Another weekend is closing in, and another stacked UFC pay-per-view is almost upon us. Once again, this week’s card is set for the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, in what could be the final pay-per-view set at the facility.
The UFC is set to welcome back a full crowd at UFC 261 next month. A 15,000 strong audience will enjoy live action at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. The event will mark the first to be held in front of a full crowd in over a year. To say we’re excited would be an understatement.
Understandably, fans are looking ahead to the return of a crowd, and three title fights next month. But it’s worth remembering the APEX isn’t finished providing us with blockbuster matchups just yet.
Despite the cancelation of Alexander Volkanovski’s title defense against Brian Ortega, this card should still have fireworks. With exciting bouts throughout, this weekend’s event could bring us a host of memorable moments.
With the likes of Abu Azaitar, Shane Young, and Abubakar Nurmagomedov all competing in the prelims, we could be set to move onto the main card off the back of some exciting fights.
Ahead of Saturday’s card, here are five names to look out for at UFC 260.
#5 Modestas Bukauskas
It’s been a long and difficult journey to the UFC for Modestas Bukauskas. Born in Lithuania, Bukauskas made his way to the United States as a teenager. By the age of 21, The Baltic Gladiator found himself training with Andrei Arlovski and Jon Jones at the Jackson-Wink camp. Not a bad set of training partners to begin your career with, is it?
After back-to-back defeats, a lost sponsorship and relationship, and a two-year layoff from fighting, Bukauskas fought back.
After a 2018 return, the 27-year-old won six consecutive fights under the Cage Warriors and FightStar Championship banners. With four knockouts and two submissions across that winning streak, Bukauskas had punched his ticket to the UFC.
Bukauskas made his UFC debut in Abu Dhabi last summer. Some vicious elbows whilst Andreas Michailidis held onto a double-leg led to a stoppage after the first round's horn.
Opinion was split as to whether Michailidis had fallen out of the cage door or had intended to lean on it. Either way, he struggled to get to his feet after the fight was called.
A defeat to ranked-Australian Jimmy Crute marked Bukauskas' first defeat in five years. Entering the Octagon in 2021 for the first time, the Lithuanian is set to face fellow prospect Michal Oleksiejczuk.
With 10 finishes in his 11 fights and the need to rebound from his first UFC loss, Bukauskas is one to watch this weekend.
#4 Miranda Maverick
As well as possessing one of the best alliterate names the UFC has ever seen, Miranda Fear The Maverick has elite MMA skills. At UFC 260, she plans to show the world what she's truly capable of.
Having dominated fights in the highly regarded Invicta FC promotion, Maverick got the UFC call-up for the second stint on Fight Island last October.
Against Liana Jojua on debut, Maverick showed she has more than just submission skills in her locker. Jojua's beaten and bloody face showed Maverick has power. And the leading elbow that caused it showed Maverick has the striking ability to become a real problem in the flyweight division.
At just 23-years-old, Maverick's potential is off the charts. This weekend offers the chance to secure back-to-back UFC wins. Her opponent is nine-fight UFC veteran Gillian Robertson.
Promoted to the UFC 260 main card this week, Maverick will look to make a statement.
#3 Alonzo Menifield
This is an important card for knockout artist Alonzo Menifield. The American broke onto the scene with an eight-second KO win on Dana White’s Contender Series.
In his first two UFC fights, Vinicius Moreira and Paul Craig fell to Menifield’s power. Heading into UFC 250, the 33-year-old was 9-0 with eight knockouts and one submission. Menifield’s weakness in the later rounds became evident when Devin Clark handed him his first loss.
A knockout loss to Ovince Saint Preux has left Menifield needing a win this weekend to get his UFC career back on track.
With William Knight ruled out due to Covid-19 protocols, Menifield will meet promotional newcomer Fabio Cherant [7-1] at UFC 260. Alongside his power, the stakes at play for Menifield make him one to watch on this card.
#2 Vicente Luque
In my book, Vicente Luque is one of the most underrated fighters in the entire UFC. The Brazilian has worked his way into the welterweight top 10 with wins over Mike Perry, Niko Price, and Randy Brown.
It seems beyond belief Luque is just 29-years-old, given he made his debut in 2015. After 14 fights in the promotion, The Silent Assassin boasts a 12-2 UFC record. A defeat to top five Stephen Thompson broke a six-fight winning streak, but two wins in 2020 have brought Luque back to a big-name opponent.
At UFC 260, Luque faces former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. The Chosen One has dropped to seventh in the division’s rankings after a cataclysmic fall from grace.
After beating Robbie Lawler to win the belt, Woodley defended it against Stephen Thompson, Demian Maia, and Darren Till. He sat at the top of the welterweight food chain with a 19-3-1 record.
Having been dominated by Kamaru Usman, Woodley lost the title. He was gun-shy against Gilbert Burns and torn apart by Colby Covington. The 38-year-old is perhaps only one loss away from the end of his UFC career.
Nevertheless, we all know what Woodley can do. For Luque, this fight represents a golden opportunity to add a top name to his win column and establish himself as a contender.
#1 Sean O'Malley
Sean O’Malley said it best - “people hate confidence.” But love him or hate him, no one can deny O'Malley's credentials as a legit prospect in the bantamweight division.
Breaking into the UFC after one of the most memorable moments in DWCS history, O’Malley secured two UFC wins before being side-lined by USADA.
A win over Jose Alberto Quinonez, and one of the most rewatchable knockouts in history against Eddie Wineland, moved the 26-year-old to 4-0 in the UFC.
Leg kicks and a diagnosis of a drop foot at the hands (or feet...) of Chito Vera handed Sugar his first loss. Seven months later, O’Malley is ready to re-rail his hype train.
His opponent is Thomas Almeida. Heading into 2016, the Brazilian had immeasurable potential. At 21-0, he was touted as the next big thing. Since then, he’s won just one out of five fights, with defeats to Cody Garbrandt, Jimmie Rivera, Rob Font, and Jonathan Martinez.
This should be one of the most exciting fights on the card, however long it lasts, as O’Malley looks to welcome the fanbase back to The Sugar Show.