It has been relatively quiet in the UFC world as of late, with two weeks off in the last three weeks. The UFC will return to the Apex for a spectacular Fight Night card to prepare us for UFC 280 next week. Two Flyweights will headline the card, as number five-ranked Alexa Grasso will take on number six-ranked Viviane Araujo. The champion of the division, Valentina Shevchenko, is in desperate need of contenders, so the winner of this fight could present themselves as a worthy challenger to the champion. This card has a lot of great matchups, so let us take a look at this exciting card as it appears on Verdict.
With a lack of contenders for the flyweight champion, and the division not being very active besides the Chookagian-Fiorot fight next week, all eyes will be on Alexa Grasso and Viviane Araujo to make a statement this weekend. Shevchenko has beaten the number one, two, three, four, and eighth-ranked contenders but has not yet faced either women competing in the main event this weekend, who are ranked at five and six respectively. Alexa Grasso has been on a tear since moving up to 125, with three wins in a row against the likes of Maycee Barber and Joanne Wood. Grasso’s boxing is her bread and butter, and she’ll look to use that against Araujo. The key here is how well her takedown defense is. Vivi is a good grappler, and if she can take Grasso down with ease then it could be a long night for the Mexican. Araujo has won three of her last four fights, including wins over Andrea Lee and Roxanne Modafferi. It will be interesting to see if Araujo can take Grasso down, we’ve seen improvements in Alexa’s grappling, which was highlighted by her most recent submission win against Joanne Wood. There are certainly high stakes for this main event, and I’m excited to see how this one plays out. A dominant showing can propel the winner toward an undisputed title shot.
Cub Swanson is back for his first appearance of 2022, and the Hall of Famer will take on rising Bantamweight prospect Jonathan Martinez. Swanson has fought at Featherweight for the entirety of his career, but moving down to Bantamweight for this fight will lead to a lot of questions. We’ve seen guys like Jose Aldo have tremendous success with moving down a weight class later into their career, but we have also seen the total opposite, with TJ Dillashaw’s lone Flyweight appearance a prime example. Jonathan Martinez is very talented and is a solid favorite against Swanson. Unfortunately, we will not know how Cub reacts to being at 135 until that time comes when he has to make weight and step into the UFC Octagon for his Bantamweight debut. If it can pay off, Cub's experience and finishing capabilities could be trouble for Martinez.
This fight should be fun. Two Middleweight knockout artists, Jordan Wright and Dusko Todorovic are set to square off in the Octagon on Saturday, where a finish is very likely. Both fighters haven’t done a lot of winning recently, with Wright having lost two in a row and three of his last four, and Todorovic losing three of his last four as well. These two have fought some elite Middleweights, but only one will be able to bounce back from their losing streak on Saturday night.
Another battle of two knockout artists, Misha Cirkunov and Alonzo Menifield will surely be fireworks. Cirkunov has not had a good run as of late, going 2-6 in his last eight fights, with five of those losses being via a finish. The 35-year-old is likely on short legs in the UFC and will need to get past Menifield, who’s had an impressive career since earning a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series back in 2018. He’s fought some of the best names at 205 including Paul Craig, Ovince Saint Preux, and Devin Clark, and will look to get another big win this weekend.
With a solid main card, the prelims are going to feature some spectacular matchups between Nick Maximov and Jacob Malkoun, and the return of Tatsuro Taira against CJ Vergara. Saturday’s night of fights will be a nice appetizer to what will follow the following weekend, as the UFC makes another trip to Abu Dhabi for UFC 280.