This weekend sees the UFC head to Austin, Texas for its latest Fight Night event. While the show is slightly low on name value, there’s plenty that should be watchable on offer.
This weekend’s UFC Fight Night features a number of high-level prospects who could well break into title contention in the near future. That alone means it’s an event worth keeping an eye on.
Whether these prospects do reach the top of the mountain is obviously another question entirely, but it’s always impossible to predict exactly who will succeed in the octagon.
#5. Phil Hawes – UFC middleweight prospect
While his fight with Deron Winn is not part of this weekend’s main card, middleweight prospect Phil Hawes is still worth keeping an eye on in terms of his high-level potential.
A standout amateur wrestler with NCAA Division I credentials, Hawes has been part of the UFC’s roster now since a win on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2019. Since arriving, he’s gone 3-1 in the octagon, defeating Jacob Malkoun, Nassourdine Imavov and Kyle Daukaus.
Sure, ‘Megatron’ fell to Chris Curtis in somewhat of an upset in his most recent bout last November, but realistically, he was winning that fight until Curtis caught him with a big shot late in the first round.
Overall, Hawes is still a very genuine prospect at 185 pounds, and with a skillset that includes such a powerful wrestling background as well as heavy knockout power, he has the ability to pose a threat to any fighter.
Can he beat a fellow standout wrestler in Winn this weekend? It’s hard to say, as Winn might have the ability to take him down, but thus far, it’s probably fair to say that ‘Megatron’ has shown better-rounded skills, making him a slight favorite in what should be an intriguing fight.
#4. Julian Marquez – UFC middleweight prospect
Although he’s now 32 years old and has been with the UFC for a while, it’s probably still fair to call Julian Marquez a prospect as he’s still got the potential to make it to the top of the middleweight division.
In fact, realistically, the only thing that has held ‘The Cuban Missile Crisis’ back thus far has been the fact that he hasn’t fought all that much in recent years, as he was out of action between 2018 and 2021.
Since then, though, he’s come back to form in a big way, submitting both Maki Pitolo and Sam Alvey in impressive fashion last year, although you’ve got to go back to last April to find the last time he entered the octagon.
How good can Marquez be? It’s probably fair to say that the sky is the limit for him. He’s got knockout power in his hands and feet, as we saw when he knocked out Phil Hawes on Dana White’s Contender Series, and he’s also more than capable of submitting foes, too.
The one question mark hanging over ‘The Cuban Missile Crisis’ is probably his gas tank, as he tired in his loss to Alessio Di Chirico in 2018, but even that fight was close and could’ve gone either way.
If Marquez can beat striker Gregory Rodrigues this weekend, which he should be favored to do so, then the UFC should probably consider moving him up against a ranked opponent to see how he does. Overall, he’s definitely a fighter to keep an eye on.
#3. Kyle Daukaus – UFC middleweight prospect
The third middleweight prospect on this weekend’s card is Kyle Daukaus, who is set to face off against Roman Dolidze in the opening bout of the night. To be frank, quite why Daukaus has been relegated to the opening fight is a mystery.
Sure, his overall octagon record isn’t actually that great – he’s 2-2-1 – but his two losses came against a pair of legitimate fighters in Phil Hawes and Brendan Allen, and he looked excellent in his wins over Dustin Stoltzfus and Jamie Pickett.
More to the point, Daukaus had already made a step up of sorts when he fought Kevin Holland in October 2021. While the fight was declared a no contest when ‘Trailblazer’ was knocked out by an accidental headbutt, Daukaus was looking excellent until that point.
A well-rounded fighter with finishing skills in all areas, Daukaus’ submissions are clearly his best weapon as he’s scored nine victories via tapout throughout his career. Can he submit Dolidze this weekend? The Georgian is a dangerous grappler in his own right, but this does look like a winnable fight for Daukaus on paper.
If he can pull off the win, then Daukaus should definitely be a fighter worth watching as he’s still only 29 and may not have reached his athletic prime yet. In conclusion, this is a fight that shouldn't be as low on the card as it is, and it’s definitely worth catching.
#2. Guram Kutateladze – UFC lightweight prospect
June 25th’s UFC Fight Night event is set to feature a headline bout between lightweights Arman Tsarukyan and Mateusz Gamrot. While both of those fighters are highly regarded prospects, the last man to defeat Gamrot is in action this weekend.
That fighter is Georgia’s Guram Kutateladze, who was able to controversially outpoint ‘Gamer’ back in October 2020 in a battle that claimed a bonus award for the Fight of the Night.
It was a fight that showed off the best of ‘The Georgian Viking’, as he demonstrated incredible cardio, heavy strikes and some excellent grappling too, as he was able to both take Gamrot down and reverse from some tricky positions on the ground.
Sure, Kutateladze is coming off a lengthy layoff going into this weekend’s fight with Damir Ismagulov, but given that he hasn’t lost a fight since March 2015, it’s probably safe to say that he’ll be confident of picking up his second UFC win and his tenth in a row overall.
Essentially, based on what he showed in his octagon debut, ‘The Georgian Viking’ has genuine potential to become an elite-level fighter, making his bout must-see this weekend.
#1. Adrian Yanez – UFC bantamweight prospect
While his fight has curiously not been selected as part of this weekend’s main card, it’s probably safe to say that the best prospect in action at this UFC Fight Night is bantamweight Adrian Yanez.
Yanez has been with the UFC for just under two years now following his win on Dana White’s Contender Series. In that time, he’s not only marked himself out as a highly talented fighter, but a remarkably exciting one to watch, too.
His stoppages of Victor Rodriguez, Gustavo Lopez and Randy Costa all came via violent knockouts. More importantly, he’s already shown himself to be seriously durable and able to fight through adversity in his bouts with Costa and Davey Grant.
If you consider that the only other fighter to beat Grant recently was Marlon Vera, who is now a bonafide UFC bantamweight title contender, it’s safe to say that the sky is the limit for Yanez and he may only be a couple of fights away from breaking into the rankings.
Will he do that if he defeats Tony Kelley this weekend? It’s doubtful, as Kelley is somewhat unheralded in his own right even if he’s on a two-fight win streak. However, another big knockout could land Yanez a big fight in the near future, and due to his exciting style, he’s definitely the man to watch this weekend.