Preview all the entire UFC Sacramento card, fight by fight.
Germaine de Randamie vs Aspen Ladd
Arguably the top two contenders in the women’s bantamweight division at the moment, there is a very real possibility that the next time the winner of this one steps into the Octagon, UFC gold will hang in the balance.
Nearly two years after beating Holly Holm at UFC 208, de Randamie returned last November, marching intp Raquel Pennington’s backyard in Denver, Colorado, where she scored a unanimous decision win over the recent title challenger. The victory pushed her winning streak to four and elevated her record to 5-1 in the UFC, with her only loss coming against Amanda Nunes.
The 24-year-old Ladd has validated all the hype and then some since arriving in the UFC, registering three wins to move to 8-0 while showing all the elements that make her one of the top young talents in the sport. Whether it’s the ability to make adjustments mid-fight she made in her debut win, the ferocious ground-and-pound she exhibited in mauling Tonya Evinger or the grit and tenacity displayed in her Fight of the Year contender against Sijara Eubanks, Ladd is the complete package.
Urijah Faber vs Ricky Simon
Faber retired on December 17, 2016 after securing a unanimous decision victory over Brad Pickett at home in Sacramento. Now, two-and-a-half years later and fresh off his 40th birthday, “The California Kid” is making his return.
The perennial contender and wildly popular Faber never left the USADA testing pool and has remained in the gym, mentoring upstarts at Team Alpha Male and keeping himself in shape. After declining a few short notice opportunities, the chance to return at home was too good to pass up and now the new father will make the walk again, looking to secure win No. 35 in his Hall of Fame career.
This is a massive opportunity for Simon, the mullet-rocking Pacific Northwest product who has won eight straight overall, including each of his first three Octagon appearances, to establish himself as one of the top up-and-coming fighters in the bantamweight division. Spoiling Faber’s comeback — on his home turf, no less — would be a tremendous way to jumpstart a rise up the rankings as the second half of 2019 gets rolling.
Josh Emmett vs Mirsad Bektic
This is one of those fights that is so much better and so much more intriguing than people will understand on first blush that it drives me insane. Seriously — the winner of this could be fighting one of your favorite featherweights next and it’s probably going to be a banger, so you should really make a point of watching it.
Emmett returned after more than a year on the sidelines to score a “one shot, one kill” knockout (h/t Jimi Manuwa) of Michael Johnson earlier this year to cement his place in the Top 10. The Team Alpha Male veteran is undefeated fighting in Sacramento (8-0), including registering a unanimous decision win over Scott Holtzman last time he shared the card with Faber.
Bektic has been pegged as a future contender since his days rolling through the regional circuit and the only thing that has kept him from being a consistent presence in the Top 10 has been bad luck with injuries. Ready to start his 2019 campaign and eager to build on his decision win over Ricardo Lamas last summer, the Bosnian-born, Montreal-based 28-year-old has all the talent to make a run at the top of the division over the next 12 months.
RELATED: Emmett Embraces A Hometown Advantage
Karl Roberson vs Wellington Turman
After taking a short notice fight up a division last time out, Roberson returns to middleweight and finds himself as the one facing a late replacement, as Turman subs in for John Phillips here. Sporting a 2-2 mark since graduating from the Contender Series, “Baby K” is still looking for the consistency needed to make a run at the Top 15 in the 185-pound weight class.
Just 22 years old, Turman already sports a 15-2 record and carries a four-fight winning streak into his Octagon debut. Last time out, the Curitiba native picked up a first-round submission win over former TUF Brazil competitor Marcio Alexandre Jr. and if he’s able to replicate that outing on Saturday, it will be the newcomer who takes a couple steps up the competitive ladder next time out.
Marvin Vettori vs Cezar Ferreira
Exhibit A in this week’s showcase of the interconnectivity of fighting and how results age with time is Vettori, who hasn’t fought in well over a year and enters off a loss, but looks like an even better prospect than the last time we saw him compete.
That’s because his last outing was a split decision loss to Israel Adesanya — interim middleweight champion, unbeaten in six UFC appearances and 17-0 overall Israel Adesanya. Vettori has shown promise throughout his career and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if he’s taking another step forward in his development in this one.
“Mutante” is a perfect measuring stick for the Italian upstart as well — a veteran competitor who owns wins over Thiago Santos, Anthony Smith and Jack Hermansson and will force Vettori to be at his best in order to get back into the win column for the first time over two years.
Mike Rodriguez vs John Allan
Originally scheduled to face veteran Gian Villante, “Slo Mike” will instead go in search of his second consecutive victory against Brazilian newcomer Allan.
After earning a contract with a first-round knockout win over Jamelle Jones on Season 1 of the Contender Series, Rodriguez dropped his debut against Devin Clark, but rebounded with a rapid finish of Adam Milstead last December. The Lauzon MMA representative has good size and athleticism for the division and as he gains more top end experience, he could develop into a fixture in the Top 15.
Tabbed to replace Villante midway through last week, Allan is a familiar name to the UFC brass, having competed on the all-Brazilian edition of the Contender Series last summer in Las Vegas. Although he lost that contest, the 26-year-old rebounded with a second-round stoppage win in his first appearance of the year and now aims to turn this short-notice opportunity into a permanent place on the UFC roster.
Andre Fili vs Sheymon Moraes
This intriguing bout is a matchup between featherweights just on the outside of the Top 15.
Fili has shown flashes of potential and talent over his first dozen fights under the UFC banner, but he’s only managed to win consecutive contests once in that span. Entering off a very good outing against Myles Jury in February, a win on Saturday would transform his inconsistent run into a stretch with four wins in five starts and get him closer to reclaiming a spot in the rankings.
Moraes has faced a non-stop diet of tough, emerging talent since arriving in the UFC, debuting with a loss to Zabit Magomedsharipov before beating Matt Sayles and Julio Arce. Last time out, the powerful Brazilian landed on the wrong side of the results against Sodiq Yusuff and he looks to rebound here by winning a road game against Fili in Sacramento.
Juliana Pena vs Nicco Montano
Familiar names who haven’t fought in quite some time collide in this bantamweight clash that carries obvious divisional ramifications.
Montano’s one and only Octagon appearance to date came when she won the women’s flyweight title by defeating Roxanne Modafferi. Since then, she’s battled injuries, weight cutting issues and a suspension while being stripped of her belt and changing divisions. Finally ready to return, the 30-year-old will surely be chomping at the bit to get back into the cage and make up for lost time.
The first female Ultimate Fighter winner, Pena earned three more victories to emerge as a bantamweight contender before running into Valentina Shevchenko in her last outing two years ago. A year after the bout, Pena gave birth to a baby girl, but now she’s back, stepping in to replace the injured Sara McMann and eager to make it clear she’s still a threat in the 135-pound ranks.
RELATED: Sacramento On The Rise
Darren Elkins vs Ryan Hall
A constant presence in the Top 15 over the last several years, Elkins enters the cage on Saturday on the first two-fight slide of his career. After rattling off six straight wins, he’s dropped back-to-back outings to Alexander Volkanovski and Ricardo Lamas, but if anyone is capable of rebounding from that kind of adversity, it’s the ever-durable Elkins, whose resiliency and indefatigable spirit have always been his calling card.
Hall ended a two-year absence with a sub-three-minute submission win over BJ Penn in December, expertly lacing up a heel hook to secure his third straight UFC win, seventh consecutive victory overall and Submission of the Year honors to boot. The 34-year-old is one of the few remaining specialists in the sport today and there are few more dangerous to tangle with on the ground on the entire roster than the unassuming TUF 22 winner.
Liu Pingyuan vs Jonathan Martinez
Pingyuan pushed his winning streak to nine in November with a split decision victory over Martin Day in his sophomore appearance in the Octagon. The 26-year-old Chinese bantamweight has shown good fundamentals and toughness through his first two outings and can take another step forward in the ultra-competitive division with a third straight UFC win.
Martinez debuted on short notice last October, filling in for Gavin Tucker and dropping a decision to Andre Soukhamthath. Earlier this year, the 25-year-old fighting out of Plainview, Texas picked up his first UFC victory, outworking Wuliji Buren to earn a sweep of the scorecards in the opening bout of the night at UFC 234.
Livinha Souza vs Briana Van Buren
Former Invicta FC strawweight titleholders clash in this pairing that stood out as one of my 10 most intriguing fights of the month.
The 26-year-old Souza has won each of her first two UFC bouts, four straight overall and 13 of 14 for her career, with her lone setback coming by way of split decision. She’s shown improved conditioning and Fight IQ since her Invicta FC days and remains a confident, aggressive fighter who can suffocate opponents with offense on the feet or on the ground.
Van Buren won three fights in the span of a couple hours on May 3 in Kansas City, Kansas to claim the vacant Invicta FC strawweight title, submitting Manjit Kolekar and Kailin Curran with a one-round unanimous decision victory over Juliana Lima sandwiched in between. She won five straight overall since ending an extended hiatus and looks to make the most of the opportunity to fill-in for Cynthia Calvillo in this matchup with Souza.
Benito Lopez vs Vince Morales
Contender Series alums clash in the opening bout of the evening as Team Alpha Male’s Lopez returns against the dangerous Morales.
After starting his career with nine consecutive wins, Lopez suffered the first loss of his career last time out. Originally slated to face Martin Day in Saturday’s first contest, the 25-year-old “Golden Boy,” who already counts a first-round finish of UFC newcomer Journey Newson, a split decision win over Steven “Ocho” Peterson and a victory over Albert Morales in his Octagon debut amongst his triumphs, will instead look to set the tone for his team by maintaining home court advantage against Morales.
Fresh off his first UFC win in May, Morales jumped at the chance to replace Day and try to keep things rolling. The Tony Fryklund protégé impressed in a loss to Domingo Pilarte on the Contender Series in Season 2, gave Lopez’ teammate Song Yadong his toughest test to date in November and outworked Aiemann Zahabi just a couple months ago, and now he’s jumping right back into the cage for his third fight in nine months and fifth appearance in the last calendar year.
Who does he think he is — Donald Cerrone?