The UFC is back in Las Vegas with a UFC Fight Night at the UFC Apex after another awesome pay-per-view. There are two former UFC champions in action. Former bantamweight champion Cody Garbradnt takes on Rob Font in the main event, and former strawweight champion Carla Esparza takes on Yan Xiaonan in what is most likely a No. 1 contender fight. However, if you look past the main and co-main event, there are some under-the-radar storylines.
The Return of Damir Ismagulov
One of the best lightweight prospects that everyone forgot about returns to action this Saturday. Ismagulov has been out of action since 2019, as he took 2020 off. He is a former M-1 Lightweight champion and is riding a 14-fight winning streak, with three of those wins coming in the UFC. The Russian fighter is the only man to defeat Joel Álvarez inside the UFC, and he also defeated Thiago Moisés, who has looked fantastic in 2020 and has a date with Islam Makhachev later this Summer. It is pretty wild that Ismagulov is the first fight of the night against someone making his UFC debut but, to quote the great Max Holloway, “It is what it is.” If Ismagulov stays active for the rest of the year, look for him to possibly get a crack at the top 15.
The Debut of Chris Barnett
After four fight cancelations, Ben Rothwell finally has an opponent, and his name is Chris “Beast Boy” Barnett. Barnett has been must-watch TV on the regional scene for just about 20 years to the hardcore fans. Hee finally makes his UFC debut after grinding. He may never be a champion or a top 15 heavyweight inside the UFC, but he sure will entertain. “Beast Boy” has fought as high as super heavyweight, and that was just last year. He rides a four-fight win streak with a 78% finish rate. Barnett vs. Rothwell will be fun; it has to be.
Felicia Spencer’s last UFC fight?
Spencer returns for the time since her UFC title loss last June at UFC 250. It really isn’t her fault, though. There are no featherweights in the UFC for her to fight. She was originally scheduled to fight former boxer turned MMA fighter Danyelle Wolf, who literally has one MMA fighter. Wolf pulled out of the fight earlier this month (thankfully) and was replaced by Norma Dumont. UFC President Dana White keeps saying that the featherweight division is saying in the UFC because double champ Amanda Nunes wants it. That leaves Spencer in a weird spot because there isn’t anyone for her to fight to build up to another title shot. While I really want her to stay in the UFC, Bellator has a featherweight division that actually has fighters. Who knows what Spencer does, only time will tell.
Must WIN fights
There are a couple of UFC veterans that desperately need a win on Saturday. Ultimate Fighter Season 11 winner Court McGee sees himself on a three-fight skid and has only won two fights since 2016. At 36 years old, McGee is probably on the last leg of his career and needs a win to stay inside the UFC. He faces Cláudio Silva, who suffered his first loss since 2007 in his last fight, so if McGee is going to stay in the promotion, he will have to work for it. Yancy Medeiros also sees himself on a three-fight skid and the first losing streak of his career. The Hawaiian is on the last fight of his contract, so he has a lot of pressure on his shoulders. He faces Damir Hadžović and seems to be rejuvenized.
Top 15 flyweight matchup
Did you know two top 15 ranked flyweights are fighting on Saturday? Yeah, that’s what I thought. For some reason, ranked flyweights get buried for some reason. Thankfully they are on the main card this time. No. 11 David Dvorak fights No. 12 Raulian Paiva. The winner of this fight will crack the top 10. Dvorak is on a 15-fight win streak, while Paiva is on a two-fight streak after losing his first two. This one will be fun.
Ricardo Ramos vs. Bill Algeo
Ramos vs. Algeo is my fight of the night, and Dana White agrees with me as he featured it on his weekly ‘If You Don’t Know, Now You Know’ video.
— danawhite (@danawhite) May 20, 2021
Algeo and Ramos were supposed to fight last month, but COVID put a halt to that. Ramos is a finisher, and Algeo is a tough as hell fighter who is looking for his first UFC finish. Algeo vs. Ricardo Lamas was an incredible fight from last year that really announced his presence, even in defeat.
Enjoy the UFC Fight Night card!
MMA and Entertainment Journalist. Graduated from CSUN with a B.A in Journalism. I love MMA and have been watching consistently since 2004.