The state of the art UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas, Nev., will serve as the host for UFC Fight Night: Woodley vs Burns. The 50,000 square foot arena was built to host fights in an intimate setting as displayed on Dana White’s Contender series.

Be sure to check out The MMA Plug on Twitter and Instagram throughout the night for live event updates and information about what is going on in the fight game

Although it is not the biggest variable in the world, it is worth noting that the cage used in the Apex is slightly smaller than the typical UFC octagon. What does this mean? This means that fighters who normally use the full range of the cage to control their distance may have to make some in-fight adjustments to account for this. 

The 11 fights scheduled for Saturday’s event saw a lot of late additions to the card, including Denver’s Chris “El Guapo” Gutierrez and Brandon “Raw Dawg” Royval fighting out of Factory X. Royval will be making his UFC debut following a record-breaking world title fight victory for LFA last November.

Main Card

Woodley vs Burns

The main event between former welterweight title holder #1 Tyron Woodley and #6 Gilbert Burns is a wild and unexpected matchup. This is a huge risk for Woodley. Woodley will be fighting for the first time since losing his belt to Kamaru Usman, which ended his championship run that began back in 2016. 

Meanwhile, Burns has been surging up the ranks of the division while rattling off five straight with the most recent being a TKO against Demian Maia back in March at the crowdless show before the lockdown down in Brazil. 

This fight has major implications for Woodley. With a convincing victory, he’s right back in the discussion for another title shot. With loss, it will be a much longer road back to the title for the 38-year-old.

Expect to see the sharpest Woodley that you’ve seen in quite some time. That means keep an eye on that Thor’s hammer of a right fist.

Ivanov vs Sakai

Hammer the odds on this one not going to the cards. The heavyweight slugfest between #12 Blagoy Ivanov vs #13 Augusto Sakai may not even go past the first frame. The 14-1-1 Sakai has finished nearly every fight by KO/TKO, which makes for an interesting matchup with the iron-chinned Ivanov who has yet to see the sandman in 22 professional fights. 

Quarantillo vs Carlyle

The feature fight of the night is also likely to produce a finish from one of these Contender Series veterans. In 25 total fights, Billy Quarantillo and Spike Carlyle have a combined 19 finishes. Carlyle is going to try to keep this on the feet and let his hands do the work. Quarantillo is also heavy-handed, but he has a ground game that has produced submissions in the UFC.

Roberts vs Weaver

In a lightweight bout, the “GoGetta” Roosevelt Roberts makes the walk against Brok Weaver. Weaver will forfeit 20 percent of his purse right away to Roberts after missing weight Friday morning. 

Weaver is a scrapper. There’s no denying the warrior spirit lives within “Chata Tuska” as he’s even taken the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship ring against UFC vet Joe Riggs. After this fight in BKFC, Weaver went on a run on the regional scene that landed him an opportunity on the Contender Series 2019 season. 

Roberts also punched his UFC ticket on the Contender Series as an undefeated prospect back in 2018. Roberts has gone 3-1 since being in the UFC. Roberts is proficient in all areas, and will likely push the pace on Weaver.

Weaver’s key to success will be to make it ugly. His best chance for victory is to turn it into a brawl and force Roberts to make a mistake.

Dern vs Cifers

Mackenzie Dern against Hannah Cifers may be the most lopsided matchup of the evening on paper. The BJJ world-champion Dern is the biggest favorite on the entire card against the scrappy Cifers. It should come as no surprise that much larger Dern will look to take the kickboxer to the ground and work for a submission.


Chookagian vs Shevchenko

For the second time in two fights, #2 women’s flyweight Katlyn Chookagian will be fighting a Shevchenko. This time, she will be fighting #12 Antonina Shevchenko — sister of current champion Valentina whom Chookagian lost to via TKO last February. 

This will be one of the more technically sound fights of the evening. The champ’s older sister is a highly skilled Muay Thai fighter who produced a finish via knees in the clinch on the Contender Series. Chookagian surely has been well prepared with the programming from coach Mark Henry, so it will be interesting to see how this one plays out. 

Rodriguez vs Green

Daniel Rodriguez was originally set to face Kevin Holland, however due to an injury, Gabe Green will now fill the spot to face Rodriguez. Rodriguez entered the UFC in spectacular fashion back at UFC Rio Rancho with a blitzing finish that resulted in a standing guillotine against Tim Means. Rodriguez is also a Contender Series veteran. 

Green is a potential sleeper based on being a last minute guy, but he is a finisher that must be respected. In his 11 professional fights, he has never went the distance. He has nine finishes with six submissions and three KO/TKOs.

Abreu vs Hill

Klidson Abreu will look to hand Jamahall Hill his first defeat. Abreu is a well-rounded mixed martial artist who racked up a submission victory over Johnny Walker back on the regional scene. 

Hill is a young, explosive fighter who will have a 5” reach advantage on Saturday night. Hill doesn’t often find himself in bad positions, so his best bet is to stay out of the guard game from Abreu and take his chances picking him apart on the feet.

Elliott vs Royval

Long-time fan-favorite #11 Tim Elliott welcomes Factory X’s Brandon Royval to the UFC octagon. Royval, a Denver native, won the LFA flyweight world championship last November and he also topped our list for the “Colorado Fighters To Be On The Lookout For In 2020”.

Royval was set to take part in a Contender Series fight in June, but when the call from the UFC came, the opportunity became fast-tracked and the race to make final preparations and getting to 125 lbs. began. 

Keep in mind, Royval is fighting at 125 lbs. where finishes are not as prevalent as they are in other divisions. Well, “Raw Dawg” has nine finishes in ten wins with eight of the nine in the first round. Four of the eight happened in the first minute of the first round.

Kenney vs Smolka

In a bantamweight bout, we will see Casey Kenney take on Louis Smolka. Kenney is also a former LFA flyweight champion who has moved up weight divisions since signing with the UFC where he has compiled a 3-1 record, including an impressive win over Dennis Bermudez. 

Smolka is a journeyman who is on his second tour in the UFC. Smolka spent a couple of years in the promotion starting in 2014 before he hit a four fight skid, including losses to Tim Elliott and Brandon Moreno at flyweight, that led to his departure with the promotion. Smolka rebounded with a three fight win streak that got him back into the UFC. He has gone 2-1 since his return and recorded a TKO finish against Ryan MacDonald last fall.

Gutierrez vs Morales

Factory X’s Chris Gutierrez returns to the octagon for the first time since last August where he won via decision against Geraldo de Freitas. Gutierrez sustained a knee injury and underwent surgery to repair the damage. 

Gutierrez is the more experienced and more technical fighter coming out of a better camp. Gutierrez’s striking accuracy is going to pay dividends for him as the fight progresses into the later rounds. He does a great job of creating traps with his footwork while also being evasive. “El Guapo” is also well-known for the damage he is capable of doing with his leg kicks (example: de Freitas fight)

Gutierrez will use his superior fight IQ to pick and choose his shots against Morales who tends to leave himself open to counter strikes. Morales does have a right hand that’s worth respecting, Benito Lopez found that out. However, his tendency to “take one to give one” against a sniper like Gutierrez could prove to be problematic.

Preliminary card coverage will begin at 4 p.m. MDT on ESPN/ESPN+ with the main card scheduled for a 7 p.m. start.

 -Jordan Kurtz is a founding member of Comments From The Peanut Gallery and The MMA Plug and can be followed on Instagram at @CommentsFromThePeanutGallery and @TheMMAPlug303