DEREK BRUNSON VS DARREN TILL
Middleweights looking to solidify their place in the title chase collide in this weekend’s main event as Derek Brunson and Darren Till go toe-to-toe to close out the night.
Brunson has been the “Emerging Contender Killer” over the course of his four-fight winning streak, turning back a collection of fighters on solid runs looking to climb the divisional ladder at his expense. After dispatching Elias Theodorou and Ian Heinisch in 2019, the Top 15 stalwart handed Edmen Shahbazyan the first loss of his career last summer, and halted Kevin Holland’s rapid ascent in March, pushing his record to 11-4 in his last 15 appearances and 22-7 overall.
Till arrives in Las Vegas coming off a loss and set to compete for the first time in more than a year, after being forced out of a bout with Jack Hermansson last December and Marvin Vettori earlier this year. The Liverpool man is just 1-3 over his last four fights after beginning his career with an 18-fight unbeaten streak but can thrust himself right back into the thick of the title conversation by stopping Brunson’s run of success this weekend.
Just a few weeks after Jared Cannonier locked himself in as a Top 5 competitor in the 185-pound weight class, the winner of this one has the chance to do the same while potentially positioning themselves for a critical showdown with another member of that class in the early part of 2022.
TOM ASPINALL VS SERGHEI SPIVAC
Talented, young heavyweights occupy the penultimate place on Saturday’s fight card as Tom Aspinall and Serghei Spivac square off in a battle of Under 30 hopefuls looking to climb closer to the Top 10.
Aspinall is three-for-three since arriving in the UFC, following up first-round technical knockout finishes of Jake Collier and Alan Baudot with a second-round submission win over Andrei Arlovski earlier this year. A teammate and training partner of Till’s at Team Kaobon, the former professional boxer is also a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu and might be the most well-rounded and dynamic name climbing the ranks now that Ciryl Gane has claimed the interim title.
After a 1-2 start to his UFC career, Moldova's Spivac has rattled off three straight victories to climb into the Top 15. Last time out, "The Polar Bear" picked up a unanimous decision victory over veteran Aleksei Oleinik, rallying after dropping the opening round to secure the biggest win of his career in a similar co-main event assignment.
In a division where veterans have long thrived and contenders are often in their mid-thirties, Aspinall (28) and Spivac (26) stand out as impressive talents with the ability to become long-term fixtures in the Top 10 in the not too distant future. While this one will determine which of the two will take a step forward next time out, the vanquished fighter should not be counted out as a potential factor in the division moving forward.
ALEX MORONO VS DAVID ZAWADA
Fresh off a short-notice stoppage win in May, Alex Morono looks to repeat the feat this weekend as he tags in to face off with perennial tough out David Zawada.
Morono jumped at the chance to replace Diego Sanchez opposite Donald Cerrone earlier this year and made the most of it, putting “Cowboy” away with a torrent of strikes in the waning moments of the first round. The 31-year-old Houston native has cemented himself as a fixture in the middle of the welterweight division over the course of his 13 UFC appearances but has the chance to build a little momentum and move up the ranks with a second straight short-notice win this weekend.
Zawada is just 1-3 inside the Octagon, but those numbers don’t accurately reflect what he brings to the cage each time out, as two of those losses came in ultra-competitive bouts that ended in split decision verdicts. Just as Morono can take another step forward with a second straight win, the German veteran Zawada can elevate his standing in the division by landing a win over “The Great White” on Saturday, as well.
Alex Morono KOs Donald Cerrone | UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez Vs. Waterson
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Alex Morono KOs Donald Cerrone | UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez Vs. Waterson
MODESTAS BUKAUSKAS VS KHALIL ROUNTREE JR.
Light heavyweights looking to get back in the win column meet in this bout carrying explosive possibilities as Modestas Bukauskas meets Khalil Rountree Jr. as part of Saturday’s main card.
Running his winning streak to six with a pair of championship wins inside the Cage Warriors cage earned Bukaustas the chance to compete inside the Octagon, where he earned a Performance of the Night bonus for his debut win over Andreas Michailidis. But a quick knockout loss to Jimmy Crute and a split decision setback against Michal Oleksiejczuk earlier this year have “The Baltic Gladiator” on a two-fight skid heading into his assignment this weekend.
A finalist on Season 23 of The Ultimate Fighter, the 31-year-old Rountree has shown flashes of brilliant potential while struggling to find consistency inside the cage, entering Saturday’s contest with a 4-5 record with one no contest verdict through his first 10 UFC appearances. A powerful striker with finishes over Paul Craig and Gokhan Saki, Rountree is also looking to shake out of a two-fight funk on Saturday.
Both men have been known to throw hammers so it wouldn’t be surprising to see sparks fly early and often once they’re given the green light to get after it this weekend.
PADDY PIMBLETT VS LUIGI VENDRAMINI
Former Cage Warriors standout Paddy Pimblett makes his highly anticipated UFC debut this weekend, making the walk to face Brazilian Luigi Vendramini in the main card opener.
Confident and talented, “Paddy the Baddy” has amassed a 16-3 record to this point in his career, arriving in the UFC following consecutive first-round stoppage wins in his final two Cage Warriors appearances. The 26-year-old Scouser is only four fights into his move to lightweight after thriving in the 145-pound ranks, so it will be curious to see how he handles the move into the treacherous waters of the UFC’s 155-pound weight class.
The 25-year-old Vendramini returned to action following more than two years on the sidelines last October with a first-round stoppage win over Jessin Ayari but dropped a majority decision to France’s Fares Ziam last time out, getting started too late to swing the results in his favor. He’s again spent this camp preparing with the team at Factory X Muay Thai in Edgewood, Colorado, and has seemingly gotten under Pimblett’s skin in the build to this bout, so it will be interesting to see if he can use that to his advantage come fight night.
There will be a lot of eyes on this one as Pimblett has been one of the more charismatic and magnetic talents on the British regional scene for the last several years, with plenty of people eager to see what he brings to the table in his promotional debut. Will he thrive and earn a victory or can Vendamini play spoiler and steal a victory on Saturday night?
MOLLY MCCANN VS JI YEON KIM
Flyweights eager to get things moving in the right direction again clash in the final preliminary card fight of the evening as fan favorite Molly McCann squares off with South Korea’s “Firefist,” Ji Yeon Kim.
The first of four fighters from Liverpool to make the walk this weekend, McCann has been on the wrong side of unanimous decision verdicts in each of her last two outings, most recently getting out-grappled by powerful Brazilian Lara Procopio. Resilient and scrappy, “Meatball” battled to three consecutive victories prior to her recent slide, so it will be interesting to see if she can rediscover that form and return to the win column while setting the tone for her fellow Brits on Saturday.
Like her opponent this weekend, Kim has gone 3-3 in her first six UFC appearances as well and enters off a unanimous decision loss to Alexa Grasso last August. The 31-year-old from Incheon has been limited to three appearances in the last three years, going 1-2 in that stretch, and has been stationed in Las Vegas for the last five months after initially being scheduled to compete in early May before being forced to withdraw.
Each of these women are a vital piece of the flyweight ecosystem and capable of stringing together victories while being perpetual tough outs, but the results have been inconsistent of late, meaning they’ll both be pressing to shake out of their respective funks on Saturday.
JACK SHORE VS LIUDVIK SHOLINIAN
Undefeated Welsh bantamweight Jack Shore looks for his fourth straight UFC victory and his second win in Las Vegas this year when he squares off with TUF 29 semifinalist and late replacement Liudvik Sholinian.
A perfect 14-0 as a pro after a 12-0 run as an amateur, Shore went the distance for the first time in three UFC outings in April, landing on the happy side of a split decision result against DWCS alum Hunter Azure. Just 26 years old, “Tank” has earned 12 of his 14 wins by stoppage and could very well be the next ultra-talented young fighter to emerge as a potential threat in the deep and competitive 135-pound weight class.
A member of Team Ortega on the recently wrapped Return of The Ultimate Fighter, Sholinian advanced to the semifinals of the bantamweight competition, landing on the wrong side of the results in a three-round battle with Ricky Turcios.
This is a tricky assignment for the unbeaten Shore and a premium opportunity for the new arrival Sholinian, so it will be interesting to see how each approach things when fight gets underway this weekend.
JULIAN EROSA VS CHARLES JOURDAIN
Game veteran Julian Erosa makes his third start of 2021, stepping in on short notice against talented French-Canadian Charles Jourdain.
Erosa’s return to the UFC was one of the cooler stories of 2020, as he upset Sean Woodson in June to secure his first victory inside the Octagon since beating Marcin Wrzosek at the TUF 22 Finale in December 2015. He followed it up with a first-round flying knee knockout of Nate Landwehr in February, but landed on the wrong side of a sharp finish four months later in a clash with SeungWoo Choi.
A two-division champ under the TKO banner before matriculating to the UFC, Jourdain flashed upside in a win over Dooho Choi and split decision loss to Andre Fili but looked flat in battling Joshua Culibao to a split draw last October on Fight Island. He returned to action in March and secured a third-round stoppage win over Marcelo Rojo in an early Fight of the Year contender, instantly shifting his two-fight winless skid into a two-fight unbeaten streak with the performance.
Each of these men are action-oriented, creative strikers with a flair for the dramatic, so it should come as no surprise if they start quickly and run hot as long as this one lasts, with one or both coming away with a bonus when the night is over.
DALCHA LUNGIAMBULA VS MARC-ANDRE BARRIAULT
Both Dalcha Lungiambula and Marc-Andre Barriault picked up their first victories in the UFC middleweight division last time out. Now they meet in Las Vegas to see which one will emerge with a second straight triumph.
Lungiambula held championship gold in the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions in South Africa’s EFC Worldwide promotion before joining the UFC roster. After defeating Dequan Townsend in his debut, “Champion” was stopped by rising star Magomed Ankalaev in his sophomore showing, before relocating to Las Vegas and dropping to middleweight, where he outlasted Markus Perez in January on Fight Island.
Barriault also held twin championships on the regional circuit before arriving in the UFC, capturing middleweight and light heavyweight gold in Montreal’s TKO promotion. The durable French-Canadian dropped each of his first three UFC fights on the scorecards, and then had a win over Oskar Piechota overturned following a positive drug test, but he finally broke into the win column in March with a come-from-behind stoppage win over Abu Azaitar.