The UFC returns after a week off to host a silent Fight Night card in the APEX, headlined by top five strawweights Mackenzie Dern and Yan Xionan. Earlier this week, news broke about the APEX being locked out to fans and the media for the card. When asked by MMA Junkie’s John Morgan about a particular reason, Dana White seemed to dodge the question entirely.
This card is filled with some exciting fights. In addition to the main event, the co-main event will feature what should be a fun welterweight fight between Randy Brown and Fransisco Trinaldo. Let’s look at the entire card as it shows on Verdict.
Mackenzie Dern is perhaps the darkhorse of this stacked Strawweight division, as she has gone 7-2 in the promotion since making her debut in 2018. She’s been very active and has legitimate grappling credentials. She is the best submission artist in the division without a doubt. The problem is that Dern has yet to get over the hump and insert herself into title contention. Losses to Amanda Ribas and Marina Rodriguez have certainly pushed her back down, but a win over Xionan this weekend will help her cause. The submission game has always been there, but Dern’s striking has been slowly improving over her last few fights, which could help her against Yan. On the other hand, Yan Xionan is in a similar spot to Dern, whereas she has been unable to get over the hump of elite strawweight contenders. A twelve-fight unbeaten streak saw her inside the top five of the division, but she has now lost two in a row to the current champion in Carla Esparza and Marina Rodriguez. A win for either fighter will look very good on their resume and get them closer to a shot at the 115-pound strap.
Two Welterweight veterans will meet inside the co-main event. Randy Brown and Fransisco Trinadlo have seen very long UFC careers, Brown making his UFC debut in 2016, with Trinaldo making his back in 2012. Both have seen it all and have fought the best the division has to offer. When these two are in a fight, especially against one another, you know it’s going to be a good one. I’m expecting a fun fight between these two.
Both of these fighters may be on two-fight losing streaks, but there is no shame in the level of competition that they have fought during that streak. Bantamweight is a division full of killers, and Raoni Barcelos and Trevin Jones are exactly that. These two desperately want to get back to their winning ways, so I’m expecting another set of fireworks on this main card fight.
Originally set to face Giga Chikadze in the co-main event, Sodiq Yusuff will have the opportunity to welcome the Cage Titans alum Don Shainis to the UFC on short notice. Yusuff is ranked number twelve in the division and is a massive favorite against Shainis, though anything can happen with six-ounce gloves, and Don Shainis will be looking to make a statement in his UFC debut. The Cage Titans veteran is on a five-fight win streak, with the last three being first-round knockouts. Yusuff has fought some of the toughest guys in the Featherweight division and will look to keep his ranking with a win over the new guy.
John Castaneda and Daniel Santos will be meeting at a Catchweight of 140 pounds on Saturday night. Castaneda has impressed since making his UFC debut in 2020 and has a 2-1 record with wins over Eddie Wineland and Miles Johns. Castanada fought on Dana White’s Contender Series back in 2017 but did not earn a contract. Castaneda was signed in 2020 and has already fought some great competition. Santos only has one UFC fight, a loss to Julio Arce, but is still incredibly young at 27 and could have a long career ahead of him.
This is the fight that fans need to have their eye on. Mike Davis and Viacheslav Borshchev, although on the prelims, is my favorite fight of the card. These two are excellent strikers, and someone is likely going to get finished here. Davis is as tough as they come, he proved that by derailing the Mason Jones hype train in his last fight. He’s fought Gilbert Burns and Sodiq Yusuff, which just so happens to be his only two losses. Slava Claus burst out onto the UFC scene after a dominant showing on the Contender Series and won his debut by first-round knockout. Since then, he has lost a decision to Marc Diakiese but is looking to get back on track as a name to watch at 155 pounds. I’m excited about this one.
This card certainly has some fights worth watching this weekend, with an intriguing main event on deck featuring Mackenzie Dern and Yan Xionan. Fans will get a reminder of what the APEX was like during the COVID days, with a silent arena, but this card has the potential to be a good one.