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RANI YAHYA VS. RAY RODRIGUEZ

Bantamweights Rani Yayha and Ray Rodriguez square off in a contest that has a high probability of ending inside the distance.

A decorated grappler and 38-fight veteran, Yahya makes his 2021 debut searching for his first victory since the summer of 2018 after losing to Ricky Simon in his lone appearance of 2019 before battling Enrique Barzola to a majority draw last spring in Brasilia. The 36-year-old Brazilian has earned 20 of his 26 career victories by submission and, despite his recent two-fight winless skid, is still 7-2-1 over his last 10 starts.

The 33-year-old Rodriguez finally made it to the Octagon last summer after grinding on the regional circuit for 21 fights, but his debut was short-lived as Brian Kelleher snatched up a guillotine choke to secure the tap just 39 seconds into the opening round. “The Judge” has shared the cage with a host of familiar names including Jimmy Flick, Chris Gutierrez, and Steven “Ocho” Peterson, and will look to pick up his first UFC victory as he takes on Yahya on Saturday evening.

 

CHARLES JOURDAIN VS. MARCELO ROJO

Following a frustrating, but educational, year in 2020, Charles Jourdain makes his first start of the year in hopes of securing his second UFC victory as he takes on newcomer Marcelo Rojo.

A two-division champion under the TKO banner before graduating to the UFC, the 25-year-old Jourdain closed out 2019 with a bang, registering a second-round stoppage win over Dooho Choi in his hometown of Busan, South Korea. But a split decision loss to Andre Fili and a split draw result against Josh Culibao in October have left the talented French-Canadian eager to get back in there and rebuild the momentum he lost last year.

Rojo was scheduled to make his UFC debut as a late replacement opponent for Raoni Barcelos at the end of last month, only for the Brazilian was forced off the card a few days later. The Argentinian, who replaces Steve Garcia, is 8-2 in his last 10 fights and trains with the crew at the Entram Gym in Tijuana, Mexico. An all-action fighter who hasn’t been to the scorecards since the early days of his career, Rojo is a powerful striker who enters Saturday’s contest with nothing to lose and the opportunity to make a massive impact in his short-notice debut.

 

JONATHAN MARTINEZ VS. DAVEY GRANT

Bantamweights Jonathan Martinez and Davey Grant are set to go toe-to-toe in this banger tucked away on the preliminary card.

The 26-year-old Martinez has won four of his last five after dropping his promotional debut, and most would argue he should be on a five-fight winning streak given that his split decision loss to Andre Ewell last February was one of the most debated decisions of the year. Undeterred by that verdict, the Factory X Muay Thai representative returned to action in August, scoring a third-round stoppage win over Frankie Saenz before finishing out the year with a unanimous decision win over Thomas Almeida at featherweight.

This is a really intriguing clash between an emerging youngster and a dangerous, gritty veteran in a highly competitive division, one you don’t want to miss this weekend. Do not be surprised if these two set the Fight of the Night bar relatively high early in the evening Saturday night in Las Vegas.

A finalist on Season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter, Grant is one of the most star-crossed talents on the UFC roster, as injuries have limited the 35-year-old Brit to just five appearances since his debut in November 2013. Last time out, the man from Bishop Auckland, County Durham, England secured a third-round knockout win over Martin Day to earn his second consecutive win, but has been sidelined ever since.


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