Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to the pay-per-view (PPV) market with one of the most highly-anticipated events of the year as UFC 290 goes down later TONIGHT (Sat., July 8, 2023) from inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Headlining the event will be a Featherweight title unification bout between division kingpin, Alexander Volkanovski, and interim 145-pound champion, Yair Rodriguez. Co-headlining the event is a men’s Flyweight title fight between champion, Brandon Moreno, and Alexandre Pantoja. But, that’s not all, former Middleweight title holder, Robert Whittaker, makes his return to take on surging contender, Dricus Du Plessis.
How To Watch/Stream UFC 290
Start Time (United States)
- ESPN+ PPV main card: 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT start on ESPN+ (order it here).
- “Prelims” undercard (late): 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT start, streaming online via ESPN+ and simulcast on ABC/ESPN in the United States.
- “Prelims” undercard (early): 6 p.m. ET / 3 p.m. PT start, streaming online via ESPN+ and simulcast on Fight Pass in the United States.
Despite putting up a valiant effort, Volkanovski came up short in his bid to become UFC “champ-champ” in his previous bout against Lightweight champion, Islam Makhachev. Now, “The Great” returns to his true stomping grounds at Featherweight in an attempt to continue to add to his ever-growing legacy as he eyes consecutive title defense No. 5 against one of the hottest fighters at 145 pounds in Yair Rodriguez. “Pantera” claimed the interim strap by submitting Josh Emmett at UFC 284 (highlights) and improved to 4-1-1 over his last six fights. Rodriguez had been considered a future title contender early on in his career, but a couple of hiccups along the way and contractual misunderstandings with UFC slowed his roll. Now, the Mexican-born fighter is out to become the undisputed champion almost a full decade into his UFC career.
Volkanovski has dominated the Featherweight division with an iron fist for some time now. Even before he became champion, the Aussie showed right away that he’d be a force for years to come, though it’s safe to say his coming out party was when he pieced up Chad Mendes at UFC 232 in 2018, which was preceded by a dominant win over Jose Aldo, earning him his first-ever shot at the title. What followed was a title win over Max Holloway — then two more title defenses over “Blessed” — finally prompting even the most die-hard Holloway fans that there was indeed a new sheriff in town, though the first win over the Hawaiian should have been more than enough to stake that claim. Nevertheless, Volkanovski has shown very little weaknesses in the division. Even when Brian Ortega had him on the ropes with an air-tight guillotine choke, “The Great” fought through it and took home the belt. And after going five intense rounds with Makhachev in a higher weight class, there doesn’t seem to be anyone at 145 pounds who will move the boulder in the middle of the road that is Volkanovski on the way to grabbing the title.
But, Rodriguez intends to change all of that as he eyes a history-making win in “Sin City” by attempting to join Brandon Moreno and Alexa Grasso as the third undisputed champion from Mexico since Irene Aldana blew her shot. Rodriguez’s striking is what has made him a threat to all 145 pounders, but his submission victory over Emmett proved that he is far from a one-trick pony. He will need to bust out all of his bag of tricks against “The Great” because there isn’t anything Volkanovski hasn’t seen before. But, that’s where Rodriguez poses some danger because he is an unorthodox striker and will throw an array of strikes most opponents don’t see coming. Then again, taking the risks of throwing those low-percentage strikes against someone like Volkanovski can set one up for failure. It will be an interesting chess match in a fight that will likely need all 25 minutes to determine a winner.
My only beef with this card is that the promotion failed to give Robbie Lawler a PPV main card send off in his retirement fight, as he is booked to battle Niko Price on the undercard. I get that “Ruthless” isn’t the same world-beater with one-punch knockout power that once ruled the Welterweight division, but he is a long-time veteran, a first ballot UFC Hall of Famer and yet, matchmakers opted to put him on the “Prelims” and place Dan Hooker vs. Jalin Turner on the main card instead. I understand that he is 1-5 in his last six fights — and Price is coming off a loss — but Lawler is still one of the most beloved fighters by fans in the history of the sport and would have loved to see him get a main card spot. But, I guess headlining the ABC portion of the event is good enough ... right?
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
Deiveson Figueiredo was originally slated to face Manel Kape at this event before “Daico” announced that he was not medically cleared to fight. Soon thereafter, he decided he’d be moving up to the Bantamweight division.
Josiah Harrell got an opportunity to step in to face Jack Della Maddalena after Sean Brady was forced out with a staph infection, but the undefeated (7-0) UFC rookie was then scratched from the fight himself shortly after the weigh-ins when an MRI scan revealed that he had a rare brain disease the would require surgery. Thankfully, it was detected before fight night.
One week before the biggest fight of his career, Tresean Gore suffered a torn ligament in his wrist that rendered him unable to proceed with his fight against Bo Nickal. Luckily, the promotion was able to count on the services of Val Woodburn to fill the void on super short notice.
Woodburn was supposed to compete on Contender Series next month, but opportunity knocked and he was quick to open the door, which will lead him to a main card spot on one of the biggest PPV events of the year. And it also comes against one of the most highly-touted prospects in the game in Nickal. The wrestling phenom made good on his UFC debut at UFC 285 and extended his streak of first-round finishes to four. Nickal is obviously still very new to the game, but he is on the fast track to stardom and a win here only helps his cause. A loss, on the other hand, would be a travesty for the former three-time NCAA Division 1 national champion and his progression up the totem poll of UFC poster boys, which is obviously what the promotion wants for him. Woodburn is undefeated (7-0) with five knockouts on his resume, so that means he will have to pop off his strikes often and early before he takes a ride down to the canvas, which never ends good for anyone once Nickal is on top of them.
Terrence Mitchell will bring his 11-fight win streak to the Octagon as he battles Cameron Saaiman in a Bantamweight affair. “Terr-Bear” has a 100 percent finish rate — seven knockouts and seven submissions — with 12 of them coming in the first round. Saaiman, on the other hand, is undefeated (8-0) with six stoppage wins. He is 2-0 inside the Octagon after earning his way through via Contender Series.
Former Fury Fighting Championships Flyweight champion, Edgar Chairez, brings his talents to the Octagon as he is booked to battle Tatsuro Taira, who is undefeated at 13-0, 3-0 UFC. Chairez came up short in his fight on Contender Series, but he never withered and now ends up on the biggest stage of them all. His first draw is a tough one because Taira has been perfect so far in his mixed martial arts (MMA) career. With a finish percentage rate of 77 for Taira and 72 for Chairez, this fight has all of the makings of a “Fight of the Night” contender.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
Yazmin Jauregui wasted no time in becoming a fan-favorite in just two fights inside the Octagon, including her UFC debut against Iasmin Lucindo in Aug. 2022. She will attempt to move up to 3-0 inside the eight-walled cage — 11-0 overall — when she takes on Denis Gomes, who is 1-1 so far in her own young UFC run.
In the Light Heavyweight division, Jimmy Crute and Alonzo Menifield will run it back after their first fight fought to a draw at UFC 284. Crute had lost his previous two fights, while Menifield was on a two-fight win streak coming into their first fight, so it’s safe to say Crute needs a win here in the worst way.
In another bout at 205 pounds, Marcin Prachnio eyes his second straight win when he battles Vitor Petrino, who is undefeated (8-0). Petrino is another Contender Series alum who is off to a nice start to his UFC career, winning his Octagon debut against Anton Turkalj four months ago.
In the Lightweight division, Kamuela Kirk will look to get back on track after getting choked out by Damon Jackson in his previous fight when he takes on Esteban Ribovics, who failed to impress in his UFC debut by losing to Loik Radzhabov, which was the first loss of his UFC career after rattling off 11 straight wins.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Despite losing his fight on Contender Series in Aug. 2022, Shannon Ross was given the chance to step in to fight at UFC 284 against Kleydson Rodriguez, a fight he lost via knockout in less than one minute. That’s not the best way to make your entrance into UFC, but he gets another chance to make things right against Jesus Santos Aguilar, who also lost his UFC debut against Tatsuro Taira (also in the first round). This could very well be a “Loser Leaves Town” match.
Interest Level: 9/10
Moreno finally put Figueiredo in his rear-view mirror after the duo took part in the rare quadrilogy inside the Octagon at UFC 283. Now, Moreno wants to put another rival in his past as he attempts to get some revenge with a win over Alexandre Pantoja. The two initially met back in The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) tournament in 2018, with Pantoja defeating Moreno via rear-naked choke. Two years later in the rematch, he took home a unanimous decision win over "Assassin Baby." Their paths took different directions since then, with Moreno enjoying more success by becoming champion. But, Pantoja wants what Moreno has and his wins over him gives him all the confidence in the world to get a third victory and become champion. Moreno has improved leaps and bounds since that first two encounters and it will be not be a walk in the park for anyone looking to dethrone him. He has a well-rounded skill set and has quickly become one of the most popular fighters on UFC’s roster thanks to his joyful and playful personality to go along with his lethal skills inside the cage. But, Pantoja is all business and wants to go up 3-0 against the Mexican-born champion, which could very well set up ... wait for it ... another quadrilogy for Moreno.
Dan Hooker earned a much-needed win over Claudio Puelles at UFC 281, preventing him from suffering his third straight loss and falling to 1-5 in his six tries. He will look to use that momentum in his fight against Jalin Turner, who is coming off a tough split decision loss to Mateusz Gamrot at UFC 285, snapping his five-fight win streak. Turner has shown that he has a bright future at Lightweight despite his most recent setback, and he looks to take out his aggression on a struggling fighter who eagerly wants to return to his ways of consistent winning. That said, he did miss weight by two pounds, and will now be forced to pay 20 percent of his fight purse to Hooker.
It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that the winner of the Robert Whittaker vs Dricus Du Plessis fight will be facing Middleweight champion, Israel Adesanya, later this year. It’s a trilogy fight I am sure “The Reaper” wants back after losing twice to “The Last Stylebender.” As for Du Plessis, he has been lobbying for a fight against Adesanya for some time now, but he first has to get through one of his toughest fights to date. That’s not to say “DDP” hasn’t been putting in work (he has been) and his first five fights inside the Octagon are proof of that. In his first three years with the promotion he has defeated Darren Till, Derek Brunson and Brad Tavares, among others. He now has the chance to shine with a big win over a former champion and the No. 2-ranked fighter in the division that will earn him a trip to the big dance in a relative short time. But, Whittaker is as seasoned and polished as they come, something that isn’t lost on his foe. This is a great matchup and Du Plessis has a chance to have his coming out party here, while “The Reaper” aims to show everyone he’s far from done because at the end of the day the only person he’s lost to in nearly 10 years is Adesanya.
Enjoy the fights!
UFC 290 PPV Main Event On ESPN+:
145 lbs.: Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski vs. Yair Rodriguez
UFC 290 PPV Co-Main Event On ESPN+:
125 lbs.: Flyweight champion Brandon Moreno vs. Alexandre Pantoja
UFC 290 PPV Main Card On ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):
185 lbs.: Robert Whittaker vs. Dricus Du Plessis
155 lbs.: Dan Hooker vs. Jalin Turner
185 lbs.: Bo Nickal vs. Valentine Woodburn (Tresean Gore injured)
UFC 290 ‘Prelims’ Card on ABC/ESPN/ESPN+ (8 p.m. ET):
170 lbs.: Robbie Lawler vs. Niko Price
170 lbs.: Jack Della Maddalena vs. Josiah Harrell(Canceled)
115 lbs.: Yazmin Jauregui vs. Denise Gomes
205 lbs.: Jimmy Crute vs. Alonzo Menifield
UFC 290 Early ‘Prelims’ Card on ESPN+ (6 p.m. ET):
205 lbs.: Vitor Petrino vs. Marcin Prachnio
125 lbs.: Jesus Aguilar vs. Shannon Ross
155 lbs.: Kamuela Kirk vs. Esteban Ribovics
135 lbs.: Terrence Mitchell vs. Cameron Saaiman
125 lbs.: Edgar Chairez vs. Tatsuro Taira
*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 290 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard bouts on ABC/ESPN/ESPN+ 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 290: “Volkanovski vs. Rodriguez” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here. For the updated and finalized UFC 290 fight card and PPV lineup click here.