UFC on ESPN+ 74: Cannonier vs. Strickland Preview

2022 proved to be another busy year for the UFC. They signed dozens of names, and their roster currently sits at 591 fighters. They hosted 42 events, in five different countries (USA, England, France, United Arab Emirates, and Singapore). They had 19 title fights and crowned 10 new champions in the process.

Some things changed this year. The promotion certainly held more events with live crowds. It was a significant increase compared to 2020 and 2021 when the COVID-19 pandemic severely impeded in their ability to hold large events. But the promotion continued to depend on their UFC APEX studio, which hosted half of the cards this year.

The promotion will look to the “APEX” venue one last time for 2022 this Saturday when they look to close out their calendar year in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. The last UFC “Fight Night” card of the year will be headlined by Jared Cannonier and Sean Strickland, two middleweights who are looking to rebound after high-profile losses in the division.

A dozen other fights are expected to also take place before that five-round main event. Here’s a preview of the whole evening.

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

Preliminary Card (4:00PM EST / 1:00PM PST) (ESPN+ / TSN 5)

Bout 1: Sergey Morozov (18-5) vs. Journey Newson (10-3) (Bantamweight)

The evening will kick off with a bantamweight fight between Sergey Morozov and Journey Newson.

Morozov took a loss to start his 2022 against Douglas Silva de Andrade. While the fight was a second-round submission loss for him, the bout was given a “Fight of the Night” award. Morozov picked up a win in his last appearance, beating Raulian Paiva via decision in June.

Newson secured his first UFC win in May, working to a unanimous decision win over Fernie Garcia. His previous fights resulted in two losses and one no contest between 2019 and 2020.

Bout 2: David Dvorak (20-4) vs. Manel Kape (17-6) (Flyweight)

Manel Kape will return on Saturday night against David Dvorak.

Kape, a former RIZIN Bantamweight Champion, had some success late in 2021 with a pair of first-round finish wins. But this momentum was briefly interrupted this year, as two canceled bouts kept him on the sidelines for more than a year. After 12 months outside of the cage, Kape will try to get things back together in his appearance this weekend.

Dvorak took his first UFC loss early this year, taking a unanimous decision defeat against Matheus Nicolau in March. He had three consecutive wins in the division before then.

Bout 3: Bryan Battle (8-1) vs. Rinat Fakhretdinov (20-2) (Welterweight)

Rising welterweights Bryan Battle and Rinat Fakhretdinov will meet in the next bout.

Battle joined the UFC roster by winning Season 29 of “The Ultimate Fighter” in 2021. He has since picked up two more wins, beating Tresean Gore on scorecards and earning a 44-second head kick knockout victory over Takashi Sato.

Fakhretdinov won his UFC debut in June, getting the scorecard nod over Andreas Michailidis. This was his 15th consecutive pro win.

Bout 4: Maheshate (9-1) vs. Rafa Garcia (14-3) (Lightweight)

Riding the momentum of a strong UFC debut, Maheshate will face Rafa Garcia.

Maheshate scored a stoppage win in his UFC debut this year, putting away Steve Garcia with punches in just over a minute. He joined the promotion a year earlier, beating Achilles Estremadura on “Dana White’s Contender Series.”

Garcia had a two-fight winning streak broken in his last fight, taking a unanimous decision defeat against Drakkar Klose in July.

Bout 5: Said Nurmagomedov (16-1) vs. Saidyokub Kakhramonov (10-2) (Bantamweight)

In a matchup between two bantamweights on winning streaks, Said Nurmagomedov and Saidyokub Kakhramonov will compete.

Kakhramonov, a former CFFC Bantamweight Champion, has yet to lose since joining the UFC roster last year. He scored his second victory for the promotion in July, beating Ronnie Lawrence via decision.

Nurmagomedov has lost just one of his six UFC appearances thus far. He earned a pair of victories this year, submitting Cody Stamann in 47 seconds and overcoming Douglas Silva de Andrade on scorecards.

Bout 6: Jake Matthews (18-5) vs. Matthew Semelsberger (10-4) (Welterweight)

UFC veteran Jake Matthews will return this weekend against Matthew Semelsberger.

Matthews will be making his 17th UFC appearance when he steps into the cage. He appeared once previously this year, picking up a second-round finish victory over Andre Fialho at UFC 275. That appearance put him back into the win column after taking a loss in 2021 to then-undefeated Sean Brady.

Semelsberger has a UFC record of four wins and two losses. He had a two-fight winning streak snapped in his last fight, suffering a decision defeat against experienced name Alex Morono.

Bout 7: Cheyanne Vlismas (7-2) vs. Cory McKenna (7-2) (Strawweight)

Strawweights Cheyanne Vlismas and Cory McKenna have identical records of seven wins and two losses, although that will likely change after they meet this weekend in the final prelim slot.

Vlismas is on a two-fight winning streak from 2021. After losing her promotional debut early last year, she returned to stop Gloria de Paula with strikes and get a scorecard nod over Mallory Martin.

McKenna bounced back from her sole UFC loss in August, submitting Miranda Granger with a rare von flue choke.

Main Card (7:00PM EST / 4:00PM PST) (ESPN+ / TSN 5)

Bout 8: Cody Brundage (8-2) vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk (17-5) (Middleweight)

Cody Brundage will look for his third win of 2022 this weekend when he faces Michal Oleksiejczuk.

Brundage built up his still-small UFC record this year, earning first-round finish wins over Dalcha Lungiambula and Tresean Gore. With a step up in competition, Brundage will aim to keep his success rolling.

Oleksiejczuk has earned three wins and one loss since the start of 2021. He was the last opponent of Sam Alvey, stopping him within a round in August.

Bout 9: Drew Dober (25-11) vs. Bobby Green (29-13-1) (Lightweight)

In a battle between two veterans at lightweight, Drew Dober and Bobby Green will face off.

Dober has scored a pair of finishes this year, beating Terrance McKinney and Rafael Alves. These were bounce-back performances for him after taking two losses in 2021.

Green is appearing after a 10-month absence from the MMA cage. His 2022 started busy, competing twice in February. His first fight came at UFC 271 when he beat Nasrat Haqparast on scorecards. He then took a short-notice main event fight later that month against now-UFC Lightweight Champion Islam Makhachev. That fight was a quick loss for Green, getting stopped in the first round.’

Bout 10: Alex Caceres (19-13) vs. Julian Erosa (28-9) (Featherweight)

Keeping with the theme of experienced names, Alex Caceres and Julian Erosa will fight next.

Caceres was on somewhat of a run through the featherweight division from 2019 to 2021, scoring five consecutive wins during that time period. This stretch ended up being the longest winning streak of his career thus far.

But this run came to an end this year when he lost a decision to Sodiq Yusuff. Caceres has the chance to get a new winning streak going in this appearance.

This weekend gives Erosa an opportunity to go on a four-fight winning streak for the first time in his UFC campaign. He moved his run to three consecutive victories this year, overcoming Steven Peterson and Hakeem Dawodu.

Bout 11: Amir Albazi (15-1) vs. Alessandro Costa (12-2) (Flyweight)

Alessandro Costa will have a big challenge in his UFC debut when he meets Amir Albazi this Saturday.

Costa is entering the UFC roster with a record of 12 wins through 14 appearances. He appeared on “Dana White’s Contender Series” this year, beating Andres Luna Martinetti via split decision in July. He then picked up one more win on the regional scene, stopping Carlos Gomez in October in just 12 seconds.

Albazi has yet to lose since joining the UFC roster. He picked up his third win at flyweight this summer, submitting Francisco Figueiredo with a rear naked choke at UFC 278.

Bout 12: Arman Tsarukyan (18-3) vs. Damir Ismagulov (24-1) (Lightweight)

Ranked lightweights Arman Tsarukyan and Damir Ismagulov will take the stage for the co-main event.

Tsarukyan was given loss earlier this year in his first-ever UFC main event appearance. He took a defeat to Mateusz Gamrot in June after five rounds with a unanimous decision outcome. He had a strong five-fight winning streak in the division before then.

Ismagulov is still on the rise in his current UFC campaign. Since joining the promotion in 2018, he has picked up five victories. He handed Guram Kutateladze his first UFC loss earlier this year, getting a split decision victory over him in June.

Bout 13: Jared Cannonier (15-6) vs. Sean Strickland (25-4) (Middleweight)

UFC’s 2022 year will close out with a five-round fight between Jared Cannonier and Sean Strickland. Both fighters are aiming to get back into the win column after losing in big matches.

Cannonier appeared in a title fight in July against then-champion Israel Adesanya. He was given this title shot after a pair of big wins in the division, beating Kelvin Gastelum and Derek Brunson. He went the distance against Adesanya, settling with a unanimous decision loss after 25 minutes of competition.

Strickland was on his way toward a title fight earlier this year. He had a streak of six wins, including recent main event victories over Uriah Hall and Jack Hermansson.

The streak came to a sudden, crashing end at UFC 276 in July, as kickboxer Alex Pereira stopped him in the first round of a bout with a left hook. Pereira earned a title fight in his next appearance and is now the current UFC Middleweight Champion.

Both fighters are still high up in the middleweight division. A performance this Saturday can give them a push toward another title campaign as they head into the new year.

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