Giga Chikadze, one of the fastest rising UFC prospects, will get a big test on Saturday night. The 33-year-old featherweight will compete in his first UFC main event tonight, facing veteran Edson Barboza in what could be up to a five round fight.
The bout headlines a 12-bout “Fight Night” card from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. The card also includes two grand final bouts in “The Ultimate Fighter,” along with many other matchups.
Here’s a full preview of the evening.
Preliminary Card (7:00PM EDT / 4:00PM PDT) (ESPN+ / TSN 2)
Bout 1: Mana Martinez (8-2) vs. Guido Cannetti (8-5) (Bantamweight)
Explosive bantamweight Mana Martinez will make his UFC debut in the opening bout when fighting Guido Cannetti.
Martinez was picked up by the UFC after scoring a 32-second knockout win on Jose Johnson at a Fury FC card. UFC President Dana White was at the event taping his reality show “Dana White’s Lookin For A Fight,” and Martinez was a fighter who got signed through the show.
Martinez is joining the roster just days after the tragic loss of coach Saul Soliz earlier this month. A report from MMA Junkie earlier in the week detailed that Martinez will dedicate his performance on Saturday to him.
Cannetti will be attempting to avoid falling into a three-fight losing streak. He has been stopped in his past two bouts, with his most recent bout being a first-round finish loss to Danaa Batgerel in March of 2020.
Bout 2: Pat Sabatini (14-3) vs. Jamall Emmers (18-5) (Featherweight)
Both coming off their first UFC victory, Pat Sabatini and Jamall Emmers will fight on UFC’s prelims.
Sabatini, a former CFFC Featherweight Champion, won his UFC debut in April against Tristan Connelly. That bout, along with his two final bouts in CFFC, put him on a three-fight winning streak currently.
While Emmers lost his UFC debut to Giga Chikadze in early 2020, he bounced back later that year with a win against Vince Cachero.
Bout 3: JJ Aldrich (9-4) vs. Vanessa Demopoulos (6-3) (Flyweight)
Former LFA Strawweight Champion Vanessa Demopoulos will get the short-notice call on Saturday to fight JJ Aldrich up at flyweight.
Demopoulos usually competes at 115-pounds but is moving up to 125-pounds to step in for Tracy Cortez, who withdrew due to injury.
Demopoulos had a quick win in her last appearance, defeating Cynthia Arceo in just 37 seconds in March.
Aldrich is coming off a split decision victory that she earned against Cortney Casey in March. Her promotional record is currently five wins and three losses.
Bout 4: Dustin Jacoby (14-5-1) vs. Darren Stewart (12-7) (Light Heavyweight)
Competing for the second time at light heavyweight, Darren Stewart will fight Dustin Jacoby.
Stewart has spent most of his career at middleweight, although his last bout was a loss to Eryk Anders at light heavyweight. He will now stay at the weight class when looking for his first win in four appearances.
Jacoby has had a strong run since re-joining the UFC last year. After earning two wins in the promotion, the 33-year-old fought to a draw against Ion Cutelaba in May.
Bout 5: Sam Alvey (33-15-1) vs. Wellington Turman (16-5) (Middleweight)
In the first of numerous middleweight bouts on this card, Sam Alvey and Wellington Turman will fight.
Alvey is currently on an extensive winless streak that dates back to 2018. His last fight was in April, where Julian Marquez submitted him with a rear naked choke. That bout was his sixth appearance without a win.
Bout 6: Abdul Razak Alhassan (10-4) vs. Alessio Di Chirico (13-5) (Middleweight)
Abdul Razak Alhassan will fight to break a long losing streak in the final prelim when fighting Alessio Di Chirico.
Alhassan and Di Chirico weren’t originally set to face each other on this card, although the matchup was made after both of their previous opponents fell off the lineup.
Alhassan has lost three consecutive bouts since returning in July last year. He has competed once this year, losing on scorecards to Jacob Malkoun.
Di Chirico broke a losing streak of his own in his last fight, scoring a head kick knockout over Joaquin Buckley in January.
Main Card (10:00PM EDT / 7:00PM PDT) (ESPN / TSN 2)
Bout 7: Gerald Meerschaert (32-14) vs. Makhmud Muradov (25-6) (Middleweight)
Rising middleweight Makhmud Muradov will fight Gerald Meerschaert in the opening bout of the main card.
Muradov has yet to lose since joining the UFC roster in 2019. He was out of competition throughout 2020, as four different bookings were cancelled for him. He returned in January, scoring a stoppage victory against Andrew Sanchez for his third win in the promotion.
Meerschaert broke a two-fight skid in his most recent appearance, submitting Bartosz Fabinski within a round with a guillotine choke.
Bout 8: Andre Petroski (5-1) vs. Michael Gillmore (6-3) (Middleweight)
After both competing in the recent season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Andre Petroski and Michael Gillmore will make their UFC debut on Saturday night.
Gillmore was an alternate in the middleweight bracket for the “TUF” season, filling in for Miles Hunsinger in the opening round. He lost that bout, getting submitted within a round by Gilbert Urbina.
Before appearing on “TUF,” Gillmore had a three-fight winning streak as a pro.
Petroski made it to the semi-finals of “TUF” but was eliminated by Bryan Battle. He has fought as a pro since 2018, with his last fight being his sole pro loss.
Bout 9: Kevin Lee (18-6) vs. Daniel Rodriguez (15-2) (Welterweight)
Kevin Lee will make his return on Saturday night when facing Daniel Rodriguez.
Lee has been out of the cage for over a year. His last fight, a main event loss to Charles Oliveira in March 2020, was UFC’s last event before taking a two-month break due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
The bout on Saturday will also see Lee move back up to welterweight after being at lightweight. Lee was first set to return against undefeated prospect Sean Brady, although plans changed after Brady suffered an injury.
Rodriguez will be aiming to build off what has already been a successful year for him.
Bout 10: Ricky Turcios (10-2) vs. Brady Hiestand (5-1) (The Ultimate Fighter Bantamweight Grand Final)
Bantamweights Ricky Turcios and Brady Hiestand will compete to become “The Ultimate Fighter” on Saturday night.
Turcios has been around for quite some time now, having fought since 2013. The veteran of Texas-based promotion Fury FC appeared once on “Dana White’s Contender Series” back in 2017, and is now back on UFC programming after all these years.
Hiestand has had a shorter pro career, as he only turned pro in 2018. He has five pro wins through six appearances. He defeated Josh Rettinghouse via scorecards in the first round of the show, then finished Vince Murdock in his semi-final fight.
Bout 11: Bryan Battle (5-1) vs. Gilbert Urbina (6-1) (The Ultimate Fighter Middleweight Grand Final)
The middleweight grand final of “The Ultimate Fighter” will happen in the co-main event of Saturday’s card, as Bryan Battle and Gilbert Urbina will compete.
Urbina wasn’t originally set to fight in the finals, as he was eliminated in the semi-finals by Tresean Gore. But after Gore withdrew due to injury, he was given the spot.
Urbina has fought as a pro in 2014 and has appearances in notable promotions like LFA and Combate Global.
Battle is currently on a four-fight winning streak as a pro, and also defeated Kemran Lachinov and Andre Petroski on “TUF.” He is one of the more interesting storylines heading into Saturday, as he was the last pick in the draft part of the show this season.
Bout 12: Edson Barboza (22-9) vs. Giga Chikadze (13-2) (Featherweight)
Giga Chikadze will get the biggest test of his UFC career thus far when fighting Edson Barboza in Saturday’s main event.
Chikadze has been on a tear since joining the UFC in 2019. He has scored six wins in the promotion already, and his last two have been first-round finish victories. His biggest victory so far was in May, where he defeated veteran Cub Swanson in just over a minute.
Chikadze has never competed in a five-round UFC main event. The fight on Saturday could be a big test for the 33-year-old, and he has a strong opponent for the occasion.
Barboza has been a part of the UFC roster for a decade now. The long-time lightweight dropped to featherweight last year while on a losing streak. After losing his debut in the division to Dan Ige, he has since put together victories over Makwan Amirkhani and Shane Burgos.
Now on Saturday, Barboza has the chance to stop the momentum of one of the fastest rising fighters in the UFC.