VALENTINA SHEVCHENKO VS. LIZ CARMOUCHE
Valentina Shevchenko breaks down her signature moves
Valentina Shevchenko breaks down her signature moves
Just nine weeks after successfully defending her flyweight title for the first time, Shevchenko returns in search of a second consecutive successful title defense and a measure of revenge against Carmouche, the woman who handed her the first loss of her MMA career.
Since arriving in the UFC in the final month of 2015, the 31-year-old champion has proven herself to be one of the top female fighters on the planet, amassing a 6-2 record inside the Octagon, with each of her losses coming in close, competitive bouts against reigning bantamweight and featherweight champion Amanda Nunes.
Shevchenko has been masterful in her three starts in the 125-pound weight class, sandwiching her championship victory over Joanna Jedrzejczyk, where she received 49-46 scores across the board against the former strawweight queen, between devastating second-round stoppage wins over Priscila Cachoeira and Jessica Eye.
The first woman to cross the threshold into the Octagon, Carmouche has now been a Top 10 fixture in two divisions during the course of her six-plus years competing in the UFC. After dropping her divisional debut against Alexis Davis by split decision, the powerhouse has muscled her way to decision wins over former Invicta FC champ Jennifer Maia and durable up and comer Lucie Pudilova in order to position herself atop the list of available contenders in the flyweight division.
Their first encounter took place so long ago that it’s difficult to consider it instructive, as both have gained copious amounts of experience and improved significantly in the time since. However, this remains an intriguing clash of styles, as Shevchenko is at her best operating in space and working as a counter-striker, while Carmouche prefers to close the distance, use her strength in the clinch and control opponents on the canvas.
Will the heavily favored champion retain her title and continue her reign of dominance or will Carmouche make the most of her second chance to capture UFC gold from a seemingly unstoppable force inside the Octagon?
VICENTE LUQUE VS. MIKE PERRY
Aptly nicknamed “The Silent Assassin,” Vicente Luque has posted a 9-1 record over his last 10 fights and carries a five-fight winning streak into this co-main event assignment. He has earned finishes in each of his nine UFC wins (and all but one of his 16 career victories overall) and his lone setback over the last four years came against surging British contender Leon Edwards.
By contrast, Perry has gone 6-4 over his 10 UFC appearances and is 2-3 over his last five, yet remains one of the most captivating and discussed fighters in the division. His unfiltered personality is compelling to fans, and his penchant for engaging in entertaining back-and-forth battles has made him a marketable member of the 170-pound weight class from the outset.
To his credit, Perry showed much more poise and composure last time out, rallying from a sluggish start to outwork Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira at the end of April, while Luque has already posted a pair of victories in 2019, closing out his early Fight of the Year contender with Bryan Barberena in February before stopping late replacement Derrick Krantz in the first round back in May.
Both men are constantly searching for the finish and are capable of ending things in abrupt fashion, so expect an action-packed contest that has you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
LUIZ GARAGORRI VS. HUMBERTO BANDENAY
A South American battle contested in the featherweight division holds down a position in the middle of Saturday’s main card at Antel Arena as explosive Peruvian Bandenay returns to welcome Garagorri to the Octagon for the first time.
The lone fighter representing the host nation to compete this weekend in Montevideo, Garagorri is unbeaten in 12 career appearances, including a pair of first-round submission wins already this year. The 30-year-old is a bit of a wild card heading into this weekend as the majority of his fights have come on smaller shows against opponents with limited experience or modest records.
Two years after his memorable UFC debut, Bandenay enters Saturday’s main card assignment searching for his first win since his 26-second knockout victory over Martin Bravo. Last time out, he dropped a unanimous decision to Austin Arnett in November, sending him into this one on a two-fight slide.
Will Bandenay’s Octagon experience prove to be the difference or can Garagorri prove he belongs by prolonging his undefeated run of success?
VOLKAN OEZDEMIR VS. ILIR LATIFI
Originally scheduled to meet in June, veteran light heavyweight contenders Oezdemir and Latifi look to get back into the win column in a pivotal contest for both the competitors and the division as a whole.
It has been a tale of two runs for Oezdemir since arriving in the UFC, who began his tenure with three straight victories, including consecutive opening-minute stoppage wins over Misha Cirkunov and Jimi Manuwa, to earn a title opportunity against Daniel Cormier at UFC 220. The Swiss standout was dominated in that contest, then faded and was finished in a main event pairing with Anthony Smith nine months later before starting his year on the wrong side of a hotly-debated split decision verdict in a bout with Dominick Reyes in March.
When he’s at his best, Oezdemir uses his size, athleticism and hand speed to full advantage, catching opponents with shots they don’t see coming that carry more power than they expect.
Thus far, Latifi’s UFC career boils down to beating a steady diet of very good fighters, but coming up short in the contest that could elevate him into title contention. Since dropping his debut on short notice to Gegard Mousasi, there have been three points where Latifi has put together little runs of success, only to falter when faced with a fighter positioned ahead of him in the rankings, the most recent example coming last December when his two-fight winning streak was snapped by Corey Anderson.
The cult favorite has considerable power and a well-rounded skill set to go along with a thick, compact frame that makes him difficult to deal with inside the Octagon. If Latifi can keep this fight in a phone booth and use his strength in the clinch to outmuscle Oezdemir, he could emerge with the biggest victory of his career.
RODOLFO VIEIRA VS. OSKAR PIECHOTA
This is one of those bouts that has hardcore observers — and particularly grappling aficionados — counting the days until it hits the cage.
Vieira is one of the best grapplers in the world — a five-time IBJJF World Champion, seven-time World Cup gold medalist, two-time Pan-Am and European Champion and the 2015 ADCC gold medalist in the 99kg. weight division. He’s also 5-0 as a professional mixed martial artist and doesn’t turn 30 until September 25.
His debut in the UFC isn’t receiving as much fanfare as some of the other recent crossovers from the grappling world, but make no mistake about it — Vieira has the pedigree to be a nightmare on the ground against any middleweight and seeing him put together a Demian Maia-like run to start his time in the Octagon doesn’t feel out of the question.
Piechota is also 29 and enters Saturday’s main card affair off the first loss of his career. A black belt under Robert Drysdale, the Polish middleweight made the same mistake Trevin Giles made last weekend in Newark, messing around on the ground with Gerald Meerschaert and getting choked out by “GM3” last summer.
This will be a terrific litmus test for Vieira right out of the chute, as Piechota is the more experienced of the two, has already posted a pair of wins inside the Octagon and comes from a grappling background, creating an expectation that he won’t be completely overmatched should this one hit the canvas.
Only time will tell if that holds true.
ENRIQUE BARZOLA VS. BOBBY MOFFETT
A matchup between featherweights looking to rebound from losses kicks off Saturday’s main card as Peru’s Barzola squares off with Contender Series alum Moffett.
Barzola has his four-fight winning streak snapped last time out against Kevin Aguilar, but has shown steady growth and improvement over the course of his UFC career. After winning the lightweight competition on Season 2 of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America, “El Fuerte” dropped to featherweight, lost a questionable split decision to Kyle Bochniak and then rattled off decision wins over a series of game, experienced talents, including emerging contender Gabriel Benitez.
Despite being just his third Octagon appearance, this feels like a crossroads moment for Moffett, who is part of the group of fighters who relocated to the Fight Ready camp along with coach Eddie Cha. His debut win over Chas Skelly came by controversial stoppage and last time out, he lost to TUF alum Bryce Mitchell.
Featherweight remains one of the deepest and most talent-rich divisions in the UFC and every fight is crucial when it comes to positioning in the divisional hierarchy. Both men have shown flashes of potential and Top 15 upside, but each needs to get back in the win column and build some momentum or else risk being swallowed up by the crush of competitors looking to work their way to the top of the 145-pound ranks.
CYRIL GANE VS. RAPHAEL PESSOA
In the span of a year, Gane has gone from making his professional debut to establishing himself as one of the most intriguing heavyweight prospects to emerge in the last couple years and now he’s set to make his Octagon debut.
The six-foot-five Frenchman went 3-0 under the TKO MMA banner, capturing the Montreal-based company’s heavyweight title with a second-round stoppage win over Adam Dyczka in his sophomore appearance before successfully defending the belt eight months later. That win over Roggers Souza prompted a promotion to the UFC, where the unbeaten 28-year-old prospect will take on another newcomer in Saturday’s final preliminary card pairing.
The 30-year-old Pessoa is also undefeated, carrying a 9-0 mark into his joint UFC debut opposite Gane in Montevideo. Last time out, “Bebezao” picked up a 99-second stoppage win over Midwest journeyman Brian Heden at LFA 50.
A lot can change for heavyweight upstarts when they shift from the regional circuit to the big leagues, so it will be very interesting to see how both Gane and Pessoa handle the transition and which one is able to establish themselves as someone to watch in the big boy ranks heading into the fall.
TECIA TORRES VS. MARINA RODRIGUEZ
This is a crucial strawweight contest on a number of fronts as Top 10 mainstay Torres looks to break out of a funk against the undefeated Rodriguez.
Torres has four losses in her career — one to current strawweight champion Jessica Andrade, one each to former titleholders Rose Namajunas and Joanna Jedrzejczyk and most recently to Weili Zhang, who is set to challenge Andrade for the belt later this month. The problem for Torres is that the losses to Andrade, Jedrzejczyk and Zhang have come in consecutive contests and so now she enters this preliminary card pairing in search of her first win since UFC 218.
Rodriguez literally punched her way into the UFC with a first-round stoppage win on one of last summer’s all-Brazilian Contender Series shows. After battling Randa Markos to a draw in her debut, the 32-year-old Muay Thai stylist outworked Jessica Aguilar earlier this year to secure her first UFC victory and push her record to 11-0-1 overall.
As per usual, Torres will be giving up a considerable amount of height in this pairing, but she’s the more well-rounded fighter and has much more high-end experience. Will that be enough to help her snap her losing streak or can Rodriguez maintain her unbeaten record and take a major step forward in the strawweight division?
ROGERIO BONTORIN VS. RAULIAN PAIVA
Brazilian flyweights looking to make a statement in the wide-open division square off in this potential Fight of the Night candidate.
After starting his career with a dozen consecutive victories, Bontorin has rebounded from his first loss with three straight wins, including a second-round submission on the Contender Series last summer and a split decision victory over highly-regarded former WSOF champ Magomed Bibulatov in his promotional debut. That was only the second time the 27-year-old has gone the distance in his career and he’s looking to close out the best 12-month run of his career with another victory on Saturday inside Antel Arena.
Paiva landed on the unhappy side of a split decision verdict in his first UFC foray back in February, but his performance against Kai Kara-France opened some eyes and showed he belongs on the biggest stage in the sport. Another Contender Series alum, the 23-year-old owns a 58-second submission victory over former UFC competitor and Brazilian veteran Iliarde Santos and boasts incredible height and reach for the 125-pound weight division.
There is lots of room for advancement in the flyweight ranks at the moment and the winner of this one could rocket into the thick of the title chase with a strong performance on Saturday night in Uruguay.
ALEX DA SILVA VS. KAZULA VARGAS
Lightweights eager to get into the win column and get the ball rolling on their UFC careers meet in this preliminary card matchup.
Da Silva made his promotional debut back in April, suffering a second-round submission loss against Russian veteran Alexander Yakovlev. The 23-year-old Astra Fight Team member showed impressive finishing abilities during his days on the regional circuit and bounced back from his first career loss with a pair of first-round stoppage wins, so it will be interesting to see if “Leko” can do the same here following his second setback.
A 33-year-old who made his pro debut in 2011, Vargas arrives in the UFC with an 11-2 record that includes a victory over two-time Contender Series alum Jordan Williams and he most recently earned an 18-second finish of UFC vet Mike De La Torre. He hasn’t fought since last May, but you can expect him to be fired up and out to impress as he makes his UFC debut here.
VERONICA MACEDO VS. POLYANA VIANA
Former prospects who have struggled as of late collide in this flyweight contest that carries serious importance for both women.
Originally scheduled to face Rachael Ostovich, Macedo enters Saturday’s event looking to end a three-fight slide. The 23-year-old Venezuelan arrived in the UFC as an unbeaten fighter, but has since landed on the wrong side of the results against Ashlee Evans-Smith, Andrea Lee and Gillian Robertson.
While Macedo has yet to register a win in the UFC, Viana scored a submission victory in her debut, then got outworked by JJ Aldrich in her sophomore appearance in the Octagon. Last time out, the 28-year-old Brazilian came away on the losing side of a 2-1 split against Hannah Cifers in March.
The 125-pound division is still taking shape and contenders are still jockeying for position, which means all hope is not lost for these two former hopefuls. That being said, both are in dire need of a victory on Saturday to stem the tide and give themselves an opportunity to regain the footing.
ALEKSEI KUNCHENKO VS. GILBERT BURNS
Initially slated to be a matchup between Kunchenko and emerging Argentine Laureano Staropoli, Burns jumped at the opportunity to move up in weight and take on the undefeated Russian on short notice, creating one of the weekend’s most intriguing matchups.
Kunchenko is 20-0 after earning unanimous decision wins over Thiago Alves and Yushin Okami in his first two UFC appearances. The former M-1 Challenge champion handled his business without much trouble against the two veterans, but now faces off with a younger, more dynamic and explosive opponent in a pairing that should provide some insight as to where the 35-year-old fits in the welterweight division.
A standout grappler, Burns has won four of his last five inside the Octagon and actually debuted in the UFC as a welterweight, registering a unanimous decision win over Andreas Stahl all the way back in the summer of 2014. Last time out, Burns methodically outworked Mike Davis before submitting him late in the second round, and if he can do the same here, “Durinho” will have to decide if he wants to keep making the cut to 155 pounds or continue testing himself in the 170-pound ranks.
GERALDO DE FREITAS VS. CHRIS GUTIERREZ
A pair of bantamweights who collected their first UFC victories earlier this year meet in this one.
After amassing a six-fight winning streak on the always tough Brazilian regional circuit, de Freitas made his promotional debut in February, posting a unanimous decision victory over Felipe Colares in Fortaleza to keep his run of success intact. Tall and rangy for the division at five-foot-nine, the 27-year-old fighting out of Conselheiro Lafaiete can stamp himself as someone to keep an eye on in the 135-pound weight division with a second consecutive triumph inside the UFC cage.
Gutierrez made his UFC debut last November, landing in the cage with surging finisher Raoni Barcelos and getting his three-fight winning streak snapped. He returned to the cage roughly four months later and collected a unanimous decision victory over then-unbeaten Ryan MacDonald and looks to build on that performance here.
Like de Freitas, Gutierrez is tall for the division, standing in at five-foot-nine as well, but he’ll be giving up some reach to his foe, so it will be interesting to see how the Factory X representative deals with that challenge on Saturday night.