UFC will hold their first event of 2021 on Saturday, presenting a 10-fight card from the Etihad Arena in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The card will be headlined by former UFC Featherweight Champion Max Holloway and Calvin Kattar.
Presented on U.S. TV network ABC for the first time, the event will feature the return of a live crowd to UFC events for the first time since February of 2020.
Follow along throughout the day for live results and details.
Preliminary Card (12:00PM EST / 9:00PM GST) (ESPN+ / TSN 5)
Main Card (3:00PM EST / 12:00AM GST) (ABC / TSN 5)
Bout 10: Max Holloway (21-6) vs. Calvin Kattar (22-4) (Featherweight)
Holloway Puts on Stunning Shut-Out Striking Performance Over Kattar
Holloway saw nothing short of success when competing in his first non-championship fight since 2016
Putting together a stellar performance in his first non-championship fight since 2016, Max Holloway took a unanimous decision (50-43, 50-43 & 50-42) win against Calvin Kattar in the main event.
Mounting a steep lead on the scorecards after five wins, Holloway showed his quick and accurate fists on Kattar.
While the matchup showed Kattar’s toughness and his ability to stay on his feet despite getting hit with tough shots, it arguably could have been stopped in the third or fourth rounds, where Holloway was nearly putting together one-way traffic.
“You gotta kill me to get me out of there,” said Kattar in his post-fight interview.
Holloway had a strong start to the fight, overwhelming Kattar in the first round with accurate and quick strikes.
Holloway landed an elbow in the second round that visibly hurt Kattar. Holloway continued to come forward with punches after. Kattar got clipped by a head kick in the closing seconds of the round, although he remained on his feet.
Holloway continued to hurt Kattar in the third round, although Kattar was able to answer back with some of his best shots as the fight continued.
A body shot seemingly hurt Kattar in the fourth round, causing him to shell up with his back against the cage. Despite eating numerous punches, Kattar kept on his feet and periodically answered back with a shot of his own, although he was taking a large amount of damage.
Showboating in a much slowed down final round, Holloway dodged a series of punches from Kattar while his hands were at his side.
The win for Holloway arguably lines him up for a chance to reclaim the UFC Featherweight Championship. Holloway’s first title reign with the belt was stopped in 2019 by Alexander Volkanovski. A close rematch between the two in July of 2020 saw Volkanovski pull away with a split decision win.
While Volkanovski is the current featherweight champ, that could change by the time Holloway gets a chance at the belt. News broke on Saturday that Volkanovski will fight Brian Ortega at UFC 260 on March 27th, where he has the chance to defend his belt for the second time.
Holloway made an optimistic claim after the fight that he could be an alternate for next week’s UFC 257 lightweight fight between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier.
Kattar entered the fight after a strong 2020 that saw him pick up two wins. More recently of the two was a five-round decision victory over Dan Ige in July. Before then, Kattar had a stoppage win against Jeremy Stephens at UFC’s first event back from COVID-19 in May.
Bout 9: Carlos Condit (31-13) vs. Matt Brown (22-17) (Welterweight)
Condit Earns Scorecard Win Over Fellow Veteran Brown
Carlos Condit picked up a victory in the co-main event, defeating Matt Brown with a unanimous decision win (30-27, 30-27 & 30-27). The matchup between two veterans was Condit’s second-straight victory since breaking a five-fight losing streak.
While Brown had moments in the fight, Condit had strong wrestling and a higher output of strikes throughout.
Brown scored a takedown early in the first round, keeping control over Condit for the rest of the round afterwards.
Condit had a better second round, being able to take Brown down and score with punches while on top.
Condit was able to get on the back of Brown in the third round. While he looked for a rear naked choke from the position, Brown was able to escape the attempt.
Brown had a strong finish to the fight, throwing elbows while on top in full guard.
A fight between Condit and Brown has been booked twice in the past, although on both occasions an injury prevented the fight from actually happening.
Brown’s previous fight was a finish loss to Miguel Baeza in May of 2020.
Bout 8: Santiago Ponzinibbio (27-3) vs. Li Jingliang (17-6) (Welterweight)
Li Ends Win Eight-Fight Win Streak With Knockout To Ponzinibbio
Li Jingliang pulled off an upset on the main card, knocking Santiago Ponzinibbio with a left hook late in the first round.
The left hook came as part of a two-punch combination thrown by Li in the final minute of the round. While Li missed with a right hand, his left dropped Ponzinibbio, ending the fight immediately.
The bout was Ponzinibbio’s return to the cage after over two years outside of the cage. While he entered the fight following an absence, he did so on a seven-fight win streak that he built from 2015 to 2018.
Li returned to the win column following a loss in March of 2020 to Neil Magny.
Bout 7: Joaquin Buckley (12-3) vs. Alessio Di Chirico (12-5) (Middleweight)
Di Chirico Knocks Buckley Out With Head Kick, Concludes Losing Streak
Alessio Di Chirico derailed the late 2020 momentum of Joaquin Buckley on the main card, knocking him out with a head kick in the first round.
The win for Di Chirico was much needed, as it concluded a three-fight losing streak that he had in 2019 and 2020.
Buckley entered the fight with the momentum of two consecutive wins, including a viral spinning back kick knockout on Impa Kasanganay from October.
Buckley’s last fight before Saturday was in November, where he defeated Jordan Wright at UFC 255.
Bout 6: Punahele Soriano (7-0) vs. Dusko Todorovic (10-0) (Middleweight)
Soriano Remains Undefeated, Shows Explosive Punches In One-Round Win
Punahele Soriano hurt Dusko Todorovic numerous times within a round, eventually stopping him late in the fifth minute with punches to win a fight on Saturday. With the win, Soriano remained undefeated through two fights in the UFC and gave Todorovic his first loss as a pro.
The one-round performance saw Todorovic get in trouble numerous times due to the accuracy and power in Soriano’s shots.
Todorovic got dropped in the fourth minute of the round with a left hand. While he got back up to his feet, Soriano scored with another punch that floored him again.
A punch to Todorovic in the final minute of the round knocked his mouthpiece out. The pause because of this, which was delayed greatly by the fact that the mouthpiece fell into the cage, bought Todorovic time to recover from punches.
Soriano knocked Todorovic down again with a left hand in the final moments of the round, causing the referee to step in and stop the fight.
Soriano won his UFC debut a year ago, stopping Oskar Piechota in the first round with punches.
“Not bad for a year off,” said Soriano in his post-fight interview.
Todorovic took the fight shortly after winning his first UFC fight. Todorovic won his promotional debut in October, finishing Dequan Townsend with ground and pound.
Bout 5: Wu Yanan (11-3) vs. Joselyne Edwards (9-2) (Flyweight)
Edwards Wins Short-Notice UFC Debut Over Wu
Joselyne Edwards picked up a win in her UFC debut on Saturday, defeating Wu Yanan in a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27 & 29-28) fight that finished off the preliminary card.
Edwards took the fight on short notice, stepping in for Bethe Correia, who had to withdraw due to an emergency appendix removal.
The scorecard victory for Edwards came after having sharp striking and quick reversals on the ground.
Edwards spent a large portion of the first round on her back, looking for an armbar after Wu scored a takedown. While Wu was able to escape the submission late, although Edwards was able to take her back afterwards, scoring with punches from the position.
Edwards was able to put together ground and pound on Wu in the second round after reversing a takedown attempt.
The fighters unloaded with combinations of strikes in a close final round.
Wu was returning after more than a year outside of the cage. Her previous fight was a loss to MIZUKI via split decision in 2019.
Bout 4: Justin Tafa (4-1) vs. Carlos Felipe (9-1) (Heavyweight)
Felipe Takes Close Split Decision Victory Over Tafa Following Hectic Striking Battle
Carlos Felipe was given a split decision victory (29-28 Tafa, 29-28 Felipe & 29-28 Felipe) on the prelims, defeating Justin Tafa following a close three-round striking battle.
While both heavyweights had distinct moments where they succeeded with their attacks, there were also pockets of the fight where they were throwing wild combinations and both did damage.
Tafa had a strong first round, having sharp strikes that let him control the round.
Felipe seemingly hurt Tafa late in the second round, landing punches that caused him to shell up against the cage. Both heavyweights were slugging in the closing moments of the round.
The trading nature of the fight continued through the first round, including a hectic closing minute where they both threw a flurry of punches.
Felipe last competed only three months before Saturday, where he defeated Yorgan De Castro to earn his first UFC victory.
Tafa won his first UFC bout in February of 2020, where he stopped Juan Adams in the second minute of action.
Bout 3: David Zawada (17-5) vs. Ramazan Emeev (19-4) (Welterweight)
Emeev Earns Split Decision Win Against Zawada
Ramazan Emeev took a close split decision victory (29-28 Zawada, 29-28 Emeev & 29-28 Emeev) over David Zawada on the prelims, getting a win after a good mix of striking and takedowns.
The fast-paced fight saw both fighters connect with lots of strikes on the feet. Emeev had the edge with takedowns, landing four in the fight while Zawada only scored one.
The fight became bloody in the final frame, as a cut opened near Zawada’s left eye started to bleed heavily.
The third round saw a back-and-forth battle on the ground, as both Zawada and Emeev were able to take control on the floor after Emeev scored a takedown.
Emeev is now on a two-fight win streak. His previous fight was in July, where he defeated Niklas Stolze via decision.
Zawada was returning after over a year outside of the cage. His last fight was a win against Abubakar Nurmagomedov in November of 2019.
Bout 2: Sarah Moras (6-6) vs. Vanessa Melo (10-8) (Bantamweight)
Melo Ends Losing Streak, Defeats Moras For First UFC Victory
Ending a three-fight losing streak and earning her first UFC victory, Vanessa Melo defeated Sarah Moras via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-27 & 29-28). The win for Melo came after a three-round fight that was near exclusively stand-up striking.
Both fighters threw a high volume of punches, although a fraction of them would actually land throughout the three rounds.
Moras was constantly backpedalling throughout the fight to keep a distance from Melo. She would sometimes charge forward to throw punches to Melo. Playing a counter-punching role, Melo was able to connect frequently as Moras would charge at her.
Melo was able to land a hard shot early in the second round that knocked the mouthpiece of Moras out.
Melo entered the fight after losing her three previous UFC outings.
The loss was Moras’ fifth in her last six fights.
Bout 1: Jacob Kilburn (8-3) vs. Austin Lingo (7-1) (Featherweight)
Punches Lead Lingo To First UFC Win
Austin Lingo put together hard punches against Jacob Kilburn on the prelims to earn a unanimous decision win (30-26, 20-26 & 30-27). Lingo’s win saw him stop takedowns and connect with punches that hurt Kilburn throughout all three rounds.
Lingo’s punches put Kilburn in danger in the first round. While Kilburn was able to stop Lingo’s momentum with takedown attempts, he was dropped by a right hand and clearly rocked numerous times.
Lingo was surprised that his strikes weren’t able to take Kilburn out of the fight.
“That’s a tough guy right there. I thought he was going to go down but he just kept going,” said Lingo following his win.
Kilburn’s best moment in the first round came late, as he connected with a spinning back fist that clearly wobbled Lingo.
Kilburn had more success with takedowns in the second round, taking Lingo down once. Lingo secured his own takedown in the round as well and continued to score with punches.
Both fighters were returning after losing in their UFC debut.
Kilburn’s debut fight was in December of 2019, where he was stopped in the second round by Billy Quarantillo with a triangle choke.
Lingo’s first UFC bout was in February, where he dropped a decision to Youssef Zalal.
Phillip Hawes vs. Nassourdine Imaovov Removed From The Card
The event lots a fight from the lineup on Saturday, as a fight between Nassourdine Imavov and Phillip Hawes was removed from the prelims. The fight’s absense from the lineup is due to Hawes not being medically cleared for the fight, per Ariel Helwani of ESPN.