Timing is everything, and with fellow contenders Dominick Reyes and Corey Anderson each turning in impressive performances in recent weeks, the pressure is on Jan Blachowicz to continue making his case for a title shot as he welcomes Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza to the light heavyweight division.
The Polish veteran grabbed pole position in the race to challenge for the light heavyweight title back in the summer when he blistered former middleweight kingpin Luke Rockhold on the same night Jon Jones successfully defended his title against Thiago Santos. But the division has continued moving, Reyes and Anderson have registered massive victories and now Blachowicz gets to be the last of the current crop of contenders to step in the Octagon and state his case for the first title shot in 2020.
After many years in the Top 5 at middleweight, Souza is venturing up to the light heavyweight ranks hoping to follow the same path taken by Santos and Anthony Smith, and not the one Rockhold and Chris Weidman went down. The Brazilian veteran looked deflated in his only prior appearance of the year against surging replacement opponent Jack Hermansson, so perhaps a change in division and an immediate opportunity to get into the championship mix will reinvigorate the long-time contender.
Fighting for the first time in just under a year, “Shogun” Rua makes his return to action in a showdown with short-notice Scottish replacement Paul Craig in Saturday’s co-main event.
Rua has maintained a light schedule over the last number of years, competing five times in the last five years, posting four wins, including a split decision win over Anderson. Most recently, the former PRIDE standout collected a third-round stoppage victory over Tyson Pedro, showing that while he’s certainly in the twilight of his career, he still has something left to offer.
Craig steps in to replace Sam Alvey in what is a grand opportunity for the submission specialist who has struggled to find consistency inside the UFC cage. An even 4-4 through his first eight Octagon appearances, the 31-year-old has still never gone the distance in any of his fights and enters off a first-round submission victory in September.
Will Scotland’s “BearJew” close out the year with a second straight finish and his biggest win to date or will “Shogun” give the Brazilian fans one more blistering effort to add to his list of victories?
The action shifts to the lightweight division in this one as Charles Oliveira looks to extend his run of success in a showdown with Roufusport product Jared Gordon.
Despite being a nine-year, 24-fight veteran of the UFC, Oliveira is just 30 years old and enters this one in the best form of his career, having won five straight, all by stoppage. The man with the most submission wins in UFC history has won six of seven since returning to lightweight and finally seems to be putting the pieces together after years of teasing with his talent, and if he can add a third victory in 2019 and a sixth straight win overall to his resume, Oliveira will head into next year as a dark horse title contender in the loaded lightweight division.
A tough as nails talent who posted a 12-1 mark before arriving in the UFC, Gordon has earned three wins in five starts thus far, rebounding from back-to-back losses with a solid unanimous decision win over Dan Moret last time out. This is a step up in competition for the 31-year-old New York native, but a massive opportunity as well, as halting Oliveira’s hot streak would vault Gordon into the pack of talent currently congregating just outside the Top 15.
Brazilians who have travelled similar paths to arrive in the UFC meet in this one as middleweights Antonio Arroyo and Andre Muniz get a spot on the main card in their joint debuts.
Both men ventured to Las Vegas in the summer of 2018 to compete on one of the all-Brazilian editions of the Contender Series, emerging with wins, but no contracts. Instead, they were invited to return to “Sin City” this past summer for another appearance on the DWCS, and after scoring stoppage wins, both were awarded the opportunity to compete inside the Octagon.
Muniz is both the younger and more experienced fighter, sporting an 18-4 record to Arroyo’s 9-2 mark. One thing potentially working in Arroyo’s favor is that he was scheduled to compete on this card from the outset, while Muniz was tabbed to compete in Sao Paulo after both Kevin Holland and Alessio Di Chirico were forced to withdraw.
Another all-Brazilian middleweight affair opens the main card as Markus Perez looks to build on his best performance to date inside the Octagon in a showdown with UFC sophomore Wellington Turman.
One of five former LFA middleweight champions on the UFC roster, Perez has faced two of the four inside the Octagon already and arrives in Sao Paulo off an impressive second-round submission win over one of them, having choked out Anthony “Fluffy” Hernandez back in February. He was forced out of a bout with Deron Winn in June and was initially slated to face Jack Marshman here, so it will be interesting to see how “Maluko” responds to the longer-than-normal layoff and late shift in opponents.
Turman made his promotional debut in July, filling in for John Phillips on short notice and landing on the wrong side of a split decision result against Karl Roberson. The loss snapped the 23-year-old’s four-fight winning streak, but afforded him 15 minutes of experience against a talented striker who continues to climb the middleweight ranks. Now with his debut of the way and a full camp under his belt, Turman gets a second chance to make an impression on the UFC audience in what should be a spirited start to Saturday’s main card.
Veteran welterweights close out the prelims as the always-smiling Sergio Moraes looks to halt the momentum of “The” James Krause.
Moraes has dropped back-to-back contests after an impressive 8-1-1 run that started following his debut loss in June 2012. The savvy veteran remains one of the top jiu-jitsu players in the division and has consistently improved his striking over the years, but consecutive losses to younger, more athletic opponents have left many wondering how much more “The Panther” has left in the tank.
Krause enters Saturday’s event on a five-fight UFC winning streak that began in July 2015. Last time out, the former lightweight scored a second-round knockout win over Warlley Alves in a bout that showcased his Fight IQ and improved finishing ability now that he’s competing at welterweight.
These are two fighters who have carved out impressive careers competing in the middle of deep divisions and their meeting this weekend in Sao Paulo should produce an entertaining back-and-forth that sets up the main card nicely.
This is an intriguing clash in the featherweight division as the highly regarded Ricardo Ramos moves up a weight class to square off with the undefeated Eduardo Garagorri.
The 24-year-old Ramos will be making his sixth trip into the Octagon here and does so sporting a 5-1 mark in the UFC and a 13-2 record overall. While many athletes have been shifting divisions of late, most have done so following highly publicized struggles in their previous weight class, but that hasn’t been an issue for Ramos, who made weight ahead of his July victory over Journey Newsome without issue. As such, it will be interesting to see if he can take things to another level now that he’s changing divisions.
Garagorri scored the biggest, most memorable win of his career last time out, collecting a unanimous decision victory over Humberto Bandenay in August when the UFC ventured to his home country of Uruguay for the first time. The victory pushed his undefeated streak to a baker’s dozen and positioned the 30-year-old newcomer as an interesting addition to the 145-pound ranks.
Veteran lightweights looking to get back into the win column meet up here as Francisco Trinaldo welcomes Bobby Green to Sao Paulo.
The elder statesmen of the 155-pound weight class, Trinaldo has posted 13 wins in 19 UFC appearances and remains a permanent fixture on the fringes of the Top 15. After dealing with multiple fight cancellations to start the year, “Massaranduba” finally made his first start of the year in July, falling to Alexander Hernandez, the third time he’s come up short against an emerging talent in recent years.
Green has fought just six times since November 2014, posting a 1-4-1 record while talking about retiring on multiple occasions. Coming off a loss to Drakkar Klose last December in Milwaukee, the 33-year-old veteran gets a second crack at collecting career win No. 25 here as he ventures to Brazil for the first time and competes outside of the United States for the first time in more than a decade.
If you’re looking for the sleeper hit of Saturday’s fight card, look no further than this welterweight pairing between Warlley Alves and Randy Brown.
Pegged as a potential contender following his time on The Ultimate Fighter Brazil, Alves has gone 6-3 in his nine appearances since defeating Marcio Alexandre Jr. in his promotional debut. He’s shown flashes of brilliance, including a submission win over Colby Covington, but also struggled with conditioning and focus. Last time out, the 28-year-old turned in his most complete and impressive performance in some time, finishing veteran Sergio Moraes late in the third.
A graduate of Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight, Brown has struggled to string together consecutive victories while also exhibiting glimpses of potential on the way to posting five wins over his first eight UFC starts. Like Alves, “Rudeboy” turned in his best performance to date last time out, stopping rugged veteran Bryan Barberena midway through the third round of their June meeting in Greenville, South Carolina.
Welterweight is always flush with talent and making headway is hard, so this is a crucial matchup for both men as they look to build on their recent strong showings and carry some momentum with them into next year.
A couple years ago, this would have been a pivotal clash in the bantamweight division, but now, this pairing between Renan Barao and Douglas Silva de Andrade is a battle between two athletes looking to show they still have something left before the end of the year.
After an incredible run of success that carried him to the top of the division, Barao has gone just 2-6 in the eight bouts since losing the bantamweight title to TJ Dillashaw at UFC 173. It has been particularly rough over the last two years as the former pound-for-pound standout has dropped four straight, most recently getting stopped by Luke Sanders in February.
“D. Silva” is a difficult fighter to peg at the moment, as he has one win in three starts over the last three years, but that victory came against the currently streaking Marlon “Chito” Vera and is bookended by losses to Rob Font and Petr Yan. An aggressive talent who was 22-0 before dropping his UFC debut, the 34-year-old will look to add to Barao’s woes and get back into the win column in this one.
This is a matchup between highly touted fighters who arrived in the UFC with tons of promise, only to struggle to find success inside the Octagon.
Lipski was highly regarded coming out of KSW, where the “Queen of Violence” posted five wins in as many appearances to extend her overall winning streak to eight. But the 25-year-old has landed on the wrong side of the results in each of her first two UFC appearances, dropping unanimous decisions to both Joanne Calderwood and Molly McCann, sending her into this one with an 11-5 record and something to prove.
Macedo was 5-0-1 when she made her first foray into the Octagon, but quickly found out that competing at bantamweight was a big mistake, as she was outmuscled and outworked by Ashlee Evans-Smith. Subsequent losses to Andrea Lee and Gillian Robertson put the 24-year-old on a three-fight slide and left her without a victory since July 2016. However, Macedo finally registered her first UFC victory last time out, securing a first-round submission victory over Polyana Viana.
Can Lipski finally break through and get her hand raised or will Macedo hand her another loss and head into 2020 on a two-fight run of success?
The opening bout of the evening takes place in the bantamweight division as Brazil’s Vanessa Melo makes her second UFC appearance opposite Contender Series graduate Tracy Cortez.
Melo made her UFC debut back in September, filling in on short-notice for Marion Reneau opposite Irene Aldana. After missing weight, she landed on the business end of a one-sided decision, which halted her five-fight winning streak and sends her into this one with a number of questions to answer.
After suffering a submission loss in her professional debut, Cortez has rattled off six straight victories, capped by a strong showing against Mariya Agapova on the Contender Series to earn a chance to compete on the biggest stage in the sport. The 25-year-old has spent the entirety of her career fighting at flyweight, so it will be interesting to see if this move to bantamweight is a one-off switch or a permanent move.
Cortez has a tremendous backstory and showed a ton of heart and toughness during her summer audition inside the UFC Apex, so if she can collect a victory here, it wouldn’t be surprising to see her get a bit of a push next year.