UFC on ESPN+ 61: Santos vs. Ankalaev Preview

Magomed Ankalaev has been on a climb up the light heavyweight ranks for the past few years. In an opportunity that could see him score his first-ever UFC main event win, Ankalaev will meet Thiago Santos in the headlining spot of Saturday night’s UFC card.

Their bout is scheduled to headline a five-round “Fight Night” card from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Here’s a preview of the card.

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

Preliminary Card (4:00PM EST / 1:00PM PST) (ESPN+ / TSN 2)

Bout 1: Tafon Nchukwi (6-1) vs. Azamat Murzakanov (10-0) (Light Heavyweight)

Azamat Murzakanov will make his long-awaited UFC debut on Saturday’s prelims. This will come against fellow light heavyweight Tafon Nchukwi.

Murzakanov secured a UFC contract on the most recent season of “Dana White’s Contender Series,” picking up a first-round finish win against Matheus Scheffel. This extended his undefeated record to an impressive 10 consecutive victories.

UFC has struggled to get Murzakanov his promotional debut since then. The prospect was booked three times between November and December, although all of the bookings didn’t come to fruition.

Nchukwi currently holds a UFC record of two wins and one loss. This includes his last appearance, a unanimous decision victory over Mike Rodriguez in September 2021.

Bout 2: Guido Cannetti (8-6) vs. Kris Moutinho (9-5) (Bantamweight)

Returning for his second UFC appearance, Kris Moutinho will meet Guido Cannetti in the next fight.

Moutinho made a name for himself last year, stepping in on short notice to face highly-touted bantamweight Sean O’Malley. Moutinho notably took a beating in this fight but remained in it until the final minute.

Prior to that fight, Moutinho showed success in regional promotions CFFC and CES.

He now faces Cannetti, a UFC vet looking to snap a losing streak. Cannetti took his third consecutive loss in his last fight, getting beat via split decision by Mana Martinez last year.

Bout 3: Cody Brundage (6-2) vs. Dalcha Lungiambula (11-3) (Middleweight)

Searching for his first UFC win, Cody Brundage will face Dalcha Lungiambula in the next prelim.

Brundage lost his UFC debut last year to undefeated prospect Nick Maximov. Brundage joined the promotion with a short but strong record of six wins and one loss.

Lungiambula currently has an even UFC record of two wins and two losses. His last appearance saw him suffer a decision defeat to Marc-Andre Barriault.

Bout 4: Sabina Mazo (9-3) vs. Miranda Maverick (9-4) (Flyweight)

Both fighting to snap losing streaks, Sabina Mazo and Miranda Maverick will compete on Saturday night.

Mazo had an unsuccessful 2021 that saw her lose a fight to Alexis Davis and Mariya Agapova. This slowed the momentum she had gained in previous years, earning three consecutive wins from 2019 to 2020.

Maverick fought three times in the year. She started 2021 by picking up her second UFC victory, defeating Gillian Robertson. However, by the end of the year, losses to Maycee Barber and Erin Blanchfield evened out her promotional record through four fights.

Bout 5: Damon Jackson (19-4-1) vs. Kamuela Kirk (11-4) (Featherweight)

Riding the momentum of a successful UFC debut, Kamuela Kirk will return against Damon Jackson in a featherweight contest.

Kirk made his UFC debut on short notice last year, stepping in to replace Nate Landwehr in a fight against Makwan Amirkhani. While most last-minute opponents lose, Kirk was successful with a unanimous decision result.

He will now face Jackson, who is coming off his second UFC win. This came in October 2021, where he went three rounds against Charles Rosa for a decision victory.

Bout 6: Trevin Jones (13-7) vs. Javid Basharat (11-0) (Bantamweight)

In the second of three big debuts on this card, undefeated bantamweight Javid Basharat will meet Trevin Jones.

Basharat secured a submission win on the most recent “Dana White’s Contender Series” season, handing Oron Kahlon his first pro loss with a third-round guillotine choke. This victory was added to a flawless record that Basharat has put together since 2016.

Jones will attempt to come back from his sole UFC loss, which he took last year against Saidyokub Kakhramonov. 

Bout 7: JJ Aldrich (10-4) vs. Gillian Robertson (10-6) (Flyweight)

With the chance to build off a strong 2021, JJ Aldrich will face Gillian Robertson at flyweight.

Aldrich scored two wins in 2021, defeating Cortney Casey and Vanessa Demopoulos via decision each. This moved her UFC record to six wins through nine appearances.

Robertson, a UFC vet of 11 fights, will be searching for her second consecutive victory. She snapped a two-fight skid in her last appearance, submitting Priscila Cachoeira within a round via rear naked choke.

Bout 8: Matthew Semelsberger (9-3) vs. AJ Fletcher (9-0) (Welterweight)

The prelims will wrap up with the final debut of the night. Undefeated AJ Fletcher will get his first chance in the UFC octagon on Saturday night when facing Matthew Semelsberger.

Fletcher secured himself a UFC contract in August, landing a flying knee knockout against Leonardo Damiani on “Dana White’s Contender Series.” This was his ninth victory as a pro, including previous appearances in notable promotions like Fury FC and iKon.

Semelsberger will be a tough test for Fletcher in his first-ever UFC bout. Semelsberger has won three of his four fights for the promotion, including a recent 15-second win against Martin Sano.

Main Card (7:00PM EST / 4:00PM PST) (ESPN+ / TSN 2)

Bout 9: Bruno Silva (22-6) vs. Alex Pereira (4-1) (Middleweight)

Former GLORY Kickboxing Champion Alex Pereira will return to the UFC cage on Saturday night against Bruno Silva.

Pereira is best known for his extensive kickboxing career, scoring 33 wins through 40 appearances. He picked up a knockout win in his UFC debut late last year, landing a flying knee on Andreas Michailidis at UFC 268.

Silva enters this weekend with a flawless UFC run through three appearances. He has finished all three people he has faced since joining the promotion. His last victory was at UFC 269 last year, stopping Jordan Wright in just over a minute with strikes.

Bout 10: Drew Dober (23-11) vs. Terrance McKinney (12-3) (Lightweight)

Rising lightweight Terrance McKinney will get another big challenge when facing Drew Dober on Saturday night.

McKinney last fought a matter of days ago on a “Fight Night” card. In that performance, he scored his fifth consecutive first-round finish win, submitting Fares Ziam with a rear naked choke.

McKinney was placed into this weekend’s card after the previous opponent for Dober, Ricky Glenn, withdrew from the card.

Dober is a tough test for McKinney, having fought more than a dozen times for the promotion. He is fighting to snap a two-fight skid, as he was beaten by high-level lightweights Islam Makhachev and Brad Riddell last year.

Bout 11: Khalil Rountree (9-5) vs. Karl Roberson (9-4) (Light Heavyweight)

Appearing at light heavyweight for the first time in years, Karl Roberson will face Khalil Rountree on Saturday’s main card.

Roberson has fought at light heavyweight a few times during his career, although he has had the majority of his battles at middleweight. He is going up a division after being unsuccessful in his last two fights, losing to Marvin Vettori and Brendan Allen in recent years.

Rountree broke his own skid in his last appearance, defeating Modestas Bukauskas in September 2021 to break a two-fight losing streak.

Bout 12: Alex Caceres (19-12) vs. Sodiq Yusuff (11-2) (Featherweight)

Sodiq Yusuff will return on Saturday night, facing off against veteran Alex Caceres.

Yusuff’s last appearance saw him drop a decision to rising prospect Arnold Allen. He was undefeated in the UFC before then, having picked up four victories from 2018 to 2020.

Caceres has been on the UFC roster since 2011 but is currently on the longest winning streak of his entire career. The experienced has won four consecutive fights since 2019, with two of them coming via finish.

His last win was in October 2021, where he secured a second-round rear naked choke submission against Choi Seung-woo.

Bout 13: Marlon Moraes (23-9-1) vs. Song Yadong (18-6-1) (Bantamweight)

High-level bantamweights Marlon Moraes and Song Yadong will collide in Saturday night’s co-main event.

Moraes has lost three consecutive fights, although his defeats have come against the upper-echelon of a deep division. His most recent loss was at UFC 266 last year, where rising contender Merab Dvalishvili stopped him in the second round with strikes.

Moraes could snap his losing streak on Saturday, although it won’t be easy.

Song has put together an impressive seven wins through nine fights in the UFC. He picked up two more wins last year, defeating Casey Kenney and then scoring a stoppage victory over Julio Arce.

Bout 14: Thiago Santos (22-9) vs. Magomed Ankalaev (16-1) (Light Heavyweight)

Magomed Ankalaev can make another big step towards a title fight on Saturday night. However, we will have to emerge victorious against Thiago Santos if he hopes to do so.

Ankalaev has won seven consecutive fights since 2018. Last year he beat two experienced names, going the distance against Nikita Krylov and Volkan Oezdemir each for decision wins. The appearance on Saturday night for Ankalaev is his first time in the main event of a UFC card.

Santos is coming off a big win from last year. The former title challenger broke a three-fight skid in October 2021, going five rounds against Johnny Walker for a decision win. All of his previous losses came against high-profile names like former champ Jon Jones and current titleholder Glover Teixeira.

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