Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns later TODAY (Sat., June 24, 2023) to stage UFC Jacksonville, which is set to go down inside VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. In the Featherweight main event of the evening, Josh Emmett will face off against Ilia Topuria. In the co-headlining act, Maycee Barber will take on Amanda Ribas in women’s Flyweight action.
The Featherweight title will be unified at UFC 290 when current division king, Alexander Volkanovski, will take on interim title-holder, Yair Rodriguez, on July 8, 2023. Before then, Emmett and Topuria will do battle in order to improve their position in the championship race. Emmett is coming off a tough loss to Rodriguez, so I am sure that’s a fight he would love back. Prior to the defeat, Emmett had won five straight and seven of eight overall, which put him in the title fight in the first place. But he has put that loss behind him and is looking ahead to a tough challenge against Topuria, who has his own championship dreams to fulfill.
Undefeated at 13-0, Topuria has won his first five fights inside the Octagon, four via stoppage. The Georgian has quickly made his imprint on the division and a win here gets him to the Top 5. Topuria is one of those fighters that comes along and he just has “it.” He is skilled, not afraid to stand in the pocket, well-rounded and is all go. But his specialty lies in the submission game, earning eight victories that route throughout his pro career.
Emmett, meanwhile, has been submitted three times in his career, including his previous defeat to “El Pantera.” Emmett prefers to let his fists do the earning for him and is one of the hardest hitters in the division, so if he cracks Topuria cleanly it won’t be good for “El Matador.” Topuria has a chance to catapult himself into the mix while Emmett simply wants to get back on track. All that said, a win won’t be good enough to go straight to the championship fight, it has to be super-impressive because we have Max Holloway vs. Korean Zombie on tap, and we all know they bring it to levels above everyone else once the cage door slams shut.
David Onama and Gabriel Santos have a combined five fights inside the Octagon with a record of 2-3. Santos came up short in his UFC debut, while Onama is 2-2. Now, I know card placement isn’t a big deal these days — especially when it’s not pay-per-view (PPV) — as it was a couple of years ago to most fighters, but I would have much rather seen longtime veteran, Neil Magny, get a spot here instead of on the undercard when he tangos with Philip Rowe, who is on a three-fight win streak and has quickly mad his impact on the Welterweight division. It’s a small — and perhaps pointless — principle thing for me.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
A fight between Gregory Rodrigues and Dennis Tiuliulin was set to go down at this event before it was moved to UFC 292. Also, Victor Martinez was expected to face Trevor Peek before he withdrew for undisclosed reasons and was replaced by Chepe Mariscal. And Cody Brundage stepped in to fill the void against Sedriques Dumas after Punahele Soriano bowed out of their fight.
While not an injury, a fight between Kleydson Rodrigues and Tatsuro Taira was scrapped the day of weigh ins after Rodrigues failed to hit his mark, coming in three pounds over the Flyweight limit of 126 pounds for non-title fights (full details here).
On the heels of three straight wins, Chepe Mariscal got the call up to the big leagues to fill in for Victor Martinez against Trevor Peek. The 30-year old has been grinding on the regional circuit for nine years now, which includes stints in Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA). Combate Global and Cage Fury Fighting Championships (CFFC). As for Peek, his undefeated record (8-0) includes a stellar debut win over Erick Gonzalez, who he knocked out with one second remaining in round one this past February.
Joshua Van will bring his five-fight win streak with him as he steps foot inside the Octagon for the first time to face Zhalgas Zhumagulov, who is currently on a three-fight losing streak. All seven of Van’s wins have come by way of stoppage (five knockouts, two submissions).
The big boys will get their chance to shine on the main card as Austen Lane draws Justin Tafa for his UFC debut. Winner of six straight, Lane is a hot prospect coming out of the Contender Series. All of his 12 victories have come via stoppage, including 11 knockouts. He has a stiff challenge for his debut in Tafa, who is on a two-fight win streak both knockouts. In fact, all 6 of his wins were earned by way of smashing his opponents into defeat, so this one could end early.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
Sedriques Dumas’ UFC debut didn’t pan out as he would’ve hoped, losing via guillotine choke to Josh Fremd this past March and marking the first loss of his professional mixed martial arts (MMA) career. He will look to turn it around as he meets Cody Brundage, who is in dire need of a win after losing his last two fights, one via knockout and the other submission.
Jack Jenkins had an impressive showing in his UFC debut, defeating Don Shainis via unanimous decision at UFC 284, bringing his win streak to eight (five of those by way of stoppage). He will have a tough task ahead of him if he wants his ninth straight win as he has been paired opposite Jamall Emmers, who is coming off a big win over Khusein Askhabov. Emmers is 2-2 so far in his young UFC career and is looking to build off the momentum of his latest win.
In women’s Strawweight action, Tabatha Ricci will attempt to win her fourth straight fight and move up the rankings when she battles long-time veteran, Gillian Robertson, who is 3-1 in her last four fights. Ricci is currently ranked No. 15, but a win over Robertson (unranked) could move her up a few notches. For Robertson, a win over “Baby Shark” helps her cause of breaking in.
Loik Radzhabov will look to improve to 2-0 under the UFC banner after making good on his Octagon debut earlier this year with a win over Esteban Ribovics. The former Professional Fighters League (PFL) veteran takes on Mateusz Rębecki, who is on a highly-impressive, 14-fight win streak, which includes winning his first fight inside the Octagon against Nick Fiore at the beginning of this year.
In further Welterweight action, Randy Brown will do battle with Wellington Turman. Brown had his four-fight win streak snapped by Jack Maddalena in his previous bout, so he will likely come out of the gates a bit cautious to avoid his second straight loss. Turman, meanwhile, is a mixed bag, going 3-4 inside the eight-sided cage which simply won’t get it done if he ever wants to get close to even sniffing a Top 15 spot in the stacked 170-pound division.
They finally did the photoshoot with Zhalgas Zhumagulov’s hair cut pic.twitter.com/xT58kmpWLE— MMA Mania (@mmamania) June 14, 2023
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Zhalgas Zhumagulov came into the Octagon in 2020 for the first time on a four-fight win streak, but his time under the UFC banner has been horrid. After losing his first two fights, he managed to score a win over Jerome Rivera. But, his sunny days quickly turned cloudy again as he proceeded to lose three straight, putting him at a paltry 1-5 inside the Octagon. Should he lose his fourth straight to UFC newcomer, Joshua Van, I don’t foresee the promotion keeping him around.
Interest Level: 6.5/10
It’s a solid card, though the early start time is a bit perplexing. Nevertheless, we should be in for a solid mid-day of fights. In the co-main event. Maycee Barber and Amanda Ribas will tango in what should be a interesting and highly-competitive bout. After a rough patch that saw her lose two straight — along with the momentum as “The Future” of the division — Barber has turned it around and won four in a row. One of her losses came to current champion, Alexa Grasso, so she is eying a re-do of that fight, especially if Grasso still has the belt around her waist after Sept. 16.
Ribas also started her career off blazing hot with four straight wins but has cooled some over the last two years, going an even 2-2, alternating wins an losses along the way. A win over Barber gets her closer to the Top 5 and sets her up for bigger matchups, inching her close to the big dance. Ribas has a lot of energy, but Barber is a buzz saw than can match it and then take it to another level.
Brendan Allen has once again found his groove by winning four straight in the span of 12 months. He is eyeing a spot in the Top 10 if he capture a victory against Bruno Silva, who has gotten off to mixed results start to his UFC career. He did come out of the gates with three consecutive knockout wins, but then went on to loss back-to-back fights to Alex Pereira and Gerald Meerschaert. He bounced back nicely by knocking out Brad Tavares in the first round earlier this year, and will count on that momentum to get his rhythm going against a hard-nosed Middleweight in Allen who is showing no signs of letting his foot off the gas pedal.
UFC Jacksonville Main Event On ABC/ESPN+:
145 lbs.: Josh Emmett vs. Ilia Topuria
UFC Jacksonville Main Card on ABC/ESPN+ (3 p.m. ET):
125 lbs.: Maycee Barber vs. Amanda Ribas
265 lbs.: Austen Lane vs. Justin Tafa
145 lbs.: David Onama vs. Gabriel Santos
185 lbs.: Brendan Allen vs. Bruno Silva
UFC Jacksonville ‘Prelims’ Card on ESPN/ESPN+ (12 p.m. ET):
170 lbs.: Neil Magny vs. Phil Rowe
170 lbs.: Randy Brown vs. Wellington Turman
155 lbs.: Loik Radzhabov vs. Mateusz Rebecki
115 lbs.: Tabatha Ricci vs. Gillian Robertson
125 lbs.: Joshua Van vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov
155 lbs.: Chepe Mariscal vs. Trevor Peek
145 lbs.: Jamall Emmers vs. Jack Jenkins
125 lbs.: Kleydson Rodrigues vs. Tatsuro Taira— CANCELED (full details here)
185 lbs.: Sedriques Dumas vs. Cody Brundage
*Fight card, bout order and number of fights remain subject to change.*
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Jacksonville fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ABC (also on ESPN+) at 3 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Jacksonville news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.