For the second time this yr already, the motion shifts to community tv. On Saturday Feb. 24, the Octagon touches down at the Amway Middle in Orlando, Fla. for a “higher than individuals are giving it credit score for” major card that includes three pivotal divisional contests and the return of one of the in style unranked fighters on the roster.
Whereas final weekend’s present in Austin, Tex. had a number of pairings with amorphous stakes on the road, issues are a lot clearer in relation to this weekend’s 4-pack of essential card matchups.
Right here’s a glance at what’s at stake on the UFC on FOX: Emmett vs. Stephens important card.
Mike Perry vs. Max Griffin
That is in all probability do or die for Griffin, who enters Saturday’s major card opener coming off a unanimous choice loss and sporting a 1-2 document in the UFC.
Going 1-three in your first 4 fights isn’t all the time a dying knell, particularly once you’ve acquired a Struggle of the Night time bonus in there and your first loss got here towards on of the present prime contenders, however that is the welterweight division. Griffin wants a victory — or at the very least, one other gritty, resilient displaying in defeat — in order to get one other look later this yr.
For Perry, this feels extra like an opportunity to place up one other end in entrance of the most important viewers attainable and supply him with a platform to arrange his subsequent battle. The tattooed Floridian has turn out to be a fan favourite due to his aggressive type in the cage and unpredictable nature on the microphone, which makes me consider this one is designed to offer him an opportunity to point out out for his followers after which get on the mike and say one thing wild whereas calling somebody out.
My guess: Perry takes purpose at Darren Until, rekindling the tensions that kicked up in Poland after the Brit blasted Donald Cerrone.
Ovince Saint Preux vs. Ilir Latifi
Fights like this typically get left out as a result of the notion is that the ceilings for the events concerned have already been established they usually’re simply not ok to hold with the perfect in the division.
That’s in all probability true, however that doesn’t change the truth that (a) this can be a prime-10 matchup in the sunshine heavyweight division and (b) that fighters that fall in that vary are essential to the well being of the MMA eco-system.
Latifi is a cult hero halted the unbeaten run of promising upstart Tyson Pedro final trip. The Swedish powerhouse has a 6-three report by way of his first 9 Octagon appearances, however has come up brief towards the highest opponents he’s confronted alongside the best way. He’s principally a poor man’s Ryan Bader; take that nevertheless you please.
OSP has fought extra and gained greater than Latifi, however is principally in the identical place, solely a pair spots greater up in the rankings. Whereas he’s on a 3-struggle profitable streak and has collected some high quality finishes contained in the UFC cage, he too has been on the improper finish of the outcomes every time he’s shared the Octagon with prime competitors.
However right here’s the factor: we’d like guys like this in each division as a result of whereas they may not be contenders, they’re superb gatekeepers and the type of stern, confirmed exams rising names like Pedro, Gadzhimurad Antigulov and Jordan Johnson are going to wish to beat in order to be taken significantly in the division going ahead.
Plus, the winner of that is in all probability going to finish up in a marquee task towards a prime-5 fighter subsequent day trip, the place a victory would go away them on the brief record of title contenders.
Fights like which are all the time essential, which is why fights like this are essential, too.
Jessica Andrade vs. Tecia Torres
There’s a risk that the winner of this one will find yourself dealing with the winner of the upcoming championship rematch between Rose Namajunas and Joanna Jedrzejczyk. It’s not a positive factor as a result of the potential for a championship trilogy battle is there and Andrade simply misplaced to Jedrzejczyk final Might in Dallas, however regardless of how issues shake out, this can be a essential struggle in the strawweight division.
Andrade cemented her standing as the highest contender in the division (past the previous champion) with an incredible displaying reverse Claudia Gadelha final September in Saitama, Japan. She’s four-1 since shifting to the one hundred fifteen-pound ranks, brings a ton of energy and aggression with a sneaky-good submission recreation and continues to be solely 26 years previous, which suggests she’s simply now getting into her athletic prime.
After dropping an in depth choice to Namajunas in April 2016, Torres has rebounded with three straight victories, most just lately dominating the motion towards Michelle Waterson in December. Now targeted on preventing full time (she had beforehand been working on her Grasp’s diploma), the ten-1 taekwondo stylist can put herself in a place to attend out a title shot with a victory right here.
Lots will rely on how issues play out between Namajunas and Jedrzejczyk in April at UFC 223, however whatever the consequence of that conflict, the winner of this one will set up herself as an elite expertise in the strawweight ranks and somebody who will probably be hanging across the prime of the division for the foreseeable future, so now can be a great time to familiarize your self with these two ladies for those who haven’t already accomplished so on the previous.
Josh Emmett vs. Jeremy Stephens
These two come into their fundamental occasion conflict in very totally different positions and with very totally different stakes on the road in this one.
Stephens is a recognized commodity — a fixture in the highest-10 who’s in the most effective type of his profession, getting into off again-to-again victories over Gilbert Melendez and Doo Ho Choi. Like Latifi and Saint Preux, he’s struggled to recover from the hump and stamp himself as a reputable contender in the previous. Regardless of this being his twenty eighth UFC look, he’s nonetheless solely 31, and we could possibly be watching him take that subsequent step as we converse.
As for Emmett, that is all about answering the varied lingering questions that exist following his first-spherical knockout win over Ricardo Lamas again in December.
Whereas it was an ideal efficiency, the Workforce Alpha Male fighter missed weight and is lower than a yr faraway from dropping a tepid choice to Des Inexperienced at UFC 210. He bounced again with an excellent win earlier than icing Lamas in Winnipeg, however know he must show that efficiency isn’t going to be the random blistering end that stands out on his report going ahead.
Featherweight is very aggressive and all types of fascinating proper now and the winner of this one will probably be in line to face a prime-5 expertise subsequent trip, making Saturday night time’s fundamental occasion an important contest for a mess of causes.
E. Spencer Kyte covers combined martial arts for Sporting Information and Province Sports activities. Comply with him on Twitter: @spencerkyte.