The last time the UFC ventured to the Target Center in Minneapolis, Maroon 5 topped the charts with “One More Night,” a song whose video features lead singer Adam Levine portraying a boxer who trains at Los Angeles’ Wild Card Gym and scores a third-round knockout win in his fight, only to come home and discover that his lady has up and left him because he’s married to the fight game.
Nearly seven years and several additional Maroon 5 chart-toppers later, the Octagon is back in the larger of the Twin Cities with a card that is once again headlined by heavyweight contenders.
Last time it was Travis Browne and “Bigfoot” Silva, but this weekend, former champ Junior Dos Santos looks to make it four in a row since returning to action last July when he squares off with resurgent knockout artist Francis Ngannou, who enters off first-round finishes of Curtis Blaydes and Cain Velasquez that took a combined 71 seconds.
Before the championship hopefuls hit the cage, a collection of competitors looking to work their way into contention in their respective divisions will cross the threshold into the eight-sided proving ground.
Here’s a closer look at three of those athletes.
This is the Minneapolis edition of On the Rise.
This is your last chance to claim a seat on the Alonzo Menifield bandwagon because if things go well on Saturday, the light heavyweight sophomore will go from being “on the rise” to being “in the mix” at the lower end of the Top 15.
One of several Fortis MMA representatives to graduate to the UFC through the Contender Series, Menifield is a perfect representation of how patience and a little extra seasoning can go a long way in one’s career. Although he earned a first-round stoppage win in his Season 1 appearance, the now 31-year-old fighter was not extended a contract offer, so he went out, earned two more stoppages on the regional circuit and then literally punched his ticket to the big leagues with an eight-second win over Dashawn Boatwright to close out the first episode of Season 2.
Back in January, Menifield made his UFC debut and maintained his winning ways, putting away fellow newcomer Vinicius Moreira in a little under four minutes. This weekend, he looks to extend his unbeaten streak to nine and exact a little revenge for his teammate Kennedy Nzechukwu in a showdown with Scottish submission ace Paul Craig, who defeated his training partner in March.
Craig is the most experienced and accomplished fighter Menifield has faced to date and if he can rack up another stoppage victory, it’s going to be hard to deny him another step up in competition and add him to the growing list of emerging light heavyweights to watch out for in the second half of the year.
Born in the Democratic Republic of The Congo and fighting out of Cape Town, South Africa, Lungiambula was a two-division champion under the EFC banner prior to signing with the UFC, winning and successfully defending the light heavyweight title twice before moving up to heavyweight and claiming that belt as well.
The 33-year-old has won five straight heading into his UFC debut where he’ll take on late replacement foe Dequan Townsend
Slightly undersized for the division, Lungiambula will need to get inside in order to be effective and put his judo background to use. If he can do that, the newcomer will have every opportunity to dictate the terms of engagement and extend his winning streak to six by collecting a victory in his first trip into the Octagon.
Nearly two years after she was first set to appear in the UFC cage, Ribas will finally make her first foray into the Octagon this weekend when she takes on surging TUF alum Emily Whitmire in the second bout of the evening.
Handed a two-year suspension after testing positive for trace amounts of ostarine prior to her July 7 2017 bout with Juliana Lima, the 25-year-old was cleared of any wrongdoing and her suspension was terminated earlier this year when USADA determined her results were consistent with supplement contamination. With the nearly two-year odyssey to clear her name behind her, Ribas can now get back to the business of working her way up the strawweight rankings and she gets a great opportunity to do so in this pairing with Whitmire.
The Brazilian boasts a 6-1 record overall, with her last two victories coming by way of stoppage and her lone setback coming against current UFC strawweight Polyana Viana. If she can shake off the rust and halt Whitmire’s two-fight winning streak, Ribas will instantly establish herself as someone to pay close attention to in the 115-pound weight class over the final six months of 2019.