The UFC is back on ESPN this week after its second card on ABC. The main event of UFC Vegas 24 sees former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker take on Kelvin Gastelum in a fight two years in the making. However, if you look beyond the main event, there are some under-the-radar storylines.
Alexander Romanov vs. Juan Espino
It baffles me how this fight isn’t on the main card because it has the opportunity to be fantastic. Both men are terrific grapplers, and both are undefeated in the UFC. Both men also had two of the best submissions in the UFC last year. Espino returned from a two-year layoff to submit Jeff Hughes with a scarf hold choke. Romano made his UFC debut last year, and in his second fight, he choked Marcos Rogério de Lima unconscious with a forearm choke – something he has pulled off three other times. The is a heavyweight grappling matchup that gives me flashbacks to Frank Mir vs. Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Need to get back into the win column
14 fighters are coming off losses looking to get back in the win column. Those fighters are: Jeremy Stephens, Drakkar Klose, Andrei Arlovski, Abdul Razak Alhassan, Jacob Malkoun, Luis Pena, Alexander Munoz, Justine Kish, Jessica Penne, Gerald Meerschaert, Bartosz Fabiński, Zarah Fairn, Anthony Birchak, and Austin Hubbard. Some fighters only lost their last fight, and some fighters are on a multiple-fight losing streak. Watch for these fighters to prove something.
Jessica Penne vs. Lupita Godinez
Penne returns from almost a four-year lay off due to a USADA suspension that she has been fighting tooth and nail. She faces a tough task as she faces Lupita “Loopy” Godinez, the most recent LFA strawweight champion. “Loopy” is 5-0 in her professional career and is a prospect to keep an eye on. Penne is 38 and could be possibly be fighting for her career.
On top of Godinez making her UFC debut this weekend, two other fighters are making their first walk to the octagon. Dakota “Hairy” Bush is stepping in on a week’s notice to fight Austin Hubbard. Bush could have easily been on Dana White’s Contender Series this coming season but is skipping that process. “Hairy” is on a two-fight win streak and is coming off a nasty head kick knockout victory back in January. He went 7-2 in LFA. Josiane Nunes makes her debut against Fairn and is riding a six-fight winning streak with five of those wins by stoppage. She is coming to make a statement.
Jeremy Stephens vs. Drakkar Klose
While Stephens vs. Klose is the evening’s co-main event, I just feel like it is not being talked about enough. Stephens is making his return to lightweight, a weight class he hasn’t competed in since 2012! Stephens is most likely in a must-win scenario. He hasn’t won a fight since 2018 and has dropped his last four. He isn’t losing to just anyone though, look at these names Jose Aldo, Zabit Magomedsharipov, Yair Rodriguez, and Calvin Kattar. The man has fought nothing but monsters. His opponent Klose is returning from his second UFC loss. Remember the famous picture of Joe Rogan, Daniel Cormier, and Jon Anik that has become a meme? That was his last fight. Both these guys are coming to knock each other out. Don’t blink.
Tracy Cortez is close to the top 15
Cortez is making her third walk to the octagon this weekend and is on the brink of the top 15. With a win over Justin Kish, a top 15 opponent will be her next fight. On top of being a very bright prospect, she could be the next UFC machine product – alas, Paige Van Zant if she keeps winning. Cortez is pretty, has a fun personality, has the Mexican market, and is very good at fighting.
Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Jacob Malkoun
Don’t blink. First-round knockout incoming. That’s it.