This weekend sees the UFC return to Las Vegas for another Fight Night event, and while the card isn’t heavy on name value, it’s still intriguing enough.
So with some veterans looking to cement their positions, prospects looking to climb up and a few hot debutants, this UFC show should be worth checking out.
Here are five fighters to keep a close eye on at UFC Fight Night: Derrick Lewis vs. Sergei Spivac.
#5.Tatsuro Taira – UFC flyweight contender
This weekend’s preliminary card doesn’t have much to whet the appetite of casual UFC fans, but one fighter who should be worth watching is flyweight prospect Tatsuro Taira.
The native of Japan is already 2-0 in the octagon, and his overall record sits at an impressive 12-0. At the age of just 23, that definitely makes him a high-end prospect, and the fact that he’s in one of the promotion’s thinner divisions should help his cause.
What does he have to offer? Based on his most recent win, which came over CJ Vergara in October, Taira is primarily a highly dangerous grappler. He basically whitewashed his foe on the ground, despite Vergara missing weight, and finished him with an armbar in the second round.
This weekend will see him face once-beaten Mexican Jesus Santos Aguilar, who is making his octagon debut after winning on Dana White’s Contender Series last August.
Aguilar also appears to be a grappler, meaning Taira will probably be confident of finding a way to beat him. If he can do that, then there’ll definitely be a case for him climbing into the top fifteen at 125lbs. Based on that, he’s the man to watch on the prelims.
#4. Da Un Jung – UFC light-heavyweight contender
Prior to his last bout in the UFC, Da Un Jung was looking like he had the potential to become a legitimate title contender at 205lbs.
The South Korean light-heavyweight had put together an impressive record of four wins and a draw since arriving in the promotion in 2019. November 2021 saw him finish Kennedy Nzechukwu in violent fashion with a series of elbows.
However, he was badly beaten in his most recent fight with Dustin Jacoby, suffering the first knockout loss of his career after basically walking into a big counterpunch.
Can ‘Sseda’ rebound this weekend when he faces Devin Clark? Stylistically, the fight seems like a better one for him, as Clark is more plodding than Jacoby and doesn’t possess the same kind of counter striking skills.
If the Korean fighter can pull off an impressive finish, then, taking his octagon record to 5-1-1, he’d probably be back on the cusp of contention. Given that he’s also an exciting fighter to watch, his bout is one not to miss.
#3. Yusaku Kinoshita – UFC welterweight contender
A number of fighters are set to make their UFC debuts this weekend, but it’s arguable that the most intriguing of them is Japanese welterweight Yusaku Kinoshita.
His record of 6-1 is admittedly not all that impressive, but it’s worth looking a little deeper into it. His lone loss came via disqualification for grabbing the fence, and he’s finished every other foe he’s faced.
More to the point, his win over Jose Henrique Souza on Dana White’s Contender Series saw him draw comparisons to Conor McGregor, largely thanks to his use of a violent counter left hook to finish the bout.
Based on footage of his other fights, it looks like this win wasn’t a fluke, so if he can beat Adam Fugitt this weekend, it’s definitely possible that he’ll become a favorite with UFC fans.
Given that Fugitt lost his octagon debut in July, this looks like a winnable bout for Kinoshita – so hopefully he delivers the goods, and perhaps wins a $50k bonus in the process.
#2. Doo Ho Choi – UFC featherweight contender
Outside of headliner Derrick Lewis, it’s arguable that the most recognisable name on this weekend’s card is featherweight Doo Ho Choi, who is making his return to action following over three years on the shelf.
‘The Korean Super Boy’ became a well-regarded fighter with the fans after debuting in the octagon back in 2015, and initially reeled off three impressive knockout wins.
It was his wild brawl with Cub Swanson – a fight that has since been entered into the UFC’s Hall of Fame – that really made him into a star, though. The wild clash was largely seen as 2016’s best fight overall.
However, since then, Choi has lost two bouts via knockout, and hasn’t competed since December 2019.
At the age of 31, ‘The Korean Super Boy’ certainly shouldn’t be past his physical prime, so can he make a successful comeback this weekend? It’s definitely not impossible, especially as he’s been matched with a beatable opponent in the form of Kyle Nelson.
If Choi can win this bout, then there’s every chance he’ll be back on track. If he loses, though, his career at the top level could be over – making him a must-see fighter this weekend.
#1. Derrick Lewis – UFC heavyweight contender
The man to watch this weekend is definitely headliner Derrick Lewis. The former UFC heavyweight title challenger finds himself at a crossroads of sorts in his bout with Sergei Spivac, and to call it a must-win is probably an understatement.
‘The Black Beast’ has now lost three of his last four bouts, but while that wouldn’t normally be an issue competing at the top of the division, his drop-off recently has been alarming.
Lewis ended 2021 by knocking out Chris Daukaus, but suffered two devastating knockout defeats against Tai Tuivasa and Sergei Pavlovich last year. More worryingly, both bouts suggested that his durability was nowhere close to what it once was.
‘The Black Beast’ still has devastating power in his hands, but given that the same can be said for most of the UFC’s heavyweights, that may not be the equalizer it once was if his own chin is gone.
So can Lewis overcome Spivac? It’s debatable. On one hand, ‘The Polar Bear’ is smaller than ‘The Black Beast’, isn’t that fast, and doesn’t possess scary power.
On the other hand, though, he’s a capable finisher, particularly on the ground, and Lewis has always been vulnerable from his back.
Essentially, Lewis can right the ship if he wins here, but if he loses, at 38 years old it’s unlikely he’ll ever get back to the top. This fight is incredibly crucial for him, making it a must-see affair.