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Fight Coverage

Fight by Fight Preview: June 27 Edition

Dive deep into the entire June 27 Fight Night card with this edition of Fight by Fight
Dustin Poirier vs Dan Hooker

Generally speaking, I try not to be hyperbolic when writing this series and breaking down what makes different fights compelling; I just don’t see the point.

I say that in order for you to understand how serious and genuine I am when I tell you that this right here has a chance to be Fight of the Year.

Each of Dustin Poirier’s three fights before his unsuccessful attempt to defeat Khabib Nurmagomedov were electric, with “The Diamond” posting impressive victories over Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez, and Max Holloway leading into his UFC 242 clash with the current lightweight champion. He’s been outstanding since returning to the lightweight division five years ago and has particularly locked in over the last three years, his loss to Nurmagomedov aside, fighting with the same power and ferocity that made him a contender at featherweight while exhibiting greater patience and ring generalship as he’s continued to mature.

Dan Hooker wasn’t the contender Poirier was during his time at featherweight, but the course he’s taken since moving back to the lightweight ranks is similar to the one being forged by the man he’ll face in this weekend’s main event.

After battling inconsistency during over his first six Octagon appearances, the New Zealander moved up to the 155-pound weight class and has quickly emerged as a legitimate threat, amassing a 7-1 record that includes finishes of Jim Miller, Gilbert Burns, and James Vick, and hard-fought decision wins over Al Iaquinta and Paul Felder. The City Kickboxing representative has never been one to shy away from a challenge and actively sought this one out, which tells you both where his confidence is at heading into his second straight main event assignment and what to expect from him once the cage door closes.

This is one of those stylistic matchups where it’s just so easy to see a path to an instant classic, as both men like to come forward and engage, happy to take a shot to land a shot, steadfast in their belief that their blow will have the greater impact. With 25 minutes to work and a yearning to solidify their places in the shifting lightweight hierarchy, this weekend’s finale should be an explosive affair.

Mike Perry vs Mickey Gall

Welterweights that have flashed potential, but thus far failed to string together the requisite wins needed to establish themselves as contenders in the talent-rich division clash in this co-main event pairing as Mike Perry squares up with Mickey Gall.

Perry is 6-6 over his first dozen trips into the Octagon, though things have been trending in the wrong direction for the last couple years. After bursting out of the gates with four victories in his first five fights, “Platinum” has gone 2-5 over his last seven, entering this weekend’s bout on a two-fight skid. Though he remains tough as all get out and happy to trade with just about anyone, the Floridian is in serious need of a statement performance if he hopes to maintain his place on the outskirts of the Top 15 and continue landing co-main event assignments going forward.

Gall’s breakout rookie campaign feels like a distant memory, as the New Jersey native who went 3-0 in the Octagon in 2016 has managed just a 2-2 mark since. He bounced back from a poor showing against Diego Sanchez in 2019 with a unanimous decision win over Salim Touahri in August, but now takes a big step up in competition by sharing the cage with the more experienced Perry this time around.

Both guys have personality for days and have offered glimpses of potential over the course of their respective UFC journeys, but consistency is key when competing at the highest level and it has escaped their grasps as of late.

Will Gall get the biggest victory of his career or will Perry get back into the win column with a vintage violent showing on Saturday?

SUNRISE, FL - APRIL 27: Mike Perry celebrates his victory over Alex Oliveira of Brazil in their welterweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at BB&T Center on April 27, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FL - APRIL 27: Mike Perry celebrates his victory over Alex Oliveira of Brazil in their welterweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at BB&T Center on April 27, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty I

Brendan Allen vs Kyle Daukaus

Originally booked as a clash between former Legacy Fighting Alliance middleweight champions, Brendan Allen will now share the cage with newcomer Kyle Daukaus after his original opponent, Ian Heinisch, was forced from the card early last week.

Allen made his way to the UFC after climbing to the top of the middleweight division under the LFA banner and a successful appearance on the Contender Series last summer. In his first two trips into the Octagon, the 24-year-old Louisiana native has collected a pair of finishes, submitting Kevin Holland and battering Tom Breese to extend his winning streak to six.

Daukaus also made an appearance at the UFC Apex last summer, earning a Contender Series win two weeks before Allen. Despite a dominant victory, the 27-year-old Philadelphia native was not awarded a contract, but he didn’t let that slow him down any, having registered two successful defenses of his CFFC middleweight title, finishing both fights with his signature D’Arce choke.

As intriguing as the original matchup between Allen and Heinisch was — and it was plenty compelling — this new pairing carries a great deal of excitement, as well, as both Allen and Daukaus are proven finishers who aren’t afraid to put themselves in bad positions and trust their talents on the ground. 

The middleweight division has been undergoing renovations over the last several years and this clash of promising new names provides an early look at a couple of potential future contenders in the 185-pound ranks.

Gian Villante vs Maurice Greene

After 19 consecutive appearances in the light heavyweight division, Gian Villante moves up to the heavyweight ranks for his 2020 debut, and Maurice Greene is eager to welcome him to the division.

Villante has been a picture of consistency in the UFC, in that he’s never won or lost more than two consecutive fights during the course of his 15 trips into the Octagon. A gritty competitor and tremendous overall athlete, the 34-year-old Long Island resident spent the last seven years battling it out with veteran and emerging talents in the 205-pound weight class, and now returns to the big boy ranks where he had a great deal of success during the early stages of his professional career.

Greene emerged as the “bronze medalist” from the heavyweight competition on Season 28 of The Ultimate Fighter, then added victories over Jeff Hughes and Junior Albini to make a quick entrance into the heavyweight rankings. Unfortunately for “The Crochet Boss,” back-to-back stoppage losses to Sergei Pavlovich and Aleksei Oleinik have caused him to fall out of the Top 15.

The lower third of the heavyweight rankings seem like they’re always in a state of flux, and a strong effort from either one of these men could land them a seat at the table, while positioning them for a greater opportunity later this year.

Luis Pena vs Khama Worthy

Lightweights looking to make headway in their loaded division clash here as Luis Pena and Khama Worthy both go in search of a second consecutive victory on Saturday night.

An injury forced Pena out of the competition on Season 27 of The Ultimate Fighter, but “Violent Bob Ross” still garnered a cult following and has emerged as one of the top competitors from that season, posting a 4-2 record over his first six UFC starts. Uncharacteristically tall for the lightweight division, the 26-year-old has earned rave reviews from Daniel Cormier, his coach on TUF, and as he continues to hone his skills and learn to play to his strengths, Pena could develop into a dangerous member of the lightweight class.

The week before UFC 241, Worthy was a 20-fight veteran who had cobbled together a solid career on the regional circuit, earning 14 victories. Then, a couple days before the mid-August event in Anaheim, California, the 33-year-old was tabbed to face Devonte Smith, a rising star in the 155-pound ranks who also happened to be a friend and former training partner.

Worthy jumped at the chance and changed his life, dropping Smith with a compact left hook a little over four minutes into their fight. Now “The Deathstar” looks to make it two in a row as he finally makes his sophomore appearance in the Octagon this weekend.

Every single fight in the lightweight division is crucial, as the depth and quality of talent in the division never wanes. Both Pena and Worthy have shown promise, making this matchup a must-win if they hope to take another step forward in the ultra-competitive 155-pound ranks.

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Mara Romero Borella vs Miranda Maverick

Mara Romero Borella is wasting little time in her quest to snap a three-fight losing streak as she makes the quick turnaround to welcome Miranda Maverick to the Octagon for the first time.

Borella competed last month in Jacksonville, squaring off with Cortney Casey in a battle of fighters looking to build some momentum. Unfortunately for the Italian, she was not the one to right the ship that day, as Casey patiently worked to secure an armbar finish off her back. Having now lost three straight and four of her last five, the 34-year-old American Top Team representative is in dire need of a strong performance on Saturday.

The 22-year-old Maverick is a promising new addition to the flyweight division, having gone 9-2 under the Invicta FC banner, winning the promotion’s second Phoenix Rising tournament by avenging her prior loss to DeAnna Bennett before posting a unanimous decision win over Pearl Gonzalez last time out. Tabbed as one to watch since making her professional debut at the close of 2016, the Virginia-based prospect has continued to sharpen her skills and gain experience, growing by leaps and bounds between each appearance.

Will the veteran snap out of her funk and finally land back in the win column or will the newcomer make an immediate splash in her new surrounds?

Philipe Lins vs Tanner Boser

Heavyweights looking to get back in the win column meet here as Philipe Lins makes his second appearance of the spring in a showdown with Canadian Tanner Boser.

The 34-year-old Lins won the Professional Fighters League’s heavyweight competition in 2018, posting four victories in six months, including wins over former UFC competitors Alex Nicholson, Jared Rosholt, and Josh Copeland to claim the title. Injuries kept him out of action for all of 2019 and when he returned to the cage in May, he landed on the wrong side of the scorecards in a clash with the division’s longest tenured talent, Andrei Arlovski.

Originally scheduled to make his UFC debut in his home province of Alberta last summer, Boser’s first foray into the Octagon was delayed three months, but proved to be worth the wait as “The Bulldozer” picked up a decision win over Daniel Spitz in October. He made a quick return two months later, but things didn’t go his way, as Boser became the third UFC fighter in five months to lose to Ciryl Gane.

Will the Brazilian Lins register his first UFC win or will Boser hand him a second consecutive loss while earning himself another victory?

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Sean Woodson vs Kyle Nelson

A UFC sophomore and a returning veteran square off in this short notice pairing as Sean Woodson puts his undefeated record on the line against late replacement Julian Erosa.

After earning a spot on the UFC roster with a flying knee finish of Terrance McKinney last summer, Woodson pushed his record to 7-0 with a unanimous decision victory over Kyle Bochniak last fall in his promotional debut. The lanky St. Louis native uses his size exceptionally well for someone this early in their professional career and is certainly one to watch going forward.

Erosa returns to the UFC seeking to snap his four-fight losing streak inside the Octagon. A former Ultimate Fighter contestant and Contender Series alum, the Vegas-based veteran has won four straight outside of the promotion, including his victory over Jamall Emmers inside the APEX two years years ago and a first-round submission win in his most recent outing.

It will be interesting to see how the undefeated UFC sophomore deals with the switch in opponents. Erosa has a ton of experience and an awkward style, which makes him a compelling short-notice replacement and an intriguing test for Woodson this weekend.

Takashi Sato vs Ramiz Brahimaj

Japanese veteran Takashi Sato steps into the Octagon for the third time, looking to get back into the win column in a clash with promotional newcomer Ramiz Brahimaj.

The 30-year-old Sato earned a spot on the UFC roster after amassing a 14-2 record forged largely in the Pancrase organization, where he went 6-1 over his final seven fights. In his debut, Sato weathered a rocky first round against Ben Saunders before rallying to finish the former Ultimate Fighter contestant less than 90 seconds into the middle stanza. He followed that up with a trip to Abu Dhabi and a loss to durable grinder Belal Muhammad and arrives in Las Vegas looking to return to his winning ways.

Brahimaj was slated to compete on the Contender Series last summer in a highly anticipated bout with Miguel Baeza, but an injury forced him to the sidelines and he hasn’t competed since. Representing Fortis MMA, the former LFA fixture is a No Gi world champion who has finished all eight of his wins by submission, including having choked out former TUF Brazil finalist William Macario.

This is a very stern test for Brahimaj and should serve provide an immediate indication of where he fits among the cast of new names looking to make waves in the welterweight division, as Sato has significantly more experience and the kind of veteran wherewithal to ruin his debut.

Kay Hansen vs Jinh Yu Frey

A late addition to this weekend’s lineup following the unfortunate cancellation of the bantamweight contenders’ bout between Aspen Ladd and Sara McMann, Invicta FC alums Jinh Yu Frey and Kay Hansen now get the chance to make their Octagon debuts this weekend.

The 35-year-old Frey has been one of the top atomweights in the world for the last several years, climbing to the top of Invicta FC’s 105-pound weight class with consecutive victories over Minna Grussander and a unanimous decision win over Ashley Cummins in February. She was stripped of the title ahead of her bout earlier this year for missing weight and has the kind of frame to make a shift to the 115-pound division a permanent one after this weekend if she so chooses.

Hansen becomes the second-youngest fighter on the UFC roster by signing on to face Frey on Saturday, clocking in one month older than featherweight prospect Chase Hooper. The 20-year-old enters on a two-fight winning streak and has fought an incredibly tough slate for someone just nine fights into their professional career.

This stands to be an interesting clash for a number of reasons, as Frey moves up a division and Hansen takes a considerable step up in competition. Will the experience rule the day and produce a victory for the veteran former titleholder or will the precocious upstart continue her run of success and pick up the biggest victory of her career?

Tune in Saturday to find out.

Jordan Griffin vs Youssef Zalal

Featherweights with obvious upside clash in this compelling matchup between Jordan Griffin and Youssef Zalal.

Griffin was slated to face Darrick Minner earlier this month, making weight on the Friday morning before Minner was scratched due to health issues. After a quick reset, the “NativePsycho” will once again go in search of his second straight victory this weekend, looking to build off an outstanding performance against TJ Brown earlier this year.

A member of the Factory X Muay Thai squad, Zalal made his UFC debut earlier this year, controlling the action from start to finish against fellow newcomer Austin Lingo. Just 23 years old, Zalal faced solid competition on the regional circuit and gets quality rounds in the gym under the watchful eye of Marc Montoya, making him someone to keep tabs on in the featherweight division going forward.

Both Griffin and Zalal have the potential to be factors in the 145-pound ranks, as they come from great gyms, have high finishing percentages, and exhibit many of the intangibles that separate contenders from pretenders. The featherweight division is deeper than it has ever been at the moment, which will make their road to the Top 15 even more treacherous, but one of them is poised to take another big step forward in that journey this weekend.