Getting prepared for UFC action this Saturday? Here’s everything you need to know in our Guide to UFC 274: Oliveira vs. Gaethje.
Date: May 7, 2022
Location: Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona
Start Time: 10:00 p.m. ET, 7:00 p.m. PT
Where to watch: ESPN+ PPV
UFC Lightweight Championship- (C) Charles Oliveira vs. #1 Justin Gaethje
Overall Records: Oliveira 32-8 1 NC, Gaethje 23-3
UFC Records: Oliveira 20-8 1 NC, Gaethje 6-3
Last Fight: Oliveira def. Poirier (title fight)–R3 SUB–UFC 269 (12/11/21), Gaethje def. Chandler–UDec–UFC 268 (11/6/21)
Last Five Fights: Oliveira 5-0, Gaethje 4-1
Betting Odds: Oliveira -170, Gaethje +150
Background: The main event sees the UFC Lightweight Championship on the line in a very anticipated fight that is sure to deliver fireworks as champion Oliveira defends against challenger Gaethje. Oliveira will be making his second title defense just under a year to the day when he won the title with a second-round knockout of Michael Chandler at UFC 262 in May 2021. Oliveira’s first title defense, at UFC 269 in December, saw him submit Dustin Poirier to firmly establish himself as the top guy at lightweight. Oliveira has won ten straight fights, has scored 18 finishes and 15 submissions, both of which are the most all-time in UFC history. He also has 18 post-fight performance bonuses, which is tied for most all-time. Even with all of those records already, he’s still just 32-years-old, meaning there’s likely to be ten more years of activity to add to those. Gaethje is one of the most exciting fighters in the sport and he’s looking to add official UFC gold to his mantle after being a former Interim UFC Lightweight Champion. He’s coming off a win over Michael Chandler in November in 2021’s Fight Of The Year, an absolute classic war where both men gave their all. That was his first fight in over a year, as he was going into that fight off a title fight loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov in October 2020, which ended a four-fight win streak. Gaethje is almost guaranteed to earn a post-fight performance bonus, as he’s gotten ten post-fight bonuses despite only have nine fights during his UFC tenure. He’s scored 20 of his 23 professional wins by stoppage, with 19 of those wins coming by knockout.
How they match up: This one should be fireworks throughout. Gaethje is the type of fighter who is going to put an opponent through absolute hell, but Oliveira seems more confident and game than ever before. Oliveira’s career turnaround has been remarkable, with one of the big keys being that he no longer folds under pressure as he did in the past. He’s gone from a guy who would give up when being overwhelmed to being one of the more mentally strong fighters in the sport. He’s shown he can walk through tough rounds that he wasn’t able to in the past, and he comes on strong the longer a fight goes. Gaethje is arguably the most violent fighter in the history of the sport, at worst one of, and he comes at his opponents with absolute aggression and bombs in his hands. One of Gaethje’s best tools he utilizes is the leg kick, and that is going to be a key component in this fight. Those could slow Oliveira down, especially now that Oliveira has taken the stance of being more of a pressure fighter. Oliveira has a durable chin, and while he took some hard shots from Poirier and Chandler and survived them, though there were shaky moments, no one in the lightweight division hits with the power of Gaethje. Gaethje’s attack is also high volume, but he does tend to get hit a lot. Oliveira will look to use his reach to quickly get on the inside, and while Gaethje has strong wrestling, Oliveira’s grappling and submission game is the greatest in UFC history and is going to be the key here. Gaethje has to keep the fight standing because if it goes to the mat, we’re likely seeing the champion retaining his gold. This is the fight everyone wants to see, and I have a hard time seeing it being anything other than a beauty.
What’s at stake: The UFC Lightweight Championship and the spot as the best lightweight in the world is at stake here. Oliveira has proven that he’s the best lightweight in the world, but if there was anyone left to cast that doubt at the moment, Gaethje is the test to get by. There’s plenty of interesting match-ups waiting in the wings for the winner, but this has the makings of an all-time great UFC bout. There is one worst-case scenario in this fight- both guys end up having to spend the night in the hospital.
UFC Women’s Strawweight Championship- (C) Rose Namajunas vs. #2 Carla Esparza
Overall Records: Namajunas 11-4, Esparza 18-6
UFC Records: Namajunas 9-3, Esparza 9-4
Last Fight: Namajunas def. Weili (title fight)–SpDec–UFC 268 (11/6/21), Esparza def. Xiaonan–R2 TKO–UFC On ESPN+ 46 (5/22/21)
Last Five Fights: Namajunas 4-1, Esparza 5-0
Betting Odds: Namajunas -210, Esparza +175
Background: The UFC Women’s Strawweight Championship is on the line in the co-main event, and is a rematch that has been over seven years in the making as Namajunas defends against Esparza. These two fought to determine the first-ever strawweight champion in December 2014, a fight that was won by Esparza by submission in the third round. The story of that fight was completely different than the story coming into this fight. At that time, Esparza was one of the best strawweights in the world and the big favorite, while Namajunas was just in her fourth career fight. Esparza would go on to lose the title to Joanna Jedrzejczyk in her next fight, then had an up-and-down UFC run that saw her go 3-3 over her next six fights. She was looking like the division gatekeeper, but a five-fight win streak, including wins over two top-five opponents, have gotten Esparza a shot at becoming a two-time champion. Namajunas’ path following the first fight has gone way different, and she’s actually coming into this fight as a two-time champion. Following the loss to Esparza, she went on to win four of her next five fights to get a title shot at Jedrzejczyk. She ended up knocking Jedrzejczyk out in the first round to win the strawweight title at UFC 217 in November 2017, then had a successful defense over her in an immediate rematch. She would lose the title in her next fight when Jessica Andrade finished her with a big slam in the second round at UFC 237 in May 2019. She came back over a year later to avenge that loss to Andrade, though in a non-title fight. That set her up for a shot at Zhang Weili at UFC 261 in April 2021, and Namajunas would finish Weili in the first round to regain the strawweight title. After a successful defense against Weili in a rematch, Namajunas now fights someone not named Jedrzejczyk, Andrade or Weili for the first time in five years.
How they match up: This is going to be a lot different than the first time they fought. In that first fight, Esparza leaned on her wrestling to dominate the inexperienced Namajunas on the way to a submission win. Looking back, it really was a pivotal fight for Namajunas and she’s exploded in a big way since then. Namajunas has sharp technique on her feet and a great amount of power for the division, and she mixes everything so smoothly on the feet and has some of the best coaching in the sport. She’s always talked about her struggles mentally outside of the Octagon, but inside she seems to be one of the most mentally tough fighters on the roster, and she has brilliant fight IQ. Esparza is still a heavy wrestler first-and-foremost, but her win over Xiaonan showed she’s stuck to improving her striking and she really poured on a mauling. I don’t see her replicating that success against Namajunas, who will be just too quick and elusive on the feet, plus Namajunas does a great job of avoiding being hit, especially when she’s outside the pocket. Esparza is going to be looking for the takedown, but it won’t be as easy as it was in the first fight. If Esparza gets it down, she has to dominate from the top and keep Namajunas pinned down as Namajunas is a crafty submission artist who can find chokes if there’s openings. This has the makings of an interesting fight, and while Esparza is on a fantastic run, Namajunas has just gotten so much better since the first fight that the result is likely to be different, and, who knows, maybe there will end up being a trilogy down the line.
What’s at stake: The UFC Women’s Strawweight Championship is the big thing at stake, but so are bragging rights between the two women. Esparza has fought hard to get herself back into position to get a shot at winning the title for a second time, and she wants to show she’s still better than Namajunas even though it’s been well over seven years since they first fought. Namajunas wants to avenge the loss to Esparza and prove that, while she wasn’t ready to hold the title when they first fought, she’s fully embraced being the best strawweight in the world, and one of the best fighters in the world. Namajunas likes to tell herself “I’m the best!”, and this is where she wants to prove it.
Lightweights: #5 Michael Chandler vs. #7 Tony Ferguson
Overall Records: Chandler 22-7, Ferguson 25-6
UFC Records: Chandler 1-2, Ferguson 15-4
Last Fight: Gaethje def. Chandler–UDec–UFC 268 (11/6/21), Dariush def. Ferguson–UDec–UFC 262 (5/15/21)
Last Five Fights: Chandler 3-2, Ferguson 2-3
Betting Odds: Chandler -365, Ferguson +280
Background: A lightweight fight between two men at a crossroads takes place here, and it could bring along some fireworks as well as Chandler and Ferguson meet in a must-win fight for both. Chandler comes into this fight looking to end a two-fight losing skid. He entered his UFC deal with tons of hype coming over from Bellator and got his UFC run started off in a big way with a first-round knockout of Dan Hooker at UFC 257 in January 2021. That led Chandler to a fight for the vacant UFC Lightweight Championship at UFC 262 in May 2021. He had his moments in that fight with Charles Oliveira, but it was Oliveira on the winning end as he finished Chandler in the second round after surviving an onslaught from Chandler in the first. He last fought in November, losing by decision to Justin Gaethje inside Madison Square Garden. Ferguson returns to action for the first time in nearly a year as he looks to end a three-fight losing skid. He was once at the top of the division, an interim champion on a 12-fight win streak, but that fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov never came to fruition, especially when it seemed primed to happen before the pandemic caused chaos. It led to Ferguson fighting Gaethje at UFC 249 in May 2020 in another interim title fight, which saw Gaethje deliver a one-sided beating and finishing Ferguson in the fifth round. He then dropped decisions to current champion Oliveira in December 2020, and to Beneil Dariush at UFC 262 in May 2021. With three straight losses, none of which he looked good in, and at 38-years-old, it’s do-or-die for time for Ferguson.
How they match up: This is going to be such an interesting fight for so many reasons. Ferguson has clearly lost a step, but I don’t think Chandler has, I just think he’s been on the wrong end of some recent classic outings, and they’ve come against the two men in the title fight. Chandler still has plenty of explosion in his hands and he did rock Gaethje several times in their fight. When Ferguson was at his peak, he was insanely tough with incredible durability and the ability to walk through punches that would’ve ended just about everyone. He also carved up talented strikers and had incredible takedowns and a great submission game. He isn’t able to walk through those same punches anymore as his chin just can’t hold up, and his wrestling was dominated by the wrestling of Oliveira and Dariush in his last two fights. Even though Chandler likes to throw power shots on the feet and will fight fire with fire, much like Ferguson did in the past, he also has a strong wrestling game that has gotten overlooked, mainly because he has yet to show it off during his UFC tenure. Perhaps this is the fight he does, but first he’s going to want to test that durability of Ferguson. We’ll sure where Ferguson stands and his best bit of offense should be utilizing the calf kick as Chandler’s stance leaves him vulnerable to being kicked. Gaethje kicked the hell out of his lead leg and it really did affect him during that fight. However, I don’t think Ferguson has much left in the tank and that this should be a great bounce back for Chandler.
What’s at stake: With both men on multiple fight losing skids, it goes without saying that this is a must-win for both men. Ferguson probably needs a win more so than Chandler because he hasn’t looked good at all in his three losses. Chandler has looked better than Ferguson in his losses, and he hasn’t had quite the wear-and-tear that Ferguson has had, plus is a couple of years younger. I think Chandler can still be a contender even if he loses, but he would need a big bounce back match-up. If Ferguson loses, I think he’s done, definitely as a top-level fighter, but perhaps overall, especially given his comments at media day on Wednesday. This should be an explosive bout.
Light Heavyweights: Mauricio Rua vs. Ovince Saint Preux
Overall Records: Rua 27-12-1, Saint Preux 25-16
UFC Records: Rua 11-10-1, Saint Preux 13-11
Last Fight: Craig def. Rua–R2 TKO–UFC 255 (11/21/20), Boser def. Saint Preux–R2 KO–UFC On ESPN+ 48 (6/26/21)
Last Five Fights: Rua 2-2-1, Saint Preux 2-3
Betting Odds: Rua +195, Saint Preux -240
Background: A rematch of a light heavyweight bout that took place seven-and-a-half-years-ago takes place here as ‘Shogun’ Rua returns for the first time in a long time looking to avenge a loss to Saint Preux in this battle. These two fought in November 2014 in a main event match-up in Brazil in a fight that Saint Preux took on less than two weeks’ notice. It ended up being a great night for Saint Preux as he knocked Rua out in just 34 seconds. The careers of the two have been drastically different since then. Rua hasn’t been as active, but he went on to score wins in five of his next seven fights, but is coming off a loss to Paul Craig in his last fight at UFC 255 in November 2020. Meanwhile, Saint Preux has gone 8-10 in his 18 outings since that first fight, and has been the victim of multiple losing skids. He comes into this fight having lost two straight and six of his last nine overall. He was last in action in June, where he was knocked out by Tanner Boser in the second round in a heavyweight bout.
How they match up: This is such a weird rematch to make, but it’s more likely they had no idea what to do with either at this stage, so, in a weird way, it kind of makes sense. Both have greatly diminished since the first time they fought, though Rua has still shown flashes since then. Saint Preux has been so inconsistent that you just don’t know what version of him is going to show up on fight night. Rua needs to bring the leg kick into play here as it will chop down the bigger man, and Rua still has power in his hands. He also doesn’t have much of a chin left and getting tagged could lead to a quick end, so keeping Saint Preux from hitting him by using the leg kick should be the top strategy. Saint Preux’s chin is not what it was when they first fought and he’s been put to sleep a little too much for his liking. He is also someone who needs to use the leg kicks and he often wins his fights when he gets those going with solid fluidity. I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but I have the feeling the ending is going to be similar to the first fight, not as quick, but the roles are going to be reversed. We might see the return of the old ‘Shogun’, probably for one last time, as Saint Preux has just diminished too much.
What’s at stake: The futures of both men aren’t really known so it’ll be interesting to see where this fight leads. Rua is now 40, hasn’t fought in nearly 18 months, and seems to be in that phase of his career where every fight could be his last. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s done after this, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if he keeps going, especially if he wins. I see him going out on his terms and no way he fights outside of the Octagon again. For Saint Preux, this is very likely a must-win for him if he wants to remain on the roster. He’s always been a guy who will fight anyone at anytime, but his shelf life is really minimal now and he’s been through a lot of battles. I could see him easily being gone after this fight with a loss, but I do suspect that he will continue to fight going forward after this.
Lightweights: Donald Cerrone vs. Joe Lauzon
Overall Records: Cerrone 36-16 2 NC, Lauzon 28-15
UFC Records: Cerrone 23-13 1 NC, Lauzon 15-12
Last Fight: Morono def. Cerrone–R1 TKO–UFC On ESPN 24 (5/8/21), Lauzon def. Pearce–R1 TKO–UFC On ESPN 6 (10/18/19)
Last Five Fights: Cerrone 0-4 1 NC, Lauzon 2-3
Betting Odds: Cerrone -190, Lauzon +160
Background: A lightweight battle between two long-time veterans of the sport opens the main card as Cerrone and Lauzon square off for surprisingly the first time in their long careers. Cerrone is fighting for the first time in a year and is trying to shake off a bad stretch of fights that has seen him go winless in his last six fights. It has been over three years since Cerrone had his hand raised, and if he were to win here, it would be his 24th UFC win, which would put him at first all-time on the UFC wins list. He’s also looking for his 19th post-fight bonus, which would put him at first all-time unless Charles Oliveira also scores a post-fight bonus. Lauzon is fighting for the first time since October 2019 when he scored a first-round TKO win over Jonathan Pearce in front of a hometown crowd in Boston. It ended a three-fight losing skid he was on, and snapped him from a stretch where he had gone just 3-6 over the course of nine fights. He has said he was always undecided if he was going to fight again and that this was the first fight offer that has interested him in a while. Lauzon has scored 26 of his 28 wins via a finish, with nine knockouts and 17 wins by submission. He also has 15 post-fight performance bonuses, which is tied with Nate Diaz for third-most all-time behind Oliveira and Cerrone, and Lauzon’s 13 UFC finishes are second-most in UFC lightweight history.
How they match up: The days of fighting anyone at anytime at any weight and fighting seemingly every month or five to six times a year finally caught up to Cerrone, which is something many expected it would do. The year off could end up being a good thing if he has any desire to fight past this, because while the activity has caught up to him, his skills are still sharp. Lauzon has had time catch up to him as well, but he was able to turn the clock back in his last fight. That was over 30 months ago, though, and who knows if he’ll be able to do the same here. The fact that neither have fought in so long raises so many questions. Lauzon used to be about pressuring his opponents, and if he does the same here, he will get Cerrone off of his game. Cerrone historically starts off slow, and if Lauzon starts an early onslaught, he could make quick work of Cerrone, who might not have a chin left. Lauzon’s best bet to win is to finish it early, as Cerrone is still capable of finding his timing and rhythm to make this fight move towards his way late. It feels like a coinflip fight at this stage, but I’m going with Cerrone to get the win here.
What’s at stake: This easily could be the last time we see either guy fight. Lauzon does have one more fight left on his contract after this, but he’s been open about not really seeking fights at this stage. If he has a solid showing here, he might finish out his deal. If he loses, though, I sense him walking away. I fully believe Cerrone is done if he loses here. If he wins, though, I could see him deciding to continue on, even if he shouldn’t. This fight feels really emotional for him, though, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him hang up his gloves immediately inside the Octagon once the fight ends, regardless of the outcome. Fans should be prepared to say goodbye to both after this.
Start Time: 8:00 p.m. ET, 5:00 p.m. PT
Where to watch: ESPN & ESPN+
Welterweights: Randy Brown vs. Khaos Williams
Overall Records: Brown 14-4, Williams 13-2
UFC Records: Brown 8-4, Williams 4-1
Last Fight: Brown def. Gooden–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 52 (10/9/21), Williams def. Baeza–R3 TKO–UFC On ESPN+ 55 (11/13/21)
Last Five Fights: Brown 4-1, Williams 4-1
Betting Odds: Brown +105, Williams -125
Background: An explosive battle between welterweight prospects closes out the prelims as Brown and Williams both look to remain in the win column and move up the rankings. Brown has been on a solid roll as of late as he enters this fight riding a two-fight win streak and with wins in four of his last five fights. That run has seen him score finishes of Bryan Barberena, Warlley Alves and Alex Oliveira, and the lone loss came to Vicente Luque, so there’s been definite improvement shown there. He’s seemed to come into his own as he looks for his 12th win by finish. Williams also comes in riding a two-fight win streak, and he’s scored wins in four of his five UFC outings. He debuted in February 2020 and won his first two fights by knockout in a combined 57 seconds over Alex Morono and Abdul Razak Alhassan. He then lost his next fight, a decision to Michel Pereira, but has scored wins over Matthew Semelsberger, and, in his last fight in November, over Miguel Baeza. Williams has scored eight of his 13 wins via a finish.
How they match up: Williams has big power in his hands and the threat of a quick knockout is always going to be there. He also lands with high volume, but he is far from the most accurate fighter on the feet. Brown has solid striking, some good power, and his wrestling and submission game is very good. He’s shown lots of improvement during his time as a UFC fighter and feels like he’s coming into his own. Williams’ offensive wrestling is unknown as he’s only attempted two takedowns during his five UFC outings, and has yet to score on one. He’s only defended half of the takedowns attempted on him, and Brown could get him down. Brown is going to match Williams on the feet in terms of strikes thrown, but he’ll need to avoid the flurries Williams is going to throw. Williams is going to be searching for the knockout, so it’ll be up to Brown to neutralize that. It’s a coinflip fight to me, but Brown’s overall Octagon experience makes me lean towards him.
What’s at stake: The winner of this fight will have won five of their last six inside the Octagon and would be primed to take on a ranked opponent next, or, at worst, someone right outside of the rankings. If either is going to make a title run, winning a third straight fight here and setting themselves up for bigger fights is key. This really feels like a must-win for both, not in the sense of keeping their jobs, but in the sense of moving up to bigger fights.
Welterweights: Francisco Trinaldo vs. Danny Roberts
Overall Records: Trinaldo 27-8, Roberts 18-5
UFC Records: Trinaldo 17-7, Roberts 7-4
Last Fight: Trinaldo def. Grant–SpDec–UFC On ESPN+ 54 (10/23/21), Roberts def. Emeev–SpDec–UFC On ESPN+ 53 (10/16/21)
Last Five Fights: Trinaldo 4-1, Roberts 3-2
Betting Odds: Trinaldo -115, Roberts -105
Background: A welterweight battle featuring one of the oldest fighters on the roster takes place here as 43-year-old Trinaldo looks to continue his success against Roberts. It’s hard to believe that Trinaldo is only 43 as he looks about 82, but lately he’s been performing like he’s 32. He’s coming off a win over Dwight Grant in October, which put him back in the win column as he’s on a run where he’s won four of five. He’s fully moved up to the welterweight division and looks comfortable at that weight as he comes into his 25th UFC outing. Roberts’ UFC career has been a mix of good and bad. He entered his UFC deal with an 11-1 record and scored a first-round decision over Nathan Coy in his debut in December 2016. He then lost two of his next three, then won two straight, then lost two straight, but has bounced back to win two straight. He last fought in October, his first fight since before the COVID-19 pandemic began, scoring a decision win over Ramazan Emeev. Roberts has scored 13 finishes in his 18 career wins.
How they match up: Trinaldo is as reliable as they come when it comes to consistency inside the Octagon and he’s shown to still be plenty capable when it comes fight time. He’s aggressive and pressure-heavy, but he also has low output on the feet and likes to turn fights into grinds. He’s got solid takedowns, which is key because Roberts has shaky takedown defense. Roberts is the better fighter on the feet as he’s more explosive and has dynamite power in his fists. His chin is also questionable, as is his submission defense, and Roberts has been finished in all four of his UFC losses. Roberts is going to have to fight here like he did against Emeev as Trinaldo has a similar style, though Trinaldo is slightly more active on his feet and has better power. This is a fight either man can win and it might become slow-paced, but Roberts being the younger fighter with better athleticism leans this his way.
What’s at stake: Both guys will remain on the roster following this fight, that’s for sure. It comes down to better match-ups for the winner and Roberts still has more upside. Trinaldo is a guy who will probably remain with UFC until he decides to hang up the gloves, and he’s a decent guy to have to add depth to cards. Roberts had a lot of potential when he signed his first UFC deal, and while he hasn’t fully lived up to it, a win would be three straight and it would start to pay dividends.
Women’s Featherweights: #11 (WBW) Macy Chiasson vs. #15 (WBW) Norma Dumont
Overall Records: Chiasson 7-2, Dumont 7-1
UFC Records: Chiasson 5-2, Dumont 3-1
Last Fight: Pennington def. Chiasson–R2 SUB–UFC On ESPN+ 57 (12/18/21), Dumont def. Ladd-UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 53 (10/16/21)
Last Five Fights: Chiasson 3-2, Dumont 4-1
Betting Odds: Chiasson +185, Dumont -225
Background: It’s a rare bout in the women’s featherweight division, but one that makes sense as former TUF winner Chiasson takes on Dumont in this one. Chiasson actually won her season of The Ultimate Fighter as a featherweight, but dropped to bantamweight following the show as that was the right division to compete in. Following her TUF Finale win over Pannie Kianzad, Chiasson went on to win four of her next five fights at 135 lbs., putting herself in a position to become a title contender. However, a pair of fights scheduled against Aspen Ladd ended up falling apart, and she took a late-notice fight in December against Raquel Pennington. Due to the late notice, it was contested at 145 lbs., but Chiasson ended up actually missing weight, and then was submitted in the second round by Pennington. This is a chance for her to rebound and show she can make the featherweight limit before making the move back down. Dumont has been fighting as a featherweight recently as she had several issues trying to move down to bantamweight. She’s won three straight fights headed into this one, and is coming off a main event win over Aspen Ladd in October.
How they match up: Chiasson is going to be the larger fighter in there as she’ll have a four-inch height and a five-inch reach advantage over Dumont. This is also a plus match-up for Chiasson as she has great variety on the feet, knockout power, and a very sound submission game. Dumont has decent striking, but she also has good defense on the feet and has the ability to exploit the weakness Chiasson has in her striking defense. She won’t be able to match the power of Chiasson, but Chiasson is also inconsistent when it comes to he appearances inside the Octagon. Dumont could easily win a boxing match, but a clinch and grappling battle I favor Chiasson. I’m not really expecting much from this one, but I see Chiasson squeaking out a close decision.
What’s at stake: It’ll be real interesting to see what happens next for the winner. If Dumont wins, that would be four straight wins, and three straight at 145 lbs., and it would actually set up a challenger for the UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship. Unfortunately, the champion, Amanda Nunes, is tied up right now and it remains to be seen when, or even if, she defends that title next. A loss for Dumont could spell the end of the division once again. A win by Chiasson wouldn’t earn her a featherweight title shot, and she seems destined to go back to bantamweight anyways. It would bounce her back into the win column, though.
Flyweights: #6 Brandon Royval vs. #9 Matt Schnell
Overall Records: Royval 13-6, Schnell 15-5 1 NC
UFC Records: Royval 3-2, Schnell 5-3 1 NC
Last Fight: Royval def. Bontorin–SpDec–UFC On ESPN 32 (1/15/22), Schnell NC Bontorin–UFC 262 (5/15/21)
Last Five Fights: Royval 3-2, Schnell 3-1 1 NC
Betting Odds: Royval -240, Schnell +195
Background: A battle between ranked flyweights takes place in the prelims, and it looks to be a very fun battle as Royval takes on Schnell in this match-up. Royval fights for the second time in 2022 as he looks to make it two straight wins. He snapped a two-fight losing skid in January by scoring a split decision win over Rogerio Bontorin. It was a nice win after getting finished by both Brandon Moreno and Alexandre Pantoja in his two prior fights as Royval looks to stay more active in 2022 after fighting just once in 2021. He’s scored eleven of his 13 wins by finish. Schnell is hoping to return to action for the first time in just under a year. He had several match-ups scheduled against Alex Perez that fell apart, including twice following weigh-ins for various issues, and Perez had actually missed weight for both of those fights. Schnell last fought at UFC 262 in May 2021, where he actually suffered a loss to Rogerio Bontorin. However, Bontorin failed a drug test for that fight, so it was changed to a no contest, meaning Schnell has just one official loss over his last seven fights. He remains ranked inside the top ten at flyweight as he looks for his 11th win by finish.
How they match up: These two seem to be in similar positions at the moment in the division, so this is a chance for a breakthrough for both. Royval fought a more measured approach in his last fight, and while he got the win, it was a close fight. He could choose to be more aggressive here, which led to finishes in his early UFC outings, but also saw him get finished twice. Schnell tends to land more than Royval does, but Schnell also gets hit a lot and has bad striking defense, and a questionable chin to go along with it. Royval does have the power to end the fight with the right punch, but it would be more of a flurry that could finish Schnell. Schnell has solid wrestling, though his takedown numbers leave a lot to be desired, but he excels in the scrambles. Royval has been perfect in his takedown attempts during his UFC career, and he is very active when hunting for submissions on the mat. Every sign points towards this being a Royval win, and I see him finishing Schnell in this one.
What’s at stake: The winner will break themselves into the title picture and get a big opponent next, while the loser will likely be relegated to that gatekeeper status in the division. Both are inside the top ten and I don’t see the loser falling out, but with Royval being ranked sixth, a win could get him into the top five. This is an important fight for both if they want to keep their names in the hunt for a title shot.
Early Preliminary Card
Start Time: 5:30 p.m. ET, 2:30 p.m. PT
Where to watch: ESPN+
Heavyweights: #15 Blagoy Ivanov vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima
Overall Records: Ivanov 18-4 1 NC, Rogerio de Lima 19-7-1
UFC Records: Ivanov 2-3, Rogerio de Lima 8-5
Last Fight: Sakai def. Ivanov–SpDec–UFC On ESPN 9 (5/30/20), Rogerio de Lima def. Rothwell–R1 TKO–UFC On ESPN+ 55 (11/13/21)
Last Five Fights: Ivanov 2-3, Rogerio de Lima 3-2
Betting Odds: Ivanov -145, Rogerio de Lima +125
Background: A heavyweight bout that could end up being the most lackluster fight on the card takes place here as Ivanov returns from a long layoff to take on tough Brazilian de Lima. Ivanov is fighting for the first time in nearly two years as he looks to end a two-fight losing skid. He hasn’t fought since May 2020, when he suffered a decision loss to Augusto Sakai. That followed a loss to Derrick Lewis in November 2019, which snapped a two-fight win streak Ivanov was on. Ivanov has just four losses in his career, three of which have come since his UFC signing. de Lima comes into this fight riding a two-fight win streak after a very successful 2021. He went 2-0 during the year, scoring a decision win over Maurice Greene in May and a 32-second knockout of Ben Rothwell in November. de Lima has scored 16 of his 19 wins by stoppage, with 14 wins coming by knockout.
How they match up: de Lima is a big heavyweight, and while Ivanov doesn’t look it, he has some good size for a heavyweight. You also can’t match the toughness of Ivanov- we’re talking about a guy who was stabbed multiple times, spent a long time in intensive care and still came back to fighting. de Lima looks to be the aggressive fighter here as he has exceptional power and is a good offensive wrestler. Ivanov is slow-paced and counter-heavy on the feet, but he has solid wrestling with a Sambo background and a suffocating top game. Ivanov is crazy durable and some of the hardest hitters at heavyweight haven’t even come close to knocking him out. I can’t see de Lima doing the same, and I don’t think de Lima’s submission game will be enough to overcome the top game of Ivanov. Ivanov might have to survive some early big shots, but unless he’s lost some of his durability during the time off, I see him getting it to the mat and Ivanov being the one to find a submission.
What’s at stake: This feels like a must-win for Ivanov. If he were to lose three straight, he could be cut from the roster, especially as trims are being made to make room for fighters from Dana White’s Contender Series. This is a big fight for him. de Lima’s recent run has earned him more time inside the Octagon, and he’s generally an active fighter who can fill out some of these undercards. This is definitely a fight where there’s more at stake for Ivanov.
Welterweights: Andre Fialho vs. Cameron VanCamp
Overall Records: Fialho 15-4 1 NC, VanCamp 15-5-1 1 NC
UFC Records: Fialho 1-1, VanCamp 0-0
Last Fight: Fialho def. Baeza–R1 TKO–UFC On ESPN 34 (4/16/22), VanCamp def. Gaudreau–R1 SUB–B2 Fighting Series 128 (7/24/21)
Last Five Fights: Fialho 4-1, VanCamp 4-1
Betting Odds: Fialho -410, VanCamp +310
Background: A fight that just came together about a week before the show sees a short-notice welterweight tilt between Fialho and the debuting VanCamp. Fialho is making a quick turnaround as he just fought on the April 16 card where he scored a first-round knockout over Miguel Baeza to notch his first UFC win. He asked to fight again as soon as possible, saying he’d fight on the card next week or in two weeks or in three weeks. His wish gets granted three weeks later as he guns for his 14th win by finish. VanCamp has been chomping at the bits for his UFC debut as he was signed in September 2021 to take a short-notice opportunity against Nikolas Motta. That fight fell apart and was cancelled due to injury, and he’s taken time to recover and finally makes his debut, though also on very short notice. He comes into his debut on the heels of four straight wins, including a win over UFC veteran Dan Stittgen during that streak, and he has scored 13 of his 15 wins by stoppage, with four coming by knockout and nine coming by submission.
How they match up: I really don’t know what to make of this fight. Generally fighters having a quick turnaround isn’t the best recipe for success, but this seems favorable for Fialho. He should come in fresh since his fight a few weeks ago was quick, while it is unknown if VanCamp will come into this in any kind of decent shape, because he wasn’t on the books for a fight. Regardless of all of that, this should be an easily winnable fight for Fialho. VanCamp is very easy to hit and Fialho has tons of power in his hands. VanCamp’s best path to victory is to drag this past the first round as Fialho tends to have conditioning issues, but we also don’t know if VanCamp will have the cardio to go a long way. I also don’t see VanCamp surviving past the first to where that will make a difference. This is going to be a brutal win for Fialho.
What’s at stake: Fialho wanted the quick turnaround, and he got it, so it’s up to him to perform. If he wins, it’s expected and the quick turnaround was the right call. If he loses, that’s not a good look for him as he was itching to return so quickly. He really has to win to justify the booking. VanCamp is debuting and really has nothing to lose with the short notice of the fight, and a win would show that he’s capable of winning no matter what.
Women’s Flyweights: Tracy Cortez vs. Melissa Gatto
Overall Records: Cortez 9-1, Gatto 8-0-2
UFC Records: Cortez 3-0, Gatto 2-0
Last Fight: Cortez def. Kish–SpDec–UFC On ESPN 22 (4/17/21), Gatto def. Eubanks–R3 TKO–UFC On ESPN+ 57 (12/18/21)
Last Five Fights: Cortez 5-0, Gatto 4-0-1
Betting Odds: Cortez -145, Gatto +125
Background: A battle of prospects in the women’s flyweight division happens here as Cortez looks to extend her win streak, while, at the same time, handing Gatto the first loss of her career. Cortez is returning to action for the first time in just over a year as she looks to extend her seven-fight win streak, which includes a 3-0 record to start her UFC career. She scored a decision over Justine Kish in her last outing in April 2021, which followed wins over Vanessa Melo and Stephanie Egger in her first two UFC outings. She seems firmly committed to the flyweight division as she looks for only her third win by finish. Gatto comes into this fight having not suffered a loss in her first ten professional fights. She does have two draws in there, but it also includes two straight wins to start her UFC career. She scored finishes over Victoria Leonardo in August and over Sijara Eubanks in December to lead into this fight. Gatto has scored six of her eight career wins via a finish.
How they match up: Gatto is going to have a four-inch reach advantage in this one, which could end up being an important factor. Cortez missed weight for her last fight, and it did effect her as she faded late in that fight against Kish. She also showed that she can be an easy target to hit, but that she is also very durable. Gatto does land well on her feet and that could lead Cortez to decide to grapple. Cortez is the better wrestler of the two and will likely get the takedown, and she does like to grind out fights from the top. She does have to be careful being on top of Gatto, though, as Gatto is very good at working from her back and either finding a submission or finding a sweep to the top. Hopefully, Cortez makes weight and the cardio issues aren’t a factor for her as this has the makings of a very fun fight. It’s another coinflip fight, but I see Cortez being able to establish herself in dominant position on top for the majority of the fight, and she gets the win on the scorecards.
What’s at stake: A long win, or unbeaten, streak is going to end here, and it’s just a matter of which. Cortez has tons of marketability and a great personality and story, so a win here would just expose her to a larger audience moving forward. She has tons of upside, but she has to deliver inside the Octagon. Gatto is also a solid prospect who wants to avoid losing for the first time in her career. It’s going to be tough, but she’s got the tools to win this, which could lead to battling a ranked opponent next.
Flyweights: Kleydson Rodrigues vs. CJ Vergara
Overall Records: Rodrigues 7-1, Vergara 9-3-1
UFC Records: Rodrigues 0-0, Vergara 0-1
Last Fight: Rodrigues def. Curatolo–UDec–Dana White’s Contender Series 40 (9/21/21), Osbourne def. Vergara–UDec–UFC 268 (11/6/21)
Last Five Fights: Rodrigues 5-0, Vergara 4-1
Betting Odds: Rodrigues -350, Vergara +270
Background: Two flyweights who competed on and got signed off of Dana White’s Contender Series in 2021 do battle here as Rodrigues makes his debut against Vergara, who will be in his second UFC appearance. Rodrigues is making his UFC debut after having his first planned fight be cancelled and he’s looking to extend his six-fight win streak. He’s coming in off a decision over Santo Curatolo on Dana White’s Contender Series in September. He has scored five of his seven professional wins by stoppage. Vergara also competed on the Contender Series in 2021, scoring a 41-second knockout over Bruno Korea to earn his UFC deal. He didn’t have the best UFC debut as he suffered a decision loss to Ode Osbourne at Madison Square Garden in November. That ended his win streak at five straight. He has scored six of his nine wins via a finish, with all six of those coming by knockout.
How they match up: Rodrigues is going to have the advantage on the feet, which is going to be the big advantage as this fight appears destined to be duked out on the feet. He has effective offense with plenty of long-range striking as he lands with high volume and high accuracy and has solid striking defense. Vergara’s UFC debut against Osbourne showed he might not have the speed to compete with the top of the flyweight division, but he is very durable. He does get hit too often, which Rodrigues is going to make him pay for. Rodrigues also has the better gas tank. Rodrigues has too many weapons for Vergara to play defense against, so I see Rodrigues getting the decision.
What’s at stake: Rodrigues looks like a potential player at 125 lbs. while Vergara seems like someone who is going to have trouble amounting lots of success in the division. The upside for Rodrigues is tremendous and he has the brighter future of the two. Vergara could pull off the upset and derail the hype train, but that appears to be a tall order.
Women’s Strawweights: Ariane Carnelossi vs. Lupita Godinez
Overall Records: Carnelossi 14-2, Godinez 7-2
UFC Records: Carnelossi 2-1, Godinez 2-2
Last Fight: Carnelossi def. Nunes–R3 SUB–UFC On ESPN+ 53 (10/16/21), Godinez def. Lookboonmee–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 56 (11/20/21)
Last Five Fights: Carnelossi 4-1, Godinez 3-2
Betting Odds: Carnelossi +155, Godinez -180
Background: A pair of strawweights who have the potential to be solid threats in the division battle here as Carnelossi and Godinez both look to add to recent success. Carnelossi comes into this fight looking to extend her two-fight win streak. She made her UFC debut in September 2019, suffering a loss to Angela Hill, and didn’t return to action until April 2021. She went 2-0 during 2021, scoring finishes over Na Liang and Istela Nunes to get her primed for 2022. She has scored eleven of her 14 wins by stoppage. Godinez had a very active 2021, fighting four times between April and November, including twice in October. She had mixed success, going 2-2 in those four outings, but is coming off a decision win over Loma Lookboonmee in November. She’ll be looking for her third career stoppage.
How they match up: The layoff and full training camp should be good news for Godinez, and this is a fight where that will benefit her. She does have questionable fight IQ, something that Carnelossi will need to exploit. Carnelossi is far from the most technical striker, but she has power and aggression behind her. Godinez has sharp boxing, but she does tend to clinch too much and at times where she doesn’t really need to. She also can be slow-paced, so the aggression of Carnelossi will be key. Godinez does have some strong wrestling, and that could be a problem for Carnelossi, who doesn’t have the best takedown defense. Godinez does have good top control on the mat, but Carnelossi is capable of finding submissions from any position on the mat. This is another fight that feels like a coinflip for me, but I like the aggression of Carnelossi over the slow-pace of Godinez on the feet to be the difference.
What’s at stake: Both women have the potential to be threats at 115 lbs., but it is a stacked division at the moment. Carnelossi could easily fight a ranked opponent next if she scores her third straight win, while Godinez doesn’t appear to be ready for ranked opposition, even if she scores the win. Both are still young with neither having even hit 30 yet, so they’ll be contenders for years to come.
Bantamweights: Journey Newson vs. Fernie Garcia
Overall Records: Newson 9-3 1 NC, Garcia 10-1
UFC Records: Newson 0-2 1 NC, Garcia 0-0
Last Fight: Costa def. Newson–R1 KO–UFC On ESPN+ 36 (9/19/20), Garcia def. Weems–R1 TKO–Dana White’s Contender Series 42 (10/5/21)
Last Five Fights: Newson 2-2 1 NC, Garcia 5-0
Betting Odds: Newson +125, Garcia +145
Background: A battle of bantamweights kicks off the show in Phoenix as Newson makes his fourth UFC appearance, still in search of his first win, against the debuting Garcia. Newson is fighting for the first time in a long time as he’s been out of action since a 41-second knockout loss to Randy Costa in September 2020. He’s still in search of his first official UFC win after a win over Domingo Pilarte in February 2020 was changed to a no contest due to a drug test failure. A win would be his first official one in three years. Garcia is debuting after being signed following a first-round knockout of Joshua Weems on Dana White’s Contender Series in October. Garcia has scored five straight wins overall, and four of his ten wins have seen him score a finish.
How they match up: Newson does have some power in his hands, as his “win” over Pilarte was a 38-second knockout. However, he lacks the technical boxing skill that Garcia has. Garcia does land with more volume, but he doesn’t have the power of Newson. Instead, Garcia will look to wear Newson down with pressure and a high pace. I don’t see this going to the ground, but if it does, Garcia has a solid wrestling game, but Newson has some solid submissions. However, it’ll likely stay on the feet and could be an ugly striking battle. I lean towards favoring Garcia as he’s just better on the feet and he gets the win on a decision.
What’s at stake: Newson is in a must-win fight. If he loses, that’s no wins in four UFC outings, and his contract won’t be renewed. It’s also not a given it would be renewed with a win, but a win would go a long way towards securing a new deal. Garcia is in his debut and will get another fight, but he definitely wants to avoid losing his UFC debut.