Billy Quarantillo Vs. Jacob Kilburn
Contender Series alums meet in this featherweight clash as Season 3 contract winner Quarantillo locks up with Kilburn, who came up short in his Season 2 scrap with Bobby Moffett.
While the Contender Series has graduated several newcomers into the UFC over the last three summers, Quarantillo is one of the few contract winners who had previous experience competing under the bright lights, having earned his way onto the cast of Season 22 of The Ultimate Fighter as a member of Team Faber. Born in Buffalo, New York and based out of Tampa, Florida, the 30-year-old veteran was bounced from the competition, but has gone 6-1 since, including his impressive stoppage win over Kamuela Kirk in July that finally secured him a place on the UFC roster.
Avid followers of the summer talent search series might remember Kilburn, though not necessarily for his performance against Moffett. In the pre-fight video package, the ultra-confident Kilburn dropped one of the most memorable lines in the franchise's history, stating, “I'm fighting Bobby Moffett — at least that's what they call him in Arizona. In Tennessee, we call him ‘in trouble.’”
Unfortunately for Kilburn, he was quickly submitted by Moffett, but he's since responded with a pair of finishes, lifting his record to 8-2 and setting him up for this second chance to reach the biggest stage in the sport.
Virna Jandiroba Vs. Mallory Martin
This is a tremendously interesting fight as Jandiroba looks to bounce back from her first career loss in a showdown with Martin, who is filling in for Livinha Souza on short notice.
The former Invicta FC strawweight champ, Jandiroba was outgrappled and outclassed in her debut appearance opposite Carla Esparza, who used the wrestling and top game that made her the inaugural UFC strawweight champion to secure the victory. Now the 31-year-old Brazilian, who beat Janaisa Morandin and Mizuki in her final two Invicta FC appearances, is looking to rebound from a loss for the first time in her career and with her first UFC fight behind her, don’t be surprised to see a better version of Jandiroba on Saturday.
Martin turned in a solid effort in securing a unanimous decision win over Micol De Segni this summer on the Contender Series, but after several weeks of Dana White handing out multiple contracts, the UFC President only tabbed one fighter from that week to matriculate to the Octagon and it wasn’t Martin. Undeterred, she hustled right back into the cage and scored a victory over Cynthia Arceo to extend her winning streak to five and now she gets the chance to fill in on short notice and make an instant splash by upending Jandiroba in Washington.
Both these women have the potential to be factors in the strawweight division going forward and this one will go a long way to determining whether or not that could possibly happen for either in the coming year.
Makhmud Muradov Vs. Trevor Smith
The action shifts to the middleweight division in this one as the savvy veteran Smith squares off with Uzbekistan’s Muradov in one of the night’s early preliminary card fights.
A 10-year vet who has spent the last six-plus years competing inside the Octagon, Smith is returning to action for the first time in a year and hoping to halt his current two-fight skid. A gritty wrestler who went 2-2 under the Strikeforce banner before matriculating to the UFC, the 38-year-old Smith is the type of experienced, game opponent who will not only push Muradov, but is more than capable of handing him a loss on Saturday.
Muradov made his promotional debut earlier this year, collecting a unanimous decision win over durable Italian Alessio Di Chirico. The victory pushed his winning streak to an even dozen, a run that includes wins over former UFC competitors Wendell Oliveira and Alberto Uda, and introduced the 29-year-old as an intriguing new arrival to track going forward.
After getting the better of Di Chirico in his debut, a win over Smith would certainly help Muradov take a step forward in the 185-pound weight class heading into 2020.
Joe Solecki Vs. Matt Wiman
It’s “newcomer versus veteran” in the lightweight division as the 26-year-old Solecki makes his first trip into the Octagon against the 36-year-old Wiman.
Solecki made his UFC dreams come true this summer with a first-round submission win over Jesse James Wallace on the Contender Series. The victory pushed his record to 8-2 overall with seven finishes and showcased the slick ground game the North Carolina-based fighter brings to the cage.
Wiman ended a four-and-a-half year hiatus in June, returning to the cage against fellow TUF alum Luis Pena in a bout that got away from him almost immediately. Though he showed incredible resolve and toughness by continuing to battle, the veteran eventually succumbed to the non-stop onslaught and now he’s back in search of his first victory in a little over five years.
Can Wiman get back into the win column and delay Solecki’s first UFC win or will the freshman get the better of the TUF grad and hand him another loss?
Bryce Mitchell Vs. Matt Sayles
Young featherweights still in the early stages of their UFC careers collide in this one as TUF 27’s Mitchell faces the Contender Series graduate Sayles.
Arkansas’ Mitchell has quickly become a fan favorite following a pair of wins, a call for camouflage Reebok gear and a scary accident that made headlines between his first and second Octagon appearances. After barely edging out Tyler Diamond in the TUF 27 “bronze medal match,” the 25-year-old swept the scorecards against Bobby Moffett last time out, establishing himself as one of the top young fighters to watch in the 145-pound weight class.
San Diego’s Sayles earned a contract with a first-round finish of Yazan Hajeh on Season 2 of the Contender Series, but dropped his debut less than two months later against Brazilian veteran Sheymon Moraes. Since then, Sayles has rebounded with a third-round submission finish of Kyle Nelson, and if he can replicate that effort and defeat Mitchell, he could usurp his position on the “Fighters to Watch” list going forward.
Thiago Alves Vs. Tim Means
Still competing more than a decade after challenging for the welterweight title, Alves looks for UFC win No. 16 as he takes on Means in a matchup between battle-tested veterans who still really like punching people in the face.
Both men have struggled in recent years, as Alves is just 4-6 over his last 10, while Means is 4-5 with one no contest, but that hasn’t dulled their desire to get in the Octagon and sling leather. Despite their combined struggles, both remain tough outs in the middle of the most competitive division in the UFC and two athletes who can be counted on to deliver the goods whenever they step into the cage.
Don’t be surprised if this one gives people something to talk about once the smoke clears and the dust settles in Washington this weekend.
Rob Font Vs. Ricky Simon
The final preliminary card bout of the evening also takes place in the bantamweight division as Font makes his long overdue return to action against Simon, who looks to bounce back from an upset loss earlier this year.
You have to feel for Font, the 32-year-old member of the New England Cartel. This time last year, he was a couple weeks away from earning a unanimous decision win over Sergio Pettis and cementing his status as a Top 10 talent in the 135-pound ranks. Through no fault of his own, he hasn’t fought since, as a bout with Stamann fell through before the back-up plan didn’t come together either.
Now, after a year on the sidelines, the veteran striker with a sneaky submission game will look to build on his big win from last December by handing Simon a second straight loss.
Paired off with the returning Urijah Faber in July, a golden opportunity to get a big win over a major name went south in a hurry for Simon, as “The California Kid” caught the surging fighter from the Pacific Northwest with a big right hand and halted his eight-fight winning streak in a hurry. A pressure fighter with a strong takedown game, steady hands and the best mullet in the game, the 27-year-old Simon can put himself right back into the thick of the chase with a win over Font on Saturday.
Cody Stamann Vs. Song Yadong
The main card kicks off with an outstanding fight in the bantamweight division between Stamann and Song, a Top 15 stalwart squaring off with one of the brightest young stars in the division.
You can get a sense for how stacked a division is by how quickly emerging talents morph into divisional fixtures, as is the case with Stamann. Just a couple years ago, he was the promotional newcomer on the come-up, posting three straight wins to secure a bout with Aljamain Sterling. After getting submitted by “The Funkmaster” at UFC 228, Stamann bounced back earlier this year with a unanimous decision win over Alejandro Perez to extend his record to 18-2.
Strawweight champion Weili Zhang has emerged as the top Chinese fighter on the UFC roster, but the 22-year-old Song isn’t far behind. Through four Octagon appearances, he is 4-0 with three finishes, including a blistering knockout win over Perez in just over two minutes last time out. Quick, athletic and working with a team with a history of helping prospects reach their potential in Team Alpha Male, the sky is the limit for him.
Aspen Ladd Vs. Yana Kunitskaya
Some might consider this backwards given the way her last fight went, but this feels like the most important fight of Ladd’s young career.
The talented prospect won her first three UFC appearances to push her record to 8-0, but was quickly dropped and stopped in a showdown with former featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie this summer in Sacramento. Now, having tasted defeat for the first time, the 24-year-old faces what feels like a “let’s see what you’re really made of” moment this weekend as she squares off with Kunitskaya in the nation’s capital.
After making her UFC debut in a featherweight title fight against Cris Cyborg, Kunitskaya returned to the bantamweight division and has subsequently posted back-to-back wins over Lina Lansberg and Marion Reneau to establish herself as a Top 10 fighter within the division. The 30-year-old former Invicta FC champ relocated to Las Vegas roughly a year ago, training at Xtreme Couture and logging time at the UFC Performance Institute and, thus far, it has paid dividends.
Kunitskaya has proven herself to be a resilient, relentless offensive fighter, and her combination of experience and striking acumen should force Ladd to be at her best in order to get back in the win column on Saturday night.
Stefan Struve Vs. Ben Rothwell
Veteran heavyweights meet in the middle of the main card as Struve and Rothwell each look to close out 2019 on a high note and build some momentum heading into next year.
Struve admitted he might be finished with fighting following his second-round submission win over Marcos Rogerio de Lima in February, but after a nine-month break, “The Skyscraper” is set to make his 23rd trek to the Octagon on Saturday. Still just 31, Struve has been in the cage with the best the division has to offer during his 10-year UFC career, and while he’s never quite worked his way into title contention, the Dutch veteran has been a consistently entertaining competitor, and this weekend’s scrap should be no different.
A four-fight run of success carried Rothwell to the brink of contention a couple years back, but “Big Ben” has struggled since then, entering Saturday’s contest on a three-fight slide that includes a pair of unanimous decision setbacks earlier this year. The Wisconsin native is as tough and experienced as anyone currently plying their trade in the heavyweight division, and despite his recent struggles, Rothwell is more than capable of starting another winning streak this weekend and making one more run at the Top 5 in the year ahead.
Marina Rodriguez Vs. Cynthia Calvillo
Originally scheduled to be a showdown between Calvillo and former title challenger Claudia Gadelha, Rodriguez has stepped in for the injured Gadelha to create a tremendous matchup between fighters looking to take the next step forward in the title chase.
Calvillo hit the professional circuit like she was shot out of a cannon a couple years back, collecting three wins in six months on the regional circuit to earn a call-up to the UFC before posting three wins in five months after joining the roster. She stumbled at the end of 2017 with a loss to Carla Esparza, but has since returned to score wins over Poliana Botelho and Cortney Casey to solidify her place in the Top 10.
Rodriguez battled Randa Markos to a draw in her promotional debut after impressing during the Contender Series in 2018. Since then, she’s added victories over Jessica Aguilar and Tecia Torres to her resume to push her record to 12-0-1 heading into this one.
While the winner will still have a little work to do before earning a title shot, a three-fight winning streak in the ultra-competitive strawweight division is nothing to ignore and should position the victor for a marquee assignment once the 2020 campaign gets underway.
Alistair Overeem Vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik
How can you not be intrigued by this matchup given the rookie campaign Rozenstruik has put together thus far?
In his first year on the roster, the former kickboxer from Suriname has scored three straight stoppage victories, with his last two wins coming in nine seconds and 29 seconds, respectively. Now, just a few short weeks after stopping Andrei Arlovski, “Bigi Boy” is taking a big step up in competition on short notice to jump into a main event showdown with one of the most dangerous and accomplished heavyweights of the last decade.
Overeem may be closing in on 40, but he’s clearly still a force in the big boy ranks. After suffering back-to-back losses to Francis Ngannou and Curtis Blaydes, the Dutch superstar rebounded with consecutive first-round finishes over Sergei Pavlovich and Aleksei Oleinik to re-affirm his standing as one of the top talents in the division.
This is a classic “proven veteran vs. rising star” pairing and how it plays out will have an undeniable impact on the matchups that are made at the top of the heavyweight division in the first half of next year.