With the UFC heading into the fourth quarter of it’s twenty fifth anniversary year, the final fight cards of this landmark year are beginning to fill up with entertaining match ups from main events down to the prelims. This week alone there have been a huge number of fight announcements.
As we approach the end of what has been a busier than average week for UFC matchmakers Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard, I’ve summarised all of the confirmed fight announcements below in the first edition of ‘The Week In Motion’.
Artem Lobov (14-14-1) vs Zubaira Tukhugov (18-4-0)
The UFC have confirmed that SBG’s folk hero Artem Lobov will welcome Zubaira Tukhugov back to the octagon at UFC Moncton after the completion of his two year, USADA enforced absence from the sport.
Lobov will arrive in Moncton hoping to avoid the earning the unfortunate distinction of holding more losses than wins in his professional career. ‘The Russian Hammer’ holds a record of 2-4-0 since making his official UFC debut following his appearance on TUF 22 and is currently riding a two fight winless streak after being handed decision defeats by Cub Swanson and Andre Filli.
Tukhugov makes his return to the octagon having not fought since a split decision loss to Renato Carneiro at UFC 198. The 27-year-old was due to follow up on that loss with a fight against Thiago Trator in December 2016 but a failed drugs test for Tukhugov saw that fight cancelled and the Russian handed two year suspension by USADA.
Stevie Ray (21-8-0) vs Jessin Ayari (16-4-0)
With two consecutive defeats at the hands of Paul Felder and Kaijan Johnson, Stevie ‘Braveheart’ Ray will arrive in Moncton at a cross roads in his UFC career. While three consecutive losses is survivable, it has proven to be a precarious situation for most fighters who have found themselves in that situation in the past. Standing in the Scotsman’s way will be Germany’s Jessin Ayari.
Ayari arriving in the UFC in fantastic form, winning seven consecutive fights, including his UFC debut against Jim Wallhead, before being handed a unanimous decision loss at the hands of Darren Till at UFC Stockholm in May 2017.
Both fighters will arrive in Canada with points to prove and futures at stake for what promises to be an entertaining contest.
UFC Sao Paolo
Jimi Manuwa (17-4-0) vs Thiago Santos (18-6-0)
After several years of calling for a match up with Glover Teixiera, Jimi Manuwa saw those dreams dashed when the Brazilian pulled out of their scheduled contest through injury.
All is not lost however as stepping in on short notice, as well as stepping up a weight class, is another heavy handed Brazilian in the shape of Thiago ‘Marreta’ Santos.
34-year-old Santos has five victories in his last six UFC appearances with only former WSOF middleweight champion David Branch able to stop the Brazilian in his tracks with a first round KO. Following his unanimous decision win over Kevin Holland at UFC 227, ‘Marreta’ made it clear he was interested in stepping up to 205lbs in the near future. Less than one month later it seems the chance to test himself against a top five light heavyweight, in his native Brazil no less, has fallen into his lap.
Luis Pena (5-0-0) vs Mike Trizano (7-0-0)
‘Violent Bob Ross’ Luis Pena is set to face fellow TUF 27 alumni Mike Trizano in a contest which will see both prospects put their undefeated records on the line.
Pena will be making just his second UFC appearance following a first round submission win over new Bellator signee Richie Smullen at The Ultimate Fighter 27 finale in July. Later that evening in the co-main event, Trizano outworked Joe Giannetti on the way to being crowned season winner thanks to a split decision victory.
The two undefeated prospects both have bright future’s ahead of them and no matter who takes the win in Denver, it is almost certain that this won’t be the last time they stand across from one another in the octagon.
Tony Ferguson (23-3-0) vs Anthony Pettis (21-7-0)
Following a couple of weeks of intense speculation, we finally have a return date confirmed for the UFCs resident lunatic. Just five months removed from an extremely serious knee injury and major surgery, former interim lightweight champ Tony Ferguson will return to action against Anthony Pettis at UFC 229.
‘El Cucuy’ hasn’t tasted defeat since a 2012 loss to Michael Johnson, going on to build a ten fight win streak, culminating in capturing the interim UFC lightweight title with a third round submission win over Kevin Lee in October 2017. Ferguson was all set to challenge Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 with the winner to be crowned undisputed champion. A freak accident at a TV studio while promoting the fight saw him removed from the contest just days before the event.
Former undisputed lightweight champion Pettis has had mixed fortunes in recent years. Since dropping the title to Rafael Dos Anjos at UFC 185, ‘Showtime’ has three wins in seven octagon appearances, most recently earning an impressive second round submission win over Michael Chiesa at UFC 226. Stepping up to face Ferguson will be a huge test for the number eight ranked lightweight but his win over Chiesa proved he still has what it takes to hang with the top end of the division.
Gray Maynard (13-6-1) vs Nik Lentz (28-9-2)
Two veterans of the sport are finally set to meet in Las Vegas when 39-year-old Gray ‘The Bully’ Maynard squares off with 34-year-old Nik Lentz at UFC 229.
Former title challenger Maynard hasn’t fought since earning a unanimous decision win over Teruto Ishihara at The Ultimate Fighter 25 finale in June 2017, interestingly his third consecutive fight to take place on a TUF finale show. ‘The Bully’ is 2-2 in his last four fights, a record which is mirrored by his opponent, Lentz.
‘The Carnie’ will enter the contest following a unanimous decision loss to David Teymur at UFC Utica earlier this summer. While it would appear that Maynard would have the momentum advantage over his younger opponent since he’s the one coming in with a win in his last fight, the reality is Lentz has been more active in recent years, fighting twice since Maynard last appeared in the octagon.
Whatever the outcome, considering the stage these two fighters are at in their careers, matching them together at UFC 229 feels like the perfect choice for both of these veterans of the sport.
Paul Craig (10-2-0) vs Jim Crute (8-0-0)
Scotland’s Paul ‘Bearjew’ Craig pulled off one of the most incredible come backs in recent memory, defeating Magomed Ankalaev via triangle choke at 4 minutes 59 seconds of the third and final round. Craig was without doubt losing the fight up to that point and having lost his previous two fights and being on the final fight of his contract, a loss would certainly have meant the end of his UFC career.
Fate was on his side that day and as a result, he now finds himself set to face undefeated Australian prospect Jim ‘The Brute’ Crute in Adelaide.
Crute earned his shot at the UFC with a first round KO of Chris Birchler on Dana White’s Contender Series last month and will be making his promotional debut when he faces Craig in front of his home crowd.
UFC Buenos Aires
Neil Magny (21-6-0) vs Santiago Ponzinibbio (26-3-0)
UFC’s Argentinian debut has a main event, with Neil Magny being pulled from his planned bout against Alex Oliveira to face local star Santiago Ponzinibbio.
Magny’s last UFC appearance came in Liverpool earlier this year against short notice opponent and promotional debutant Craig White, earning a first round KO over the British prospect. The win handed Magny his first consecutive wins since 2016 and solidified his place in the welterweight top 10.
Ponzinibbio is undefeated in his last six UFC appearances, with half of those wins coming via first round knock out and the other half going to the judges. A win over Magny would elevate ‘Gente Boa’ into the already crowded race for a welterweight title shot.
UFC Buenos Aires
Cezar Ferreira (13-6-0) vs Tom Breese (11-1-0)
On the subject of the UFC’s first event in Argentina, earlier this week the promotion added an intriguing middleweight contest to the card. Team Renegade’s Tom Breese will take on 13 fight UFC veteran Cesar Ferreira in Buenos Aires.
After a two year absence from competition, Breese made a successful return to the octagon at UFC Liverpool earlier this summer, knocking out Aussie veteran Daniel Kelly in the first round. The 33-year-old has only tasted defeat once in his career and now that he has a clean bill of health, he will be aiming to build on his victory in Liverpool and work his way up to the 185lb rankings.
Ferreira is in the midst of an impressive run of form of his own, with five wins in his last six fights and riding a two fight win streak, the 33-year-old will be hoping that a win over Breese will push him into contention for a spot in the middleweight top 15.
Jack Marshman (22-7-0) vs Karl Roberson (6-1-0)
While we await news on the main event for the UFC’s third visit to Madison Square Garden, the promotion have confirmed a match up between two exciting middleweight prospects.
Welsh standout Jack Marshman will face off with Jersey native Karl Roberson in what promises to be an explosive stand up battle.
Marshman will step into the octagon with a significant experience advantage over his opponent. The 28-year-old is looking to get back on track having alternated wins and losses in his four fight UFC career following a seven fight undefeated run which culminated in the Welshman capturing the Cage Warriors middleweight title.
While Roberson enters the contest with much less professional experience, there are similarities with his opponents UFC journey. After winning a contract with the promotion with an impressive first round KO competing on Dana White’s Contender Series, Roberson is 1-1 in two UFC appearances. In his last appearance in the octagon the 27-year-old was handed his first professional loss at the hands of Cesar Ferreira at UFC 226.
Gilbert Burns (13-3-0) vs Olivier Aubin-Mercier (11-3-0)
‘The Canadian Gangster’ Oliver Aubin-Mercier is set to face Gilbert Burns in the first confirmed bout for UFC 231 in Toronto. This will be the second attempt at booking the lightweight contest following the short notice collapse of their planned fight at UFC on FOX 28 after Burns was declared during fight week to be too heavy to make the lightweight limit.
Since then, both fighters have hit bumps in the road with Burns being stopped for the first time in his career at the hands of Dan Hooker in the first round of their UFC 226 contest.
Aubin-Mercier is also looking to get back on track after having his four fight win streak decisively snapped by Alexander Hernandez when the UFC visited Calgary last month.
Amanda Nunes vs Cris Cyborg
After a whole mess of accusations and arguments on social media, we finally have a date set for the biggest fight the UFC women’s divisions have ever seen. UFC 232 will see a legitimate champion vs champion contest between reigning bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes and undisputed featherweight queen Cris Cyborg.
The 33-year old 145lb champ is yet to truely be tested during her time with the UFC with only former bantamweight champ Holly Holm managing to force the judges to earn their wages. With a record of 5-0-0 with four knockout victories, you’d be hard pressed to name someone capable of challenging Cyborg for the title of baddest woman in the UFC.
Step forward Amanda Nunes, the reigning bantamweight champion with three successful title defences since capturing the title from Miesha Tate at UFC 200. Nunes is undefeated in seven fights with her only UFC loss coming against Cat Zingano back in 2014. With no obvious challengers in her own division and Cyborg unable to safely make 135lb without losing a limb, it makes perfect sense for the 30-year-old to step up a division for a Brazilian champ meets Brazilian champ mega fight.