After a week off, the UFC returns to the Apex, bringing 15 fights with them. In the main event, the No. 6 ranked light heavyweight, Anthony Smith, fights No. 11 Ryan Spann. This is Anthony Smith’s seventh main event, and he is trying to hold off a hungry lion looking to make a name off of him. In the co-main event, a pair of light heavyweights will be looking to get back into the win column as Ion Cutelaba fights Devin Clark. However, if you look past the main and co-main events, there are some under-the-radar storylines.
The debut of Erin Blanchfield
It is finally time for Erin “Cold Blooded” Blanchfield to make her UFC debut. She is one the brightest and hottest young prospects – not in women’s MMA but all MMA. She is only 22 years old, but she is battle-tested, spending most of her career in Invicta FC. Blanchfield is 6-1, with her only loss coming from a very questionable split decision against Tracy Cortez. She holds wins over current UFC fighters Kay Hansen and Victoria Leonardo. Blanchfield was originally scheduled to debut in April on short notice against Norma Debut up a weight class. There is absolutely no doubt that Blanchfield is the division’s future; the only question is how quickly she gets there. She fights Sarah Alpar, who is looking for her first UFC win.
Tsarukyan returns for his fourth UFC fight this weekend. Since his last fight earlier this year, he has a ranking next to his name- No. 14 in the lightweight division. He might be the most overlooked lightweight fighter in a division where there are tons of killers. In his UFC debut, he gave top contender Islam Makhachev all he could handle on very short notice. He is for real and could be on his way to the top of the division. According to him and his management, the problem is that no one will fight him, which is why he is fighting an unranked opponent on Saturday. Nevertheless, he fights Christos Giagos, and with a win, he deserves a big ranked name next.
Welcome to the UFC
Five fighters are making their UFC debut this weekend. First, we have Blanchfield, but I already told you about her. Next, Nikolas Motta makes his debut against a fellow newcomer Brandon Vancamp. Motta earned his contract on season four of Dana White’s Contender Series last year. He is a former CFFC lightweight champion, and he comes to finish his opponent violently every time. Vancamp is riding a four-fight win streak and is stepping in on a week’s notice. 13 of his 15 wins come by way of stoppage. The UFC has had their eye on him for a while. Motta vs. Vancamp should be a fun scrap. Another fighter fighting on a week’s notice is Brandon Jenkins. Just three weeks ago, Jenkins is coming off a spectacular flying switch knee knockout during the last week of the PFL playoffs. “The Human Highlight Reel” stayed ready, and he got his call. He fights Zhu Rong. The last fighter is Mandy Böhm. The 32-year old German fighter makes her debut against Ariane Lipski is undefeated at 7-0. She was scheduled to fight Liz Carmouche in Bellator, but she was scooped up for the UFC after that fight fell through.
Banger of the Week
While there isn’t one fight that really jumps off the page for Fight of the Night or Banger of the Week, I do believe Mike Rodríguez vs. Tafon Nchukwi is the one. There is also a lot of the line for Rodriguez because he is most likely fighting for his job. Nchukwi is coming off the first loss of his career, so it is always fascinating how fighters respond to that. Both fighters are knockout artists, so for as long as it lasts, it should be fun.
‘King Impa’ is back for his fourth UFC fight, which will be his second fight welterweight. The man who gave Kasanganay his first professional loss as well as a viral knockout, Joaquin Buckley, is also on the card. Anyways, Kasanganay is a very bright prospect, and his switch to Sanford MMA was the best thing that could have happened to him because he has some of the best training partners in the world now. He fights Carlston Harris, who was very impressive in his UFC debut. While he is not looking past Harris, Kasanganay has Daniel Rodriguez, Sean Brady, and Khaos Williams in his line of sight for potential next opponents.
The Return of Rocky
Former title challenger Raquel Pennington returns from a six-month USADA suspension this weekend. She was last in action last June when she defeated Marion Reneau via unanimous decision. Pennington has been a staple of the bantamweight division and is always a tough fight. She fights Pannie Kianzad, who specifically asked for the fight because the two were rumored to fight in 2020. Pennington was removed from the bantamweight rankings because of her suspension, but before she was removed, she was ranked No. 4.
Joaquin Buckley returns after head kick knockout loss
Sarah Alpar returns after Jake Paul and Triller paid for her training
Must win for Emily Whitmire, Ariane Lipski, Mike Rodriguez
MMA and Entertainment Journalist. Graduated from CSUN with a B.A in Journalism. I love MMA and have been watching consistently since 2004.