PEDRO MUNHOZ VS. FRANKIE EDGAR
Originally slated to take place last month on Fight Island, this fight getting pushed back actually gives it the five-round treatment it deserves as bantamweight stalwart Pedro Munhoz finally welcomes Frankie Edgar to the 135-pound weight class.
Munhoz has crafted an outstanding career inside the UFC cage. He arrived in the promotion following an excellent run on the regional circuit, lost his short-notice debut to Top 10 fixture Raphael Assuncao, and has been a staple in the division ever since.
Though he hasn’t risen to the rank of title contender, he’s a long-time resident of the Top 10 with victories over Rob Font, Brett Johns, and former champ Cody Garbrandt, whom he knocked out in dramatic fashion at UFC 235. All four of his career losses have come against perennial contenders or divisional fixtures and he’s the perfect opponent to welcome “The Answer” to the bantamweight ranks this weekend.
Edgar is a future UFC Hall of Fame inductee who won and successfully defended the lightweight title, then dropped down a division to become a constant presence in the championship chase at featherweight, and now he’s looking to replicate that feat again with this move to bantamweight.
While he’s managed just a 1-3 record over his last four fights, those three losses came against Brian Ortega, Max Holloway, and Chan Sung Jung; the upper tier of talent in the 145-pound weight class. Just as it did at lightweight, the size and strength difference appeared to have caught up to the New Jersey native at featherweight, but he should fit right in competing in his new surroundings.
This is a perfect piece of matchmaking because Munhoz is an accomplished, established factor in the bantamweight division who gets a bump in recognition if he beats Edgar, while the former lightweight champ can immediately stamp himself as a title challenger with a victory in his debut.
It’s a win-win on the matchmaking front and a major win for fans as this one should be a highly competitive, entertaining scrap to close out the show.
OVINCE SAINT PREUX VS. ALONZO MENIFIELD
Following a one-fight trip to heavyweight, Ovince Saint Preux returns to the light heavyweight ranks to square off with Contender Series graduate Alonzo Menifield.
Now in his eighth year on the UFC roster, Saint Preux has been a constant presence in the Top 15 in the light heavyweight division throughout that time, sharing the cage with all the top names to pass through the weight class during that span, save for one or two fighters. He ventured up to heavyweight in mid-May and dropped a split decision to veteran Ben Rothwell, but showed in his last appearance in the 205-pound ranks that he remains a tough out as he submitted Michal Oleksiejczuk with his signature Von Flue choke in Denmark last September.
Menifield steps in on short notice to replace Shamil Gamzatov, looking to bounce back from the first loss of his professional career in June, when he started fast, but faded and ultimately dropped a unanimous decision to Devin Clark. The Fortis MMA product is a powerful athlete who has shown tremendous power, but struggled after failing to get Clark out of there expeditiously, which is something he’ll obviously need to address if he hopes to become a contender in the 205-pound weight class in the future.
Will the veteran Saint Preux turn back another emerging talent looking to build a reputation by beating him or can Menifield get back into the win column with his biggest victory to date?
MARCIN PRACHNIO VS. MIKE RODRIGUEZ
Light heavyweights looking to snap out of skids clash in this one as Marcin Prachnio and Mike Rodriguez square off in what is likely a must-win matchup for both men.
The 32-year-old Prachnio arrived in the UFC on an eight-fight winning streak but has come up short in each of his first two forays into the Octagon, getting stopped in the opening round of both contests. He’s been out of action since September 2018 when he lost to Magomed Ankalaev and it will be interesting to see how he looks following the time away.
Rodriguez earned a UFC contract with a dramatic flying knee knockout of Jamelle Jones on the first season of the Contender Series but has struggled to a 1-2 record with one no contest over his first four appearances with the promotion. A dangerous finisher during his days on the tough New England regional circuit, the 31-year-old Massachusetts native needs to tap back into those traits if he hopes to keep from losing a second straight on Saturday.
DANIEL RODRIGUEZ VS. TAKASHI SATO
One of the pleasant surprises of 2020 takes a step up in competition for his third appearance of the year as Daniel Rodriguez meets Takashi Sato in this intriguing welterweight fixture.
“D-Rod” earned a victory last summer on the Contender Series but didn’t come away with a contract. After returning to the California regional scene and registering another victory, the 33-year-old veteran accepted a short-notice fight with Tim Means in Rio Rancho, New Mexico in February and came away with a second-round submission win.
He followed that up with a solid effort against Gabe Green at the end of May, pushing his winning streak to eight, and now seeks to take a major step forward in the division with a victory over dangerous Japanese veteran Sato this weekend.
It’s a little difficult to get a proper read on where the former Pancrase standout Sato fits in the welterweight ranks at the moment, as his last victory in June came against a short-notice opponent and he landed on the wrong side of a submission against Belal Muhammad the bout before that.
Training with the crew at Sanford MMA, Sato is surrounded by excellent coaches and training partners, all of whom rave about his talents, so his blistering effort against Jason Witt earlier this summer may be a harbinger of things to come.
For now, he stands as the more seasoned, more acclaimed competitor in this pairing with Rodriguez that should answer any questions that remain about either man.
AMANDA LEMOS VS. MIZUKI
Strawweight hopefuls coming off their first victories in the UFC collide here as Amanda Lemos goes head-to-head with Japanese star Mizuki.
The 33-year-old Lemos lost her promotional debut to Leslie Smith back in the summer of 2017 and then spent the next couple years on the sidelines as a result of a USADA violation. Upon returning late last year, the Marajo Brothers representative made relatively quick work of Miranda Granger, submitting the previously unbeaten prospect in less than four minutes.
A near-10-year pro who turns 26 on August 19, Mizuki earned a split decision win over Yanan Wu in her first foray into the Octagon last August. Now 6-1 over her last seven MMA appearances, the former Invicta FC staple has a wealth of experience, but still has room to grow as a fighter as she gets more accustomed to competing on the biggest stage in the sport.
The winner of this one should take a considerable step forward in the deep, highly competitive 115-pound weight class.
AUSTIN HUBBARD VS. JOE SOLECKI
Promising lightweights who were initially scheduled to meet in late June will finally share the cage together as Austin Hubbard and Joe Solecki square off on Saturday.
There is nothing that jumps off the page when you look at Hubbard’s resume, but watching him compete, it’s clear the Elevation Fight Team member is a tough competitor with the potential to be a long-time resident of the UFC lightweight ranks. A polished jack-of-all-trades who reminds me a little of his teammate Neil Magny (minus the crazy reach), “Thud” earned a second-round stoppage win over highly touted prospect Max Rohskopf last time out after pushing unbeaten wrestler Mark O. Madsen to the limits at UFC 248 in March.
A member of the emerging Gym-O crew that includes Scott Holtzman and Bryan Barberena, Solecki graduated to the UFC with a first-round submission win last summer on the Contender Series, than showed he’s someone to track in the 155-pound ranks with a unanimous decision win over Matt Wiman in his promotional debut. An excellent grappler, the 26-year-old Solecki has won four straight and six of his last seven heading into this one.
The lightweight division is always flush with talent, but the winner of this one has the potential to take a big step forward. It should be an entertaining chess match between these two as Hubbard looks to keep it standing and Solecki pushes to bring it to the canvas, and whoever is best able to dictate the terms of engagement should end up with their hand raised in victory.
MARIYA AGAPOVA VS. SHANA DOBSON
Emerging flyweight prospect Mariya Agapova asked for this matchup following her debut win and you can be sure Shana Dobson will be looking to make her regret doing so in this one.
It’s been a transformative 12 months for Agapova, who first popped up on the UFC radar in a losing effort opposite Tracy Cortez last summer on the Contender Series. She quickly signed with Invicta FC and won two fights in four weeks, both by first-round finish, then made her UFC debut back in June, making quick work of Hannah Cifers.
Dripping with confidence, the 23-year-old from Kazakhstan gives off some serious “Joanna Champion” vibes and feels like someone who could become a star if things go her way over the next couple of years.
A cast member on Season 26 of The Ultimate Fighter, Dobson won her promotional debut against fellow TUF alum Ariel Beck, but has dropped three straight heading into this one. The 31-year-old hung tough against both Lauren Mueller and Sabina Mazo while dropping decisions to each woman but was dropped by an uppercut from Priscila Cachoeira last time out.
Will the promising UFC sophomore deliver another dominant performance and generate further hype for herself or will Dobson halt Agapova’s rapid ascent by snapping her three-fight losing streak on Saturday night?
TIMUR VALIEV VS. MARK STRIEGL
Bantamweight newcomers clash in this one as highly regarded prospect Timur Valiev squares off with Filipino veteran Mark Striegl.
A long-time member of New Jersey’s “Iron Army,” Valiev was scheduled to debut at the start of the month but was forced off the card. Now, the 30-year-old looks to extend his winning streak to six with a victory in his first appearance in the Octagon. His coaches and teammates have long raved about his talents, and his resume is littered with strong performances against quality competition, including a 1-1 split with Chris Gutierrez, who has gone unbeaten in his last four Octagon appearances.
The 32-year-old Striegl has built an impressive 18-2, 1 NC record that includes a first-round submission win over current flyweight contender Kai Kara-France. Unbeaten in his last five, Striegl has been limited to a single appearance in each of the last two years and Saturday’s bout with Valiev will be his first since April 2019, when his fight with Shunichi Shimizu was halted due to an inadvertent low blow.
There will be a lot of eyes on Valiev in this one, which makes it an incredible opportunity for Striegl to waltz in and steal his thunder. No matter who comes out ahead, getting to the finish line should be fun.
CARLTON MINUS VS. MATTHEW SEMELSBERGER
A matchup between debuting welterweights kicks off Saturday night’s action at the UFC Apex as Carlton Minus steps in for Contender Series alum Phil Rowe in a showdown with Matthew Semelsberger.
Fighting out of Anchorage, Alaska, the 27-year-old Minus ended an 18-month hiatus with a unanimous decision win over Schon Ellis in February to push his record to 10-1 overall. Prior to that, “Clutch” had split a pair of 2018 bouts against UFC veterans, scoring a decision victory over Justin Buchholz before getting submitted by Rick Story.
Semelsberger arrives in the UFC on a three-fight win streak, most recently earning a first-round stoppage win over former WSOF lightweight title challenger Richard Patishnock. It’s the best run of the 27-year-old’s pro career, which kicked off with consecutive stoppage victories in the spring of 2017, and adding to it with a victory in his UFC debut would surely send the Maryland-based fighter over the moon.