in to take on the 9-0 hopeful.

Two years Menifield’s junior, Clark has significantly more experience, both overall and inside the Octagon, than his opponent this weekend, entering this fight with a 5-4 record under the UFC banner and an 11-4 mark overall. The South Dakota native and Jackson-Wink MMA representative has alternated wins and losses over his last seven fights but is coming in off his most complete performance yet — a unanimous decision triumph over Dequan Townsend earlier this year in New Mexico.

Can Clark halt Menifield’s unbeaten march towards the rankings or will the Fortis MMA standout continue his run of impressive finishes at UFC 250?

Evan Dunham vs Herbert Burns

One week after his big brother collected the biggest victory of his career, Herbert Burns goes in search of his second consecutive UFC win in a catchweight showdown with returning veteran Evan Dunham.

A 10-year veteran of the lightweight battles, Dunham pressed pause on his career following back-to-back TKO losses to Olivier Aubin-Mercier and Alex Oliveira in 2018. Prior to those setbacks, Dunham had only ever lost to divisional contenders, including Sean Sherk, TJ Grant, Rafael Dos Anjos, and Edson Barboza.

Technically sound and fundamentally strong on the feet and sporting a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Dunham stood as a tough out on the outskirts of the Top 15 for a number of years and will look to reclaim that position — and potentially more — beginning with his return on Saturday.

Burns, the younger brother of welterweight contender Gilbert Burns, who closed out last weekend's event with a dominant unanimous decision win over Tyron Woodley, shone in his promotional debut earlier this year. Paired off with fellow newcomer Nate Landwehr, the 31-year-old Contender Series alum laid out Landwehr with a perfectly placed knee to the chin.

Sporting a 10-2 record overall and riding a four-fight winning streak, "The Blaze" exhibits similar talents as his big brother, and has the potential to quickly become a factor in the featherweight division if he's able to maintain his current form.

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