After an epic UFC 266 pay-per-view, the UFC is back at the Apex this weekend. A pivotal light heavyweight fight takes place between former title challenger, and No. 5 ranked Thiago Santos and No. 10 ranked Johnny Walker. Santos is on a three-fight losing streak and is in desperate need of a win. Walker snapped his own losing streak in his last fight and is looking to crack the top five. We have some Brazilian on Brazilian violence this weekend, however, if you look past the main event, there are some under-the-radar storylines.
Return of Aspen Ladd
Aspen Ladd finally returns to action this weekend. She hasn’t been out of action since 2019 because she tore her ACL and MCL while preparing for her next fight against Juliana Pena. It has was a grueling recovery for Ladd, and she has been itching to get back. She was originally supposed to return to action in the co-main event of UFC on ESPN: Sandhagen vs. Dillashaw; however, her opponent Macy Chaisson pulled out of the fight on weigh-in eve. The fight was quickly rebooked, and now they collide on Saturday, with some heat behind it. Aspen Ladd is ranked No. 3 in the bantamweight rankings, and a win over Chaisson could set her up with a No. 1 contender fight or a date with Miesha Tate, something she asked for this week.
Kevin Holgomedov from Hendrickestan
What does a Kevin Holland who has spent the last five months working on his wrestling with AKA and Johnny Hendricks look like? Well, we’re going to find out on Saturday. After having an absolute killer 2020 with five wins, four of those coming by way of finish, 2021 hasn’t been so nice to ‘Big Mouth.’ While he did have his first UFC two main events, once on ESPN and the second on ABC, he was dominated in both of them by bigger, stronger wrestlers. Holland heard the criticism from the fans, media, and the boss, and he took some time off to work on his wrestling. He fights another very tough grappler in Kyle Daukaus at UFC Vegas 38, who has the chance to snag Holland’s No. 14 middleweight ranking.
Banger of the week
The obvious answer for banger of the week is Niko Price vs. Alex Oliveria, which will absolutely live up to the hype. However, there is another fight on the prelims that will be fireworks for however long it lasts. Devonte Smith vs. Jaime Mullarkey is going to be ridiculous. Between the both of them, they have 19 knockouts. Smith has a 100% finish rate, and Mullarkey has only been to the judge’s scorecards once in his 13 wins. There is some fun MMA math between the two of them as well. Smith’s first UFC loss came at the hands of Khama Worthy, while in Mullarkey’s last fight, he knocked Worthy out in 46 seconds.
Happy Retirement, Bethe Correia
Correia’s last UFC fight takes place at UFC Vegas 38. The former title challenger has faced nothing but tough competition since challenging for the belt, and her last fight is no different. She faces No. 15 ranked Karol Rosa, who is undefeated in the UFC and is riding a five-fight win streak. While Correia has fallen on hard times lately, she is always fun to watch, and it was a pleasure watching her compete. Enjoy your retirement, ‘Pitbull’!
Misha Cirkunov Drops To Middleweight
I’m writing this prior to Cirkunov weighing in on Friday, so I don’t know if he actually made the weight, but after 11 years, Latvian-Canadian is dropping down from light heavyweight to middleweight. Cirkunov has always been ridiculously yoked, so I couldn’t see him at 185, but here we are. After having an up and down career at light heavyweight, with him reaching No. 7 in the rankings, Cirkunov believes the second leg of his career will be better at middleweight. There are a ton of fun matchups for him at middleweight, so sign me up, but first, he has to get through Krzysztof Jotko.
‘King’ Casey O’Neil makes her third appearance in the UFC, following her destruction of Shana Dobson back in February at UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs. Lewis and then most recently defeating Lara Procópio in June. O’Neil is undefeated at 7-0 and is riding a 12 fight streak going back to her AMMY career. She faces Antonina Shevchenko on Saturday, and with a win over her, there is a chance O’Neil cracks the flyweight top 15. Scottish-Australian fighter is only 23-years old, but she is great on the mic and is very marketable. Remember the name.
MMA and Entertainment Journalist. Graduated from CSUN with a B.A in Journalism. I love MMA and have been watching consistently since 2004.