Thiago Santos vs Glover Teixeira
Brazilian veterans looking to stake their claim to a second shot at the UFC light heavyweight title finally clash in this weekend’s main event as Thiago Santos and Glover Teixeira lock horns inside the UFC Apex.
Saturday’s bout is the first appearance for Santos since he landed on the wrong side of a split decision verdict in his headlining title clash against Jon Jones at UFC 239. That evening, “Marreta” exceeded expectations and finished the bout dealing with myriad leg injuries, including several torn ligaments in his left knee and a partially torn ACL in his right knee. Previous to that loss, the former middleweight had earned four straight victories, including a third-round stoppage win over recently crowned light heavyweight champ Jan Blachowicz.
The 41-year-old Teixeira just keeps trucking along, entering Saturday’s contest on a four-fight winning streak that hasn’t garnered as much attention or generated as much conversation as a comparable run might for a tenured contender in another division. Last time out, Teixeira mauled Anthony Smith, rebounding from a slow start to punish the former title challenger and mercifully collect a fifth-round stoppage win. He’s 9-3 over his last dozen fights and despite getting up there in age, has shown no signs of slowing down.
This marks the third time these two have been slated to face off, with each man’s individual run-in with COVID-19 accounting for the delays.
Jones’ departure and Blachowicz’ ascent to the top of the light heavyweight division has opened things up in the 205-pound ranks and the winner of this one will have a legitimate case for a title shot in 2021, with Santos’ previous victory over the champion standing as the main feather in his cap, and a five-fight winning streak — should he emerge victorious on Saturday — moving Teixeira to the top of the list of potential contenders.
It will be interesting to see how Santos looks competing for the first time in well over a year after dealing with multiple lower extremity injuries, given that powerful kicks have always been a staple of his striking arsenal. Conversely, while Teixeira has always been happy to sling leather, he should have a solid edge in the grappling department, making it curious to see if he opts to take this fight to the ground or not.
No matter how things shake out, this one will have major ramifications on the light heavyweight landscape heading into next year and should be a wildly entertaining way to close out Saturday night’s show.
Andrei Arlovski vs Tanner Boser
Heavyweights at opposite ends of their UFC adventures collide here as former champion Andrei Arlovski squares off with Canadian upstart Tanner Boser.
More than 15 years after claiming UFC gold, Arlovski remains a dangerous opponent for emerging hopefuls in the heavyweight division. Last time out, the 41-year-old stalwart scored a unanimous decision win over former PFL champion Philipe Lins in the 50th fight of his professional career. While he’s endured peaks and valleys during his second run under the UFC banner, the fact that Arlovski continues to press forward and still stands as a solid litmus test for up-and-comers in the big boy ranks speaks volumes about his professionalism, his dedication, and his abilities inside the Octagon.
Boser was one of the breakout stars of the summer, registering a pair of stoppage victories four weeks apart and earning cult figure status for his unfiltered interviews and ability to open cans of Monster Energy Drinks with his front tooth. The 29-year-old from Bonnyville, Alberta logged a ton of air miles and garnered a wealth of experience prior to arriving in the UFC and has gone 3-1 in the Octagon thus far, establishing himself as one of the top younger names in the always-shifting heavyweight division.
This is a classic “veteran vs. prospect” battle on the fringes of the Top 15 and the exact type of pairing each man needs to win at this point in their careers. Arlovski needs to continue to show he’s capable of turning back younger competitors, while Boser would benefit greatly from dispatching an established opponent as he looks to continue his climb up the divisional ladder.
It could end quickly or it could turn into a drawn out war of attrition, but either way, it should be entertaining.
The Rise Of Thiago Santos
The Rise Of Thiago Santos
Raoni Barcelos vs Khalid Taha
Fighting for the first time in just over a year, Khalid Taha returns to action in hopes of securing a second UFC victory as he takes on streaking Brazilian dark horse Raoni Barcelos.
Taha began his UFC career at featherweight, landing on the wrong side of the cards in a close battle against Nad Narimani. Nine months later, he returned to bantamweight and collected a blistering first-round knockout win over Boston Salmon, following it up with a third-round submission finish of Bruno Silva. Unfortunately for the German fighter, he tested positive for a banned diuretic following the contest, leading to his win being overturned and his having to serve a one-year suspension.
Despite four straight wins since arriving in the UFC and a sterling 15-1 record overall, Barcelos continues to fly under the radar in the loaded bantamweight division. The 33-year-old Brazilian fought a quality slate on his way through the regional ranks and has impressed inside the Octagon, most recently outworking Said Nurmagomedov at the end of last year to push his winning streak to eight.
Initially set to be a clash between Taha and Welsh prospect Jack Shore, this is a delicious substitute that keeps the intriguing Taha on the card and affords observers another look at the talented Barcelos.
Ian Heinisch vs Brendan Allen
Initially scheduled to fight back in June, former LFA titleholders Ian Heinisch and Brendan Allen will look to resolve their differences inside the Octagon this weekend in this highly anticipated middleweight matchup.
It’s been peaks and valleys for Heinisch through the first five fights of his UFC career.
After earning a contract with a first-round stoppage win on Season 2 of the Contender Series, impressive wins over Cezar Ferreira and Antonio Carlos Junior, combined with his “made for Hollywood” backstory, resulted in a quick climb up the rankings. Consecutive losses to Derek Brunson and Omari Akhmedov slowed his ascent, but Heinisch got back into the win column in resounding fashion in early June, collecting a 74-second stoppage win over veteran Gerald Meerschaert to once again get him heading in the right direction.
The confident Allen has gone 3-0 since arriving in the UFC, registering stoppage victories over Kevin Holland and Tom Breese before outworking talented newcomer Kyle Daukaus on short notice when Heinisch withdrew from their previously booked pairing. The Louisiana native has been chasing this bout for a number of years and has made it clear that he wants to earn his place in the rankings and continue moving forward in his career, so expect him to be ultra-focused when they step into the cage on Saturday.
This is one of those fights that genuinely could play out in any number of ways, all of which are exciting options. There is room to move in the lower two-thirds of the middleweight rankings at the moment and a big performance from either man should propel them on to a high-profile pairing in the opening quarter of 2021.
Claudia Gadelha vs Yan Xiaonan
It’s the old guard versus the next wave of talent in the strawweight division here as perennial contender Claudia Gadelha faces off with streaking Chinese standout Yan Xiaonan here.
Five years removed from her classic championship encounter with Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Gadelha remains a credible threat in the 115-pound weight class, posting a 5-2 record in her last seven bouts, including split decision wins over Carla Esparza and Angela Hill. The Brazilian shifted her training to New Jersey following her UFC 231 loss to Nina Ansaroff and has been slowing showing more of the evolution of her game under Mark Henry with each appearance, exhibiting a deep gas tank and more patient approach on the feet.
The 31-year-old Yan has been perfect in five UFC appearances and enters Saturday’s contest with Gadelha on an 11-fight unbeaten streak overall. Despite consecutive victories over Angela Hill and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, she remains a bit of an unknown in the strawweight title picture, but her pressure-based approach and impressive results dictate that she is very much a contender in the strawweight ranks.
Much like the fight between Arlovski and Boser, this is the type of matchup each of these women need at this point in their careers.
Gadelha has looked good, but not great in her last two outings and needs to deliver a convincing performance if she truly wants to be considered in the mix for a championship opportunity in 2021, while Yan could use a dominant victory over a Top 5 fixture to shed some light on her impressive resume.
Strawweight is shaping up to be one of the most exciting divisions in the UFC next year, with numerous intriguing matchups available to be made, and how this one plays out will play a major role in determining some of those bookings.
Trevin Giles vs Bevon Lewis
Former hot prospects looking to build on recent wins meet in this preliminary card matchup as Trevin Giles meets Bevon Lewis.
Giles arrived in the UFC with a 10-0 record and tons of promise, then scored a third-round stoppage victory in his promotional debut to validate the hype and establish himself as someone to watch in the 185-pound weight class. After pressing pause on his career to complete his training as a police officer, the now 28-year-old returned to action in May 2019, losing his back-to-back outings by submission to Zak Cummings and Gerald Meerschaert.
Back in February, Giles got back in the win column with a hard-fought split decision win over veteran James Krause that earned Fight of the Night honors.
Lewis earned a developmental contract from UFC President Dana White after scoring a victory over Elias Urbina on the first season of the Contender Series, then punched his ticket to the biggest stage in the sport with a first-round stoppage win over Alton Cunningham in his return to Las Vegas. Unfortunately for the Jackson-Wink MMA product, he was thrown into the deep end of the middleweight talent pool upon arriving in the UFC and dropped back-to-back contests against Uriah Hall and Darren Stewart in his first two appearances.
The 29-year-old found his way into the win column in January with a unanimous decision triumph over Dequan Townsend, and now looks to build on that performance as he steps in opposite Giles this weekend.
Both men showed obvious promise early in their careers and are still young enough to right the ship and reach their full potential, similar to recent Contender Series graduate and UFC 254 winner Phil Hawes. That being said, the pressure is on to avoid a 1-3 run over four Octagon appearances, so expect both men to be at their best when the Octagon door closes on Saturday.
Giga Chikadze vs Jamey Simmons
A late addition to this weekend’s fight card pits streaking featherweight kickboxer Giga Chikadze against promotional newcomer Jamey Simmons.
Fighting for the second time in a month and third time since the restart, Chikadze looks to keep things moving in a positive direction as he makes a quick return following the biggest win of his MMA career, a unanimous decision triumph over Omar Morales last month on Fight Island. Now 4-0 in the UFC and riding a six-fight winning streak overall, the 32-year-old striker continues to look more comfortable and more confident each time he steps into the Octagon, and appears keen on capitalizing on his momentum by chasing another victory on Saturday night.
The 28-year-old Simmons trains out of Pura Vida BJJ/MMA in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, working in a room that includes UFC bantamweights Montel Jackson and Ode Osbourne. The compact featherweight carries serious power, as four of his victories have come by way of strikes. Each of his two career setbacks have been the result of early finishes, so expect a fast start from “The Afro Samurai” when he steps in opposite Chikadze this weekend in Las Vegas.
Alexandr Romanov vs Marcos Rogerio De Lima
Heavyweights Alexandr Romanov and Marcos Rogerio De Lima look to build on impressive performances in their 2020 debuts earlier this year as they collide in this clash of finishers.
The unbeaten Romanov looked outstanding in his UFC debut in September, dominating fellow new arrival Roque Martinez before finishing him with an arm triangle choke in the second round.
A long-time light heavyweight competitor, de Lima moved to heavyweight at the end of 2018 with a win over Adam Wierczorek and picked up his second win on three starts in February, finishing Ben Sosoli with a flurry of strikes in under 90 seconds last time out. The veteran Brazilian has a 10-to-1 advantage in Octagon experience over Romanov and will need to rely on that veteran savvy and his proven power come Saturday night.
Romanov looked like a potential contender in his debut win over Martinez in September, but this will be a much better illustration of where he fits within the heavyweight division. A couple victories is all it takes to work your way into the Top 15 in the big boy ranks, so an impressive performance from either man could land them across the cage from a more established, potentially ranked opponent in the first half of 2021.
Darren Elkins vs Eduardo Garagorri
Darren Elkins squares off with Eduardo Garagorri in what profiles as an early Fight of the Night candidate in the featherweight ranks this weekend.
A long-time fixture in the Top 10, Elkins arrives in Las Vegas on a four-fight slide, most recently dropping a unanimous decision to Nate Landwehr in May. “The Damage” is an unrelenting maniac inside the Octagon, and I say that with the utmost respect, as no matter how much punishment he takes or blood he spills, Elkins never stops coming forward looking to engage and turn the tide in his favor.
Garagorri suffered the first loss of his professional career last November when Ricardo Ramos submitted him in the first round. He was initially slated to return last month opposite Mirsad Bektic, but the bout was scrapped when a member of his team tested positive for COVID-19. Now, after nearly a year of stewing on that defeat, he finally gets the opportunity to get back into the win column against a seasoned veteran on Saturday.
Despite his recent slide, Elkins’ fights are always entertaining and Garagorri has an attacking style that produced an assortment of finishes prior to arriving in the UFC, so the chances are good that this one gets the heart rate rising early in the night and the potential is there for it to be the clubhouse leader in the Fight of the Night chase heading into the main card.
Max Griffin vs Ramiz Brahimaj
Veteran Max Griffin welcomes Ramiz Brahimaj to the Octagon for the first time in this intriguing welterweight pairing on Saturday’s preliminary card.
A perennial tough out who will be competing under the UFC banner for the tenth time this weekend, Griffin may only be 3-6 through his first nine starts, but he’s earned the respect of his peers and onlookers in tough battles against Colby Covington, Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos, Mike Perry, Thiago Alves, and Alex Oliveira. Each of the 34-year-old California native’s last five losses in the UFC have been on the scorecards, and the math on three of those fights is worthy of debate.
A member of the Fortis MMA crew, Brahimaj was initially slated to compete on the Contender Series in 2019 before his medicals revealed a tumor behind his eye that required major surgery. After making a full recovery, he was pulled from his promotional debut earlier this year the night before weigh-ins when one of his corners tested positive for COVID-19. Now, nearly 500 days after his Contender Series appearance was aborted, Brahimaj finally gets the chance to compete inside the UFC cage.
It will be interesting to see how this one plays out, as Griffin is at his best when he’s roughing opponents up from top position, but Brahimaj is an excellent grappler who has earned all eight of his career wins by submission.
Will the veteran spoil the newcomer’s debut or will Brahimaj collect a quality win over Griffin to cap his harrowing, circuitous journey to the UFC?
Felipe Colares vs Gustavo Lopez
Bantamweights looking to rebound from losses in their first fights of 2020 clash in the opener as Felipe Colares welcomes Gustavo Lopez to the Octagon for a second time.
A member of Team Nogueira, Colares has made three appearances under the UFC banner thus far, sandwiching a split decision win over Domingo Pilarte between losses to Geraldo de Freitas and Montel Jackson. The 26-year-old was 8-0 prior to getting called up to the major leagues and has logged valuable cage time through his first three UFC fights, despite landing on the wrong side of the cards in two of his first three outings.
Lopez made his UFC debut on two days’ notice against Merab Dvalishvili earlier this summer in Las Vegas, landing on the wrong side of the scorecards against the streaking Serra-Longo Fight Team member. Now, with the benefit of adequate time to prepare, the 31-year-old Xtreme Couture representative will make the walk for the second time and look to showcase the skills that earned him three straight first-round finishes prior to his loss to “The Machine” in June.