This weekend in the UFC, we have a matchup that is going to showcase the featherweight division in the main event. #11 Sodiq Yusuff takes on #13 Edson Barboza at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. 

Yusuff is one of those first stars to come off of Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS) after he earned his UFC contract with a win over Mike Davis back on the 2018 season. This fight now has 6.4 million views on YouTube alone, which has helped Yusuff build his platform. The Contender Series has become the flagship platform for prospect fighters to basically audition for a spot on the roster with an impressive performance in front of Dana White and the UFC powers that be. DWCS has produced UFC champions such as Sean O’Malley and Jamahal Hill. 

If you follow Sodiq online, his breakdowns that he does on Instagram are absolutely hilarious. He puts out his analysis on each card, but it’s a funny take to a lot of them that highlights appearances, styles, and so much more. 

He is a dynamic fighter who has a diverse skill set, but he’s going to have his hands full taking on a veteran this weekend in the legendary Edson Barboza.

Edson Barboza had his biggest run in the sport in the lightweight division, but him going down to featherweight, he’s still been able to compete with some of the best of the best out there. In his last fight six months ago, he knocked out the surging prospect Billy Quarantillo with a knee that earned him a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus. And, if we know anything about Edson Barboza, there’s still going to be a lot of flair to his game whenever he leads the dance. Whenever Barbosa leads and keeps his opponents in kicking range, he is one of the best kickers that MMA has ever seen (see Terry Etim wheelkick KO at UFC 142).  

In terms of routes to victory, though, Yusuff has more to offer. He’s a superior grappler, but he’s going to have to figure out a way to get within that range to be able to take the action down to the canvas that way. Getting into a kickboxing matchup with 4 oz. gloves against someone who has the knees and elbows like Barbosa is a bad idea.

But overall, I think that whether it’s the wrestling or just being able to put a body on Barboza up against the fence, that’s been his Achilles heel throughout his career. When he fought Khabib, he had that thousand mile stare going when Khabib was holding him down up against the fence delivering ground and pound.

It’s not to say that Barbosa hasn’t evolved or grown since that point, but there is one area of his game that is definitely lacking in comparison to his world-class striking. So if you’re Sodiq Youssef, the smart play says we’re not going to play that game with him since we have grappling tools in our arsenal that are superior.

In the co-main event, we have a women’s flyweight matchup between Jennifer Maia and Viviane Araujo. That’s going to be a fight that I expect to see a fair amount of grappling. In all likelihood, we are looking at a fight that will go the distance without a whole lot of explosive action.

In terms of a matchup that pops off of the page, this isn’t it – especially for a co-main event fight. Add to it that there are ranked fighters and matchups lower on the card that are guaranteed to get the fans going. Sure, these ladies may be ranked slightly higher, but the entertainment value for that coveted card spot just isn’t there. 

So which fight should be in that co-main position you ask? Look no further than bantamweights #13 Jonathan Martinez taking on #14 Adrian Yanez in the feature bout. This fight has banger written all over it. Fireworks will be seen in the octagon and this is a potential fight of the night candidate just based off of the two styles that these guys have. 

Martinez does his fight camps in Denver at Factory X, but he also has his own gym and team, MTZ Fight Club, down in down in Planview, Texas. Martinez is a more dynamic fighter than Yanez. Stylistically, it’s a tremendous matchup for Martinez because Yanez has a very boxing heavy style. He’s going to put a lot of weight on that lead leg and he likes to come forward. While Martinez also likes to bring the fight, he has better tools within his skillset. Martinez has a better kicking game and his explosive knee strikes has won him multiple performance bonuses; he is also the superior wrestler. Martinez’s last fight against Said Nurmagomedov put his grappling skills on full display.

It’s going to be an old fashioned stand-off where they’re both going to go out there and have a display of grit and heart. But, in a technical brawl, give me Jonathan Martinez any day of the week. Don’t be surprised Saturday evening if you see Jonathan take home a $50k Performance of the Night Bonus as opposed to a Fight of the Night recognition.

Those are the top three of the card, but there are so many other fights and fighters to keep your eye on this weekend.

There is one matchup that is scheduled to be the second fight of the card that makes no sense for it to be that early in the show. How in the world is #15 Chris ‘El Guapo’ Gutierrez the second fight on the prelims as a ranked fighter against all the Alatengheili? There’s another bantamweight matchup that is scheduled to open the main card between Cameron Saaimon and Cristian Rodriguez.

It’s no disrespect to these guys, but they’re still very young in their UFC careers. They only have a couple of fights under the promotional banner, and you have a ranked guy that is below them? In terms of bout scheduling, which is always subject to change, just doesn’t make sense to me.

There’s an interesting matchup on the main card that’s going down between middleweight Andre Petroski and Michel Pereira. This is Pereira’s first walk to the UFC octagon at 185 lbs after multiple misses at 170 lbs, most famously the recent miss against Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson that resulted in that fight being canceled. Pereira is a very interesting fighter as a whole because he’s so explosive with his movements and I want to know how him going to 185 affects his ability to manage his energy efficiency. At times, those big and explosive movements at welterweight would leave him exhausted and gassed out, so him moving up to middleweight is interesting to me. 

Andre Petroski is filling in on short notice, so his stamina will also be under observance. If we know anything about Andre, we know that Andre is a solid wrestler, but wrestling is energy-consuming – especially against someone as big and explosive as Pereira.

Petroski has got those Pennsylvania wrestling chops and comes from that same Philadelphia camp that has tremendous momentum right now with guys like Joe Pyfer, Pat Sabatini, Sean Brady, etc. I think the smart bet for Andre is to not mess around with the striking game in this matchup and go straight after Pereira to try to take him down. From the southpaw stance, Petroski has one of the best single leg takedowns on the roster. Petroski will need to set his shots up though, because Pereira has shown that he will throw that knee right up the middle and will also try to time the level change to meet his opponent with a flying knee. This is a couple of guys who are muscled up and may run each other into the red-line, so we’ll see how that goes in terms of the endurance between the two of them.

Petroski has built up a nice little resumé for himself as well in the UFC since appearing on The Ultimate Fighter 29 and has shown that he can win fights at the middleweight division with his streak sitting at five wins in a row. How will he do against someone who presents the dynamic, striking threats and the unorthodox attacks and tactics that Pereira has? That’s why they fight the fight. 

Darren ‘The Damage’ Elkins squares off against TJ Brown in the featherweight division.

Now, if you’ve ever seen a Darren Elkins fight, folks, you know that there is going to be damage taking place. That’s not his nickname for no reason, he also has one of potentially the worst tattoos in the UFC right across the center of his chest saying ‘The Damage’, but that is on brand for Darren Elkins.

T.J. Brown is a savvy veteran of that division, but, this matchup is going to play out based on which version of Elkins shows up. Elkins is a guy who can either put it together and look solid with finishing capability, or he’s going to get tenderized like a cheap steak. Either way, he’s never out of a fight until you completely put him out.

But, with as much damage as he’s accumulated through the years, you just always have to wonder, has that punch ticker gone one too many past its stopping point? So that’s going to be something that we’ll have to see coming into this weekend. If Elkins gets sloppy shooting a takedown, T.J. Brown has a really solid guillotine, so be on the look for that. 

There’s one last matchup on this card, or one last fighter, that I think you just have to ask the question: how much does the UFC love them some Terrance ‘T-Wrecks’ McKinney? With as talent rich as the roster already is at 155 lbs, they signed Brendon Marotte on short notice to make his UFC debut. There are also regional promotion champions who did not get this nod that the 8-1 Marotte with a combined opponent record of 32-36 received.