After a chaotic pay-per-view week, the UFC settles down back at the APEX for what should be an excellent card on paper. Cory Sandhagen will be the one to give the highly touted Chinese prospect Song Yadong a crack at the top five in an excellent Bantamweight main event. The co-main event will be guaranteed fireworks as two power punchers Chidi Njokuani and Gregory Rodrigues will look to continue their winning ways in what looks like a guaranteed finish. Let’s take a look at the card and how it shows on Verdict.
Cory Sandhagen seems like the odd man out at bantamweight. The champion, Aljamain Sterling, will defend his title against TJ Dillashaw at UFC 280, in addition to Petr Yan facing off against Sean O’Malley on the same card. Merab Dvalishvili just fought Jose Aldo, and Marlon Vera just fought Dominick Cruz, which leaves Sandhagen, who is on a two-fight losing streak, without a clear next route. Song Yadong is on a three-fight win streak and is well deserving of a top ten opponent next, and so it will be Sandhagen who will give him that opportunity. I’m expecting a great fight between the two, a win for Sandhagen will show that he still has what it takes to compete against the elite of the division, while a win for Song will throw him inside the top five of the division. Song certainly has more to gain from this fight, but a win for either man will give them some confidence as the title picture will get sorted out in due time.
Two knockout artists in the Middleweight division will go at it in the co-main event, and both men will look to gain some serious momentum. Chidi Njokuani has thrust onto the middleweight scene with two first-round knockout wins, following an incredible performance on Dana White’s Contender Series. He meets Gregory Rodrigues, who has been on a similar path. Robocop has gone 3-1 since signing to the UFC last year, with the lone loss to Armen Petrosyan very controversial. Both men have blown through their competition, and when they meet in the middle this weekend, expect fireworks. One man will likely go to sleep, while the other should go on to face a top fifteen middleweight next.
Andre Fili vs Bill Algeo should be a great fight in the featherweight division. This fight will see one guy who’s seen it all and has fought some of the best the division has to offer, and another guy who’s relatively new to the UFC, but is looking for a win over a tested veteran like Fili. Both guys have had some losses, especially Fili who is 1-3 in his last four, but a win will certainly keep both guys relevant in a competitive division.
Next up, Joe Pyfer will make his anticipated UFC debut after a contract-winning performance on the Contender Series. Alen Amedovski hasn’t had the best start to his UFC tenure, and will most likely be let go if he can not get the job done this weekend. Joe Pyfer has a great opportunity to start his UFC career with a bang if he can get past Amendovski on a big stage.
Tanner Boser and Rodrigo Nascimento will meet on the main card, and these are two guys who know how to get a finish. 11 of Boser’s 20 wins have come by knockout, and Nascimento boasts a 100% finish rate throughout his nine-fight career. This should be a good one at the APEX.
The featured bout of the evening will feature Anthony Hernandez and Marc-Andre Barriault, two middleweights who are looking to gain some momentum in this division. Hernandez is an excellent grappler and owns a submission win over credentialed submission artist Rodolfo Vieira. Barriault will look to counter that grappling with some very good striking and has recently found some wins in the UFC since starting 0-3. I’m excited to see how this one plays out.
On paper, this looks to be an excellent Fight Night card, with a great main event between two top ten Bantamweights, a co-main event with two Middleweights who are looking for a shot at the top fifteen, and some great fights on the prelims. Strap in, it should be a great night of fights.