The UFC hits the road this weekend as they touch down in Jacksonville, Fla. for an afternoon fight card with UFC on ABC 5: Emmett vs. Topuria.
The UFC featherweight division is one of the deepest divisions in the sport, and the talent level is out of this world. With interim titleholder Yair Rodriguez slated to take on pound-for-pound great Alexander Volkanovski to unify the belts, this weekend’s main event features a future title hopeful in Ilia Topuria, as he faces former interim title challenger Josh Emmett. Emmett comes into this showdown after coming up short against the aforementioned Rodriguez. This was the first UFC title opportunity the 38-year-old had ever had. Topuria is a prospect-turned-contender, who, at 26 years old, is constantly improving and could be a problem at 145 pounds for years to come.
The co-main event takes place in the women’s flyweight division, which is much more open after Alexa Grasso recently dethroned long-reigning champion Valentina Shevchenko. Amanda Ribas has fought at both strawweight and flyweight, with high profile wins and losses in both divisions. She came up short in her return to flyweight, where she dropped a “Fight of the Night” clash with Katlyn Chookagian. She rebounded nicely with a unanimous decision victory over Viviane Araujo. She will look to make it back-to-back wins at 125 pounds by halting the momentum of Maycee Barber. Barber has put together an impressive four-fight winning streak as of late, though two of those bouts have been widely questioned decisions. Should Barber be able to best Ribas this Saturday, she will likely find herself in the top ten when the next rankings are released.
UFC on ABC 5: Emmett vs. Topuria airs live in its entirety on ESPN+ starting at 11:30 a.m. ET. The preliminary card will also air on ESPN starting at 11:30 a.m. ET, followed by the main card on ABC and ESPN3 at 3 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Dan Kuhl and Matt Petela break down the action in this week’s edition of Toe-to-Toe.
Josh Emmett came up short in his bid for featherweight gold the last time he fought; can the veteran get back on track this week by defeating Ilia Topuria?
Kuhl: I mean, no. Josh Emmett has a huge mountain ahead in the form of Ilia Topuria. For Emmett, he is 38 years old, so he’s definitely past his prime. Even prior to his loss to Yair Rodriguez in his last outing, he went the distance with Calvin Kattar, Dan Ige and Shane Burgos. The last opponent he finished was Mirsad Bektic, who doesn’t even fight anymore.
The undefeated Topuria, on the other hand, has been much more than a flash in the pan since joining the UFC. His only decision on his record was in his promotional debut against Youssef Zalal. Since then, he knocked out three opponents in a row before submitting Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Bryce Mitchell, who previously had nine submission wins in 15 fights and had never been finished. At 26 years old, Topuria is likely not even near his prime yet, and he has blazed a path of destruction across the UFC in less than three years. His last win saw him crack the top 10 in the featherweight division, and a win over No. 5 Emmett will certainly land him in the top five.
Statistically speaking, Emmett does not have a great chance of victory in this one. Topuria is a more accurate striker with better striking defense, and he has more accurate takedown attempts with a better takedown defense. Emmett’s fights tend to go the distance, while Topuria puts people away. Expect this fight to start out with Emmett trying not to get finished before the inevitable happens. Topuria wins this one by TKO before the end of Round 2.
Petela: There isn’t a ton to add to that breakdown and I’m certainly picking Topuria to come away with the victory but I don’t think we can totally sleep on Josh Emmett’s knockout power. It almost feels like his plan A in every fight is to throw caution to the wind and try to draw his opponent into a slugfest. If that happens, who knows what the outcome will be, Emmett showed back in the Michael Johnson fight that all he needs is one punch to end the fight.
Realistically though, this one should be a showcase for Ilia Topuria and he will climb one step closer to fighting for the featherweight belt. He’s going to be faster, hit harder, and be the better submission grappler. It pains me to give Dan this much credit but he’s absolutely correct. Topuria needs less than ten minutes to get the job done and he should absolutely call for a title shot in his post-fight interview.
Maycee Barber is riding a four-fight winning streak heading into her clash with Amanda Ribas; does she make it four in a row and insert herself into the title picture at 125 lbs.?
Petela: While, on paper, Maycee Barber has won four fights in a row, two of those wins are questionable to say the least. Both her fight against Miranda Maverick and her fight against Angela Lee easily could have gone the other way, and nobody would have thought twice. She’s been hanging in there with some of the better fighters in the division, but, like her fight against Aexa Grasso, this clash against Amanda Ribas will be a bridge too far for the prospect.
Ribas has been bouncing back and forth between strawweight and flyweight with mixed results, but she has been facing the best of the best in both divisions. She comes into this weekend’s fight on the heels of a victory over Viviane Araujo, and she will make it two in a row against Barber. Expect Ribas to be the quicker striker, though Barber will have more pop behind what she’s throwing. After missing with some powerful strikes, Barber will change levels, and she will live to regret it. Once the fight gets to the mat, Ribas will be able to maintain control and threaten enough submissions that she leaves Barber mostly defensive. This one goes the distance, but it won’t be close enough for Baber to squeak out another controversial victory.
Kuhl: I’m in complete agreement with my colleague on most of this one. In no way did Barber win those fights against Lee or Maverick. Those were egregious decisions that should not have gone her way.
As for Barber’s chances against Ribas, she does have advantages in both physical size and striking accuracy. However, while her accuracy might be a bit better, she does not throw a super high volume of strikes, and her biggest skill deficit in this one will be her grappling game. Barber is going to try to keep this one standing, but a low striking volume is going to be her demise. This will allow Ribas to get in close, get this one to the mat, and rack up points by dominating Barber on the ground. I too see Ribas getting the decision in this one.
What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?
Kuhl: How Zhalgas Zhumagulov is still in the UFC is beyond me. Granted, two of his UFC losses were split decisions, and he hasn’t fought since Nov. 2022 due to opponent issues, but most fighters would never get to 1-5 in their UFC career and still be getting booked for fights. If he loses to promotional newcomer Joshua Van and does not get immediately cut, the guy must have serious dirt on Dana White or something.
Petela: Cody Brundage is on the verge of the dreaded three fight losing streak. He needs to pick up a win or he might find himself in the unemployment line. Granted, those two losses came against high level competition in Rodolfo Vieira and Michal Oleksiejczuk but if he comes out on the wrong end of his clash with Sedriques Dumas this weekend not only will be have lost three straight but one of them will have come against an unproven opponent, as Dumas is just 0-1 in the UFC. This is a must win outing for Brundage.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Petela: How is Neil Magny vs. Philip Rowe on the prelims? Magny only loses to the best of the best and while the gatekeeper term has a negative connotation, it suits him well in a positive way. If you can get by Magny, you are an elite welterweight. That is a tough task for Philip Rowe, who picked up the best win of his career in his last outing over Niko Price. Keep your eyes on this one to see if Rowe is ready to make the leap to the upper echelon at 170 pounds.
Kuhl: I would love to try to sugarcoat this one, but Matt nailed it. The placement of Neil Magny vs. Philip Rowe was a flat-out stupid decision. That being said, the sleeper fight on this card is another preliminary match-up between 17-1 Mateusz Rębecki and 17-4-1 Loik Radzhabov. Rębecki has not lost a fight in nine years and is currently riding a 14-fight winning streak. Radzhabov is a two-time PFL finalist, who has never been finished in his pro career. Both men won their UFC debuts earlier this year, and both will be looking to stake their claim in a stacked lightweight division.
Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?
Kuhl: Sticking with my main event pick in this one. Ilia Topuria is going to dash any hopes of an Emmett title-run revival, and he will do so with a spectacular finish that will earn him some extra cash. Topuria is young, successful, and still just getting started. He is going to crack the top-five, and earn a potential title shot, by checking Emmett off the list.
Petela: Neil Magny. Whenever it seems like he is being written off as a top tier welterweight, he delivers. You don’t have to look back too far to see him pick up a big win with his back against the wall against Daniel Rodriguez. I made the mistake of picking against him in that one but I won’t be fooled again. A stoppage victory earns Magny an extra $50K.
Pair this card with…
Petela: It is an afternoon affair so stay away from the booze this weekend. Instead, keep it simple and grab some Georgian takeout and represent Ilia Topuria, as he takes the next step towards title contention by defeating longtime elite veteran Josh Emmett.
Kuhl: Georgian takeout? I don’t know where Matt has been hanging out, but we don’t have a bunch of Georgian restaurants in my neck of the woods. That being said, upon further review, there are a lot of Georgian foods that catch my eye – from the khinkali (dumplings) to the mtsvali (grilled meat skewers), there are plenty of easy finger foods that could be prepared to go with an exciting card that you won’t want to look away from for too long.
Main Card (ABC/ESPN3, 7 p.m. ET)
FW: Josh Emmett vs. Ilia Topuria
Women’s FlyW: Amanda Ribas vs. Maycee Barber
HW: Justin Tafa vs. Austen Lane
FW: David Onama vs. Gabriel Santos
MW: Brendan Allen vs. Bruno Silva
Preliminary Card (ESPN+/ESPN, 4 p.m. ET)
WW: Neil Magny vs. Philip Rowe
WW: Randy Brown vs. Wellington Turman
LW: Mateusz Rebecki vs. Loik Radzhabov
StrawW: Tabatha Ricci vs. Gillian Robertson
FlyW: Zhalgas Zhumagulov vs. Joshua Van
LW: Trevor Peek vs. Chepe Mariscal
FW: Jamall Emmers vs. Jack Jenkins
FlyW: Tatsuro Taira vs. Kleydson Rodrigues
MW: Cody Brundage vs. Sedriques Dumas
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