Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back with another exciting pay-per-view (PPV) offering as UFC 291 is set to go down later TONIGHT (Sat., July 29, 2023) from inside Delta Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. The event — which streams via ESPN+ PPV — will feature a thrilling rematch between Lightweight standouts Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje. This time around the “Baddest Motherf—ker” belt will be up for grabs. Co-headlining the event will be a Light Heavyweight battle between Jan Blachowicz and Alex Pereira, who will be making his debut at 205 pounds.
Gaethje and Poirier fought once before in 2018 – which resulted in a technical knockout win for Poirier – but this time around the two hard-hitting Lightweights will be battling for
gold silver, because the victor will walk away with the “BMF” belt once held by Jorge Masvidal. Speaking of which, “Gamebred” will be on hand to present the belt, which he earned by stopping Nate Diaz at UFC 244 in 2019.
When you think of “BMF’s” they don’t get better than these two. Both men have a laundry list of victims, a library collection of knockouts and loyal fan bases. So if we had to put up the “BMF” belt again, there is no one better than to have Poirier or Gaethje walk away with the strap. As for the fight itself, I don’t expect anything different than the first in regard to the bout playing out on the feet. Both men have made their bread and butter in the standup, so don’t expect either one to stray from the norm and make it into a grappling match. Gaethje may pack just a tad bit more power but “The Diamond” is more polished with his technique. While Gaethje loves to throw caution to the wind and make his battles all out slobber-knockers, Poirier is not the one to play that dangerous game with.
But, just like Poirier put on the finishing touches on “Highlight” in the first fight, it could easily be the other way around because Gaethje truly packs one-punch knockout power. While the “BMF” belt may be cool for bragging rights, the winner likely gets an even better prize because he will be the front-runner to face the winner of the upcoming rematch between division champion, Islam Makhachev, and former title holder, Charles Oliveira.
A slimmed down Derrick Lewis — who apparently now has abs — will attempt to get back in the win column after suffering three straight losses to Tai Tuivasa, Sergei Pavlovich and Sergey Spivak. That’s quite a downfall for a former title contender who was at one time considered one of the best big men on the planet. But now “Black Beast” will look to hit the reset button and rely on his new slimmed down physique for an edge against Marcos Rogerio de Lima, who is on a two-fight win streak and is 4-1 overall in his last five fights.
I like the fight because it’s two big men throwing heavy bombs and anything can happen and “Black Beast” always delivers. But what I have a problem with (again) is the matchmaking. De Lima is trending upwards while Lewis hasn’t look good in a while now. I get that Lewis has name value and a large following, but I often get confused as to why agents, managers (or the fighter himself) accept a fight for his client with a struggling fighter while his is on a decent hot streak. One can only imagine it’s to take advantage of said struggles while capitalizing on the name value. But there will be some that will likely downplay a win for de Lima should he get it based on Lewis’ recent woes.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
Paulo Costa was scheduled to face Ikram Aliskerov, but was pulled from the event so that he can fight Khamzat Chimaev at the upcoming UFC 294 fight card in October. And the MMA fan base, for one, is thankful for the move. Also, Joanne Wood was forced out of her scheduled bout against Priscila Cachoeira in a Flyweight fight for undisclosed reasons, and was replaced by Miranda Maverick. Plus, Matthew Semelsberger and Yohan Lainesse were in line to thrown down at this event but was scrapped after Lainesse was bounced from the fight, also for undisclosed reasons. Stepping in to fill the void is Uros Medic.
No injuries were reported for this event, but Michel Pereira was forced out of his scheduled fight against Stephen Thompson after missing weight by three pounds. They could've likely went on to compete at a Catchweight, but Thompson decided it would not be in his best interest since he did his job to cut the weight, while Pereira did not. It’s quite the move for “Wonderboy,” who would’ve earned a bigger paycheck by accepting a portion of Pereira’s fight purse.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
Maverick will look to get back into the win column after her two-fight win streak was snapped by Jasmine Jasudavicius. Maverick will face Priscila Cachoeira, who has won two straight and is 4-1 in her last five fights inside the Octagon. She has really found her groove after a rocky start to her UFC career.
Uros Medic did UFC a solid by agreeing to step in to face Matthew Semelsberger after Yohan Lainesse was forced out. Medic is 2-1 so far in his young UFC career and is coming off an impressive technical knockout (TKO) win over Omar Morales. As for Semelsberger, he is coming off a tough split-decision loss at the hands of Jeremiah Wells.
After starting off his UFC career with two straight losses, Roman Kopylov has found a bit of momentum after reeling off two straight wins. He was last seen knocking out Punahele Soriano earlier this year and now eyes his first three-fight win streak since 2018. He will be facing Claudio Ribeiro, who knocked out Joseph Holmes just two months ago.
Vinicius Salvador missed weight by 2.5 pounds and will now be forced to cough up 20-percent of his purse to C.J. Vergara. They will now fight at a catchweight of 128.5 lbs. Salvador is now in a do-or-die situation because he lost in his UFC debut and if he loses here he could be cut given his scale fail.
In the Welterweight division, Trevin Giles will attempt to pick up his third straight win as he tangles with the undefeated Gabriel Bonfim (14-0). Bonfim made his successful UFC debut earlier this year at UFC 283, submitting Mounir Lazzez in the first round (see it here). He is quickly showing promise and another impressive win here puts him on the fast track to getting bigger and better fights moving forward. But, Giles is out to get his own and if he can hand Bonfim his first defeat it boost his own stock tremendously.
Darrius Flowers is the lone UFC newcomer on this stacked card. “Beast Mode” finally gets his chance to prove himself on the big stage after earning his ticket via Contender Series. Of his 12 wins, eight have come via knockout with one submission. He will have a tough draw in his first fight against Jake Matthews who, despite going just 1-2 over his last three fights, will pose a big threat to the newcomer coming in on short notice after Miguel Baeza withdrew from the fight.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
At one point in time, Tony Ferguson looked unbeatable and was considered the most dangerous opponent for any Lightweight. He started his UFC career at 15-1 and went on a 12-fight win streak. But his last win came back in 2019 against Donald Cerrone. From there it was all downhill because “El Cucuy” has dropped his last five fights. Granted, it’s been against the best of the best, but he needs to get back into the win column in a hurry. He will have a hard time doing that against Bobby Green because “King” isn’t afraid of a good old fashion scrap. Green has also seen better days inside the cage, going 0-2-1 in his last three fights with his last win coming over 1.5 years ago. If he can get a win here he could be the reason Ferguson gets his walking papers after a long — and at times odd — career with the promotion.
Interest Level: 9/10
Shortly after losing to arch-nemesis, Israel Adesanya, Alex Pereira announced he’d be moving up to the Light Heavyweight division in search of that title. And his first draw in his new weight class is not an easy one because he was booked to face former division king, Jan Blachowicz (full preview here). Pereira has quickly become a fan-favorite, which is hard to believe because he is as quiet as they come and doesn’t exactly seek the spotlight. But once he steps into the cage things get very real, very fast. He packs power and the sheer size of him is daunting. He is must-see T.V. and has a huge chance to make his case for a title shot with a win over Blachowicz, who is 6-1-1, with his lone loss during that span coming against Pereira’s mentor, Glover Teixeira. Meanwhile, Blachowicz is all about playing spoiler, much like he did with Adesanya after he shut him out to prevent him from becoming UFC’s next champ-champ. Keep your eyes peeled to the television set because this one could end early.
In another Welterweight bout, Michael Chiesa returns after a near two-year layoff due to injury to face off against the always-game Kevin Holland. “Maverick” is currently on a two-fight losing streak and needs a big win to prevent falling further down the ladder. As for Holland, he snapped his own two-fight skid at UFC 287 earlier this year by knocking out Santiago Ponzinibbio. In just five years with the promotion, Holland has competed a whopping 18 times, making him one of the, if not the most, active fighter in the game.
Will Gaethje get revenge on Poirier and secure himself another shot at the 155-pound title? Can Alex Pereira jump right into the Light Heavyweight picture with an impressive showing in his debut? Will Derrick Lewis return to his winning ways?
All those questions and more will be answered in what is sure-to-be one of the most action-filled PPV events of the year.
Enjoy the fights!
UFC 291 PPV Main Event On ESPN+:
155 lbs.: Dustin Poirier vs. Justin Gaethje for BMF title
UFC 291 PPV Main Card On ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):
205 lbs.: Jan Blachowicz vs. Alex Pereira
170 lbs.: S tephen Thompson vs. Michel Pereira- CANCELED
265 lbs.: Derrick Lewis vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima
155 lbs.: Tony Ferguson vs. Bobby Green
170 lbs.: Michael Chiesa vs. Kevin Holland
UFC 291 Prelims on ABC/ESPN/ESPN+ (8 p.m. ET):
170 lbs.: Gabriel Bonfim vs. Trevin Giles
125 lbs.: C.J. Vergara vs. Vinicius Salvador
185 lbs.: Roman Kopylov vs. Claudio Ribeiro
170 lbs.: Jake Matthews vs. Darrius Flowers
UFC 291 Early Prelims on ESPN+ (7 p.m. ET):
170 lbs.: Matthew Semelsberger vs. Uros Medic
125 lbs.: Miranda Maverick vs. Priscila Cachoeira
*Fight card, bout order and number of fights remain subject to change.*
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 291 fight card right RIGHT HERE, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches at 7:00 p.m. ET, followed by the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+/ABC at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 291: “Poirier vs. Gaethje 2” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here. For the updated and finalized UFC 291 fight card and ESPN+ lineup click here.