Heavyweight knockout artists Derrick Lewis and Junior Dos Santos will clash in this Saturday’s main event in a pivotal fight for both athletes as the winner will remain a constant threat to jump into championship contention. Obviously, Lewis is coming off a loss in his bid to win the title last year when he fell to Daniel Cormier, but prior to that setback, the ferocious power puncher from Houston had won nine of his past 10 fights with seven knockouts along the way. To return to the win column this weekend, Lewis has to go through one of the most accomplished heavyweights on the roster. Dos Santos is a former champion with a string of notable wins on his resume, including victories against Stipe Miocic, Cain Velasquez, and Mark Hunt. Dos Santos has also enjoyed a pair of impressive outings against Tai Tuivasa and Blagoy Ivanov in consecutive fights as he begins knocking on the door of title contention again. Dos Santos might have the best boxing in the entire division but now he faces a heavyweight with arguably the most power in the sport. This is a clash of speed and technique against raw power and only one man will be left standing when it’s over.
The welterweight division has a new champion in Kamaru Usman and this matchup between Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos and Curtis Millender will feature two of the best prospects who could one day challenge him for that title. Dos Santos suffered a razor close split decision loss in his UFC debut but since that time he’s rattled off six straight wins including back-to-back highlight reel knockouts. To keep his win streak alive, dos Santos will have to go through Millender, who is currently 3-0 in the UFC with an impressive streak of wins over Thiago Alves, Max Griffin and Siyar Bahadurzada. There’s little doubt the winner of this fight will be positioned for a run at the top 10 in 2019 so this is a huge opportunity for both athletes.
Both Tim Means and Niko Price are well known for putting on pulse-pumping, non-stop action fights, so this matchup on the main card should be nothing short of dynamite. Means is coming off a nasty TKO in his last fight, and he has a reputation for being one of the grittiest welterweights on the roster. Meanwhile, Price has earned finishes in all four of his UFC victories so it’s tough to imagine the judges needing to get involved in this one.
Veteran heavyweight contender Ben Rothwell makes his long-awaited return to action as he faces Bulgarian standout Blagoy Ivanov. Prior to his extended absence, Rothwell was on a real tear through the heavyweight division with a 4-1 record through his past five fights, including a knockout against Alistair Overeem and a submission win over Josh Barnett. It’s been nearly three years since his last fight but if Rothwell wants to return to form he’ll have beat Ivanov, who stumbled in his UFC debut against Junior Dos Santos but had previously won his last five fights in a row before that decision defeat.
Former top 15 lightweight Beneil Dariush wants to reclaim his spot in the rankings, but if he wants to get a second win in a row he’s going to have to stop Drew Dober’s three-fight win streak. Dober has always been a tough-as-nails competitor, but he’s really found his groove recently with a trio of wins, including a victory over Dariush’s teammate Jon Tuck in his most recent fight. As for Dariush, he’s always been a legit threat to the best lightweights in the world with wins over the likes of Jim Miller, Michael Johnson and James Vick. Dariush is dangerous everywhere, which makes this showdown with Dober a very intriguing matchup at 155 pounds.
With a UFC career that started more than a decade ago, Tim Boetsch always likes a good challenge and his latest test will come from former welterweight turned middleweight Omari Akhmedov. Since arriving in the UFC, Akhmedov has struggled to find consistency, looking like a legit top 10 threat at times but then faltering at others. Following a draw in his last fight, Akhemtov is determined to prove his middleweight move was worth it, but he’s got a tough test ahead of him because Boetsch is a powerhouse who can put anybody in this division out with just one shot.
Since moving to welterweight, Anthony Rocco Martin has found a ton of success with three straight wins, including a submission victory over Jake Matthews in his most recent performance. Now he will face his toughest test to date at 170 pounds as Sergio Moraes stands in his way, with the Brazilian holding a 4-1 record in his past five fights with his only loss coming to new champion Kamaru Usman. Moraes is a high-level grappler with world-class submissions, but Martin is determined to tackle the top 15 in 2019, so this will certainly serve as a measuring stick to where he belongs in the division.
Marion Reneau has constantly faced the best of the best in the women’s bantamweight division, but after a tough loss in her last contest against Cat Zingano, she’s definitely focused on returning to her winning ways. Her opponent, Yana Kunitskaya, is a former Invicta FC champion who debuted in the UFC with an impossibly tough test against Cris Cyborg but never backed down from that opportunity. Upon returning to 135 pounds, Kunitskaya got her first UFC win against Lina Lansberg and she would love to add Reneau’s name to her resume when they meet on the preliminary card in Wichita.
Following a stunning submission win on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, Grant Dawson will make his long-awaited UFC debut as he faces former Ultimate Fighter challenger Julian Erosa. Dawson is a top prospect with three wins in a row, all by knockout or submission. Erosa also earned his way back to the UFC with a knockout on the Contender Series but he fell short in his last fight, which means he’s ultra-motivated to prevent two losses in a row when he squares off with Dawson.
Former Ultimate Fighter competitor Maurice Greene jumped at the chance to step up on short notice to face Ohio native Jeff Hughes after falling to him in a previous meeting in 2018. On that night, Hughes dominated his way to a unanimous decision victory before then earning his spot on the UFC roster with a first-round TKO on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. Hughes is a notable heavyweight prospect who trains daily with former champion Stipe Miocic. Now he’ll look to get his first UFC win while Greene attempts to avenge his previous loss in their last fight.
In bantamweight action on the preliminary card, Louis Smolka meets Matt Schnell with both fighters coming off wins. Smolka made his return to the UFC this past November, where he picked up a submission victory to notch his fourth win in a row overall. The Hawaiian has always put on exciting fights and he’ll look for another crowd-pleasing affair against Schnell, who has earned back-to-back wins as he returns to the bantamweight division for the first time since 2016.
The welterweight matchup between Alex Morono and Zak Ottow will be a clash between two fighters both searching for some consistency after both have bounced back and forth between wins and losses in recent fights. Coming into this weekend, Morono and Ottow are each coming off a victory but only one of them can leave Kansas with a two-fight win streak. It will be a true test of wills in this fight between two very tough welterweight competitors.
A move to the lightweight division hasn’t gone the way Alex White hoped, as he’s gone just 1-3 in his past four fights. If he wants to stave off a third defeat in a row, White has to beat Dan Moret, who is coming off a loss of his own in his UFC debut against Gilbert Burns last April. Expect these two to leave nothing in the tank when they finally meet, with White and Moret both in desperate need of a win.