NIKITA KRYLOV VS. MAGOMED ANKALAEV
Looking for an early victory that will propel them up the rankings, light heavyweights Nikita Krylov and Magomed Ankalaev meet in Saturday night’s co-main event.
Still only 28 years old, Krylov got back into the win column in his lone appearance of 2020, registering a unanimous decision victory over Johnny Walker in March. He was slated to face Volkan Oezdemir in October, but the bout was scuttled, leaving the intriguing, experienced Ukrainian fighter in a holding pattern in the shifting 205-pound ranks.
Last year was a strange one for Ankalaev, who fought twice and had three additional bouts fall through, with all five contests featuring the same opponent, Ion Cutelaba.
Watch Saturday With Your ESPN+ Subscription
After a premature stoppage in their February clash in Virginia, the tandem was first slated to run it back in April, and then booked twice more in August, with all three failing to hit the Octagon due to COVID. When they finally did meet for a second time, the outcome was the same, with Ankalaev registering a non-controversial first-round finish to push his winning streak to five.
This is a really interesting pairing, as Krylov is the younger, but more experienced of the two, having battled top contender Glover Teixeira to a split decision two fights back, while Ankalaev profiles as the competitor with the greater upside at the moment.
MONTANA DE LA ROSA VS. MAYRA BUENO SILVA
Flyweights looking to use this year to make headway in the increasingly competitive division clash in this main card pairing as Montana De La Rosa faces off against Mayra Bueno Silva.
A cast member on Season 26 of The Ultimate Fighter, De La Rosa earned three straight finishes to begin her UFC tenure, but has gone 1-2 since, following up her loss to Andrea Lee with a decision win over Mara Romero Borella before getting out-hustled by Viviane Araujo. She was slated to face Taila Santos in December, but was forced out of the matchup when one of her corners tested positive for COVID during Fight Week.
The 29-year-old Silva returned after 18 months on the sidelines in 2020, beginning the year with a unanimous decision loss to Maryna Moroz before rebounding with her own victory over Mara Romero Borella in September. A graduate of the all-Brazilian Contender Series bouts in the summer of 2018, “Sheetara” is 7-1 overall and trains out of the Chute Boxe Diego Lima camp that also includes current UFC competitors Charles Oliveira, Thomas Almeida, and Gloria de Paula, who also happens to be Silva’s partner.
Business has been picking up in the flyweight division over the last year, with new names arriving on the scene and familiar faces jockeying for position in the rankings. This one will go a long way towards determining where each of these two women fit within the shifting 125-pound weight class, with the victor potentially breaking into the Top 15.