В ночь с пятницы на субботу состоится шестой турнир UFC в истории Бостона. Хедлайнерами ивента станут представителя полутяжёлого дивизиона Доминик Рейес и Крис Вайдман. Во втором по значимости, но не по интриге, противостоянии вечера пройдёт мгновенный реванш между бойцами полулёгкой категории Яиром Родригезом и Джереми Стивенсом. Помимо состоявшихся бойцов в главном карде UFC Бостон выступят несколько спортсменов, которые считаются проспектами своих дивизионов. В нашем еженедельном обзоре мы расскажем и о ветеранах, и о проспектах и обо всём главном на предстоящем турнире в Бостоне.
DOMINICK REYES VS. CHRIS WEIDMAN
This is one of those terrific fights that you didn’t know you really wanted to see until it was announced and then you’re like, “Oh man, what a fight!”
Reyes burst onto the scene in the summer of ’17, following up a viral knockout on the regional circuit with a 29-second stoppage win in his promotional debut. In all, he went 3-0 in his rookie year, never seeing the second round. He’s posted two more wins since then, vanquishing veteran gatekeeper Ovince Saint Preux before edging out former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir by split decision earlier this year to establish himself as one of the top contenders in the 205-pound weight class.
While Reyes is looking to prove he’s championship ready, Weidman is aiming to start a new chapter in his career. Six years removed from defeating Anderson Silva and nearly four years after losing the middleweight title to Luke Rockhold, the 35-year-old former champion is hoping a shift to the light heavyweight ranks can help him snap out of a 1-4 slump and spark a return to elite form.
A move like this always seemed like a possibility for Weidman, just as it did for his nemesis, Rockhold, but now the question is whether or not the Long Island native can avoid the same fate that befell his West Coast counterpart when he changed divisions. As for Reyes, squeaking past Oezdemir with a debated decision slowed his momentum, but with Jon Jones searching for challengers, a return to the electric form of his rookie campaign could position him for a title shot in 2020.
YAIR RODRIGUEZ VS. JEREMY STEPHENS
Four weeks after their main event in Mexico City was halted just 15 seconds in, Rodriguez and Stephens will try it again in Boston.
Everything that made the fight terrific then still applies now: Rodriguez remains one of the most intriguing emerging talents in the sport and this fight still feels like the ultimate litmus test for the dynamic featherweight upstart, while Stephens once again has the opportunity to halt his current slide by turning back an ultra-confident youngster.
What ups the ante, of course, is there is now the animosity and genuine tension between the two after how things ended last month and the war of words that followed.
GREG HARDY VS. BEN SOSOLI
Fighting for the fourth time this year, Hardy faces the next in a line of opponents designed to test his mettle as he squares off with the TUF 28 and Contender Series alum Sosoli.
It was impossible to know what to make of Hardy as a prospect following his first two fights this year — he looked to be struggling before making a rookie mistake in his debut, then waxed a completely overmatched opponent in his sophomore outing. But beating Juan Adams in 45 seconds is undeniable and now the former Pro Bowl defensive end faces another step up in competition as he looks to close out his first year on the UFC roster with a third consecutive victory.
Sosoli has been UFC adjacent for a couple years now, having competed on Season 28 of The Ultimate Fighter, and he made an appearance in Las Vegas during this summer’s run of Contender Series events. Neither yielded a contract, but proximity has created an opportunity and now the Australian gets a showcase against a high-profile opponent.
Will Hardy show continued improvements and further development or will Sosoli be the one to stop his ascent in the heavyweight division?
JOE LAUZON VS. JONATHAN PEARCE
Two competitors at opposite ends of the spectrum clash in this lightweight main card contest.
Friday’s bout in Boston will be Lauzon’s 27th appearance in the Octagon. He debuted 13 years and one month earlier, give or take a couple days here and there, with a first-round knockout win over Jens Pulver and has been a fixture in the 155-pound weight class ever since. The 35-year-old has been one of the most consistently entertaining competitors throughout his 40-plus-fight career and if this ends up being the last time Lauzon makes the walk to the Octagon, it’s fitting that he’ll do so while receiving a raucous ovation from the fans in Boston.
Pearce was 14 when Lauzon faced Pulver, and their clash this weekend marks the beginning of his UFC journey. The 27-year-old is on a five-fight winning streak, capped by a third-round stoppage win on the Contender Series this past summer. Pearce has looked very good during that stretch, which followed a three-fight losing skid that might have dashed the hopes of someone less driven and resilient.
Can the veteran snap his losing streak and post a victory or will the newcomer spoil his homecoming?
MAYCEE BARBER VS. GILLIAN ROBERTSON
This is such a compelling fight and it is going to have a significant impact on the shape of the flyweight division going forward.
Barber has been a highly touted prospect for a number of years now, and she maintained her momentum since transitioning to the UFC. She struggled in the opening round of her flyweight debut last time out, but rallied to finish JJ Aldrich, which only served to further elevate expectations. The unbeaten 21-year-old has everything you look for in an elite prospect and now it’s just a matter of whether she can continue to improve, make adjustments and keep climbing the ladder on her quest to become the youngest champion in UFC history.
While Barber has been chasing a fight with Paige VanZant on social media, she first needs to contend with Robertson, an unheralded member of the TUF 26 cast who has emerged from the show to blossom into a legitimate prospect in the 125-pound weight class. The American Top Team product has gone 4-1 in her first five UFC starts while showing steady improvement from fight-to-fight. Last time out, “The Savage” mauled Sarah Frota and if she can hand Barber her first career loss, her days of being overlooked will be a thing of the past.
DERON WINN VS. DARREN STEWART
The main card kicks off in the middleweight division with a grudge match between Winn and Stewart, who have been jawing at one another since the former first set foot in the Octagon.
Winn made his successful debut towards the end of June, getting the better of veteran Eric Spicely in an entertaining scrap that pushed his record to 5-0 as a professional. As the protégé of former two-division champion Daniel Cormier, a lot of eyes have been on Winn as he’s transitioned from wrestling to MMA, and with each appearance, the undefeated 30-year-old is tasked with justifying the hype and showing he’s as good as advertised.
REMEMBER: UFC Boston airs on FRIDAY, October 18. Prelims kick off at 6pm/3pm ETPT, Main Card at 9pm/6pm ETPT, all on ESPN2
Stewart is one of those folks who isn’t sold on Winn’s prospects and has been telling anyone who will listen for the last several months. Now he gets the chance to prove it in Boston.
The British veteran has bounced back from going winless in his first four trips into the Octagon to produce a 3-1 mark over his last four outings, most recently securing a unanimous decision win over Bevon Lewis. He’s more experienced and flashed greater finishing abilities than Winn to this point, but will that translate into a victory on Friday?
CHARLES ROSA VS. MANNY BERMUDEZ
A couple Massachusetts natives looking to hit the reset button clash in this featherweight contest set to close out the preliminary portion of the fight card.
Peabody’s Rosa returns for the first time in more than two years, searching for his first victory since collecting a unanimous decision win over Kyle Bochniak all the way back in January 2016. The 33-year-old has always flashed toughness and talent, but a challenging slate and now a long injury hiatus have put serious ground between Rosa and the Top 15.
Bermudez, who fights out of Rockland’s South Shore Sportfighting, is making his divisional debut after missing weight for the second consecutive contest and suffering his first professional loss last time out. A submission specialist who had rattled off 14 consecutive victories prior to his UFC 241 loss to Casey Kenney, the 25-year-old should be a good fit at featherweight and can prove that with a quality showing against Rosa on Friday.
MOLLY MCCANN VS. DIANA BELBITA
An unrelenting fan favorite, McCann looks to make it three-in-a-row as she welcomes Belbita to the Octagon for the first time.
After losing to Robertson in her promotional debut, the 29-year-old Scouser has collected back-to-back decision wins over Priscila Cachoeira and Ariane Lipski, endearing herself to audiences with her toughness and unbreakable will. Having won eight of her last nine and now clearly established as a member of the flyweight ranks, McCann aims to pick up a third win in 2019 and position herself for bigger and better heading into 2020.
The 23-year-old Belbita already has 17 professional fights to her credit and arrives in the UFC on a four-fight winning streak. The Romanian “Warrior Princess” is another young prospect from Europe hoping to translate dominant efforts at the regional level to immediate success in the Octagon, though it should be noted that three of Belbita’s four losses have come against her most experienced, most established opponents.
Can “Meatball Molly” keep it rolling or will Belbita be celebrating a victory in her debut?
KYLE BOCHNIAK VS. SEAN WOODSON
Following an impressive performance on the Contender Series this summer, Woodson gets a difficult placement exam in his first appearance in the Octagon as he squares off with the high-energy Massachusetts native Bochniak in this one.
Woodson turned a short-notice opportunity into a UFC contract earlier this year in Las Vegas, rolling into the UFC Apex and settling Terrance McKinney with a beautiful flying knee less than two minutes into the second round of their Week 5 engagement. Exceptionally tall for the division at six-foot-two, the long, rangy “Sniper” will have a substantial height and reach advantage as he goes in search of his first UFC victory.
A fixture on these Boston fight cards, Bochniak has fought a collection of emerging talents since arriving in the UFC and although he has just two wins in six starts, he’s proven to be a tough out in entertaining bouts against upstarts like Jeremy Kennedy, Zabit Magomedsharipov and Hakeem Dawodu. His last victory came the last time the Octagon was set up inside TD Garden Arena and you can be sure that “Crash” would like nothing more than to replicate that feeling on Friday.
RANDY COSTA VS. BOSTON SALMON
Two newcomers whose debuts didn’t go as planned looked to bounce back in this preliminary card bantamweight clash.
Unbeaten in four starts on the regional circuit, Costa’s first foray into the Octagon came in April, where “The Zohan” got out-worked and eventually submitted by Brandon Davis. With his debut out of the way and an “on to the next one” mentality, the Joe Lauzon protégé looks to get back into the win column with a home game this time around.
Salmon was one of two fighters to earn a contract on the very first episode of the Contender Series in the summer of 2017, but injuries delayed his debut until this past April, where Khalid Taha quickly knocked him out. Eager to bounce back, the Las Vegas-based 28-year-old is happy to be the “road team” in this battle of 135-pound hopefuls looking to get their hand raised in the Octagon for the first time.
COURT MCGEE VS. SEAN BRADY
While not as pronounced a difference in experience as the previously covered fight between Joe Lauzon and Jonathan Pearce, this welterweight contest is another instance of a newcomer stepping into the Octagon against a seasoned veteran looking to show he’s still got something left.
A pro since 2014, Brady has slowly and steadily built a 10-0 record on the East Coast regional circuit, winning and successfully defending the CFFC welterweight title while sprinkling in a couple quality wins outside the promotion as well. A black belt under Daniel Gracie and former training partner of Paul Felder, the 26-year-old profiles as the type of fighter who is capable of having immediate success at the UFC level.
Nine years after winning the middleweight competition on Season 11 of The Ultimate Fighter, McGee is hoping to fend off a 1-4 run with a return to the win column. A tireless worker who has only been finished once in his career, the 34-year-old has struggled with injuries and inconsistent results over the last several years, entering Friday’s pairing with Brady having gone just 3-5 over his last eight after starting his welterweight run with consecutive victories.
Can the unbeaten Philadelphia native keep his winning streak intact or will the wily veteran prove to be too much to handle on Friday night?
DANIEL SPITZ VS. TANNER BOSER
A little under three months after his initial debut appearance in the UFC was abruptly delayed, Boser now gets the chance to make the walk for the first time in Boston, where he’ll take on the returning Sptiz.
Originally scheduled to compete at UFC 240 in Edmonton, Boser’s debut was delayed during fight week when his opponent was pulled from the card due to an anti-doping violation. While no longer fighting in his home province, the 28-year-old Canadian remains an intriguing new addition to the heavyweight division, bringing a 16-5-1 record and a wealth of experience against tough competition with him into his first appearance on the big stage.
Spitz has logged three prior trips into the Octagon, sandwiching a quick knockout win over Anthony Hamilton between losses to Mark Godbeer and Walt Harris after going 5-0 on the regional circuit to start his career. The towering “Daddy Long Legs” has been sidelined since that bout with Harris in June 2018 after an injury forced him out of a March assignment opposite Contender Series alum Jeff Hughes.
BRENDAN ALLEN VS. KEVIN HOLLAND
Tucked away on the preliminary card, this is a terrific middleweight matchup between a pair of emerging talents eager to prove they have what it takes to be future contenders in the 185-pound weight class.
Holland didn’t earn a contract following his win on Season 2 of the Contender Series, but the talkative Texan impressed the UFC brass enough that he quickly got a short-notice call-up and he’s been plying his trade in the Octagon ever since. The 26-year-old has won three straight since dropping his debut, including back-to-back decision wins over Alessio Di Chirico and Gerald Meerschaert earlier this year.
A former LFA champion, Allen earned his place on the roster with an impressive first-round finish of Aaron Jeffery this summer on the Contender Series. The 23-year-old is 12-3 overall and has only lost to fighters who currently grace the UFC roster — Anthony Hernandez, Eryk Anders and Trevin Giles. The Roufusport product has won four straight heading into his debut and is someone to definitely keep an eye on going forward.