ALEXANDR ROMANOV VS. JUAN ESPINO
Intriguing heavyweight grapplers collide here as Alexandr Romanov looks to build on his solid rookie campaign as he takes on TUF 28 winner Juan Espino.
In less than two months last fall, Romanov established himself as someone to track in the big boy ranks by racking up back-to-back submission wins over Roque Martinez and Marcos Rogerio de Lima to give him 13 finishes in 13 career starts. The 30-year-old from Moldova has a little Aleksei Oleinik to his game, attacking with unconventional setups and chokes once the fight hits the canvas, including the forearm choke he used to finish de Lima.
The same can be said of Espino, who rolled through the competition on Season 28 of The Ultimate Fighter, submitting Maurice Greene in the semifinals before tapping Justin Frazier with a straight armlock in the finals. The 40-year-old Spaniard finally returned to action last fall and picked up where he left off, quickly dispatching Jeff Hughes with a scarf hold choke in September.
While neither man is currently positioned inside the Top 15, this should be an entertaining battle between two compelling names in the heavyweight division that could position the winner for another step-up in competition next time out.
JESSICA PENNE VS. LUPITA GODINEZ
After being a late scratch from the UFC 260 lineup, former title challenger Jessica Penne finally returns to action this weekend, fighting for first time in nearly four years, as she takes on undefeated newcomer Lupita Godinez.
It’s been a long road back to the Octagon for Penne, who has been sidelined by injuries and suspensions since suffering a unanimous decision loss to Danielle Taylor in April 2017. The former TUF semifinalist has dropped three straight heading into this one, but she has a wealth of experience and trains with a great team, so it will be interesting to see how she looks after this much time away.
Fighting out of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Godinez went 1-0-1 against current UFC fighter Sam Hughes during her amateur career and is 5-0 since turning pro, earning the biggest victory of her career last time out when she earned a majority decision win over Vanessa Demopoulos to claim the LFA strawweight title. Now the 27-year-old Titan MMA representative looks to make an instant impression in her UFC debut by defeating the former title challenger this weekend.