The UFC will take center stage in front of a national audience this weekend when the promotion hosts UFC Fight Night on Saturday (3:00 p.m. on ABC/ESPN+, with prelims at 11:30 a.m. on ESPN/ESPN+).
The fight card is spearheaded by former interim featherweight title contender Josh Emmett, who takes on rising contender Ilia Topuria. Rising women’s flyweight Amanda Ribas and Maycee Barber will face off in the co-main event. But there are also some interesting matchups further down the map that fans should also keep an eye on.
Former UFC women’s featherweight title challenger and current ESPN MMA analyst Megan Anderson highlights the key storylines to watch during this weekend’s action.
Could we be dealing with the next title challenger?
Given the situation in the men’s featherweight division, a win for Topuria could catapult him up the rankings and give him another shot at the title.
The champion, Alexander Volkanovski, will defend his title against interim champion Yair Rodriguez at UFC 290 next month. Max Holloway, ranked No. 2 in the ESPN division rankings, will face “Korean zombie” Chan Sung Jung in August. Fifth-seeded Brian Ortega recovered from injury against Rodriguez last July. Eighth-placed Arnold Allen is defeated by Holloway. And Calvin Kattar, ranked 9th, also recovered from an injury in a loss to Allen last October. This leads to an interesting situation: Topuria could immediately stake their claim as the top contender in the division with a big win.
Topuria (13-0) has a lot to offer. He’s undefeated and it’s impressive to be able to say that at this level going into his sixth fight in the Octagon. More important than racking up wins for Topuria is finishing off his opponents, with 12 of his 13 wins coming from submission (8) or knockout (4). If he wins this weekend, I wouldn’t be surprised if he claims a chance for the title.
Conversely, a win for Emmett would keep him among the top contenders in the conversation. After losing to Rodriguez in an interim title fight at UFC 284 in February, Emmett at 145 pounds could end up outside the top contenders’ group if he falls short.
Prior to his most recent loss, Emmett hadn’t lost a fight since 2018. While a win here would be a great way to get back on track, I don’t think he will be a title contender just yet. After that fight, he’d probably need to claim one more win before he can crack the belt again. But if he wins, it could set him up perfectly for a fight with Allen or Ortega.
Important implications for women’s flyweight
Just like the main event between Emmett and Topuria, the stakes in the co-main event between Ribas and Barber will be high. Both are up-and-coming women’s flyweight contenders who are craving more star power as their longtime champion, Valentina Shevchenko, was upset by current champion Alexa Grasso.
Ribas (11-3), who is 2-2 in her last four fights, clinched a win over Viviane Araujo at UFC 285 in March. After a four-fight win streak, Barber (12-2) comes into the fray after a split decision win over Andrea Lee at a UFC Fight Night in March.
Despite both Ribas and Barber boasting impressive professional records, neither has recorded a win. On national TV, the co-main event could be the perfect opportunity to claim the standout win.
With women’s flyweight winning a new champion for the first time since 2018, the weight class is as wide open as ever. Ribas or Barber could use this fight as the move that cements the winner as a future title contender.
Heavy fists will fly to open the main map
Brendan Allen gets Sam Alvey to drop out
Brendan Allen knocks Sam Alvey down with a big left hook and then rear naked chokes him in submission.
Saturday’s main card opens with two bouts featuring fighters of significant punch. Firstly, Brendan Allen will have his hands full in a tough duel with Bruno Silva.
Both fighters have high completion rates, with Allen scoring six of his nine UFC wins by knockout or submission and Silva scoring all four of his UFC wins by knockout.
I don’t think this fight goes beyond the distance. Silva has lost twice by submission, and although Allen has power in his hands, he comes from Jiu-Jitsu. So I could imagine Allen directing the fight to the ground to nullify Silva’s fight-altering power and using his play on the ground to put Silva in an awkward position. Allen has 12 career submission degrees to his credit.
After Allen vs. Silva, David Onama meets Gabriel Santos. Onama is another skilled fighter with great power in his hands. He also has a knack for getting into exciting fights. He always gets into all-out wars if he doesn’t finish off his opponent early. Get ready for consecutive exciting battles to open the main map.
Robertson, who began her UFC career at women’s flyweight, recently transitioned to strawweight to face Piera Rodriguez in April and looked great in her division debut.
Not only was I impressed with her performance, as the UFC matchmakers booked her to play against another up-and-coming player in the division, Tabatha Ricci. Robertson is a high-level grappler, with seven of her nine UFC wins coming by submission. She even defeated former world strawweight champion Rose Namajunas in a grappling match last December.
Robertson has always been too small for the women’s flyweight, so strawweight feels right for her. If she can defeat Ricci, I wouldn’t be surprised if she quickly rocketed up the division rankings.