Dubai: Given the depth of talent within the UFC ranks it is not surprising that MMA’s top promotion will host another blockbuster card at their Las Vegas headquarters on Saturday night/Sunday morning.
UFC Fight Night will see the heavyweights take centre-stage when No. 4 ranked Derrick Lewis faces No. 10 ranked veteran Aleksei Oleinik in the main event.
The 12-fight card boasts a happy mix of long-serving fighters and some exciting prospects including several Middle East fighters - Jordan’s Ali Alqaisi, Yousseff Zalal from Morocco and Afghani-German Nasrat Haqparast.
Add to that Iranian-born Assyrian-American Beneil Dariush, who takes on Scott Holtzman in a fight that has the potential to steal the thunder.
We also have former champion Chris Weidman looking to get back into title contention when he fights the talented Omari Akhmedov.
Lewis is an absolute monster who possesses steel fists and even stronger will. He has knocked out 18 opponents—10 of them inside the UFCs Octagon, which underlines his lethal one-punch power.
Age might not be on 43-year-old Oleinik’s side, but the American Top Team veteran is a master grappler who will be looking to neutralise Lewis’ weapons with his infamous defence and bring in his submission skills.
“Of course you don’t know my game plan, and I hope Derrick won’t too,” Oleinik (59-13-1) told Cageside Press during Thursday’s virtual media day press conference. “Because if he knows about my game plan, it’s terrible difficulty.
“This is like chess. You must always [take] different steps. He’s explosive, he’s smart. He’s stayed in tough fights many, many times. This is one of the most dangerous fighters in the world.”
The Russian brings winning form into the Octagon having won two in a row, most recently when defeating former 265-pound champion, Fabricio Werdum, via split decision at UFC 249 last May.
Prior to that he submitted Maurice Greene at UFC 246 via an arm bar.
Meanwhile, former UFC middleweight champion Weidman, who made history as the first man to defeat the great Anderson Silva, returns to the division in which he was champion for more than two years, when he meets Akhmedov in the co-feature fight.
“I just know what my potential is, and I know that I did everything right in training, and I’m just going to go out there and put everything on the line and we’ll see what happens,” a dour-looking Weidman said at the virtual media event.
“The division is definitely exciting right now, and I think my fight will speak for itself and it will put me right in the mix of all that pretty quickly.”
Weidman (14-5 MMA, 10-5 UFC) sure has, over and over. But at least the Long Island native maintains a good sense of humor about things as he gets asked repeatedly about how he’s going to turn things around.
“I’m 1-5 last in my last six fights, which is something that everybody wants me to say, so there you go,” Weidman said with a smile during Thursday’s UFC on ESPN+ 32 media day.
Weidman returns to the division for which he was champion for more than two years after a one-fight detour to light heavyweight, when he meets Omari Akhmedov in the co-feature fight of Saturday night’s event in Las Vegas.
UFC Fight Night
UFC Apex, Las Vegas, Nevada
From 2am (Sunday) UAE time
Broadcaster: ESPN+ & UFC Arabia
265lbs: Derrick Lewis v Aleksei Oleinik
185lbs: Omari Akhmedov v Chris Weidman
185lbs: Maki Pitolo v Darren Stewart
135lbs: Yana Kunitskaya v Julija Stoliarenko
155lbs: Beneil Dariush v Scott Holtzman
170lbs: Tim Means v Laureano Staropoli
155lbs: Nasrat Haqparast v Alex Munoz
185lbs: Andrew Sanchez v Wellington Turman
145lbs: Gavin Tucker v Justin Jaynes
145lbs: Youssef Zalal v Peter Barrett
135lbs: Irwin Rivera v Ali Alqaisi