Another Saturday of UFC action is nearly upon us and another exciting card is all ready to go. This week’s event sees a return to the UFC APEX in Las Vegas.
The UFC welcomed back a full crowd at UFC 261 last weekend. A 15,000 strong audience enjoyed live action at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. The event marked the first to be held in front of a full crowd in over a year. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe the shocking and memorable moments the pay-per-view brought us.
Understandably, fans are looking ahead to the next event with fans and another exciting looking PPV, but the APEX isn’t finished providing us with great matchups just yet and this week’s headliner could be a classic.
UFC Vegas 25: Reyes vs. Prochazka
Headlining UFC Vegas 25 is a vital matchup in the context of the light heavyweight division. Former title challenge Dominick Reyes will face off against the destructive Jiri Prochazka. It stands to reason the winner could be next in line for a title shot after Glover Teixeira challenges Jan Blachowicz for the LHW throne later this year.
A number of other exciting matchups are also included on this weekend’s card. In the co-main, Giga Chikadze looks to keep his winning streak alive against fan-favourite Cub Swanson. Elsewhere on the main card, the talkative Sean Strickland faces the underrated Krzysztof Jotko in an exciting matchup at the back-end of the middleweight rankings, and the high-flying Merab Dvalishvili faces the 13th ranked bantamweight Cody Stamann.
The card has the potential to be a highly entertaining watch. With that said, here are five names to look out for at UFC Vegas 25.
#5 KB Bhullar
KB 'The Bengal' Bhullar is set to enter the octagon for the first time in 2021. He'll be looking to rebound from his one and only loss in MMA, which came against Tom Breese on his UFC debut.
Before making his promotional debut, Bhullar had amassed an impressive 8-0 record. The 6"4 middleweight will look to get back into the win column this weekend when he faces Andreas Michailidis.
With both men coming off the back of debut losses, this fight could be an exciting battle. Before his first walk to the octagon, Bhullar was highly touted. The Canadian boasts four knockouts and two submissions across his eight MMA wins.
With the ability to finish the fight on the feet or on the mat, Bhullar is a dangerous opponent to stand opposite to. Keep an eye on him at UFC Vegas 25...
#4 Luana Pinheiro
Luana Pinheiro has the same record as KB Bhullar, but their defeats come at opposite ends of their careers. Pinheiro fell to a split decision loss in just her third MMA fight. But since then, the Brazilian has been on a tear.
Building a six-fight winning streak leading into her UFC debut this Saturday, Pinheiro has dominated every opponent. With two knockouts and four submissions, every bout since her 2017 loss has ended with her having her hand raised in the opening round.
The total fight time across her last half-dozen bouts only just adds up to the length of one three-round fight. That's a stat even Francis Ngannou would be proud of...
After a fast and furious striking display against Stephanie Frausto on Dana White's Contender Series in 2020, Pinheiro secured her UFC contract.
Her promotional debut this weekend will be no easy affair. Awaiting her in the octagon will be UFC veteran Randa Markos. 'Quiet Storm' has fought 16 times for the UFC and has faced some of the best.
Defeats to Amanda Ribas, Mackenzie Dern and Kanako Murata in 2020 has left Markos in desperate need of a win at UFC Vegas 25. But she couldn't be up against a more in-form opponent for such a crucial fight.
Luana Pinheiro's debut is an exciting one, and we could be left with yet another contender in the women's strawweight division after this Saturday's card.
#3 Giga Chikadze
One of the leading men behind the UFC's Georgian invasion is Giga Chikadze. Despite four impressive wins in 2020, 'NINJA' went slightly under the radar given the year the likes of Kevin Holland had.
Chikadze's last defeat came on Dana White's Contender Series in 2018. Since then, he's amassed a seven-fight winning streak, which includes a 5-0 record in the UFC. A TKO win over Jamey Simmons brought him into the rankings and showed that Chikadze is a real threat in the featherweight division.
At UFC Vegas 25, the Georgian gets his toughest test yet. Opposite him in the octagon will be Cub Swanson. The 37-year-old has fought in the UFC since 2011, but his brutal knockout win over Daniel Pineda at UFC 256 showed he hasn't lost a step.
With both men carrying winning streaks into their co-main matchup, this fight promises to be an explosive and entertaining affair. A win for Chikadze could secure a big-name opponent next time out.
#2 Sean Strickland
In a compliment to the depths of the UFC's roster, we tend to see so many exciting names on each card that intriguing matchups become sleeper fights. Sean Strickland vs. Krzysztof Jotko is a prime example.
Strickland has only lost to the best. At welterweight, “Tarzan” lost to Santiago Ponzinibbio and the current champion Kamaru Usman. Aside from that, a spinning wheel kick knockout against Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos is the only other blemish on his impressive record.
After a two-year layoff following a motorcycle accident, Strickland returned to middleweight in 2020, defeating Jack Marshman and the highly-touted Brendan Allen.
At UFC Vegas 25, Strickland will face Krzysztof Jotko. The Pole is criminally underrated. Heading into 2017, he was 19-1 and on a five-fight winning streak. Defeats to David Branch, Uriah Hall and Brad Tavares stalled Jotko's rise. The 31-year-old has bounced back since then with three wins across 2019 and 2020.
Not only is the fight between Strickland and Jotko an unbelievable matchup and a real sleeper fight, but it also has huge connotations for the middleweight division. Having secured a ranking, Strickland will be looking to push towards the 185-pound top-10 with a victory this weekend.
There's always talk, entertainment and hard-swinging when Sean Strickland is in town. Don't miss this one.
#1 Jiri Prochazka
Now this is a scary man. Jiri Prochazka is set for his first UFC main event in what will be just his second walk to the UFC octagon.
The Czech light heavyweight couldn't have arrived in better fashion. On Fight Island in 2020, 'Denisa' brutally knocked out Volkan Oezdemir. The message he sent to the rest of the division was vicious and clear.
Debuts don't come much more impactful.
Prochazka headlines Saturday's card against former title challenger Dominick Reyes. 'The Devastator' put in perhaps the best display against Jon Jones we have seen for a while, with many fans and fighters believing he should have been crowned champion at UFC 247.
With Jones vacating his belt, it seemed like Reyes was the likely next champion, but a knockout loss to Jan Blachowicz put a halt to Reyes' title plans. He'll look to secure another shot at gold with a win over Prochazka.
This fight should be a blockbuster collision. Prochazka boasts 24 knockouts in 27 wins. Those numbers are worrying for any opponent.