After an eight week absence from events due to the worldwide spread of COVID-19, UFC has gotten back to holding events. In the first of a few events to be held at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, USA, UFC will present UFC 249 on Saturday.
The pay-per-view has seen numerous iterations now, with either the date, location or main event changing. Originally, UFC 249 was meant to happen on April 21st at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, USA.
The show was scheduled to have UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov put his belt on the line against Tony Ferguson. While Ferguson stayed on the card, travel restrictions forced Nurmagomedov off the card. Now in the main event, Ferguson is pitted against Justin Gaethje, with both contenders fighting for the interim belt.
As expected, the event will be held without a live audience.
Here’s a preview of the entire card which is set to happen on Saturday.
Early Prelims (6:00PM EDT) (ESPN+ / UFC Fight Pass)
Bout 1: Ryan Spann (17-5) vs. Sam Alvey (33-13) (Light Heavyweight)
Ryan Spann has impressed since he earned his UFC contract through Dana White’s Contender Series in 2018. With three UFC wins in a row, his next challenge comes in a matchup against light heavyweight gatekeeper Sam Alvey. In his last three fights Alvey has been unsucessful, most recently losing to Klidson Abreu in mid-2019.
Bout 2: Charles Rosa (12-3) vs. Bryce Mitchell (12-0) (Featherweight)
Attempting to break out of the 50/50 win-loss exchange on his recording dating back to his UFC debut, Charles Rosa will be matched up against Bryce Mitchell, who has been nothing short of perfect his entire career. Boasting a dozen wins, The Ultimate Fighter Season 27 winner Mitchell comes off of a flashy December win over Matt Sayles, locking in a rare twister for the win. Similarly, Rosa stopped a fight early with his ground game in his last appearance, getting a first round armbar against Manny Bermudez in October.
Bout 3: Vicente Luque (17-7-1) vs. Niko Price (14-3) (Welterweight)
Finishing off the early prelims, welterweights Vicente Luque and Niko Price are matched up. Luque had his impressive six-fight winning streak finished in late 2019 after not being favoured in a scorecard battle against Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. Now, he looks to bounce back against Price, who recently got a rare upkick finish against James Vick. This bout was one of the numerous on this card that was scheduled for a prior date.
Prelims (8:00PM EDT) (ESPN / TSN4 & 5)
Bout 4: Jacare Souza (26-8) vs. Uriah Hall (15-9) (Middleweight)
Kicking off the ESPN portion of the card is a clash of two fighters who, despite both being in the UFC for an extended time have never crossed paths. Jacare Souza, who attempts to bounce back from two losses in 2019, faces Uriah Hall, who competed once in 2019, besting Antonio Carlos Junior via decision. Both fighters have been in the UFC for over five years, and counting the Strikeforce and Dream years of Souza, he’s been at a high level of MMA since 2008.
Bout 5: Carla Esparza (15-6) vs. Michelle Waterson (17-7) (Strawweight)
A campaign of wins in 2018 and 2019 made it seem like Michelle Waterson was one of the next challengers for a strawweight title. However, in what would likely be her last challenge before gold, Waterson fell short to Joanna Jędrzejczyk in a five round battle. Waterson now returns to face Carla “The Cookie Monster” Esparza. Coming back from losses in 2019, Esparza had a solid year, breaking the undefeated record of Virna Jandiroba and defeating Alexa Grasso.
Bout 6: Fabricio Werdum (23-8-1) vs. Alexey Oleinik (58-13-1) (Heavyweight)
One of the most experienced active UFC fighters Alexey Oleinik returns on the prelims to fight Fabricio Werdum, who has a fair share of experience under his belt as well. Oleinik last proved himself in January, working an armbar on Maurice Greene late in the second round for a tap. Werdum comes off of a two-year layoff, losing a main event matchup against Alexander Volkov in his last battle.
Bout 7: Donald Cerrone (36-14) vs. Anthony Pettis (22-10) (Welterweight)
Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis are two fighters best described as “fan favourites.” But, both of them haven’t been in the winning column for a decent amount of time. Finishing off the preliminary card, the fortunes for one of the fighters could finally sway in the positive direction.
Cerrone last fought in January, getting finished in under a minute by the returning Conor McGregor. Explosive battles against both men who main event this card gave him his two previous losses in the consecutive trio.
Pettis lost his last two fights which both took place in the later half of 2019. First, Pettis fought Nate Diaz, who was coming back from a multi-year layoff. More recently in January, Pettis was on the receiving end of a rear naked choke from Diego Ferreira that gave him another loss.
These two have fought before, with their first meeting dating back to 2013, where Pettis won in the first round via strikes.
Main Card (10PM EDT) (PPV)
Bout 8: Greg Hardy (5-2) vs. Yorgan De Castro (6-0) (Heavyweight)
The main card kicks off with battle between two heavyweights. Undefeated Yorgan De Castro will have his second UFC fight, this time going up against Greg Hardy. Castro, like many people these days, made his way into the UFC through Dana White’s Contender Series, stopping his opponent in the first round. He then had a strong UFC debut, stopping Justin Tafa in the first round as well. Hardy has struggled throughout his UFC career with many fights causing controversy. In his debut, Hardy lost due to illegal knees. After racking up two wins, a win from Hardy was overturned due to him using a breathalizer in-between rounds. Most recently, Hardy lost in a unanimous decision to Alexander Volkov. He looks to get back into the win column on Saturday against someone who has only experienced the win column.
Bout 9: Jeremy Stephens (28-17) vs. Calvin Kattar (20-4) (Featherweight)
Two high ranked featherweights in Jeremy Stephens and Calvin Kattar will both try to get back to winning in their next fight. Stephens has been in a slump since 2018, with three of his four most recent fights being losses (the fourth ending in no contest after an accidental eye poke). Late in 2019, the two-fight winning streak of Kattar was halted after scorecards favoured Zabit Magomedsharipov.
Stephens was the only fighter to miss weight on Friday, coming in at 140 pounds for the 136-limit for the featherweight battle.
Bout 10: Francis Ngannou (14-3) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruick (10-0) (Heavyweight)
Years ago, Francis Ngannou was billed as one of the fastest rising heavyweights in the UFC. After a failed title shot to Stipe Miocic and a following loss to Derrick Lewis, Ngannou had to build himself back up. After picking up three stoppage wins, Ngannou has a second chance at getting to the top.
His opponent, however, is seeing a rise that mirrors the metioric one Ngannou experienced years ago. UFC’s first Suriname fighter, Jairzinho Rozenstruick, has won his four UFC fights all via stoppage. Most recently, Rozenstruick battled back from a fight he was losing to Alistair Overeem. Dropping his opponent in the final seconds of the 25-minute fight, “Bigi Boy” protected his undefeated record. He now looks to beat Ngannou, with the winner likely being next for a title shot.
Bout 11: Henry Cejudo (15-2) vs. Dominick Cruz (22-2) (UFC Bantamweight Championship)
Dominick Cruz is one of the most accomplished bantamweights in MMA history, but he’s been out of the limelight since 2016, where he lost his championship to Cody Garbrandt. Despite the long layoff, the former champion returns at the highest level possible. In the co-main event on Saturday, Cruz will face UFC Bantamweight Champion, Henry Cejudo.
Cejudo’s most notable win is a controversial split decision over Demetrious Johnson in 2018, making the title change hands for the first time in nearly six years. He then beat UFC Bantamweight Champion T.J. Dillashaw, except Dillashaw moved down to flyweight for the fight. In his most recent matchup, which was 11 months ago, Cejudo stopped Marlon Moraes in the second round to win the UFC Bantamweight Championship. He looks to make his first defence on Saturday.
The original opponent for Cejudo was meant to be Jose Aldo.
Bout 12: Tony Ferguson (25-3) vs. Justin Gaethje (21-2) (Vacant UFC Interim Lightweight Championship)
The long awaited matchup between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov won’t happen. But, with some last minute decisions, another explosive and borderline scary matchup was made. Fighting for the interim 155-pound belt, Ferguson will fight Justin Gaethje.
Gaethje bounced back from his first two pro losses with first round wins over James Vick, Edson Barboza and Donald Cerrone. The willingness to engage that Gaethje displays makes him a a fair pairing with Ferguson.
While Ferguson doesn’t have as many early stoppage wins as Gaethje, his style is a brutal one that constantly chips away and damages his opponents. He carries an impressive 12-fight winning streak coming into this fight.
His two most recent fights had the unsatisfying finish of a stoppage in-between rounds. His battle with Anthony Pettis concluded after two rounds due to Pettis suffering a broken hand. In his last fight, which was in June, Ferguson won after Donald Cerrone suffered an eye injury.
UFC plans to hold two events next week, one on Wednesday and the other on the usual Saturday. Headlining the Wedensday card is light heavyweights Anthony Smith and Glover Teixeira, who were first meant to headline a card in April. The Saturday show has a scheduled main event between Alistair overeem and Walt Harris.