UFC on ESPN+ 37: Moraes vs. Sandhagen Preview

UFC’s second stint at “Fight Island” continues on Saturday night, as the promotion presents a 13-fight card from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Two high-ranked bantamweights headline the card, as Marlon Moraes and Cory Sandhagen are scheduled for five rounds. Here’s a preview of the show.

Click here to skip to a preview of the main card.

Preliminary Card (5:00PM EDT / 1:00AM GST) (ESPN+ / TSN 5)

Bout 1: Tagir Ulanbekov (12-1) vs. Bruno Silva (10-5-2) (Flyweight)

Kicking off the packed preliminary card, Tagir Ulanbekov faces off against fellow flyweight Bruno Silva. Ulanbekov, a former Fight Nights Global Flyweight Champion and Gorilla Fighting Champion, will be making his UFC debut. He last competed in December, stopping Denilson Matos in the second round with a guillotine choke.

The fight will be Silva’s third in the UFC. He has yet to win in the promotion, having dropped losses to Khalid Taha and David Dvorak thus far.

Bout 2: Tracy Cortez (7-1) vs. Stephanie Egger (5-1) (Bantamweight)

Returning after a successful UFC debut last November, Tracy Cortez will be matched with Stephanie Egger on Saturday. Cortez won her debut in late 2019, defeating Vanessa Melo via decision. She previously won over Mariya Agapova on “Dana White’s Contender Series” to earn her UFC contract.

Egger, a newcomer to the UFC, is stepping in on short-notice for Bea Malecki. Egger’s most notable win came from July of 2019, where she defeated KING Reina at RIZIN 17.

Bout 3: Giga Chikadze (10-2) vs. Omar Morales (10-0) (Featherweight)

Rising featherweights Giga Chikadze and Omar Morales will meet on Saturday’s card. Chikadze’s rookie UFC year saw him active and successful, getting scorecard wins over Brandon Davis, Jamall Emmers and Irwin Rivera.

Morales has maintained his undefeated MMA record through his two UFC fights. He last appeared in May, defeating Gabriel Benitez via scorecards.

Bout 4: Ali Alqaisi (8-4) vs. Tony Kelley (6-2) (Bantamweight)

Both returning after an unsuccessful UFC debut, Ali Alqaisi and Tony Kelley have been paired up for Saturday. Alqaisi debuted in August, fighting to a split decision against Irwin Rivera which he was not favored in.

Kelley fought later in that month, dropping a decision to Kai Kamaka III at UFC 252.

Bout 5: Impa Kasanganay (8-0) vs. Joaquin Buckley (10-3) (Middleweight)

After a busy August for Impa Kasanganay that saw him earn a UFC contract and make his subsequent debut, he returns on Saturday against Joaquin Buckley.

Kasanganay fought on August 11th against Anthony Adams, winning via decision on “Dana White’s Contender Series” to be offered a UFC contract. He made his UFC debut later in the month, putting on a strong performance en route to a decision win over Maki Pitolo.

Buckley wasn’t successful in his UFC debut in August, losing a fight to Kevin Holland via stoppage in the third round. The bout was a very quick turnaround for Buckley, who defeated Jackie Gosh eight days earlier on an LFA card.

Bout 6: Rodrigo Nascimento (8-0) vs. Chris Daukaus (9-3) (Heavyweight)

Undefeated Rodrigo Nascimento will meet Chris Daukaus on Saturday’s preliminary card. Nascimento won his UFC debut last May, catching Don’Tale Mayes in the second round with a rear naked choke.

Daukaus made his UFC debut in his last fight as well, stopping Parker Porter within a round with strikes at UFC 252.

Bout 7: Tom Breese (11-2) vs. KB Bhullar (8-0) (Middleweight)

The prelims will end with a debut, as KB Bhullar will have his first UFC fight against Tom Breese. Bhullar enters the UFC after an undefeated eight-fight run on the regional scene. He captured the Unified MMA Middleweight Championship in September of 2019, defeating Matt Dwyer via decision.

Breese will compete in his seventh UFC bout. He took his second promotional loss last February, being stopped within a round by Brendan Allen.

Main Card (8:00PM EDT / 4:00AM GST) (ESPN+ / TSN 5)

Bout 8: Youssef Zalal (10-2) vs. Ilia Topuria (8-0) (Featherweight)

Kicking off the main card, Youssef Zalal will aim to do something rarely anyone else has done this year, that being to attain four-straight wins. In an attempt at completing that task, Zalal is matched with Ilia Topuria.

Topuria was a short-notice replacement fighter, filling in for Seung Woo Choi. The fight is his first in the UFC after eight-straight wins in the regional scene, including wins in Cage Warriors and Brave CF.

Zalal’s previous 2020 wins, all decisions, came against Austin Lingo, Jordan Griffin and Peter Barrett.

Bout 9: Tom Aspinall (8-2) vs. Alan Baudot (8-1) (Heavyweight)

Another matchup which includes a short-notice opponent will be on the main card, as Tom Aspinall is booked against Alan Baudot. Aspinall was originally set to face Serghei Spivac, although plans changed after Spivac withdrew.

Aspinall won his UFC debut in July, stopping Jake Collier within a minute with punches.

Baudot enters the UFC after nine fights as a pro. His sole loss came in 2017 against now-UFC fighter Dalcha Lungiambula.

Bout 10: Markus Perez (12-3) vs. Dricus Du Plessis (14-2) (Middleweight)

Former KSW Middleweight Champion Dricus Du Plessis will make his UFC debut on the main card when he faces Markus Perez. Plessis replaces Rodolfo Vieira, who withdrew two weeks prior.

Plessis last fought in December, defeating Brendan Lesar within a round on an EFC card.

The fight will be Perez’s first in 2020. His November of 2019 bout against Wellington Turman saw him lose via decision.

Bout 11: Ben Rothwell (38-12) vs. Marcin Tybura (19-6) (Heavyweight)

Experienced heavyweights Ben Rothwell and Marcin Tybura will clash on the main card.

Tybura has put together a bit of a streak through 2020, picking up decision victories over both Serghei Spivac and Maxim Grishin. The wins were a bounce back for Tybura, who lost twice due to punches in the previous year.

Similarly, Rothwell will walk into the cage on a two-fight streak of wins. He last fought in May, defeating Ovince St. Preux, who was making the move up from light heavyweight for the fight.

Bout 12: Edson Barboza (20-9) vs. Makwan Amirkhani (16-4) (Featherweight)

The co-main event sees Edson Barboza look to end a skid of losses when he fights Makwan Amirkhani.

Barboza has won only one of his last six fights, with his previous series of wins dating back to 2017. While the former lightweight has a pile of losses, many of them are against high-level opponents like Khabib Nurmagomedov, Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje.

Barboza made the move to featherweight last May, losing a split decision to Dan Ige.

Barboza was originally meant to face Sodiq Yusuff on Saturday, although he was given a new opponent after Yusuff withdrew.

Amirkhani returned to action last July, defeating Danny Henry within a round with an anaconda choke. The fight saw him come back from a November loss to Shane Burgos at UFC 244.

Bout 13: Marlon Moraes (23-6-1) vs. Cory Sandhagen (12-2) (Bantamweight)

High-ranked bantamweights finish off the evening from “Fight Island,” with Cory Sandhagen and Marlon Moraes being booked for a five-round fight.

Moraes, a former title challenger, will be making his first appearance of 2020. He last fought in December, taking a split decision victory over Jose Aldo at UFC 245.

Prior to the win, Moraes lost a title shot against Henry Cejudo, being stopped in the third round. The loss halted his four-fight streak of momentum that was built from 2017 to 2019.

Sandhagen will attempt to come back from a loss for the first time in his UFC career on Saturday. The bantamweight’s UFC run was flawless from 2018 to 2019, winning five-straight bouts, three of which were via stoppage.

It all came to a grinding halt last June when Aljamain Sterling caught him in the second minute of action with a rear naked choke. Now, like Moraes was in 2019 after losing to Cejudo, Sandhagen is on the climb back up.

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