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On the Rise: Boise Edition

It is truly a terrific lineup that serves as an outstanding follow-up to the events of International Fight Week, with the following three new arrivals slated to feature prominently in the festivities.

This is On the Rise: Boise Edition.

Blagoy Ivanov

In a year where several new contenders have emerged in the heavyweight division, Ivanov might be the best of the bunch.

The 31-year-old Bulgarian first gained acclaim by defeating the legendary Fedor Emelianenko in the semifinals of the 2008 World Sambo Championships, and in the 10 years since, he’s built himself into one of the best heavyweights competing outside of the UFC. Saturday night, he gets the chance to drop that qualifier and become an instant contender when he takes on former champion Junior Dos Santos in the main event.

Ivanov is 16-1 (with one no contest) in his career and enters on a five-fight winning streak that includes victories over former UFC competitors Shawn Jordan and Josh Copeland. The only man to beat him thus far is Alexander Volkov, who currently sits at No. 3 in the heavyweight rankings and was last seen mauling Fabricio Werdum.

The newcomer is a serious threat, an intriguing addition to a suddenly compelling division and an interesting stylistic matchup for the returning Dos Santos. This is an outstanding main event and should produce an exciting end to an excellent night in Idaho.

Said Nurmagomedov

Remember how everyone was like, “You really need to pay attention to this new cat Zabit Magomedsharipov; he trains with Frankie Edgar and his team and they all rave about him” last summer?

Yeah, the same applies with the 11-1 Nurmagomedov, who makes his promotional debut opposite Justin Scoggins this weekend.

The 26-year-old has fought almost exclusively in Russia thus far and his only setback came four years ago against fellow UFC flyweight Magomed Bibulatov. Since then, he’s rattled off five straight wins and drawn the praise of his coach Mark Henry, who can’t say enough good things about his charge.

I know coaches always say good things about their fighters, but Henry is one of those guys that doesn’t try to sell you on members of his team; he just tells it like it is and if he says, “Wait until you see Said,” I’m circling his debut on my calendar and looking forward to the fight.

Scoggins is a terrific opponent for him right out of the chute, as the South Carolina native has experience in the Octagon, is awkward to deal with in the cage and is still only 26, which means it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he finally harness the raw talent and potential he’s exhibited through his first eight UFC appearances and went on a run at flyweight.

If Nurmagomedov is as good as advertised and topples Scoggins in his maiden voyage under the UFC banner, expect him to get the same kind of accelerated push that Magomedsharipov has earned.

Jennifer Maia

Anyone who has watched Maia compete over the last several years knows that the 28-year-old is one of the best flyweights in the world. Now that she’s set to make her UFC debut, everyone else will get a chance to see that too.

The Chute Boxe Academy product is 15-4-1 overall and in the midst of a six-fight winning streak. She claimed the interim Invicta FC flyweight title in the middle of that run, was promoted to undisputed champion later that year and scored successful title defenses over Roxanne Modafferi and Agnieszka Niedzwiedz before getting the call to compete on the biggest stage in the sport.

A well-rounded talent who has shared the cage with elite competition throughout her career, Maia hopes to make an instant impact in the UFC by turning aside Liz Carmouche in her debut.

The former bantamweight title challenger dropped her flyweight debut to Alexis Davis, but remains a powerful, experienced talent in the middle of the UFC’s newest weight class. Beating Carmouche is no easy feat, but if Maia is up to the task, she’ll put herself in the mix at the top of the 125-pound weight class as the second half of the year heats up.

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