COLBY COVINGTON VS. ROBBIE LAWLER
Former teammates and former titleholders mix it up in the welterweight main event as ex-interim champ Colby Covington squares off with veteran “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler.
Covington has won six straight and nine of 10 starts in the UFC overall, propelling himself into the title conversation with dominant efforts against Demian Maia and Rafael Dos Anjos with a healthy dose of self-promotion sprinkled in for seasoning. A well-conditioned athlete with a non-stop motor, “Chaos” is a suffocating grappler who wears people out by piling up takedowns and forcing them to carry his weight along the fence.
Originally slated to face Tyron Woodley in a rematch of the UFC 201 championship clash earlier this summer, Lawler was relocated to Newark and paired with Covington after “The Chosen One” was forced out with an injury. Lawler has only fought three times in the last three years and enters off a controversial loss to Ben Askren in March.
More than just a classic clash of styles between an all-out grappler and a feared striker, this one should come down to how well Lawler’s traditionally excellent takedown defense holds up and if Covington can successfully weather the storm that is sure to come as he looks to get inside.
The title picture in the welterweight division is getting crowded, but the winner of this one definitely deserves a seat at the table when it comes time to figure things out.
JIM MILLER VS. CLAY GUIDA
The most interesting thing about this lightweight matchup is that somehow these two have never crossed paths before and I say that with nothing but the utmost respect for these two divisional stalwarts. Despite 59 UFC fights between them before they meet on Saturday, Miller and Guida have thus far not squared off against each other while remaining crucial players in the 155-pound weight class.
Miller scored an emotional victory last time out in Sunrise, Florida, submitting Jason Gonzalez in just over two minutes as his wife and children watched from the front row. The Sparta, New Jersey resident knows the finish line is getting closer, but he’s not ready to call it a day yet and after a rough four-fight run, he’s won two of his last three.
Newly minted UFC Hall of Famer Guida will be making his 28th appearance in the Octagon and he does so on a nice little run, having won three of his last four. Like Miller, the last man to best him was Charles Oliveira, the surging Brazilian submission ace who should be getting a Top 10 opponent before the year is out.
These two veterans have always operated with a “leave it all in the cage” mindset and Saturday night should be no different. While their best days are behind them, Miller and Guida remain consummate professionals and this should be a fun clash between two men whose impact on the division extends well beyond their win-loss records.
JOAQUIM SILVA VS. NASRAT HAQPARAST
From veteran stalwarts to emerging talents trying to take the next step forward in their careers, this clash between Silva and Haqparast will determine which one of these two lightweight hopefuls moves up another position in the divisional hierarchy as the UFC readies to his the 2019 home stretch.
The 30-year-old Silva rebounded from the second loss of his career with a third-round knockout win over Jared Gordon in December. Now 11-2 overall and 4-1 inside the Octagon, the former TUF Brazil semifinalist has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but is just as happy to stand and slug it out, making him a handful for anyone who stands across from him in the cage.
Haqparast fought three times in his first 12 months on the roster, dropping his debut before bouncing back with a pair of quality decision wins, but he’s been out since October, as a late-stage injury forced him out of a scheduled matchup with John Makdessi in March. The 23-year-old German who fights out of Montreal’s Tristar Gym looks like a four-fifths scale version of Kelvin Gastelum and many believe he has the same potential upside, which makes this a key matchup for tracking his development and determining his place in the loaded lightweight division.
TREVIN GILES VS. GERALD MEERSCHAERT
Depending on how this one plays out, it could end up being one of those fights you look back on two or three years down the road as the moment it should have become clear that Giles was going to be a factor in the middleweight division.
The 26-year-old Houston native returned from an extended absence earlier this year and suffered his first professional loss, getting stuck in a guillotine choke late in a fight with Zak Cummings where he was getting pieced up and out-savvied. Giles had won 11 straight before that, including a bunch of very good victories on the regional circuit and a pair of stoppages in the UFC, so now he needs to show whether his last effort was an aberration or how it’s going to go when he gets in the cage with someone more experienced.
And there aren’t many fighters in the middleweight division with more experience than Meerschaert.
Though he’s still only 31, “GM3” has been a pro for a dozen years, amassing a 28-11 record that includes four wins in seven UFC starts, although even typing that it feels like it deserves greater explanation. Two of his losses have come against legit contenders Thiago Santos and Jack Hermansson, while his most recent defeat in March against Kevin Holland came by way of split decision and left a lot of people scoring at home scratching their heads about the final tallies.
The Roufusport veteran has the grappling chops to punish Giles for any mistakes on the ground and the toughness to hang with him on the feet if he’s not sharp, making this is a major litmus test for the once-beaten prospect.
SCOTT HOLTZMAN VS. DONG HYUN MA
Veteran lightweights looking to get back on track meet in this main card contest as Tennessee’s Holtzman faces off with South Korea’s Ma.
Holtzman has quietly put together a 6-3 record inside the Octagon and entered his last matchup on a solid three-fight run of success. But he couldn’t match the pace and grappling acumen of Nik Lentz in February and saw his winning streak snapped as a result, sending him into this one with designs on getting back into the win column.
“The Maestro” is in a similar position, having had his own three-fight winning streak halted last time out. Where Holtzman was out-grappled, Ma fell victim to superior speed and power, landing on the wrong end of a Devonte Smith combination at UFC 234.
Both men have shown they have a place in the lightweight ecosystem and the skills to shine inside the Octagon. There should be a sense of urgency from both athletes as they look to avoid consecutive losses, which should make this one an energetic affair early on the main card.
DARKO STOSIC VS. KENNEDY NZECHUKWU
The main card opens with a clash between light heavyweight prospects that came up short in their last appearance inside the Octagon.
Following an impressive debut win last summer, an injury delayed Stosic’s sophomore appearance until June, where he landed on the wrong side of a unanimous decision result against Devin Clark. The hulking judo player and Mirko Cro Cop protégé couldn’t handle the American’s pressure game and faded quickly, though he never stopped looking to land heavy, winging blows and pushed through to the final horn.
Nzechukwu earned wins on both Season 1 and Season 2 of the Contender Series, with a pair of victories in between, to arrive at his debut with a 6-0 record. After getting the better of things through the opening two rounds, the newcomer got a little careless in the closing minute of his fight with Paul Craig and the Scottish submission ace made him pay, hitting a beautiful sweep to transition to a triangle choke and secure the win.
Light heavyweight always needs fresh names and emerging talent to climb the ranks and both have shown the potential to do so in the future. This one should help determine who is more ready to start making that climb now.
MICKEY GALL VS. SALIM TOUAHRI
Saying a 27-year-old fighter is facing a “make or break” bout always feels a little premature, but that could very well be the case here for Gall, who gets a hometown fight in hopes of getting back into the win column and re-igniting his promising career.
The Green Brook, New Jersey native made waves by calling out CM Punk, beating Mike Jackson for the opportunity to face Punk and then battering the former WWE superstar in his debut. He then followed it up with a quick submission win over Sage Northcutt and appeared poised to be a rising star for the UFC.
But he suffered a loss to fellow Lookin’ for a Fight grad Randy Brown and floundered last time out against Diego Sanchez, leaving many to wonder if all that early success and attention has been more of a curse than a blessing for Gall.
Touahri has yet to find success inside the Octagon, going the distance in a pair of bouts with Warlley Alves and Keita Nakamura, the second of which came by split decision. The 29-year-old Polish welterweight had won five straight prior to that and showed some serious promise during his road to the Octagon and if he can tap back into that, he could emerge with his first UFC victory.
ANTONINA SHEVCHENKO VS. LUCIE PUDILOVA
As the flyweight division continues to come together and sort itself out as the two-year anniversary of its genesis draws closer, pairings like this become increasingly important and have a major impact on how things line up in the 125-pound hierarchy.
Shevchenko is the older sister of the division’s current titleholder and enters this one off the first loss of her professional MMA career. After turning in a solid outing in her promotional debut, “La Pantera” was placed in the cage with crafty veteran Roxanne Modafferi in her sophomore appearance and landed on the wrong side of a split decision verdict against “The Happy Warrior.”
Pudilova began her UFC journey in the bantamweight ranks, going the full 15 minutes in four outings and coming away with a 2-2 record. She dropped down to flyweight for her last start and came away with a unanimous decision loss to Liz Carmouche.
Now settled into the division, it will be interesting to see if the young Czech fighter can rebound and collect a quality victory or if Shevchenko will bounce back and take out another talented fighter with designs on challenging her sister down the road.
JORDAN ESPINOSA VS. MATT SCHNELL
With the flyweight division reigniting, each fight carries greater significance, and with these two coming in off quality efforts, the potential impact of this contest should get ratcheted up a couple additional notches.
Schnell has bounced around between flyweight and bantamweight since competing on Season 24 of The Ultimate Fighter. After dropping his first two official UFC appearances, “Danger” has put together a three-fight winning streak, capped by a terrific performance against Louis Smolka last time out.
A two-time winner on the Contender Series, Espinosa followed up his Season 2 triumph with a unanimous decision win in his debut, edging out Eric Shelton. The 29-year-old Albuquerque native fought quality competition on his way to the big stage and could expedite his climb up the rankings with a victory over the surging Schnell in this one.
LAUREN MURPHY VS. MARA ROMERO BORELLA
This is another flyweight battle with legitimate title picture implications as Murphy and Borella continue to jockey for position in the congested and competitive 125-pound weight class.
Murphy was one of the top seeds on Season 26 of The Ultimate Fighter, but got bounced from the tournament in the opening round by eventual winner Nicco Montano. She responded by edging out Barb Honchk in her official divisional debut, but fell to Sijara Eubanks last summer in her follow-up engagement. The former Invicta FC standout is tough as nails, but has struggled to find success inside the Octagon and needs a strong outing to stabilize her footing in the flyweight division.
Borella enters in a similar position. Like Murphy, she won her UFC flyweight debut, submitting Kalindra Faria, but then fell to current contender Katlyn Chookagian in her sophomore outing. The Italian returned to the win column with a split decision nod over Talia Santos in February and if she can extend her winning streak to two, she’ll put herself in the thick of the title conversation going forward.
MIRANDA GRANGER VS. HANNAH GOLDY
Just a couple weeks after failing to secure a contract despite a victory on the Contender Series, Goldy gets the call to compete in the Octagon and a chance to make an instant splash as she squares off with highly regarded newcomer Granger.
The 27-year-old Washington State product Granger has dominated on the regional circuit, earning all six of her career wins inside the distance, venturing to the second round only once. She’s faced solid competition on her way to the UFC and profiles as someone who could make an accelerated run up the rankings if she’s able to maintain her current form now that she’s competing on the biggest stage in the sport.
Goldy thoroughly outworked Kali Robbins on Week 2 of the Contender Series, sweeping the scorecards to push her record to 5-0 overall. But as has happened several times over the first two seasons, Goldy made an impression on the UFC brass and was quickly called upon for this short-notice opportunity opposite the unbeaten prospect.
CLAUDIO SILVA VS. COLE WILLIAMS
Originally scheduled to face Ramazan Emeev, the quietly streaking Silva instead welcomes Williams to the UFC in this welterweight pairing.
The London-based Silva has won 13 consecutive fights, the last four of which have come inside the Octagon, including a 2014 split decision nod over rising contender Leon “Rocky” Edwards. Injuries kept Silva on the sidelines for nearly three full years, but he’s returned to earn back-to-back wins over Nordine Taleb and Danny Roberts and if he can keep his winning streak intact through Saturday, fans and observers will have no choice but to start paying attention the surging 36-year-old.
A pro for more than a decade, Williams has been a fixture on the Midwest regional scene, with his lone career setback coming early in his career to eventual UFC and Strikeforce vet Eric Wisely. Like Silva, Williams has dealt with some extended absences over the course of his career, but he ended a 15-month hiatus with a victory in September to extend his winning streak to nine.