It was the featherweight division on everyone’s mind last weekend after two of its most talented strikers stood toe-to-toe, with Georgia’s own Giga Chikadze finishing UFC veteran Edson Barboza. Chikadze’s speed and timing proved too much for the 35-year old Brazilian as the fight was stopped early in the third round, cementing Chikadze’s place inside the top ten at 145.
This season of The Ultimate Fighter has also concluded with Ricky Turcios and Bryan Battle becoming the bantamweight and middleweight winners respectively. Today, we will be taking a look at this upcoming weekend’s preliminary card featuring many exciting matchups, with the main card being headlined by Darren Till and Derek Brunson, making up this European-heavy fight week.
Jonathan Martinez (13-4 MMA, 4-3 UFC) vs Marcelo Rojo (16-7 MMA, 0-1 UFC)
A bantamweight bout between Jonathan Martinez and Marcelo Rojo is set to kick off UFC Vegas 36, in what looks to be an incredible night of fights. Rojo made his UFC debut in March of this year in a short notice fight against Charles Jourdain. He was originally scheduled to take on Raoni Barcelos, but the bout was canceled due to his opponent getting Covid. Just over two weeks later, the Argentinian stepped foot inside the octagon for the very first time.
Rojo began the fight very well, throwing and landing more frequently than his counterpart in the first round. As the fight clock ticked, the pressure and volume Jourdain was throwing at Rojo became too much for him to handle in the end. Saturday afternoon will be Rojo’s return to bantamweight where he has fought on six occasions throughout his career.
For Martinez, this will be his eighth walk to the octagon as he looks to bounce back after getting knocked out by Davey Grant back in March of this year. Martinez was originally scheduled to take on Nathaniel Wood before he was forced to withdraw due to injury. Both men look to push the pace and should make for a perfect opener to an afternoon of action.
Official Prediction: Rojo via Decision
Daicha Lungiambula (11-2 MMA, 2-1 UFC) vs Marc-Andre Barriault (12-4 MMA, 1-3 UFC)
The first of two Canadians to step inside the octagon on Saturday afternoon will be middleweight Marc-Andre Barriault as he is set to take on the Congolese-born Daicha Lungiambula. Barriault hasn’t had the best of times under the UFC banner, losing three straight decisions all in 2019. After finally getting his hand raised for the first time inside the octagon back in June of 2020, it was later overturned to a no-contest once it was revealed that Barriault tested Positive for osterine. A thorough investigation concluded that there was no evidence of intentional use, reducing Barriualt’s suspension down to just six months. His comeback fight would be against Abu Azaitar who he finished within the final five seconds of the third round, truly capturing his first win as a UFC fighter.
The former EFC heavyweight and light heavyweight Lungiambula made his UFC debut back in June of 2019 where he finished Dequan Townsend in Minneapolis on the undercard of UFC on ESPN: Ngannou vs Dos Santos. Lungiambula is a life-long martial artist, beginning in Judo when he was just eight years old. Lungiambula has also competed in multiple grappling competitions, even winning the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championships back in 2018. A lot of excitement was building around the “Champion” Lungiambula going into his second UFC fight. Unfortunately for him, he met another rising contender in Magodmed Ankalaev, who is currently riding a six-fight win streak in the division.
After sitting out for just over a year, Lungiambula marked his comeback with a unanimous decision victory over Markus Perez back in January and looks to build on that performance come Saturday. Both men are coming off of wins and a victory for either guy on Saturday could be the beginning of something special.
Official Prediction: Barriault via TKO.
Charles Jourdain (11-3-1 MMA, 2-2-1 UFC) vs Julian Erosa (25-9, 2-5 UFC)
Scheduled in the featherweight division, Jourdain is set to take on Julian Erosa after his original opponent Lerone Murphy was forced to pull out because of visa issues. The Canadian is coming off a win over the aforementioned Rojo in what was an all-action-packed affair. Jourdain was able to step up the pace going into the final round where he dominated Rojo and finished the fight with less than a minute left on the clock.
Before joining the UFC, Erosa was exposed to the fandom after spending some time on The Ultimate Fighter season 22. Erosa fought four times on the show, coming out victorious on three occasions until he met Artem Lobov, who was the eventual runner-up. Erosa was offered a contract into the promotion for his efforts anyway, where he won his debut via split decision. At UFC 196 Erosa was scheduled to face a tough opponent in Teruto Ishihara, who knocked him out early in the second round. The UFC would go on to release Erosa and two years later called him back for another opportunity.
Now on his second run as a UFC fighter, Erosa is 2-1 in his last three, finishing both opponents in the first round. Both guys are looking to break the top 15 and a win on Saturday would be a monumental step closer to doing so.
Official Prediction: Jourdain via Decision.
Jack Shore (14-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) vs Liudvik Sholinian (9-1-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC)
Another short notice opponent will be what Wales bantamweight prospect Jack Shore will have in front of him after Said Nurmagomedov and Zviad Lazishvilli were forced to withdraw from UFC Vegas 36. A competitor from season 29 of The Ultimate Fighter, Liudvik Sholinian was eliminated after losing to eventual winner Ricky Turcios in the semi-finals.
Shore has had an exceptional beginning to his UFC career inside the cage, winning all three of his contests so far. Unfortunately for him, bad luck has been coming outside of the octagon. Including Shore’s scheduled bout on Saturday, this will only be his third appearance since joining the promotion in 2019. Winning his debut in September of that year, it was Covid mixed with other complications that saw five separate scheduled bouts fall apart in a span of just two years.
Sholinian has spent his career bouncing across many promotions, most notably fighting under M-1, Bellator, and LFA. His only loss was a unanimous decision victory to Sidemar Honorio at Bellator 209 back in 2018. Sholinian defeated number one pick, Mitch Raposo, in this season of TUF and hopes to find that same relentlessness in his octagon debut.
Official Prediction: Shore via Decision.
Molly McCann (10-4 MMA, 3-3 UFC) vs Ji Yeon Kim (9-3 MMA, 3-3 UFC)
The 31-year old Liverpool-born Molly McCann has run into some trouble in her recent fights. Currently riding a two-fight losing streak, the English-heavy Saturday fight card will be “Meatball” Molly’s opportunity to turn her career in the right direction.
Her opponent, Ji Yeon Kim, has also hit some recent bumps on the road, going 1-2 in her last three since 2018. Coming off a loss to the recently impressive Alex Grasso, Kim will be looking to land more frequently at UFC Vegas 36, as she was only able to find the target on her last opponent 36% of the time.
Taking place in the women’s flyweight division, both women need the win on Saturday if they want to be considered a real contender at this moment.
Featured Image Credits to Embed from Getty Images