RAFAEL DOS ANJOS VS. LEON EDWARDS
A crucial contest in the congested welterweight division headlines the UFC’s return to AT&T Center in San Antonio, as former lightweight champ and perennial contender Rafael Dos Anjos squares off with surging Brit Leon Edwards.
After dropping back-to-back lopsided decisions to Colby Covington and Kamaru Usman, dos Anjos rebounded with a dominant showing against Kevin Lee in Rochester, New York three months ago. The Orange County-based Brazilian matched Lee’s pace from the outset and started pulling away as the bout entered its latter stages before finally sinking in the fight-ending choke late in the fourth round.
All Edwards has done over the last four years is rattle off seven consecutive wins and counting, bringing his record to 9-1 since his debut split decision loss to Claudio Silva in late 2014. During that time, the Birmingham man has posted wins over fellow streaking contender Vicente Luque, veteran standout Donald Cerrone, and grappling ace Gunnar Nelson, all while continuing to showcase a sharp and still improving arsenal of skills.
ALEKSEI OLEINIK VS. WALT HARRIS
These two heavyweight hopefuls were initially slated to clash earlier this spring in Ottawa, but a month before the bout, Oleinik was pulled from the pairing and hustled into position opposite Alistair Overeem in the main event of the UFC’s debut in Saint Petersburg, Russia after Alexander Volkov was forced from the card.
But they’re lined up across from one another again and the stakes that accompanied the initial pairing remain on the line today.
Oleinik is a lumbering veteran with an uncanny knack for choking people out on the ground. He’s turned himself into a Top 10 fixture in the heavyweight division, and though he lost to Overeem last time out, the 42-year-old had won four of five before that and remains a solid step up in competition for Harris.
Harris has a losing record inside the Octagon overall, but he’s unbeaten in his last three and finally seems to be putting his abundant raw skills and natural talents together effectively. He remained on that card in Ottawa back in May and needed just 50 seconds to dispatch Serghei Spivac and hasn’t lost since catching Mark Godbeer with a head kick that got him disqualified at UFC 217.
GREG HARDY VS. JUAN ADAMS
Adams has been lobbying for this opportunity since Hardy officially arrived in the UFC back in January, and now the Contender Series alum gets the chance to share the cage with the former NFL defensive standout. After starting his career with five straight finishes, Adams suffered the first loss of his career last time out, dropping a unanimous decision to Arjan Bhullar in a battle of attrition that went down to the wire.
Hardy was disqualified in his debut after blasting Allen Crowder with an illegal knee while he was downed, but there were no such miscues in his sophomore outing. Three months after his loss to Crowder, the 30-year-old powerhouse made quick work of Dmitrii Smoliakov to secure his first UFC victory.
Both men still have a lot to prove before they can be considered future contenders in the heavyweight ranks, but the results of this one should go a long way towards determining how bright their respective futures are inside the Octagon.
JAMES VICK VS. DAN HOOKER
Following a stint on Season 15 of The Ultimate Fighter, Vick started his UFC career with nine wins in 10 starts and began calling for marquee opportunities after rebounding from his lone loss with four straight victories. His request was granted and it landed him in the cage with Justin Gaethje, who toppled the towering lightweight with a single clubbing right hand.
Six months later, Vick dropped his second straight fight — a unanimous decision loss to Paul Felder — and now he arrives in San Antonio looking to snap the first two-fight skid of his career and earn his first victory since beating Francisco Trinaldo in February 2018.
Returning to lightweight seemed to unlock Hooker’s full potential, as the New Zealander rattled off four straight stoppage wins to enter the Top 15. Like Vick, he asked for a step up in competition and received one, landing opposite Edson Barboza last December in Milwaukee, where he showed incredible toughness before ultimately being felled by a body shot late in the fight.
Now the City Kickboxing representative looks to bounce back and cement his standing as one of the most dangerous and durable talents in the 155-pound ranks while handing Vick his third straight defeat.
ALEXANDER HERNANDEZ VS. FRANCISCO TRINALDO
Hernandez was one of the breakthrough fighters of the year in 2018 as he followed up his first-round stoppage win over Beneil Dariush in his short-notice debut with a dominant effort against Olivier Aubin-Mercier in July to establish himself as one to watch in the lightweight division. He was full of confidence as he stepped in opposite Donald Cerrone in January, but after a good start, the wily veteran found his rhythm and halted Hernandez’ ascent up the rankings.
The 40-year-old Trinaldo has been a fixture in the 155-pound weight division for six-plus years, posting a 12-5 mark after winning his UFC debut at middleweight, earning wins over the likes of Chad Laprise, Paul Felder and Jim Miller. Last time out, “Massaranduba” sent Evan Dunham into retirement with a punishing knee to the body and now he’ll look to be the second straight veteran talent to turn back the excitable and ultra-confident Hernandez.
ANDREI ARLOVSKI VS. BEN ROTHWELL
These two first locked up 11 years ago in the co-main event of Affliction: Banned, with Arlovski earning a third-round knockout victory. Now, over a decade later, they meet for a second time in what will be the 48th career fight for each of them.
Arlovski has fought 28 times since their initial encounter and bounced back after being written off multiple times. However, the 40-year-old former UFC champion enters on a four-fight run without a win and having earned just two victories in his last 11 appearances in the Octagon.
Rothwell has fought just 13 times since their first meeting and also enters Saturday’s contest looking to halt a run of negative results. After winning four straight to emerge as an unexpected contender, “Big Ben” has dropped back-to-back contests, with a nearly three-year hiatus sandwiched in between.
Can Rothwell gain a measure of revenge and get back in the win column or will Arlovski prove once more that he’s still got some fight left in him by defeating Rothwell for a second time and pushing his losing streak to three?
ALEX CACERES VS. STEVEN PETERSON
It’s not that Caceres was on Season 12 of The Ultimate Fighter that makes the fact that he’s still competing in the UFC remarkable, as fellow Team GSP member Michael Johnson remains on the fringes of the Top 15 at featherweight. But rather it’s the fact that eight years after making his debut and 20 fights later, Caceres is still only 31 years old.
“Bruce Leeroy” ran into Kron Gracie last time out and was quickly submitted by the second-generation standout, but he remains a durable, dangerous, awkward assignment for anyone looking to make headway in the 145-pound weight class and has shown many times over that he’s able to conjure up electric performances seemingly out of nowhere.
A member of the white-hot Fortis MMA squad that has been making serious noise in the UFC for the last two years and change, “Ocho” is looking to bring his record inside the Octagon level after dropping a unanimous decision to Luis Pena last time out. Peterson has never been in a boring fight and is the kind of unrelenting terminator who can give anyone fits, so expect a knock-down, drag-out, thoroughly-entertaining fracas when these two step into the cage on Saturday evening.
RAQUEL PENNINGTON VS. IRENE ALDANA
It’s been a rough few years for Pennington, who surged into title contention with a four-fight winning streak capped by a tremendous performance against Miesha Tate at UFC 205. But a shoulder injury followed by an horrific ATV accident left her sidelined for 18 months and since she’s returned, “Rocky” has run into bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes and former featherweight titleholder Germaine de Randamie.
Now the gritty Colorado resident and Ultimate Fighter alum looks to get back to her winning ways in what should be a quality back-and-forth fight with the streaking Aldana.
After arriving in the UFC pegged as a future contender, Aldana struggled in early losses to Leslie Smith and Katlyn Chookagian. Since then, however, the Lobo Gym product has put together a three-fight winning streak, capped by her submission victory over Bethe Correia in May.
Can the former title challenger Pennington rebound with a big performance that halts Aldana’s march towards contention or will the post-hype prospect continue showing her improvements and take another step towards the top of the division?
SAM ALVEY VS. KLIDSON ABREU
It’s difficult to knock the smile off Alvey’s face, but the veteran light heavyweight was none too pleased following his last appearance. Paired off with Jimmy Crute at UFC 234, Alvey got tagged midway through the opening round, prompting referee Marc Goddard to step in and stop the fight. Alvey protested vociferously, but there was nothing to be done, and now he enters this one on just the second two-fight skid of his lengthy career.
While the pressure is on Alvey to halt his mini-slide, it also ups the ante for Abreu, who makes his sophomore appearance inside the Octagon after landing on the wrong side of a one-sided fight against Magomed Ankalaev earlier this year. The 26-year-old Brazilian had won six straight prior to that setback, all by way of stoppage, so the potential is there for him to rebound and put Alvey on a three-fight losing streak.
ROXANNE MODAFFERI VS. JENNIFER MAIA
Modafferi and Maia battled to a split decision for the vacant Invicta FC flyweight title in September 2016, with Maia coming out on the happy side of the verdict. Now, just under three years later, they’ll run it back in the Octagon as they battle to move one step closer to title contention.
Maia dropped her promotional debut to Liz Carmouche last summer, but rebounded with a quality performance against Alexis Davis in March, while Modafferi has split her four most recent appearances under the UFC banner, having edged out Antonina Shevchenko on the cards in her most recent appearance.
With the belt on the line later this summer and no one yet to really cement themselves as next in line, the winner of this one could force their way into the title conversation and set up an even bigger fight for themselves later this year with a dominant effort on Saturday.
RAY BORG VS. GABRIEL SILVA
It feels unfair to deem this a crossroads fight for Borg as he’s just 25 and endured a hellacious two-year stretch following his loss to Demetrious Johnson that involved multiple fight cancellations and serious medical issues for his infant son. However, he hasn’t won since beating Jussier Formiga in March 2017 and dropped a unanimous decision to Casey Kenney last time out, so drifting to three straight losses with a second consecutive setback against a promotional newcomer would be dangerous ground even for an obvious talent like Borg to enter.
Silva returned from a two-year hiatus earlier this year to register a first-round stoppage victory over Jake Heffernan under the LFA banner to push his winning streak to seven. The 24-year-old Brazilian will drop back down to the 135-pound ranks for this one and has the opportunity to make an instant splash in his new surroundings by earning a victory over the former flyweight title challenger.
MARIO BAUTISTA VS. JINSOO SON
Both Bautista and Son were tasked with taking on emerging bantamweights in their respective short-notice debuts — the former against Cory Sandhagen in January and the latter a handful of months earlier against Petr Yan. Both came away on the wrong side of the results, with Bautista falling by first-round submission and Son going the distance with the rising Russian star in September.
Now with a full camp behind them and the Octagon jitters out of the way, they clash in an intriguing battle of divisional upstarts in search of their first career UFC victory. Son is the more experienced of the two, while Bautista comes from the more established camp as a representative of The MMA Lab, meaning this battle of 26-year-old bantamweights shakes out pretty evenly and should be an entertaining affair early in the night.
DOM PILARTE VS. FELIPE COLARES
Pilarte is the last member of the Class of 2018 to graduate from the Contender Series to the UFC to make his way into the Octagon. He was scratched from a scheduled start against Brian Kelleher late last year, but returns in his home state to kick off the evening in San Antonio with designs on registering his first UFC victory.
Standing between Pilarte and a big pop from the partisan crowd is Colares, who fell on the wrong side of the results in his first trip into the Octagon earlier this year. The 25-year-old Brazilian was undefeated in eight starts prior to squaring off with Geraldo de Freitas in Fortaleza and will look to get back on track in his first North American appearance.