After taking a rare week away from action, the UFC returns this Saturday with a showdown between top-five bantamweights at UFC Fight Night: Font vs. Aldo. Rob Font emerged as a top contender with a victory over former champion Cody Garbrandt in his most recent contest. That extended his winning streak to four and nearly earned him a shot at the interim title. Font had to decline a chance to fight Petr Yan on Fight Island as he recovered from an illness. Instead, he draws another former titleholder in José Aldo. Aldo looked to reset his career with a move down to bantamweight and, after a rocky start, has won two straight fights.
In the co-main event, the talent-stacked lightweight division pits two rising stars against each other as New Zealand’s Brad Riddell takes on Kazakhstan’s Rafael Fiziev. Both men have just one loss in their career. Riddell’s loss came back in 2018 in his lightweight debut, and Fiziev dropped his UFC debut in 2019. Since then, both men have looked increasingly impressive and have earned themselves a spot inside the rankings. With both men sitting just inside the top fifteen, an impressive performance for the winner will likely see them move into the top ten with a single-digit ranking next to his name.
Also on the main card is longtime UFC veteran Clay Guida, who will be making the walk for his 58th professional fight as he takes on Leonardo Santos. Both men enter the fight on the heels of losses and are in need of a victory to remain relevant inside the promotion.
UFC Fight Night: Font vs. Aldo will take place inside the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nev. The event airs in its entirety live on both ESPN+ and ESPN starting at with the prelims at 7 p.m. ET. The main event is set to start at 10 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Andrew Sumian and Matt Petela preview the action in this week’s edition of Toe-to-Toe.
Rob Font dominated former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt the last time he was in action; can he replicate that success against former featherweight king José Aldo?
Sumian: The winner of this highly anticipated bantamweight clash will surely find himself in the running for a title shot, or at the very least a title contender elimination bout. Both Aldo and Font have consistently established themselves as top-five talents in one of the UFC’s most loaded divisions by defeating quality opponents and showing continuous improvement. With the combatants currently holding the fourth and fifth spots in the rankings, expect the winner to be potentially challenging for the UFC bantamweight championship at some point in 2022.
Font has continuously displayed the capabilities of being a top-ranked bantamweight in the UFC ever since his debut back in 2014. The Massachusetts native had compiled a 10-1 record before getting the call to face George Roop at UFC 175 where he delivered a highlight-reel knockout and earned a “Performance of the Night” honor. He has, thus far, compiled a 9-3 record during his time with the promotion and currently riding a four-fight winning streak at the expense of guys like Marlon Moraes and Cody Garbrandt. Font is a technical striker who utilizes a patient and calculated approach inside the Octagon.
The majority of Font’s bouts consist of throwing accurate combinations and well-timed counters to get his opponents to bite and leave themselves open for a potential knockout. He does not prematurely chase finishes, and is rather disciplined in picking his opponents apart while allowing the finishes to naturally come to fruition. He will have to bring his absolute best to the table when he takes on the legendary Aldo in a fight that could launch his stock to the next level and put him one step closer to a title shot.
There have been many former champions who have lost their belts, but continued to compete well beyond their primes, resulting in lopsided defeats and poor performances. Fortunately for Aldo, he is not one of them. The former featherweight kingpin is arguably the greatest featherweight champion of all time, and certainly in the conversation of top-10 greatest mixed martial artists of all time. After losing a title eliminator bout to Alexander Volkanovski at featherweight, Aldo elected to make a move to bantamweight where he has thus far turned in a 2-2 record.
Aldo’s first two 135-pound fights consisted of a closely-contested, split-decision loss to the aforementioned Moraes and an unsuccessful battle with Petr Yan for the vacant bantamweight title. Since then, the Brazilian superstar has rebounded with impressive victories over Marlon Vera and Pedro Munhoz, launching him into the conversation of another potential title shot. Aldo’s crisp and accurate striking continues to be a force at bantamweight, as he gradually picks apart his opponents with leg kicks, 1-2 combinations and body shots. As long as the former champ continues to stay healthy and perform healthy weight cuts, expect him to continue to compete at a high level for the remainder of his UFC career.
This bout is another display of exceptional matchmaking and should provide the MMA world with an entertaining back-and-forth striking duel. Both Font and Aldo are calculated combination strikers capable of continuously landing on their opponents and delivering finishes. Font will need to keep the pressure on and not allow Aldo to establish his usual rhythm, which could pay dividends in the later rounds. On the other hand, Aldo will need to ensure he maintains some distance, so that he can utilize his exceptional striking and continuously land combinations to slow Font down by the time they hit the second half of the bout.
Despite his recent surge, Font has never faced an opponent as experienced and technical as Aldo. The former champ will yet again prove why he is one of the best in the world when he stays one step ahead and continuously lands combination after combination. Eventually, the Brazilian will go to the body and follow up with a perfectly timed straight that wobbles Font and results in a TKO victory. With this victory, expect Aldo to be one fight away from his second bantamweight title bout.
Petela: This is the age-old meeting of two fighters crossing paths, as one guy’s career trends upwards, and the other tries to hold off the inevitable decline that comes towards the end of a career. Font enters this fight on a four-fight winning streak and is coming off the two biggest wins of his career, stopping Moraes in less than a round and then, most recently, picking apart Garbrandt for twenty-five minutes.
Aldo has been doing a great job of holding onto his relevancy recently, bouncing back from a three-fight skid by picking up back-to-back wins over Marlon Vera and Pedro Munhoz. Font will prove to be a bridge far into his path towards another crack at the bantamweight title. At 35 years old, Aldo has been through numerous wars and has a less than .500 record since losing his title to Conor McGregor in 2015. He is just 2-2 at bantamweight, and, while his skills haven’t depleted much, he is taking on the most underrated fighter in the division. Font is perhaps the best bantamweight on the planet.
Font will stay behind his jab to pick Aldo apart early and often, largely limiting the effect of any leg kicks that the former featherweight champ throws. Font showed against Garbrandt that, not only does he have good takedown defense, he is able to get back to his feet quickly and effectively if he does find himself on the ground. This fight will be quite lopsided, and Aldo will wind up being a stationary target by the later rounds. Font won’t overcommit and chase a finish too desperately, so this one likely goes the distance, but the scorecards won’t be close, and there will be no doubt who won when the final bell sounds.
A pair of surging lightweights will look to crack the top ten with a victory; will it be Brad Riddell or Rafael Fiziev who gets his hand raised?
Petela: Riddell is yet to lose inside the UFC, and that winning streak will continue this weekend. This fight will be all-action for the entire 15 minutes, and, at the risk of being cliché, both of these fighters will leave a piece of themselves in the cage. They combine for five post-fight bonuses, and it would be no shock to see them each leave the UFC Apex with an extra $50,000.
Both of these fighters began their combat sports careers in the kickboxing and Muay Thai worlds, but have rounded out their skill sets nicely as they have evolved into complete mixed martial artists. That being said, they both still prefer to use their elite striking skills on the path to victory. This one will be a back-and-forth contest, but when the final bell sounds, Riddell will have done more damage and rises up the rankings and breaks into the single digits.
Sumian: This is indeed a very underrated, yet significant, lightweight bout, but I unfortunately disagree with my partner. Both are proven strikers, capable of dispatching a majority of lightweights currently on the UFC roster, but I give a slight edge to Fiziev due to his track record and Muay Thai background. Riddell is a skilled kickboxer in his own right, but he will suffer the first knockout loss of his career when Fiziev connects hard in the second round to finish off the Auckland native with ground-and-pound.
Azamat Murzakanov – do we need to know this name?
Sumian: These days, it seems like it’s hard to ignore any fighter who hails from Russia with an undefeated record. Murzakanov makes his UFC debut after a dominant TKO victory on Dana White’s Contender Series over Matheus Scheffel. The 35-year-old Nalchik native has compiled a perfect 10-0 record, with seven wins coming by way of knockout or submission. He takes on the towering Jared Vanderaa, who will be stepping in on short notice after Phillipe Lins pulled out for undisclosed reasons. This should prove to be a striking war, with both men looking to knock each other out. Murzakanov will need to overcome the reach and height of Vanderaa but certainly has a path to victory. A win over Vanderaa will certainly result in some attention to his name.
Petela: Yes, this is a guy who is hard to ignore and for good reason. He has crushing power and will deliver a lot of fun fights inside the promotion, with more wins than losses along the way. Title contention may be a bit of a stretch, but he’s a fighter who fans should keep an eye on over the next couple years.
What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?
Petela: Mallory Martin. She’s 1-2 since joining the UFC, and her two losses have come by submission. She takes on late-notice replacement Cheyanne Vlismas after her original opponent Montserrat Ruiz was forced to withdraw from the contest. Vlismas comes into the contest on the heels of battling COVID-19, but she will be healthy enough to pick up a win and ultimately bounce Martin from the promotion.
Sumian: Rob Font’s UFC title aspirations will forever come to an end if he suffers a loss to Aldo come Saturday night. The 34-year-old contender has had a pattern of rattling off several wins in a row before being derailed by a high-level contender and having to rebuild. The same will happen on Saturday when he loses to Aldo, and the door permanently closes for a chance to hold UFC gold.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Sumian: The light heavyweight bout between Alonzo Menifield and William Knight should prove to be very entertaining. The pair combine for 17 knockouts and carry some serious power. Expect these two to swing until someone goes down.
Petela: Alex Morono vs. Mickey Gall. Both of these fighters have been in high-profile fights, though somehow find themselves buried on the prelims of a relatively under-the-radar Fight Night card. Morono has shown the ability to finish fights with his hands as well as on the canvas, with six wins by knockout and six by submission. Gall clearly likes to get his work done in the grappling realm with six of his seven career victories coming by submission. This one will be a fun one as long as it lasts.
Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?
Petela: Brendan Allen. He has nine career wins by submission, and, this weekend, he will get his tenth. He has a tough test across the cage from him in PFL veteran Chris Curtis, who knocked out Phil Hawes in his UFC debut, but this one will wind up being largely one-way traffic in Allen’s favor. He will snatch up a submission before the close of the second round.
Sumian: Alex Morono. He will take the fight to Mickey Gall early and land a combination that staggers the former test subject for CM Punk. Morono will land himself a well deserved “Performance of the Night” honor for second time in three fights. Morono seems to have put everything together and is slowly making his climb towards the top 15 of the welterweight division.
Pair this card with…
Sumian: Barbequed Brazilian meat. Celebrate Aldo’s victory with some of Brazil’s most well-known food as the former champ revels in victory. There are a number of places where you can order pick-up or delivery and enjoy some tasty South American protein. You will not be disappointed.
Petela: As much as I hate to turn down a good Brazilian barbeque, the choice here is lobster mac and cheese. It will be Rob Font, not José Aldo, who gets the victory in the main event. Enjoy this fight night with the New England staple, that also makes for great leftovers for when you want to watch this stand out performance again later.
Main Card (ESPN/ESPN+, 10 p.m. ET)
BW: Rob Font vs. José Aldo
LW: Brad Riddell vs. Rafael Fiziev
LW: Clay Guida vs. Leonardo Santos
LHW: Jim Crute vs. Jamahal Hill
MW: Brendan Allen vs. Chris Curtis
Preliminary Card (ESPN/ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET)
MW: Maki Pitolo vs. Dusko Todorovic
FlyW: Manel Kape vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov
WW: Jake Matthews vs. Jeremiah Wells
Women’s StrawW: Cheyanne Vlismas vs. Mallory Martin
LHW: Alonzo Menifield vs. William Knight
LW: Claudio Puelles vs. Chris Gruetzemacher
LHW: Jared Vanderaa vs. Azamat Murzakanov
WW: Alex Morono vs. Mickey Gall
BW: Louis Smolka vs. Vince Morales
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