Getting prepared for mid-week UFC action this coming Wednesday? Here is everything you need to know about the event with our Guide to UFC on ESPN 20.
UFC On ESPN 20
Date: January 20, 2021
Location: Etihad Arena in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi
Start Time: 12:00 p.m. ET, 9:00 a.m. PT
Where To Watch: ESPN & ESPN+
Welterweights: Michael Chiesa vs. Neil Magny
Overall Records: Chiesa 17-4, Magny 24-7
UFC Records: Chiesa 10-4, Magny 17-6
Last Fight: Chiesa def. Dos Anjos, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 24 (1/24/20), Magny def. Lawler, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 33 (8/29/20)
Last Five Fights: Chiesa 3-2, Magny 4-1
Rankings: Chiesa #8, Magny #9
Betting Odds: Chiesa +115, Magny -135
Preview: Chiesa and Magny get the bump up to the main event in a fight that both have been calling for for quite some time. Chiesa has been on a steady climb up the welterweight ladder since making the move up, having won all three of his fights at 170 lbs. His most recent win came almost a year ago when he dominated Rafael Dos Anjos en route to a decision win. The pandemic kept Chiesa out of action for the rest of 2020, but he did some commentary while not fighting, so he hasn’t been away from the sport. He returns hungry, rejuvenated and motivated.
Magny had a successful 2020, going 3–0 during the year. It was a nice rebound for him after having a lost year in 2019 due to issues with USADA. He is coming off a dominant win over Robbie Lawler in August as he enters his third UFC main event. Chiesa has upped his game since moving to 170 lbs., as making the lightweight limit was draining a lot out of him, and his body is more shaped to be a welterweight. He is still a huge welterweight, but one thing he will have to overcome in this fight is the reach of Magny.
Magny uses his long arms well at keeping opponents at a distance, and it also allows him to land more and also have more advantages in the clinch. Magny likes to clinch and dominate against the fence, and he does have some good takedowns. Chiesa is a strong wrestler and Magny will likely have trouble taking him down. Chiesa has averaged five takedowns over his last three fights, and he hunts for submissions on the mat, as he has eleven wins by submission and zero by knockout. Magny can be submitted, as three of his UFC losses have been by submission, so he’ll need to show some good defense on the mat if it makes it there.
It’s very simple how this fight should play out- it favors Magny on the feet, and favors Chiesa on the mat. This is a super interesting fight, and the winner will be on a four-fight win streak, so it is also an extremely pivotal fight for both.
Welterweights: Warlley Alves vs. Mounir Lazzez
Overall Records: Alves 13-4, Lazzez 10-1
UFC Records: Alves 7-4, Lazzez 1-0
Last Fight: Brown def. Alves, R2 SUB, UFC On ESPN+ 22 (11/16/19), Lazzez def. Alhassan, UDec, UFC On ESPN 13 (7/15/20)
Last Five Fights: Alves 3-2, Lazzez 4-1
Betting Odds: Alves +180, Lazzez -220
Preview: The co-main event may not be a battle of big names, but it is a compelling match-up that could produce some fireworks. Alves returns to the Octagon for the first time since November 2019 as he looks to get back to the days of his early career. He started off 10-0, which was capped off with a submission of Colby Covington, but has since gone just 3-4, rotating wins-and-losses in his last four. History would say that means he’s due for a win, but Lazzez is not going to be an easy task.
Lazzez is in just his second UFC appearance as he scored a decision win over Abdul Razak Alhassan on Fight Island in July. Lazzez is a strong striker who has some good wrestling as well, as he took Alhassan down four times in that fight, and Alhassan is a big welterweight with great wrestling chops. Alves is solid on the mat and hard to get down, so Lazzez may decide to keep the fight on the feet. Lazzez does land a lot, but he also gets hit a lot. Alves has good stand-up defense and hasn’t been finished with strikes since 2013, but Lazzez has eight of his ten wins by knockout.
This has the makings of an explosive fight between two hungry welterweights. I like Lazzez slightly in this fight, but Alves isn’t going to make it easy for him.
Light Heavyweights: Ike Villanueva vs. Vinicius Moreira
Overall Records: Villanueva 16-11, Moreira 9-4
UFC Records: Villanueva 0-2, Moreira 0-3
Last Fight: Wright def. Villanueva, R1 TKO, UFC On ESPN 15 (8/22/20), Craig def. Moreira, R1 SUB, UFC On ESPN+ 17 (9/21/19)
Last Five Fights: Villanueva 3-2, Moreira 2-3
Betting Odds: Villanueva -140, Moreira +120
Preview: This feels like an odd fight to be on the main card considering Villanueva and Moreira are a combined 0-5 between them during their UFC careers, but the styles of these two make for a fight that might not last very long. Villanueva made his UFC debut during the pandemic, but went 0-2 during 2020. Moreira hasn’t fought since September 2019 and he’s dropped his first three UFC fights. Suffice to say, both men are in must-win situations.
The best thing you can say about these two is they tend to not last long in their fights, especially during their UFC tenures. Moreira has never been out of the first round inside the Octagon, with all three of his losses coming in the first round. In fact, he’s never even been past the second round during his career. He’s got one win by knockout and eight by submission, and three losses by knockout and one by submission. Villanueva has seen finishes in 23 of his 27 career fights, and both of his UFC losses have come by TKO. Both men eat a lot of punches and their chins must be questioned coming in, but Moreira is a more accurate striker. Moreira would have the edge if it goes to the mat.
I’m not expecting much from this fight, but with their history, I’m also not expecting it to last long. Knowing that statement, now I’m expecting it to go the full fifteen minutes. No matter who wins, the loser is likely in their UFC swan song, so it is a big fight for both men, and hopefully it will lead to an exciting finish.
Women’s Flyweights: Roxanne Modafferi vs. Viviane Araujo
Overall Records: Modafferi 25-17, Araujo 9-2
UFC Records: Modafferi 4-5, Araujo 3-1
Last Fight: Modafferi def. Lee, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 35 (9/12/20), Araujo def. De La Rosa, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 34 (9/5/20)
Last Five Fights: Modafferi 3-2, Araujo 4-1
Rankings: Modafferi #8, Araujo #9
Betting Odds: Modafferi +280, Araujo -340
Preview: A battle between ranked flyweights gets a main card spot as Modafferi and Araujo look to inch closer to title contention in the division. Both women are coming in off decision wins in September, with Modafferi defeating Andrea Lee and Araujo besting Montana De La Rosa. Modafferi, in particular, has been rotating wins-and-losses over her last nine fights, which doesn’t bode well for her, as history dictates she should lose this one. Araujo’s lone loss in UFC came to Jessica Eye, who missed weight, in a fight that Araujo was out-struck in.
Modafferi is a strong pressure fighter who likes to fight against the fence, and is a solid grappler. The knock against Modafferi is her striking could be considered weird but effective, and she does tend to get hit a lot. Araujo is a very accurate striker and is a rare female flyweight that has the ability to finish opponents with one punch. While she did lose the battle on the feet to Eye, she likely won’t lose that same battle to Modafferi, but she will need to withstand the volume that Modafferi will bring.
Modafferi is going to need to lean on her experience, as she has 42 career fights compared to Araujo’s 11 career fights. Araujo is the more naturally talented fighter, but Modafferi has had a career of being overlooked, and she excels when she is the underdog, which she is here. This should be a very interesting fight, and I honestly think it could go either way.
Flyweights: Matt Schnell vs. Tyson Nam
Overall Records: Schnell 14-5, Nam 20-11-1
UFC Records: Schnell 4-3, Nam 2-2
Last Fight: Pantoja def. Schnell, R1 KO, UFC On ESPN+ 23 (12/21/19), Nam def. Rivera, R2 TKO, UFC On ESPN+ 36 (9/19/20)
Last Five Fights: Schnell 4-1, Nam 3-2
Rankings: Schnell #9, Nam #13
Betting Odds: Schnell +110, Nam -130
Preview: A high-level flyweight fight with some underrated 125-pounders sees the main card as Schnell and Nam will finally square off after a couple of false starts. They were originally supposed to fight in September, but Schnell had weight cut issues, and then again in December, until the fight was pushed back to here. Schnell is eager to get back into action, as he hasn’t fought since December 2019. That fight was a loss to Alexandre Pantoja, and it ended Schnell’s win streak at four.
He’s trying to start a new win streak against Nam, who will enter the fight on the heels of his first two wins inside the Octagon. Nam is coming off of two knockout wins, both of which took place at 135 lbs., but his size is more natural for the flyweight division. Both men are high-volume strikers who work at a fast pace. Both take more than they give, and both tend to have sloppy striking defense at times. Nam has more power, as he has twelve knockout wins compared to Schnell’s two. On the flip side, Schnell is a much better grappler. He has eight wins by submission, though Nam has never been submitted in his career and has never been taken down in his UFC career.
This has the makings of being the most exciting fight on the card, and there is plenty of room for both to break through into title contention in the division. I like this fight very much.
Featherweights: Lerone Murphy vs. Douglas Silva de Andrade
Overall Records: Murphy 9-0-1, Silva de Andrade 26-3 1 NC
UFC Records: Murphy 1-0-1, Silva de Andrade 4-3
Last Fight: Murphy def. Ramos, R1 TKO, UFC On ESPN 13 (7/15/20), Silva de Andrade def. Barao, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 22 (11/16/19)
Last Five Fights: Murphy 4-0-1, Silva de Andrade 3-2
Betting Odds: Murphy -275, Silva de Andrade +235
Preview: A featherweight bout with two men looking to move their way up the division kicks off the main card as Murphy looks to remain undefeated against Andrade. Murphy has started off his ten-fight career with no losses, the only blemish being a draw with Zubaira Tukhugov in his UFC debut. Andrade knows the feeling of being undefeated, as he didn’t suffer a loss until his 24th pro fight, which was a loss to the aforementioned Tukhugov in his UFC debut. This will mark Andrade’s second fight since moving back to featherweight, but his first appearance since November 2019.
Andrade is a heavy hitter, with 19 of his 26 career wins coming by knockout, but he’s only had one stoppage win in UFC. Murphy is also a heavy hitter, with six of his nine wins coming by knockout, including his most recent win over Ricardo Ramos in July. Murphy is going to have a five-inch reach advantage, and he doesn’t keep it on the feet often, preferring to mix it up on the mat despite having no submission wins. He does hunt for submissions on the mat, often using them as set ups to get into better position for finishes on the ground.
Andrade is a guy who looked like he was going to be impressive and make some noise in UFC, but it hasn’t really worked out for him. Murphy’s athleticism may be too much for him in this one, and I really like Murphy’s chances for victory here.
Start Time: 9:00 a.m. ET, 6:00 a.m. PT
Where To Watch: ESPN & ESPN+
Middleweights: Omari Akhmedov vs. Tom Breese
Overall Records: Akhmedov 20-5-1, Breese 12-2
UFC Records: Akhmedov 8-4-1, Breese 5-2
Last Fight: Weidman def. Akhmedov, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 32 (8/8/20), Breese def. Bhullar, R1 TKO, UFC On ESPN+ 37 (10/10/20)
Last Five Fights: Akhmedov 3-1-1, Breese 3-2
Rankings: Akhmedov #13
Betting Odds: Akhmedov +130, Breese -150
Preview: This is a middleweight bout that could have an impact on the rankings is buried here in the prelims, and it is one of the more interesting fights on the card. Akhemdov comes in as the #13-ranked middleweight, and Breese is on the cusp of being ranked after wins in two of his last three fights. Akhmedov is coming into this fight off a loss to Chris Weidman in August in a close fight, while Breese returns to Fight Island, where he got a TKO win in less than two minutes in October. Prior to that loss, Akhemdov was unbeaten in his previous six fights to get him up in the rankings.
Akhemdov’s gameplan coming into the fight is clear as he is a grinding fighter who doesn’t land many shots, but he likes to take his opponents down and wear them out on the mat. He gets his opponents down on half of his takedown attempts, while Breese defends 75% of takedowns attempted on him. Breese is a volume striker with a lot of power, as he has four knockdowns in his UFC career, and he will keep the fight on the feet, as he has never scored a takedown during his seven UFC fights.
Breese is a proven finisher as eleven of his twelve wins have been by stoppage, while Akhmedov has been the distance in his last eight fights and hasn’t gotten a true finish of an opponent since 2013. I like Breese in this fight as his stock looks to be rising, as long as he’s able to stay active, while Akhemdov may have already hit his peak in UFC.
Bantamweights: Ricky Simon vs. Gaetano Pirrello
Overall Records: Simon 16-3, Pirrello 15-5-1
UFC Records: Simon 4-2, Pirrello UFC Debut
Last Fight: Simon def. Borg, SpDec, UFC On ESPN+ 29 (5/13/20), Pirrello def. Iezzi, R1 KO, European Beatdown 7 (10/12/19)
Last Five Fights: Simon 3-2, Pirrello 4-1
Betting Odds: Simon -325, Pirrello +265
Preview: A short-notice opportunity gets Pirrello here, but he has a tall task ahead of him for his debut fight as he takes on perennial bantamweight contender Simon. Simon gets back to action for the first time since May as COVID-19 has been guilty of ruining some fights he had lined up. He was supposed to fight on Fight Island against Brian Kelleher, but Kelleher tested positive, and for a moment, it was looking like Simon wasn’t going to be able to fight. In steps Pirrello, one of the top bantamweight prospects in Europe, but he is also fighting for the first time since October 2019, so he’ll be looking to shake off any ring rust.
Simon is always on the fringe of the rankings, and he has been ranked in the past, but he should avoid overlooking Pirrello here. Pirrello has won five of his last six fights, and 14 of his 15 wins have come by stoppage. Simon is solid on his feet, but excels with his takedowns and ground work. If you include his Contender Series fight, Simon averages almost seven takedowns per fifteen minutes inside the Octagon. He also has power in his hands.
Pirrello is very deserving of his UFC call, but this might be more than he can handle for his debut with all of the time off. I like Simon to get a big win, leading him to a fight with a ranked opponent for his next one.
Flyweights: Su Mudaerji vs. Zarrukh Adashev
Overall Records: Mudaerji 13-4, Adashev 3-2
UFC Records: Mudaerji 2-1, Adashev 0-1
Last Fight: Mudaerji def. Gordon, R1 KO, UFC On ESPN 18 (11/28/20), Nam def. Adashev, R1 KO, UFC On ESPN 10 (6/13/20)
Last Five Fights: Mudaerji 3-2, Adashev 3-2
Betting Odds: Mudaerji -370, Adashev +310
Preview: Another exciting flyweight match-up graces the card as Mudaerji looks to capitalize on a short-notice fight when he takes on Adashev. Mudaerji comes into this fight riding some momentum, as he’s won his last two fights, the last one being a 44-second knockout of Malcolm Gordon in November. Adashev is fighting for the second time in the Octagon, looking to rebound from a disappointing 32-second knockout loss to Tyson Nam in his debut in June. What is interesting with Adashev is this fight is at 125 lbs., while the fight with Nam was at 135 lbs., and Adashev still missed weight by 2.5 lbs.
That could be an interesting story before the fight even gets underway. When it gets underway, it could be a quick one. Mudaerji has shown some power, as eleven of his thirteen wins have come by knockout. Adashev only has five fights in his MMA career, but he has plenty of kickboxing and hand-to-hand combat experience. Mudaerji is going to have a seven-inch reach advantage and he will look to use it to land first.
Adashev losing so quickly in his debut makes people question his chin, so he will need to look to get inside the pocket and land some short, hard strikes. I have a feeling this one might not last long, and I like Mudaerji in this fight as he continues to climb the ranks.
Middleweights: Dalcha Lungiambula vs. Markus Perez
Overall Records: Lunigambula 10-2, Perez 12-4
UFC Records: Lungiambula 1-1, Perez 2-4
Last Fight: Ankalaev def. Lungiambula, R3 KO, UFC On ESPN+ 21 (11/9/19), Du Plessis def. Perez, R1 KO, UFC On ESPN+ 37 (10/10/20)
Last Five Fights: Lungiambula 4-1, Perez 2-3
Betting Odds: Lungiambula -140, Perez +120
Preview: After a couple of false starts, Lungiambula finally has himself an opponent and a fight as he makes his middleweight division. He was scheduled to fight Karl Roberson on two separate occasions in December, but COVID-19 ruined both of those. He was then scheduled to fight Isi Fitikefu in this one, but he pulled out due to injury. In steps Perez, who is taking this on short notice with a lot riding on the line for him. Perez has lost two straight and three of his last four, so he finds himself in a must-win situation with looming roster cuts.
One edge that Perez will have, even with the short-notice call, is that he’s been more active as Lungiambula is fighting for the first time since November 2019. Lungiambula is also cutting down to 185 lbs., which is surprising because he looked huge, a true physical specimen at 205 lbs. If he can retain his size, his power should translate well, and that is trouble for Perez, who was finished in the first round of his last fight. Lungiambula is good everywhere, as his ground game is solid, and he’s shown no issues going the distance, even if his cardio has faded.
Perez has been tough to finish in the past, so he is out to prove his last loss was a fluke. Perez likes to try and get in the heads of his opponents, as he is famous for painting his face like the Joker for the weigh-in staredowns. Lungiambula is a slight betting favorite, but this is a close fight on paper, which should make for an interesting fight.
Flyweights: Francisco Figueiredo vs. Jerome Rivera
Overall Records: Figueiredo 11-3-1 1 NC, Rivera 10-3
UFC Records: Figueiredo UFC Debut, Rivera 0-1
Last Fight: Figueiredo DRAW Souza, Jungle Fight 95 (9/28/19), Nam def. Rivera, R2 TKO, UFC On ESPN+ 36 (9/19/20)
Last Five Fights: Figueiredo 3-1-1, Rivera 3-2
Betting Odds: Figueiredo -140, Rivera +120
Preview: A third flyweight bout on the card sees the UFC debut of the brother of the current UFC Flyweight Champion, as Francisco Figueiredo, the younger brother of Deiveson, fights inside the Octagon for the very first time. It will be the first time he’s seen fight action since September 2019, but he’s actually trying to get into the win column for the first time since April 2018. Rivera is fighting for the second time in UFC, and for the first time at 125 lbs., his natural weight class, after being finished by Tyson Nam in September at 135 lbs. That stopped Rivera’s win streak at three, and he will be looking to start a new one here.
Figueiredo isn’t as polished as his brother, nor does he have the record he does, but he is a strong submission fighter, with seven of his eleven wins coming by submission. Rivera has some good takedown defense, and he is going to need to keep this fight on the feet for his best path to victory, though he does have seven submission wins himself.
It would be a fun storyline if Figueiredo could go on a run to title contention and be tempted to fight his brother for the title, but Rivera might be a difficult opponent to get by given his lack of activity. This will show where both men currently stand in the division.
Lightweights: Mike Davis vs. Mason Jones
Overall Records: Davis 8-2, Jones 10-0
UFC Records: Davis 1-1, Jones UFC Debut
Last Fight: Jones def. Gifford, R3 KO, UFC On ESPN+ 19 (10/12/19), Jones def. Proctor, R1 TKO, Cage Warriors 116 (9/26/20)
Last Five Fights: Davis 3-2, Jones 5-0
Betting Odds: Davis -185, Jones +160
Preview: An interesting lightweight fight is buried deep on the prelims, but it features one of the more intriguing signings UFC has made recently. Mason Jones signed with UFC following a September win in the Cage Warriors promotion, where he was both the Cage Warriors Lightweight and Welterweight Champion at the time. He’s one of the best prospects in the sport, with a perfect 10-0 record, and seven wins by stoppage. He gets a game opponent for his debut as Davis gets back into the Octagon for the first time since October 2019, and he’s looking to pick up where he left off after a knockout win over Thomas Gifford.
Davis is looking to keep his finish streak alive, as all eight of his wins have come by stoppage, with seven coming by knockout. Davis lands a lot, and absorbs a lot. Jones is a pressure fighter with a good ground game, and he knows how to take his opponents to deep waters. He’ll likely find a home at 155 lbs. in UFC, and he has the tools to make a deep run in the division. Davis is hungry and fighting at 155 after some tough weight cuts will be benefical to him. This has the makings of an explosive fight, and both men have lots of potential.
Bantamweights: Umar Nurmagomedov vs. Sergey Morozov
Overall Records: Nurmagomedov 12-0, Morozov 16-3
UFC Records: Nurmagomedov UFC Debut, Morozov UFC Debut
Last Fight: Nurmagomedov def. Gonzalez, R1 SUB, GFC 20 (11/23/19), Morozov def. Rettinghouse, UDec, M-1 Challenge 105 (10/19/19)
Last Five Fights: Nurmagomedov 5-0, Morozov 5-0
Betting Odds: Nurmagomedov -500, Morozov +400
Preview: Umar Nurmagomedov, the cousin of Khabib, looks to finally make his UFC debut after seeing three fights cancelled for various reasons in 2020. His opponent, Sergey Morozov, will also be making his UFC debut in this one. These two were scheduled to fight at UFC 254 in October, but an illness for Nurmagomedov took him out of the fight, and they had to wait until Abu Dhabi to rebook the fight since visa issues were hindering both. Nurmagomedov comes into the fight with a perfect 12–0 record, and he has the strong wrestling base much like his cousin. He has the gas tank to go the distance as well, as half of his wins have come by decision.
Morozov comes into this fight riding a five-fight win streak, and he has scored 11 of his 16 wins by stoppage. He likes to keep the fight on the feet, and he will have the advantage over Nurmagomedov there. Nurmagomedov is the big favorite in this fight, but Morozov is a live underdog and does have a good chance of pulling off the upset. This should be an interesting clash.
Women’s Flyweights: Victoria Leonardo vs. Manon Fiorot
Overall Records: Leonardo 8-2, Fiorot 5-1
UFC Records: Leonardo UFC Debut, Fiorot UFC Debut
Last Fight: Leonardo def. Hackett, R2 TKO, Dana White’s Contender Series 36 (11/17/20), Fiorot def. Campo, R1 TKO, UAE Warriors 14 (11/27/20)
Last Five Fights: Leonardo 4-1, Fiorot 5-0
Betting Odds: Leonardo +145, Fiorot -165
Preview: A pair of debuting flyweights open the show as Leonardo and Fiorot look to score the win in their UFC debuts. This is actually a short-notice opportunity for Fiorot, who replaced Natalia Silva in this fight in late December. Leonardo enters the fight having won six of her last seven fights, including a win on the Contender Series to earn her UFC contract. She has shown to be a finisher, as five of her eight wins have come by stoppage. Fiorot has won five straight since dropping her first career fight, with four of the five wins coming by knockout. In an interesting trivia note, these women were born just one day apart and both made their professional debuts less than a month apart.
Leonardo has more experience in that timeframe, and has fought in the Bellator, Invicta FC and LFA promotions during her young career. Fiorot has seen a lot of recent action, as this will be her fourth fight since July 31. Leonardo is a very well-rounded fighter, as she lands a lot of strikes and is good at takedowns. Fiorot is the actual favorite in this fight, and she is also a very well-rounded fighter. Both women will be looking for an impressive debut, and both have the potential to be contenders in the division.