UFC on ESPN+ 54: Costa vs. Vettori Preview

This weekend’s UFC main event doesn’t have the same tagline that it once carried, even though much hasn’t changed. The main event, location, and card are basically the same as how it looked about a week ago.

But the drama in recent days regarding the headlining bout has caused the final fight on the card not to be a middleweight bout, but instead a clash between ranked middleweights at light heavyweight.

Due to weight issues for Paulo Costa earlier this week, his headlining fight against Marvin Vettori will happen at the weight limit of 206-pounds. The fight will be the final to take place on a card that is set to happen at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

Here’s a full preview of the evening.

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

Preliminary Card (1:00PM EDT / 10:00AM PDT) (ESPN+ / UFC Fight Pass Canada)

Bout 1: Jonathan Martinez (13-4) vs. Zviad Lazishvili (12-0) (Bantamweight)

Former LFA Bantamweight Champion Zviad Lazishvili will make his UFC debut in the first bout of the card, facing Jonathan Martinez.

Lazishvili joined the card late, stepping in on short notice to replace Aaron Phillips earlier this week. He is joining the promotion with a flawless record of 12 wins. He earned LFA’s 135-pound belt a year ago, submitting Ricky Steele within a round with a rear naked choke.

Martinez is aiming to bounce back from a stoppage loss he suffered against Davey Grant earlier this year. He had earned two consecutive wins in the previous year before the loss.

Bout 2: Livinha Souza (14-3) vs. Randa Markos (10-11-1) (Strawweight)

Experienced UFC strawweights Livinha Souza and Randa Markos will meet on Saturday’s prelims.

Markos will be aiming to break an extensive four-fight losing streak that has developed since 2020. Her last fight was a disqualification loss, as an illegal upkick to Luana Pinheiro forced their fight to end in the first round.

Souza took a loss in his last appearance, getting stopped within a round by Amanda Lemos.

Bout 3: Jeff Molina (9-2) vs. Daniel Lacerda (11-1) (Flyweight)

Jeff Molina will welcome flyweight newcomer Daniel Lacerda in the third bout.

Molina had a successful UFC debut in April, going three rounds against Aoriqileng for a unanimous decision victory. He joined the promotion after a strong performance on last year’s season of “Dana White’s Contender Series.”

Lacerda is joining the UFC after a strong pro run of 11 wins through 12 appearances. He last fought in July, stopping Rodrigo Sarafian within a round on a Shooto Brasil card.

Bout 4: Khama Worthy (16-8) vs. Jai Herbert (10-3) (Lightweight)

Both fighting to break a losing streak, lightweights Khama Worthy and Jai Herbert will meet Saturday.

Herbert, a former Cage Warriors Lightweight Champion, has yet to win since joining the UFC last year. He has been stopped in both of his fights in the promotion, getting finished by Francisco Trinaldo and submitted by Renato Moicano.

Worthy has also been on the receiving end of finish losses in his last two fights, losing to Ottman Azaitar and Jamie Mullarkey. Before then he had scored two wins in the UFC.

Bout 5: Laureano Staropoli (9-4) vs. Jamie Pickett (11-6) (Middleweight)

Both in a potential must-win scenario, Laureano Staropoli and Jamie Pickett will meet at the middleweight limit.

Staropoli has lost three consecutive bouts via unanimous decision, making his UFC record two wins and three losses in total. He last fought in June, where Roman Dolidze defeated him.

Pickett has yet to win since joining the UFC roster last year, losing on scorecards to Tafon Nchukwi and getting stopped by Jordan Wright.

Bout 6: Tabatha Ricci (5-1) vs. Maria Oliveira (12-4) (Strawweight)

UFC rookies Tabatha Ricci and Maria Oliveira will meet on Saturday.

Ricci took her first pro loss in June, losing a short-notice booking against Manon Fiorot. Ricci was up at flyweight for that fight and is now back down to her usual strawweight class for Saturday.

Ricci had a strong three-fight run in notable promotion LFA before inking a UFC contract.

Oliveira will be fighting in the UFC cage for the first time. Most of her wins as a pro has come on the regional scene in Brazil. She has lost against notable fighters earlier in her career, having fought ranked UFC strawweight Marina Rodriguez and RIZIN super atomweight Kanna Asakura in the past.

Bout 7: Mason Jones (10-1) vs. David Onama (8-0) (Lightweight)

Undefeated prospect David Onama will get his first chance in the UFC cage when facing Mason Jones on Saturday.

Onama got the UFC call-up after the previous opponent for Jones, Alan Patrick, reportedly had to withdraw from the card due to COVID-19 protocols.

Onama has only fought since 2019, but has quickly attained eight wins as a pro. His last fight was just earlier this month, stopping Brad Robison in the third minute of action with strikes.

Jones, a former two-division Cage Warriors Champion, is still searching for his first UFC win. His two fights have resulted in a loss and a no contest since he entered the promotion earlier this year.

Bout 8: Park Jun-yong (13-4) vs. Gregory Rodrigues (10-3) (Middleweight)

The final prelim will see rising middleweights Park Jun-yong and Gregory Rodrigues match up.

Park has been climbing the middleweight division since 2019. He scored his third consecutive win earlier this year, handing Tafon Nchukwi his first pro loss in a majority decision result.

Rodrigues had an impressive UFC debut in June, fighting to a unanimous decision win over Dusko Todorovic. That fight came just weeks after he earned a stoppage win against Josh Fremd to claim the LFA Middleweight Championship.

Main Card (4:00PM EDT / 1:00PM PDT) (ESPN+ / UFC Fight Pass Canada)

Bout 9: Nick Negumereanu (10-1) vs. Ike Villanueva (18-12) (Light Heavyweight)

Light heavyweights will kick off the main card, as Nick Negumereanu and Ike Villanueva will fight.

Negumereanu is coming off his first UFC win, which came against Aleksa Camur in June. That performance also put the Romanian talent back into the win column after suffering his sole pro loss in 2019.

Villanueva has lost three of his four appearances since joining the UFC last year. He was stopped in his last fight, getting finished by Marcin Prachnio in June.

Bout 10: Dwight Grant (11-3) vs. Francisco Trinaldo (26-8) (Welterweight)

Veteran Francisco Trinaldo will look for his first win at welterweight when he meets Dwight Grant in the next matchup.

Trinaldo, a 23-fight UFC veteran, moved from his previous weight class of lightweight up to welterweight for the first time in his career earlier this year. His first fight at the 171-pound limit didn’t go his way, as he lost to Muslim Salikhov in June.

Before then, Trinaldo had strung together three straight wins from 2019 and 2020.

Grant is riding the momentum of a split decision victory he scored over Stefan Sekulic in April.

Bout 11: Alex Caceres (18-12) vs. Choi Seung-woo (10-3) (Featherweight)

A strong four-fight winning streak from featherweight gatekeeper Alex Caceres will be tested on Saturday night when he faces Choi Seung-woo.

Caceres has been on a roll in recent years. He has had a particularly successful year-or-so recently, attaining three wins from June 2020 to February 2021. His last fight saw him defeat Kevin Croom via unanimous decision.

Previous fights in the streak include him handing Chase Hooper his first loss, and picking up a quick submission over Austin Springer.

Choi has also been successful in recent months, entering Saturday on a three-fight winning streak. He has appeared twice this year, defeating Youssef Zalal and Julian Erosa.

Bout 12: Jessica-Rose Clark (10-6) vs. Joselyne Edwards (10-3) (Bantamweight)

Bantamweights Jessica-Rose Clark and Joselyne Edwards will fight as part of Saturday’s main card.

Edwards joined the UFC roster on short notice in January, filling in for Bethe Correia in a fight against Wu Yanan. She won that fight, taking a decision win. She took another fight only weeks later, losing to Karol Rosa in that instance. Now with a full fight camp for presumably the first time in her UFC career, Edwards will face Clark.

Clark prevented herself from falling into a three-fight losing streak last time around, scoring a third-round stoppage win over Sarah Alpar last year. The victory was her first tp come via stoppage win since 2014.

Bout 13: Grant Dawson (17-1) vs. Ricky Glenn (22-6-1) (Lightweight)

Grant Dawson’s flawless UFC run will be tested again in Saturday’s co-main event when he fights Ricky Glenn.

Dawson has silently traveled up the lightweight ranks since making his UFC debut in 2019. He scored his fifth win with the promotion earlier this year, stopping Leonardo Santos in the second-last moment of their three-round fight.

Glenn had an explosive win last time around, stopping Joaquim Silva in just 37 seconds. The fight was his return, as his prior appearance dated back to 2018.

Bout 14: Paulo Costa (13-1) vs. Marvin Vettori (17-4-1) (Light Heavyweight)

In Saturday’s main event, middleweights will test the waters up at light heavyweight. But it wasn’t always set to play out like this.

The drama started on Wednesday when Paulo Costa told the media that he weighed 211 pounds, which is 25 pounds over the middleweight limit. He admitted bluntly that he wouldn’t be able to reach middleweight come Friday’s weigh-ins, and that the weight class would have to be moved.

His opponent, Marvin Vettori, was fine with this. A day later, it was agreed upon – the fighters would meet 20 pounds higher at light heavyweight.

The change in stipulation certainly takes something away from the headliner. The fight was set to be both of their first appearances since losing a title fight to UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya. The implications that the fight would have on the 185-pound division would certainly be big. While Saturday’s result will still affect matchmaking, it won’t be as large of a deal for either fighter.

Costa’s title fight was over a year ago, where he was stopped in the second round by Adesanya. He had an undefeated record of 13 wins before then, with five of the victories coming in the UFC cage.

Vettori’s title fight was more recently, having gone five rounds against Adesanya in June. He was given the title fight following a campaign in the middleweight division, collecting five straight victories from 2019 to 2021, including two from five-round bouts.

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