After taking a week’s break, the UFC returns to the UFC Apex this weekend before leaving for Arizona for UFC 263. This weekend’s headliner is Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Augusto Sakai. While it’s not the best main event, it features two top 10 heavyweights looking to get back in the win column. However, if you look past the main event, there are some under-the-radar storylines.
The Return of the Monkey King
Jordan ‘The Monkey King’ Leavitt returns to the octagon this weekend for his second time. In his first fight with the promotion, he brutally knocked out and retired Matt Wiman with a slam. It only took 22 seconds. He then went on to do the splits and a Dirty Dancing homage. It was quite the UFC debut. Leavitt fights Claudio Puelles, who is coming off a layoff after not fighting in 2020. In a completely stacked lightweight division, ‘The Monkey King’ is one to keep an eye on. He kicks off the fight card.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) December 6, 2020
One of the hottest signings of last year was Wales’ Mason Jones. He is only the third fighter in Cage Warrior history to hold two belts in two different weight classes. The other two? Dan Hardy and Conor McGregor. He is in good company. The hype is real on him. Jones made his UFC debut earlier this year on ‘Fight Island,’ but he was matched up against another absolute beast, Mike Davis. The two would go to war in a Fight of the Year candidate; ultimately, Jones would lose a unanimous decision and lose his undefeated record. The Welsh fighter returns against Alan Patrick, look for him to put on a show, and remind everyone how good he really is.
While there are a handful of fighters that you can honestly say are in a must-win situation, three, in particular, are fighting for their jobs. Walt Harris is on a two-fight skid, being finished in both of them. I KNOW it is hard to see the UFC cutting Harris because of everything the man has gone through, but you never know. We’ve seen more popular fighters get cut for less. Harris fights Marcin Tybura and puts his No. 8 ranking on the line. Ilir Latifi is another heavyweight who desperately needs a win. He is on a three-fight losing streak and took 2020 off after losing to Derrick Lewis at UFC 247 last February. This will be his second fight at heavyweight, and he fights another heavyweight of the smaller size in Tanner Boser. Finally, we have Youssef Zalal, who, after bursting on the UFC scene winning his first two fights, is now on a two-fight skid himself. Zalal is only 24-years-old and has all of the talent in the world but needs a win. He fights Sean Woodson – in what could be one the most slept-on fights of the night.
Three Debuts, Three Short Notice Fights
All three of the debuting fighters on UFC Vegas 28 are taking the fights on short notice, and all of them being former LFA fighters. Gregory Rodrigues most recently fought literally two weeks ago at LFA 109. In the main event, Rodrigues knocked out Josh Fremd to win the vacant LFA title. 24 hours later, he got the call from the UFC to step in on short notice to fight Duško Todorović, replacing Maki Pitolo. Rodrigues vs. Todorović is a banger – someone will be going to sleep. Kamuela Kirk is another fighter who stayed busy, as he fought three weeks ago at LFA 108. In the main event, he literally retired Daniel Swain. He steps in against Mr. Finland, Makwan Amirkhani, on less than a week’s notice. The last fighter that literally got signed yesterday (Wednesday) to fight Manon Fiorot is Tabatha Ricci. She will be stepping in on four days’ notice. She most recently fought in April. The Brazilian and submission artist will look to take Fiorot’s steam.
Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Miguel Baeza
What a fight. Could you imagine if this would have been the five-round main event? Santiago Ponzinibbio returned after a three-year layoff this past January but got knocked out in the first round, halting his big return. Before his layoff, he was ranked No. 8 in the welterweight rankings and on a seven-fight win streak. In his prefight interview, he said that the loss had to do with ring rust and that he is back to normal, feeling healthy. Ponzinibbio faces a young, hungry lion looking to really establish himself in the division and make a bigger name off of him- Miguel Baeza. “Caramel Thunder” is undefeated at 10-0 and holds a 100% finish rate in the UFC. With a win over Ponzinibbio, there will be a big chance he will be in the rankings come Tuesday and will be fighting nothing but top 15 fighters from her on out.
Bounce Back Wins
The following fighters are coming off losses and will be looking to get back into the win colmn.
- Jairzinho Rozenstruik
- Augusto Sakai
- Walt Harris
- Roman Dolidze
- Laureano Staropoli
- Santiago Ponzinibbio
- Dusko Todorovic
- Tom Breese
- Antonio Arroyo
- Montana De La Rosa
- Ariane Lipski
- Tanner Boser
- Ilir Latifi
- Makwan Amirkhani
- Alan Patrick
- Mason Jones
- Sean Woodson
- Youssef Zalal
Yep, 18 of 28 fighters are coming off losses.
Enjoy the fights!
MMA and Entertainment Journalist. Graduated from CSUN with a B.A in Journalism. I love MMA and have been watching consistently since 2004.