This Saturday, December 14, the UFC returns to the fight capital of the world with a blockbuster pay-per-view featuring three title bouts.
Newly crowned welterweight champion Kamaru Usman will battle bitter rival Colby Covington in a fight that will reveal the best 170-pound athlete on the planet.
In the co-main event, featherweight king Max Holloway will be looking to dismantle and dispatch of Australian powerhouse Alexander Volkanovski. The greatest female mixed martial artist of all time Amanda Nunes will defend her bantamweight title against fierce Dutch kickboxer Germaine De Randamie. And the main card also features a series of exciting matchups, such as Jose Aldo vs. Marlon Moraes and Petr Yan vs. Urijah Faber.
With the main card being this stacked, plenty of preliminary fights and fighters have been flying under the radar. Here’s our list of fighters to watch this Saturday.
Viviane Araujo (8-1) is a former strawweight turned flyweight from Brazil. The 33-year-old made her UFC debut in May, stepping in on short notice to take a fight at bantamweight. On that night she fought 20 pounds above her usual weight class.
Not only did Araujo win, but she did so in dominant fashion. She displayed her raw power and impressive overall MMA game, picking up a third-round knockout over Talita Bernardo.
The Brazilian returned to the octagon in July, defeating durable and well-respected veteran Alexis Davis via unanimous decision. On December 14, Araujo has the opportunity to extend her UFC record to 3-0 and finish off what has been a brilliant debut year in the UFC.
Viviane Araujo will square off against Jessica Eye, who is fresh off a title shot at 125 pounds. With the flyweight division in need of contenders, a win at UFC 245 will undoubtedly see her inch closer to title contention.
Araujo has unbelievable knockout power for her size, but she is not just a striker. The 33-year-old has four submission victories, including a heel hook in her professional debut. She has already showcased her well-roundedness, and it will take an elite level of opponent to really challenge her inside the cage.
It’s been a big year for the team at City Kickboxing; Israel Adesanya is the new middleweight champion, Alexander Volkanovski is challenging for the featherweight title and Dan Hooker is climbing towards the upper echelon of 155 pounds.
Along with the three aforementioned athletes is Kai Kara-France (20-7), an explosive flyweight who made his promotional debut late last year. Despite only having three fights in the UFC, the Kiwi is ranked within the division’s top ten, and his performances speak for themselves. Kara-France appeared on The Ultimate Fighter reality show, where he picked up a knockout victory in the opening round before later being defeated.
He has compiled a record of 3-0 within the UFC, most recently dismantling Mark De La Rosa in China. Kara-France was looking for a quick turnaround and on December 14 he gets his wish. He will be taking on the sneaky yet talented Brandon Moreno, who boasts a dangerous jiu-jitsu game.
If victorious, Kara-France may be one win away from a title shot at 125 pounds. And with champion Henry Cejudo wanting to defend his bantamweight title first, there is no rush.
At the age of 20, Chase Hooper (8-0-1) will be making his promotional debut on Saturday.
“The Teenage Dream” first gained recognition when he appeared on the Contender Series in 2018, picking up a unanimous decision victory and impressing Dana White in the process. He was signed to a development contract and has since picked up two wins via finish as well as a draw.
Hooper is currently the youngest fighter on the UFC roster but possesses skills of a veteran. He is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and has four submission victories to his name. To go along with this, the featherweight has an extremely high fight IQ for being just 20-years-old; his ability to figure out his opponents and effectively neutralize their strengths is one of the reasons he has remained undefeated.
On December 14, he will be fighting slick Swedish striker Daniel Teymur, who is 11 years his senior. Despite the age difference, Hooper’s boxing and forward pressure should cause problems for Teymur. Hooper must use his superior grappling to tire his opponent and as time goes on, begin to look for submissions.
Chase Hooper is not only someone to keep your eye on at UFC 245, but whenever he’s fighting. The 20-year-old is a legit featherweight prospect.
Unfortunately, we have not seen Ketlen Viera (10-0) in action since March 2018, where she defeated former title challenger Cat Zingano. A string of injuries, as well as the inability to find an opponent, prohibited the Brazilian from competing, however, she is back and hungrier than ever.
Viera is an extremely powerful and technical 135 pounder. She uses her vast knowledge of judo and wrestling to secure big takedowns, which has been evident in all four of her UFC fights. One of her favorite takedowns to use is the outside leg hook, commonly referred to as kosoto-gake in the judo world. To complete this maneuver, Viera shifts her opponent’s weight to her far leg, allowing her the opportunity to quickly hook and pull, resulting in the takedown. This takedown is uncommon in MMA as it is difficult to pull off.
At UFC 245 she will have the task of fighting two-time ‘Fight of the Night’ winner Irene Aldana, who will be looking to turn the contest into a brawl. Her opponent also has the highest takedown defense is UFC history, denying 95.8% of the attempts coming her way. Although the statistic is impressive, she has never faced a grappler as prolific and skilled as Viera.
The Brazilian is ranked #2 in the bantamweight division and has been calling for a title shot for quite some time. Now that she is healthy and has finally found an opponent, a win over Aldana may earn her the next crack at the bantamweight crown.
When speaking about exciting welterweights, Geoff Neal (12-2) has to be included in the conversation.
The 29-year-old has finished three of his four UFC wins, with the most notable being a vicious head kick knockout of Frank Camacho. The emphatic knockout put every welterweight on notice, and Neal didn’t stop there. Since then, he has soundly defeated Belal Muhammed and Niko Price, who are two of the most deadly fighters in the division.
On December 14, Neal will go to war with fan-favorite Mike Perry, who has earned ‘Fight of the Night’ honors in his last two outings. This fight has all the ingredients to steal the show; both men love nothing more than trading punches and marching forward.
In all four of his UFC appearances, the American has displayed his ability to merge solid wrestling with formidable striking – look no further than his unanimous decision victory over Belal Muhammad; Neal defended seven takedown attempts in favor of keeping the fight on the feet, where he knocked his opponent down twice.
When Geoff Neal steps into the octagon with Mike Perry at UFC 245, expect absolute carnage. Both men always come to fight and entertaining the fans is what they love to do.
Steven specialises in MMA and Lethwei. He loves a good 1-2 down the middle.