Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to ESPN+ for a “Fight Night” event as UFC Vegas 16 goes down later tonight (Sat., Dec. 5, 2020) inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, featuring a revamped main event between Middleweight contenders Jack Hermansson and Marvin Vettori.
Hermansson isn’t really a name that stands out when talking about potential Middleweight title challengers, but “The Joker” could get to the Promised Land with a win later this evening. Winner of five of his last six, Hermansson will look to earn his sixth win in two years when he faces off against Marvin Vettori. During his impressive run, Hermansson’s lone defeat came against hard-hitting combatant, Jared Cannonier. Since division champion Israel Adesanya is in line to move up to Light Heavyweight to face Jan Blachowicz for that title, “The Joker” could find himself in a title eliminator fight against Robert Whittaker should he come out on top.
Of course, getting through Vettori won’t be an easy task to say the least. Since mid-2017, “The Italian Dream” has been on a tear, winning four of six bouts, with a draw against Omari Akhmedov and then a close split-decision loss to current champion, Adesnaya, sandwiched between. Vettori received the unexpected headlining bout against Hermansson after a few main event mishaps, but he is looking to make the most of his opportunity by upending “The Joker.” Vettori cracks hard, but Hermansson’s all-around game is a bit more polished. The safe money is on “The Joker” here, though “The Italian Dream” would love nothing more than to get through Hermansson to get another shot at Adesanya after narrowly losing to him a few years ago. He’s always wanted a big fight, now is the time to prove what he’s all about.
COVID-19 has really affected several fight cards this year, so there isn’t much anyone can do about that so complaining about card quality is sort of pointless at this stage of the game.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
The main event was originally set to feature a fight between Hermansson taking on Darren Till. But after Till bowed out of the event, UFC pegged Kevin Holland as his replacement. A few weeks later, “Trail Blazer” also had to bow out after testing positive for COVID-19. As a result, Vettori was asked to fill the void.
Cody Stamann and Merab Dvalishvili were set to collide in a pivotal Bantamweight affair, but it was ultimately scratched after Stamann bowed out for undisclosed reasons. Raoni Barcelos was then tasked to step in, but he also was forced out of the fight because he was still under medical suspension. Furthermore, Montana De La Rosa filled in on short notice to replace Maryna Moroz against Talia Santos after Moroz had to withdraw from the fight.
And finally, former UFC women’s Bantamweight title contender, Bethe Correia, was set to take part in her final UFC fight against Wu Yanan at this event, but visa issues scrapped the fight. It will now go down on Jan. 16, 2021, instead.
Though several bouts were canceled, none of them were injury-related.
Jordan Leavitt will make his official Octagon debut when he takes on long-time veteran, Matt Wiman, in Lightweight action on the “Prelims” undercard. Undefeated (7-0), Leavitt made a splash on Dana White’s “Contender Series,” defeating Jose Flores via first-round submission. Wiman, meanwhile, has lost two straight and three of his last four inside the Octagon.
Also going down on the undercard is Jimmy Flick — another “Contender Series” alum — who is looking to make a statement in his first official UFC fight. Flick is currently on a three-fight win streak and has bounced from promotion to promotion, but is now looking to be a mainstay with UFC. His opponent, Cody Durden, didn’t fare so well in his own debut, fighting to a draw against Chris Gutierrez earlier this year.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
Gabriel Benitez will look to get back on track by attempting to snap his two-fight losing streak with a win over Justin Jaynes. Benitez hasn’t won inside the Octagon since mid-2018 and back-to-back defeats against Sodiq Yusuff and Omar Morales really took the wind out of his sails. Jaynes, meanwhile, is looking to get back on the winner’s podium after having his five-fight win streak snapped by Gavin Tucker back in August. And losing isn’t something he’s accustomed to, as that defeat was just his second in six years.
Damon Jackson is in search of his third straight win, second inside the Octagon, when he takes on Ilia Topuria, who has yet to taste defeat in his mixed martial arts (MMA) career. Indeed, Ilia is perfect so far (9-0), including winning his UFC debut against Youssef Zalal. Topuria has won eight of his nine bouts via stoppage, seven of them in the very first round.
Louis Smolka and Jose Alberto Quinonez will duke it out in a Bantamweight bout that features two talented fighters in search of a much-needed win. Smolka was choked out by Casey Kenny this past summer, while Quinonez was knocked out by Sean O’Malley in his last fight.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Gian Villante has been a long-time UFC staple as he has been fighting for the promotion since 2013. During that time, he hasn’t quite been able to get any momentum to be considered a legit contender. Over the last couple of years, Villante has really been on a downward trajectory, losing two in a row and three of his last four. Going back a bit further, Villante is just 2-5 in his last seven fights, which means he needs a win against Jake Collier to assure his spot on the UFC roster. Collier hasn’t been all that consistent himself, going just 3-4 so far inside the Octagon.
Interest Level: 5 of 10
We’re in the homestretch of 2020 which means UFC — as well as the rest of the planet — is seemingly running on fumes. The card isn’t exactly the most exciting, but the promotion will look to make up for all of the lackluster events with a stacked UFC Vegas 17 card on Dec. 19.
Rounding out the main card in this weekend’s event is a Light Heavyweight bout between Ovince Saint Preux and Jamahal Hill. “OSP” came in heavy for the fight, which is never a good sign. Saint Preux recently dropped back down to 205 pounds after a one-and-done fight at Heavyweight, which was a split-decision loss to Ben Rothwell. While losing some money for coming in heavy isn’t fun, the former Light Heavyweight title contender can make up for it with a big win over Hill. Speaking of which, Hill has impressed so far in his young MMA career by going 6-0-1 (1-0-1 inside the Octagon). His lone blemish is a “no contest” against Klidson Abreu, which was ruled as such after his win was voided for failing a drug test for marijuana.
In further 205-pound action, John Allan will look to earn his first win under the UFC banner when he takes on undefeated Roman Dolidze, who won his Octagon debut against Khadis Ibragimov this past July. The victory improved his record to 7-0, 1-0 UFC. Dolidze has finished all seven of his opponents, so getting the job done is the norm for the up-and-coming contender who has proven that he can finish his opponents via knockout or submission.
Full Fight Card:
UFC Vegas 16 Main Event:
185 lbs.: Jack Hermansson vs. Marvin Vettori
UFC Vegas 16 Main Card on ESPN2/ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):
205 lbs.: Jamahal Hill vs. Ovince Saint Preux
125 lb s.: Taila Santos vs. Montana De La RosaCANCELED
145 lbs.: Gabriel Benitez vs. Justin Jaynes
205 lbs.: John Allan vs. Roman Dolidze
155 lbs.: Jordan Leavitt vs. Matt Wiman
145 lb s.: Movsar Evloev vs. Nate LandwehrCANCELED
UFC Vegas 16 Prelims Card on ESPN2/ESPN+ (8:00 p.m. ET):
135 lbs.: Jose Quinonez vs. Louis Smolka
125 lbs.: Cody Durden vs. Jimmy FlickCANCELED
145 lbs.: Damon Jackson vs. Ilia Topuria
265 lbs.: Jake Collier vs. Gian Villante
***Fight card, bout order and the amount of matches subject to drastic change because of the various global quarantine restrictions.***
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