Erin Blanchfield (Combat Press)

UFC Fight Night: Blanchfield vs. Fiorot Preview and Predictions

The UFC hits the road this weekend and heads to the east coast in Atlantic City, N.J. for UFC Fight Night: Blanchfield vs. Fiorot. The main event pits two top women’s flyweight contenders against each other as New Jersey’s own Erin Blanchfield takes on French striker Manon Fiorot. Neither woman has tasted defeat since joining the UFC, each rattling off six consecutive fights since joining the promotion. For Fiorot, she has not lost a fight since her professional debut when she came up short against Bellator star Leah McCourt. Blanchfield’s lone loss also came via split decision against UFC fighter Tracy Cortez. A victory will likely put either woman in position for a title shot before the end of the calendar year.

The co-main event also features a fighter born in New Jersey, as Vicente Luque takes on Joaquin Buckley. Luque was raised in Brazil but was born in the Garden State. Luque snapped a two-fight skid in his last contest, scoring a unanimous decision victory over former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos. He looks to make it back-to-back wins against Buckley. Buckley has put together consecutive wins after losing two in a row and is trying to win three fights in a row for the second time since signing with the UFC. Most well-known for his epic spinning-back-kick win over Impa Kasanganay, Buckley will look to bolster his resume by getting the better of longtime contender Luque.

Also on the main card will be a middleweight clash between Chris Weidman and Bruno Silva. Weidman surprised many fans by returning to action after the atrocious leg break that he suffered in the opening seconds of his rematch with Uriah Hall. He lost a unanimous decision in his return and looks to get back in the win column for the first time since 2020. Silva is in need of a win as well, as he has lost two fights in a row and four of his last five fights. With both men’s backs against the wall, this showdown has the makings for a slobberknocker.


UFC Fight Night: Blanchfield vs. Fiorot airs live in its entirety on ESPN+ starting at 7 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Dan Kuhl and Matt Petela preview the action in this week’s edition of Toe-to-Toe.

A title shot could be at stake in the main event; will it be grappling ace Erin Blanchfield or standout striker Manon Fiorot who gets her hand raised?

Kuhl: The main event showdown between No, 2 flyweight contender Erin Blanchfield and third-ranked Manon Fiorot will be an exciting bout, and one with title implications.With champion Alexa Grasso picking up a split draw in her second fight against Valentina Shevchenko, the winner of Blanchfield vs. Fiorot will likely see a title shot in 2024. Both women are undefeated over six respective UFC fights. And. Both women only have one professional loss by split decision. This is also a grappler vs. striker match-up

BJJ black belt Blanchfield has made her run through the division with three unanimous decisions and three submissions, including a bonus-winning rear-naked choke of former strawweight champ Jessica Andrade. When she scores a takedown, she often gets a submission, and, in her fight with J.J. Aldrich, Aldrich got two takedowns, but ultimately was submitted. Blanchfield, in addition to her grappling skills, has good striking output and defense, and she has been able to go the distance with some solid strikers.

Fiorot has a black belt in Karate, and is a fantastic striker. She hits hard and is creative in her attacks. Overall, she has six knockouts in her pro career with two in the Octagon. She is a big, powerful striker with great takedown defense and a brown belt in BJJ.

Since first joining the UFC, I have thought Fiorot would be on the path to a title, and that thought has not wavered in the slightest. All fights start standing, and she has a huge advantage in the striking game. Utilizing her takedown defense to repeatedly stuff Blanchfield’s takedown attempts, Fiorot will pick her opponent apart for as long as this one lasts. If this was a three-round fight, I would say it goes the distance. Blanchfield will not last five rounds standing with Fiorot, and the Frenchwoman will earn a TKO in Round 4.

Petela: It pains me to do this, but I agree with Dan wholeheartedly. This is a modern twist on the classic striker vs. grappler matchup. The path to victory for both women is fairly straightforward. Erin Blanchfield needs to get the takedown and Manon Fiorot needs to avoid being taken down. Expect Fiorot to be able to stay upright and pick apart Blanchfield until she scores a TKO win due to the overwhelming volume of damage.

There is something in my gut telling me that this won’t be the last time these two women lock horns. They are the class of the new generation of the women’s flyweight division, along with current champion Alexa Grasso. There may be an unofficial round robin of sorts between those three women over the next five years or so and the belt will probably rotate around a little bit. I’ll stop short of saying that they have the potential to rival the Four Kings of boxing in the 1980s but they will have some memorable fights between the three stalwarts.

Vicente Luque fights in the state where he was born for the first time in his UFC tenure; will he have the home crowd behind him and does it lead him to victory over Joaquin Buckley?

Petela: It was originally slated to be Vicente Luque taking on Sean Brady, but Brady was unable to return from injury soon enough to make the fight happen. That would have been a special treat for the fans, as Brady is a Philadelphia kid, born and raised just an hour away from the venue. The fight against Buckley is quite compelling though, and it should be a good stylistic matchup.

Luque can get the job done anywhere, with 11 wins by knockout, eight by submission, and has gone the distance and won three times in his career. He is able to put on a tremendous pace and is remarkably durable. He has only been knocked out once in his 32 professional fights. Buckley is a hard-charging fighter who wants to score a dramatic knockout, as he has done many times in the past. 12 of his 17 wins have come by knockout, none more emphatic than his spinning back kick win over Impa Kasanganay. He is going to come forward early and look to land bombs on Luque to keep the New Jersey born fighter on the back foot.

Ultimately, I expect Luque to weather the early storm of Buckley and drag him into deep waters. The volume of Luque will be the difference maker in this fight. He will wear Buckley down with level changes and a striking attack that heavily targets the legs and body so that by the third round Buckley is severely compromised. Eventually, Buckley will be forced to leave his chin open with his hands protecting his midsection and Luque will rattle off a combination up top that crumbles Buckley to the canvas for a late TKO victory.

Kuhl: I agree with Matt on this one, except for the method of victory, and it’s very simple. Joaquin Buckley has one path to victory, and Vicente Luque has three. Bucklet’s only chance is a knockout. Luque will dominate on the ground with both striking and grappling, and, if this goes the distance he wins at least two of three rounds. Luque has a superior ground game and he has fantastic submissions. Buckley will try to keep this standing. He will be unsuccessful. Luque will get this one to the canvas, and he will score a submission win.

What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?

Kuhl: Chidi Njokuani cannot afford a loss this weekend. He is on a three-fight skid, and that puts his UFC record at 2-3. If he can’t get past IReland’s Rhys McKee his UFC career is over.

Petela: With a loss, this will probably be the final time UFC fans hear Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down” as Chris Weidman makes his way to the cage. He returned from that catastrophic leg injury but came up short against Brad Tavares in his comeback fight. This would be his third straight loss and fifth loss in his last six fights and even for a legendary former champion that should be the end of the road for the Long Island standout.

Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?

Petela: Andre Petroski vs. Jacob Malkoun. Petroski got run over by Michel Pereira in his last fight and that surely left a sour taste in his mouth. When you combine that with the excitement of fighting in front of a friendly crowd, he is going to come out super aggressively in this one. He will have Malkoun looking to keep this fight on the feet but eventually Petroski will get the fight to the mat and throw down some ground and pound that has fans in attendance thinking that Malkoun’s head is going to bust through the mat. Malkoun will look to stop the face pummeling and create an opening for Petroski to sink in a d’arce or anaconda choke that causes the die hard fans there for the prelims to erupt.

Kuhl: Chidi Njokuani knows he needs a win to keep his job. Rhys McKee needs to get back in the win column after suffering a loss to Ange Loosa last September. These guys are both going to be gunning for a finish, and that makes for an amazing fight.

Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?

Kuhl: Manon Fiorot has some extra cash coming her way. The UFC and MMA pundits are very high on Erin Blanchfield, and not as many people seem to be talking about Fiorot. She is going to put on a striking clinic that will stifle Blanchfield’s title hopes, and she will send a message with a devastating TKO.

Petela: Bill Algeo. Another fighter from the greater Philadelphia area, Algeo will have the crowd behind him and it will help propel him to victory over Kyle Nelson. Algeo can get the finish either by knockout or submission but I expect him to hand Nelson his third career knockout loss.

Pair this card with…

Petela: When you think of Atlantic City, you probably think of a worn out gambling town that was largely run by Philly mobsters. While that isn’t incorrect, they also have a number of high-quality steakhouses. So in that vein, pair this card with a delicious steak dinner. My specific recommendation is a filet, cooked medium-rare, in a cast iron skillet as opposed to thrown on the grill.

Kuhl: When I think of New Jersey, my mind immediately goes to Italian sausage and peppers. It’s spicy, sweet, savory, salty, and delicious. A well-balanced treat, just like this card.

Fight Kuhl’s Pick Petela’s Pick
Main Card (ESPN+, 10 p.m. ET)
Women’s FlyW: Erin Blanchfield vs. Manon Fiorot Fiorot Fiorot
WW: Vicente Luque vs. Joaquin Buckley Luque Luque
MW: Chris Weidman vs. Bruno Silva Silva Weidman
MW: Nursulton Ruziboev vs. Sedriques Dumas Ruziboev Dumas
FW: Bill Algeo vs. Kyle Nelson Algeo Algeo
WW: Chidi Njokuani vs. Rhys McKee McKee Njokuani
Preliminary Card (ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET)
FW: Nate Landwehr vs. Jamall Emmers Landwehr Emmers
Women’s StrawW: Virna Jandiroba vs. Lupita Godinez Godinez Godinez
FW: Julio Arce vs. Herbert Burns Arce Burns
FW: Connor Matthews vs. Dennis Buzukja Matthews Buzukja
LHW: Ibo Aslan vs. Anton Turkalj Aslan Turkalj
Women’s FlyW: Melissa Gatto vs. Victoria Dudakova Dudakova Gatto
MW: Andre Petroski vs. Jacob Malkoun Petroski Petroski
BW: Angel Pacheco vs. Caolan Loughran Loughran Loughran