Guide to UFC on ESPN 30: Barboza vs. Chikadze
Getting prepared for UFC on ESPN 30 this coming Saturday? Here is everything you need to know about the event.
UFC on ESPN 30
Date: August 28, 2021
Location: UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada
Start Time: 10:00 p.m. ET, 7:00 p.m. PT
Where To Watch: ESPN & ESPN+
Featherweights: Edson Barboza vs. Giga Chikadze
Overall Records: Barboza 22-9, Chikadze 13-2
UFC Records: Barboza 16-9, Chikadze 6-0
Last Fight: Barboza def. Burgos–R3 KO–UFC 262 (5/15/21), Chikadze def. Swanson–R1 TKO–UFC On ESPN 23 (5/1/21)
Last Five Fights: Barboza 2-3, Chikadze 5-0
Rankings: Barboza #9, Chikadze #10
Betting Odds: Barboza -115, Chikadze -105
Preview: One of the best main events UFC has put together in 2021 takes place here as exciting kickboxers Barboza and Chikadze meet in what should be an explosive battle. Barboza has turned things around over the past year, winning his last two fights, a decision over Makwan Amirkhani last October and a third-round knockout of Shane Burgos in May in one of the best fights of 2021 thus far. He’s under a new UFC contract and has shown a renewed focus, and at 35-years-old, he is still every bit as dangerous as ever and he’s now in a position to get himself into the title picture with a win here. Chikadze gets the main event fight he’s been looking for as he comes into this bout undefeated as a member of the UFC roster and off of the biggest win of his career. He scored a 63-second finish of Cub Swanson in May, ending it with a body kick that put Swanson down and out for the count. It was the eighth straight win for Chikadze, moving him to 6-0 as a member of the UFC roster. Chikadze has seen nine of his thirteen professional wins coming via a stoppage, and during his professional kickboxing career, Chikadze scored 22 knockout wins.
This one has the makings to be a serious contender for Fight Of The Year. Both men like to pick their opponents apart on the feet, and they’ll likely both be methodical in their attacks on one another. Barboza excels in leg kicks while Chikadze is more of a body and head kick attack artist. He is famous for the “Giga Kick,” which is basically just a basic liver kick, but it does a ton of damage and can end fights. Barboza is more flashy with his kicks, as he uses a lot of spinning techniques, and when it comes to punching, he’s better there as well. He does get hit more than Chikadze does, but Chikadze has yet to fight a striker the caliber of Barboza in an MMA fight. Barboza could also decide to mix it up and take the fight to the ground, as he is the better takedown artist and ground fighter. Chikadze has been submitted before, including on The Contender Series, which delayed his inevitable UFC signing.
The difference maker in this fight is going to be the leg kicks, where Barboza will have the serious edge. I expect a lot of excitement and a lot of kicking and both men getting after it. I see Barboza’s experience putting him just ahead of Chikadze, and his ability to win a hard-fought and grueling battle, of which he’s been in plenty of.
TUF 29 Middleweight Finals: Bryan Battle vs. Gilbert Urbina
Overall Records: Battle 5-1, Urbina 6-1
UFC Records: Battle 0-0, Urbina 0-0
Last Fight: Battle def. Fowler–R2 SUB–HR MMA 117 (2/6/21), Urbina def. Trevino–UDec–Combate 48 (11/1/19)
Last Five Fights: Battle 4-1, Urbina 4-1
Betting Odds: Battle -165, Urbina +140
Preview: The middleweight finals of Season 29 of The Ultimate Fighter isn’t what it was supposed to be, but a six-figure contract will be handed out when Battle battles Urbina. Both men were members of Team Volkanovski, who actually had all four finalists on his team. Battle was the seventh middleweight, of eight, to be picked, but he scored a decision win over Aaron Phillips and a submission win over Andre Petroski to advance to the finals. Coming into this fight, prior to being on the show, he had won four straight, with all four wins by stoppage. He was originally supposed to fight Team Ortega’s Tresean Gore in the finals, but Gore suffered a knee injury that forced him out. Urbina, who lost to Gore in the semi-finals, stepped in as the replacement, a huge opportunity for him. Urbina did submit Michael Gillmore on the show in the first round, and he’s won six of his seven career fights, with the only loss coming to current UFC ranked welterweight Sean Brady.
Urbina is the more battle-tested fighter of the two. They both have similar experience on the regional scene, but Urbina has fought the tougher competition, and many of Urbina’s opponents have been better than anyone Battle has fought. Battle is a powerful athlete, and he has the height and reach advantage. Urbina is going to need to keep the range and keep Battle on the outside with his kicks, as a fight in the clinch or in close range gives the edge to Battle as his clinch striking is very good. Battle stays busy and is a high-volume striker, and mixes his punches and kicks well. Battle also has good takedown defense. Urbina is pretty quick on his feet and lands a lot of kicks, but he has a lot of holes defensively, dropping his hands too often. He is a good grappler. It’s a pretty close fight and should be good, and both are solid talents with plenty of room for improvement. I think the road that Battle took to the finals give him the edge, and I favor him to get a decision in this one.
TUF 29 Bantamweight Finals: Ricky Turcios vs. Brady Hiestand
Overall Records: Turcios 10-2, Hiestand 5-1
UFC Records: Turcios 0-0, Hiestand 0-0
Last Fight: Turcios def. Petereit–R2 SUB–Fury FC 42 (2/23/20), Hiestand def. Sargent–R1 SUB–Conquest of the Cage (2/8/20)
Last Five Fights: Turcios 3-2, Hiestand 4-1
Betting Odds: Turcios -165, Hiestand +135
Preview: The bantamweight finals of Season 29 of The Ultimate Fighter sees a battle between Team Volkanovski teammates as standout Turcios and Hiestand decide who will be the recipient of a six-figure contract. Turcios scored decision wins over Daniel Arguleta and Liudvik Sholinian to advance to the finals. Prior to being on the show, Turcios, a member of Team Alpha Male, won his first eight career fights, but has gone just 2-2 over his last four bouts. He has scored four wins by stoppage, with three wins by knockout. Hiestand scored a decision win over Joshua Rettinghouse and a first-round TKO finish of Vince Murdock on the show en route to the finals. Hiestand came into the show having won five of his six professional bouts, with four wins coming via a stoppage, two each by knockout and submission. Hiestand is young at 22-years-old and has a high ceiling, and he’s going to be around for a long time.
Turcios is good everywhere, a solid striker and a good grappler, and he has the experience edge over Hiestand. Hiestand is a good wrestler and could take Turcios down, but Turcios is very good on the ground. He hunts for submissions and could use them to scramble up. Turcios is the better fighter on the feet, utilizing the jab and working in the leg kicks. He mixes more well on the feet, and Hiestand is a very raw talent. At this moment, Turcios is the better fighter. When it comes to who might have the brighter future, that may be Hiestand. However, Turcios’ ability to put together some solid, stringy combinations that end with kicks will be a big difference in this fight. Turcios is very talented, and I like him to win this fight, though both men will have a solid UFC future ahead of them.
Welterweights: Kevin Lee vs. Daniel Rodriguez
Overall Records: Lee 18-6, Rodriguez 15-2
UFC Records: Lee 11-6, Rodriguez 5-1
Last Fight: Oliveira def. Lee–R3 SUB–UFC On ESPN+ 28 (3/14/20), Rodriguez def. Parsons–R1 TKO–UFC On ESPN 26 (7/17/21)
Last Five Fights: Lee 2-3, Rodriguez 4-1
Rankings: Lee #11 LW
Betting Odds: Lee -150, Rodriguez +125
Preview: Lee makes his long-awaited return from injury, a little over a month later than anticipated, but he returns and moves back up to the welterweight division as he takes on short-notice replacement Rodriguez in a pivotal match-up for both men. Lee is fighting for the first time since a March 2020 loss to Charles Oliveira, as he suffered a torn ACL and had to undergo knee surgery. He was slated to return in July, but a rib injury forced his bout with Sean Brady to be delayed to this card. Then, Brady had to pull out due to a foot infection, and Rodriguez steps in on just over two weeks’ notice. Lee has been boisterous in the lead-up to this fight, claiming that he’s already a top-five welterweight, so he’s going to need to back up those words. He’s lost four of his last six fights, including one at 170 lbs. to Rafael Dos Anjos, which followed a stretch where he won nine of ten fights to earn a title shot at lightweight. He’s still just 28-years-old, and if he can recover from the injury and adjust right to 170, he has the potential to be a big threat in the division. Rodriguez is coming into this bout on a roll, having won five of his six fights in UFC. He’s coming into this fight having won his last two, including a first-round finish of Preston Parsons in July. He was calling for a big fight next, and when the call came for this fight on short-notice, he didn’t hesitate to turn it down, and it’s a huge step up that Rodriguez is eager to show that he’s ready for.
It’ll be interesting to see how Lee bounces back from the knee injury and if he’s adjusted to the welterweight division. He claimed to be 183 lbs. on Monday of fight week, which sounds about right for the division on the week of the fight. He’s giving up some height, but he’ll actually have a three-inch reach advantage. He’s a strong wrestler with some good submissions, and he’s got some decent striking as well. Rodriguez is a very talented striker, landing over eight significant strikes per minute, but he also eats nearly six significant strikes a minute. He does have good takedown defense, defending 83% of takedowns attempted on him, but Lee is a far superior wrestler than anyone Rodriguez has ever fought. Lee does mix his stances often and works the jab well, but he’s not the boxer that Rodriguez does. Lee likes to be the pressure fighter, and he does mix in his kicks, but he also doesn’t really check leg kicks, and Rodriguez will make him pay for that.
Lee should look to get it to the mat and dominate from the top and put Rodriguez in positions he’s never been in. Rodriguez has some shown some good conditioning, but he’s the one coming in on short notice. He should look to wear down Lee, who has gas tank issues, even if that means giving up some grappling battles early. This should be a fun fight, and if Lee has title aspirations and truly believes he’s a top-five fighter, this is a fight he has to win. That is easier said than done, and this could go either way. I do think Lee is too talented to lose this, but the knee injuries are a big question mark. I’m going to go with Lee, but Rodriguez could be a good value bet for those betting on fights.
Middleweights: Andre Petroski vs. Michael Gillmore
Overall Records: Petroski 5-1, Gillmore 6-3
UFC Records: Petroski 0-0, Gillmore 0-0
Last Fight: Jeffery def. Petroski–R2 TKO–LFA 93 (10/16/20), Gillmore def. Stargel–UDec–WXC 86 (1/29/20)
Last Five Fights: Petroski 4-1, Gillmore 4-1
Betting Odds: Petroski -500, Gillmore +375
Preview: A battle of middleweights who appeared on Season 29 of The Ultimate Fighter gets a slot on the main card as Petroski and Gillmore battle to see who might have a future in UFC. Petroski made it to the semi-finals on the show, as he submitted Aaron Phillips in the opening round before being submitted by Bryan Battle in his chance to make it to the finals. Petroski is actually looking to get back into the win column, as he won the first five fights of his career, all by stoppage, before a loss to Aaron Jeffery in his last official fight in October. Gillmore wasn’t part of the original cast of this season, coming on as an injury replacement for Miles Hunsinger. He was submitted by Gilbert Urbina in the opening round, and actually gets the opportunity here as a replacement for Urbina, who moved to the finals as an injury replacement himself. Gillmore comes into this fight on a three-fight win streak, and half of his six professional wins have come by knockout.
Petroski is a powerful and explosive wrestler, but his striking is raw and it functions as more of a set-up for the takedown. If he can get the fight to the mat, he has excellent submissions, and Gillmore has been submitted in all of his losses. Gillmore is an older fighter, and he was taken down with ease by Urbina on the show and choked out pretty quickly. He has a great story, staying in Las Vegas during the show in hopes of being an alternate, and it paid off when an opportunity came up, but he’s nowhere near the fighter that Petroski is. Petroski should be able to get it to the mat and finish it with a choke, and Petroski has the chance to make himself a solid career as he progresses.
Middleweights: Makhmud Muradov vs. Gerald Meerschaert
Overall Records: Muradov 25-6, Meerschaert 31-14
UFC Records: Muradov 3-0, Meerschaert 7-6
Last Fight: Muradov def. Sanchez–R3 TKO–UFC 257 (1/23/21), Meerschaert def. Fabinski–R1 SUB–UFC On ESPN 22 (4/17/21)
Last Five Fights: Muradov 5-0, Meerschaert 2-3
Betting Odds: Muradov -650, Meerschaert +450
Preview: A middleweight bout opens the main card as Muradov looks to keep his successful UFC run going when he battles veteran Meerschaert in an interesting battle. Muradov comes into this fight riding an impressive 14-fight win streak, with the last three wins coming in UFC. He debuted with the promotion in 2019, scoring two wins in less than three months, over Alessio Di Chirico and Trevor Smith. He didn’t fight at all in 2020, as pandemic travel restrictions and a battle with COVID-19 kept him out, but he returned in January with a third-round TKO win over Andrew Sanchez at UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi. He has an 80% finish rate, and is looking to improve on that in this bout against the tough veteran in Meerschaert. Meerschaert will be fighting for the 47th time in his career. He got off to a solid start in his UFC career, going 4-1 in his first five UFC bouts, but has gone just 3-5 in his last eight. He is coming off a first-round submission of Bartosz Fabinski in April, which ended a two-fight losing skid. Meerschaert has 32 professional wins, scoring finishes in 30 of those, including stoppage wins in all eight of his UFC wins. He’s also been finished eleven times in his career, including in four of his six UFC losses.
Muradov is extremely talented, but Meerschaert is going to give him a tough fight. Meerschaert isn’t someone who is going to wow you, but he’s very well-rounded. He doesn’t have good defensive wrestling, but he’s very skilled on the mat, as the 24 submission wins show you. His chin is a question mark, and Muradov is very powerful on the feet. He switches stances a lot, and though he tends to keep his hands low, it is because he mixes his strikes to the head and body and has an excellent jab. He lands over five significant strikes per minute, and his defense on the feet is excellent. He does tend to start slow, but comes over very strong over the course of the fight. Meerschaert is a huge underdog, which, with his skills on the ground, means there is some value there, and Muradov has been submitted a few times in his career. However, Muradov is too talented on the feet and Meerschaert’s chin is too much of a liability, and it’s just a bad match-up for Meerschaert. Muradov likely finishes Meerschaert on the feet.
Start Time: 7:00 p.m. ET, 4:00 p.m. PT
Where To Watch: ESPN+
Middleweights: Alessio Di Chirico vs. Abdul Razak Alhassan
Overall Records: Di Chirico 13-5, Alhassan 10-4
UFC Records: Di Chirico 4-5, Alhassan 4-4
Last Fight: Di Chirico def. Buckley–R1 KO–UFC On ABC 1 (1/16/21), Malkoun def. Alhassan–UDec–UFC On ESPN 22 (4/17/21)
Last Five Fights: Di Chirico 2-3, Alhassan 2-3
Betting Odds: Di Chirico -225, Alhassan +180
Preview: A middleweight bout that was put together roughly a week ago gets put in the featured prelim spot as Di Chirico looks to start a win streak while Alhassan looks to end a losing skid. Di Chirico was originally slated to fight Aliaskhab Khizriev at this show, but Khizriev pulled out due to injury. Alhassan was slated to fight Antonio Braga Neto, but Neto was forced out due to COVID-19 protocols. With both men losing their opponents, it was natural to book them together. Di Chirico is coming in off a first-round head kick knockout of viral sensation Joaquin Buckley in January, which ended a three-fight losing skid and gave him new life in UFC. Alhassan is looking to end a three-fight losing skid and keep himself on the UFC roster in this one. He started his career with a 10-1 mark, including four wins inside the Octagon, and an amazing feat that saw all ten of his wins coming by knockout in the first round. Some legal issues kept him out of action for a while, but he returned in 2020, missing weight twice at welterweight before moving up to middleweight, and he’s looking to get back into the form that made him one of the most dangerous fighters on the UFC roster.
You kind of know what you’re getting in an Alhassan fight- he’s either going to score a vicious knockout early or gas out and be dominated. There seems to be no middle ground for him, at least not one that he’s shown. Di Chirico needs to be patient early and avoid the bombs that Alhassan is undoubtedly going to throw, as a long fight and slow pace favors Di Chirico more. Di Chirico has some solid athleticism, but he’s also someone who hasn’t fought up to his ability. He’s disappointed far more than he’s excelled, but the knockout of Buckley may be a real confidence booster. He’s also durable and tough enough to weather the early storm. If this fight ends in the first round, it’s likely due to a brutal finish by Alhassan. Di Chirico has never been knocked out. This is a tough fight to pick as Alhassan has to know his back is against the wall, and that may make him eager, more than ever, to get that brutal, early finish.
Middleweights: Sam Alvey vs. Wellington Turman
Overall Records: Alvey 33-15-1 1 NC, Turman 16-5
UFC Records: Alvey 10-10-1, Turman 1-3
Last Fight: Marquez def. Alvey–R2 SUB–UFC On ABC 2 (4/10/21), Silva def. Turman–R1 KO–UFC On ESPN 25 (6/19/21)
Last Five Fights: Alvey 0-4-1, Turman 2-3
Betting Odds: Alvey +115, Turman -140
Preview: If you’re looking for a fight on this card that has both fighters in a must-win situation, this middleweight bout is it as Alvey and Turman battle for their futures in UFC. Alvey is somehow still on the roster despite not having a win in his last six fights. He hasn’t scored a win in over three years, and many are wondering why he’s still on the roster, mainly due to many lackluster fights. He has a personality and is a company guy willing to fight at any time, but he needs a win here to continue on. This will be Alvey’s 22nd UFC fight, and he was last in action in April, falling by submission to Julian Marquez. Turman is coming into this fight in a must-win situation as he’s dropped three of his four UFC fights. He was last in action in June, where he was on the losing end of a brutal knockout at the hands of Bruno Silva. Hopefully he’s awake just over two months later, as it’s a quick bounce back from such a brutal loss, but he’s looking to improve on a 69% finishing rate.
It’s a Sam Alvey fight, so it could be terrible. He’s become primarily a counter-striker, and when his opponents don’t engage, neither does he. He tends to fight with his back near the cage, which puts him in more trouble than he realizes. However, this fight feels like one he should win. Alvey does have good power in his hands when he’s able to connect, and he has some really underrated takedown defense. Alvey is going to have the reach advantage in this one as well. Turman tends to get hit more often than he lands, and while he has good takedowns, he only completes 22% of his attempts. He’s likely going to spam takedown attempts, which will open himself up for counter strikes from Alvey. Turman also isn’t that durable, and he’s been knocked out in the first round in his last two fights. This is the perfect fight for Alvey to end his skid, and I see him getting the job done.
Light Heavyweights: Dustin Jacoby vs. Darren Stewart
Overall Records: Jacoby 14-5-1, Stewart 12-7 2 NC
UFC Records: Jacoby 2-2-1, Stewart 5-6 2 NC
Last Fight: Jacoby DRAW Cutelaba–UFC On ESPN 23 (5/1/21), Anders def. Stewart–UDec–UFC 263 (6/12/21)
Last Five Fights: Jacoby 4-0-1, Stewart 1-3 1 NC
Betting Odds: Jacoby -200, Stewart +160
Preview: A light heavyweight bout takes place here as Jacoby looks to remain unbeaten in his UFC return while Stewart looks to end a winless skid in what could be an exciting battle on the feet. Jacoby is unbeaten since earning a UFC contract on the Contender Series in August, which gave him his second run in UFC. He won his first two bouts, scoring wins over Justin Ledet and Maxim Grishin, and is looking to get back into the win column after a draw with Ion Cutelaba in May. After spending several years exclusively as a kickboxer, Jacoby is unbeaten in his return to MMA, which came in 2019. As he enters his 15th UFC fight, Stewart looks to turn around what has been an odd UFC career. He came into the promotion with a perfect 7-0 record in 2016. He went winless in his first four UFC fights, leaving many wondering if he would get another shot. He was kept around, then promptly won four of his next five fights, with the lone loss coming to Edmen Shahbazyan. He has since won only once in his last five fights, going winless in his last three, and is looking to bounce back from a loss to Eryk Anders in June after their first fight went to a no contest.
Jacoby is going to have the size advantage in this one, as while Stewart has a solid physique, he is still on the small side for the light heavyweight division. Jacoby’s time as strictly a kickboxer improved his striking tremendously, and he still has some decent grappling, though his takedown defense is still a question mark. He was taken down by Cutelaba nine times, but eight of those came in the first round where Cutelaba basically gassed himself out. Stewart may look to do some offensive wrestling, but use it to mainly work in the clinch and work in his physicality. Jacoby is going to do the most damage striking from a distance, and he’s going to need to use his leg kicks to keep Stewart at a distance. This one will likely go the distance and be a close fight, coming down to who can utilize the perfect strategy. I see Jacoby keeping the fight on the feet and separated, and his striking being the difference.
Women’s Flyweights: JJ Aldrich vs. Vanessa Demopoulos
Overall Records: Aldrich 9-4, Demopoulos 6-3
UFC Records: Aldrich 5-3, Demopoulos 0-0
Last Fight: Aldrich def. Casey–SpDec–UFC On ESPN+ 45 (3/13/21), Demopoulos def. Arceo–R1 TKO–LFA 103 (3/26/21)
Last Five Fights: Aldrich 3-2, Demopoulos 3-2
Betting Odds: Aldrich -400, Demopoulos +300
Preview: A fight that was put together on late notice takes place here as Aldrich welcomes the debuting Demopoulos to the octagon in a flyweight battle. Aldrich was originally scheduled to fight Tracy Cortez in this bout, but Cortez had to pull out due to an injury, and Demopoulos finally gets a shot in UFC as the replacement. Aldrich is looking to get a win streak going after scoring a decision win over Cortney Casey in March. She is looking for her first UFC finish in this one. Demopoulos joins UFC looking to score her second straight win. She scored a win over Cynthia Arceo at LFA 103 in March, which ended a two-fight losing skid. She won five of her first six career fights, earning a shot at the Contender Series, which was supposed to be her way of earning a contract, but she came up short. She was training for a fight that was scheduled for LFA 113 on Friday, so she will come in fully prepared as she looks for her fifth career finish win.
Demopoulos will be moving up a weight class for this fight, so she will be giving up some size. She’ll also be giving up eight inches in reach to Aldrich, who has some good kickboxing and should out-class Demopoulos on the feet. Demopoulos will be looking to get the fight to the mat, where she’ll have the edge over Aldrich, and Demopoulos is very good at finding submissions. She does tend to give her back up a little too much, which Aldrich could use to scramble back to the feet if she finds herself on the bottom. Aldrich did good with her wrestling in the win over Casey in March, and continued improvement in that regard make it a more clear fight for her. Aldrich is a huge favorite, for many reasons including the short notice for Demopoulos, and her technical striking should be good enough to get her the decision.
Featherweights: Jamall Emmers vs. Pat Sabatini
Overall Records: Emmers 18-5, Sabatini 14-3
UFC Records: Emmers 1-1, Sabatini 1-0
Last Fight: Emmers def. Cachero–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 31 (8/1/20), Sabatini def. Connelly–UDec–UFC 261 (4/24/21)
Last Five Fights: Emmers 4-1, Sabatini 4-1
Betting Odds: Emmers -150, Sabatini +125
Preview: A battle of featherweight prospects takes place here as Emmers and Sabatini both look to score their second UFC wins in this bout. Emmers is fighting for the first time in over a year, looking to notch his second straight win after a decision win over Vince Cachero in August 2020. He was supposed to fight Chas Skelly in February, but that fight famously didn’t happen as Emmers couldn’t fight after suffering back spasms backstage right before he was going to walk out for the fight, while Skelly was in the octagon. Emmers is looking for his 19th career win, and ten of his 18 wins have come via a finish. Sabatini makes his second walk to the octagon as he looks to extend his three-fight win streak. He scored a decision win over Tristan Connelly at UFC 261 in April in his UFC debut. He has scored finishes in eleven of his 14 career wins, with ten of those coming by submission.
Emmers is going to have a four-inch reach advantage, which is good for him considering he’s the better of the two on the feet. During his octagon appearances, Emmers has averaged more than five significant strikes per minute. Sabatini has a small sample size, but he’s shown to be a very accurate striker with some good defense on the feet. Emmers is going to have the power edge, though Sabatini does have some knockout power. When it comes to the grappling and wrestling, Sabatini should have the slight edge. Emmers is a skilled wrestler, but Sabatini knows how to get opponents down, and he is slick on the mat, as evidenced by his ten submission wins. Emmers has been hurt by some bad fight IQ in his career, but he has the physical tools to get by Sabatini. I feel like we’re in for an exciting fight, and it could go either way. I see Emmers as the slightly better fighter at the moment, and lean towards him taking the fight.
Bantamweights: Mana Martinez vs. Guido Cannetti
Overall Records: Martinez 8-2, Cannetti 8-5
UFC Records: Martinez 0-0, Cannetti 2-4
Last Fight: Martinez def. Johnson–R1 KO–Fury FC 46 (5/16/21), Batgerel def. Cannetti–R1 KO–UFC 248 (3/7/20)
Last Five Fights: Martinez 4-1, Cannetti 2-3
Betting Odds: Martinez -275, Cannetti +220
Preview: The card opens up with a bantamweight bout featuring a debuting fighter against a UFC veteran fighting for his UFC future. Martinez debuts a week later than he was originally scheduled to, as COVID-19 protocols and the sudden death of his head coach saw him not compete on the 8/21 card, but a slot opened up as this one as he replaced Mario Bautista, who was forced out due to a positive COVID-19 test. Martinez has wins in seven of his last eight fights, including a win over TUF finalist Ricky Turcios, and all eight of his wins have come by knockout, with five coming in the first round. Cannetti returns to action for the first time since UFC 248 in March 2020, where he suffered a first-round knockout loss to Danaa Batgerel. He’s lost two straight, and has gone just 2-4 during his UFC career. At 41, the clock is ticking as to whether he would remain on the roster with yet another loss here.
This really feels like, even though it was put together on short notice, a fight that is going to get the young prospect a highlight-reel finish. Martinez is going to come into this fight riding a lot of emotions, and he’s going to want to put on an excellent performance in memory of his coach. Cannetti might be the weakest member of UFC’s bantamweight division, and at his age, his durability is a big question mark. He’s been finished in all of his career defeats, but he will still bring it. I don’t know if he’s going to be able to withstand the power of Martinez. The fact Martinez has won all of his fights by knockout, coupled with the fact that Cannetti tends to get wild on the feet, sets this fight up to get the card started with a bang. Martinez should win this pretty handily, and the question seems to be more how long will it last. Martinez gets the first-round knockout.