After a week off, the UFC returns to the UFC Apex, bringing a fantastic card with them. No. 4 ranked bantamweight contender Rob Font headlines his second straight main event against former featherweight king and UFC legend Jose Aldo. In the co-main event, two top 15 lightweights throw down in what could be the Fight of the Year as Rafael Fiziev and Brad Riddell fight. However, if you look past the main and co-main event, there are some under-the-radar storylines.
Brendan Allen vs. Sean Strickland’s training partner
If you didn’t know, Brendan Allen and Sean Strickland do not like each other; actually, Allen despises him. There is some bad blood, and it doesn’t help that Strickland beat him last year and won’t give him a rematch. Allen fights Chris Curtis, who took the fight on short notice. Curtis is one of Strickland’s training partners and is a good friend. In interviews leading up to the fight on Saturday, Allen has said he plans on hurting Curtis in front of Strickland, and the more he talks, the more pain he will inflict. The Allen vs. Strickland rivalry might just get a lot more heated after Saturday.
Dislocated Elbow vs. Foot drop
The UFC knew exactly what they were doing with this matchup. On top of matching up two of the hottest prospects in the light heavyweight division, both Jimmy Crute and Jamahal Hill sustained injuries in their most recent fights. At UFC 261, Crute suffered foot drop when Anthony Smith hit him with a leg kick, and he was unable to continue. Two months later, at UFC 263, Paul Craig dislocated Hill’s elbow with an armbar and finished him via TKO. This fight is pivotal for the pair because a loss could knockout them out of the rankings.
Banger of the Week
I wanted to cheat and just put Fiziev vs. Riddel as this week’s banger of the week, but I won’t do that. Louis Smolka vs. Vince Morales is going to be good. The pair of bantamweights love to strike and come forward. Long-time UFC veteran Smolka was supposed to fight Sean O’Malley earlier but pulled out of the fight. He returns for the first time in 2021, hoping to get on a two-fight winning streak. Smolka has only been to the judge’s scorecards twice in his 17 wins. Morales returns to action after his UFC 265 win and securing his job. Morales was out of action with a torn Achillies most of 2020 and early 2021 but returned to a unanimous decision win over Drako Rodriguez.
Bryan Barberena is a badass
Bryan Barberena jumped on a plane to Vegas on Monday without knowing who he would be fighting. He was scheduled to face Matt Brown in what would have been a very violent fight, but unfortunately, Brown tested positive for COVID last week. Barberena is now fighting Darian Weeks. Weeks enters the UFC holding an undefeated record and a 100% finish rate. He has never been to a third-round in his professional career. This fight is going to be fun for as long as it lasts.
Menifield vs. Knight – 10 months later
Alonzo Menifield and William Knight are finally fighting. They were scheduled to fight in February and then again at UFC 260 in March; however, both fighters had a bout with COVID causing the fight to be scrapped. Menifield is coming off a win over Ed Herman at UFC 265, and Knight is coming off a Performance of the Night knockout of Fabio Cherant. This year, both men finished Cherant, which is just a strange coincidence. Menifield and Knight are both built like tanks and are knockout artists.
Two Australians and a New Zealander in Vegas
The Oceanic region is being represented in Las Vegas this weekend. I’ve already mentioned two of them. Riddell, from New Zealand, fights in the co-main event against Fiziev. Crute fights Hill, and Jake Matthews fights Jeremiah Wells. With Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker fighting in February, there is a big possibility that winners on Saturday might turn around and fight again.
MMA and Entertainment Journalist. Graduated from CSUN with a B.A in Journalism. I love MMA and have been watching consistently since 2004.