Rose Namajunas (Jeff Vulgamore/Combat Press)

UFC Fight Night: Ribas vs. Namajunas Preview and Predictions

Significant moves will be made in the women’s flyweight division as a pair of former strawweights lock horns in the main event at UFC Fight Night: Ribas vs. Namajunas.

Amanda Ribas has had her share of ups and downs lately, alternating wins and losses over her last six fights. She looks to win back-to-back fights for the first time since 2020 as she takes on Rose Namajunas. Namajunas decided to move up from strawweight, a division she once reigned over, to flyweight after losing a split decision to Carla Esparza in what is widely considered one of the worst fights to ever take place under the UFC banner. This will be her second fight since making the move up a weight class, as she came up short against Manon Fiorot in her most recent contest. A win over Ribas is badly needed for her to get back on track.

The co-main event pits two heavyweights on winning streaks against each other, as Karl Williams and Justin Tafa throw down. Williams has won his last six consecutive fights, including both of the walks he made to the cage since being signed by the UFC, as well as his fight on Dana White’s Contender Series. Tafa’s only blemish over his last four outings is a no-contest against Austen Lane that came after an incidental poke to the eye. The pair rematched, and Tafa made easy work of Lane, scoring a first-round knockout.


Also on the main card is a bantamweight fight between Cameron Saaiman and Payton Talbott. Saaiman is a South African fighter looking to follow in the footsteps of his countryman, middleweight champion Dricus du Plessis. He tasted defeat for the first time in his last bout and will try to give his undefeated opponent Talbott that same feeling of the agony of defeat.

UFC Fight Night: Ribas vs. Namajunas 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.

Former strawweight champion Rose Namajunas lost her last fight after moving up to the flyweight division; can she get back to her winning ways and defeat Amanda Ribas?

Kuhl: Rose Namajunas was never really a big strawweight to begin with, so a lot of eyes were on her move up to flyweight. And, Manon Fiorot was probably not the best match-up for her 125-pound debut. Fiorot has a similar style as Namajunas, but she is physically larger, and she threw a much higher volume of strikes, even if they didn’t land. She also used her size to stuff Namajunas’ takedown attempts. The other big X-factor in that fight was that Fiorot was fighting on her home turf in France.

Amanda Ribas is a more favorable match-up for Namajunas, as she is two inches shorter, and her striking style is very similar. However, with Namajunas background in Taekwondo and Karate, she should bring a more well-rounded striking game. The one issue that Namajunas may run into is the superior takedown defense that Ribas brings to the table. Namajunas is a fantastic grappler, but Ribas is a black belt in Judo and BJJ, and going to the ground may be a dangerous proposition for Thug Rose.

If Namajunas comes out with a strong game plan to keep the fight standing, which should be the case under the tutelage of Trevor Wittman, she should be able pick Ribas apart for the first couple rounds before scoring a TKO in Round 3..

Petela: Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Rose Namajunas doesn’t belong fighting in the flyweight division. But, fortunately for her, there is a case that Amanda Ribas also belongs down at strawweight. As Dan pointed out, Ribas is the shorter fighter in this showdown, and Namajunas won’t have to overcome a significant size and strength disadvantage.

This fight excites me, because I really don’t know how this one is going to play out. Namajunas should be the more technically sound striker and she might just dance circles around Ribas as she picks her apart from the outside throughout the five rounds. However, it is just as likely that Ribas is able to close the distance and get inside the punches of Namajunas to turn this into a grappling match. If that happens, Namajunas will be able to stave off a submission for a while, but, eventually, she will find herself forced to tap. All I know for sure is that this fight is going to be fun, and I’ll say Ribas takes this one by submission but I say that with only 51-percenr confidence.

Cameron Saaiman suffered his first career loss the last time he fought; will he be able to bounce Payton Talbott from the ranks of the unbeaten?

Petela: So many prospects need to taste defeat in order to realize their full potential. While undefeated, they feel invincible and expect everything to go the right way. After losing, they buckle down in fight camp and fully commit themselves to their craft. That is what I expect to happen for Cameron Saaiman. He will come out like a man possessed and push a pace on Payton Talbott that overwhelms the Las Vegas native in his sophomore UFC appearance.

Saaiman is a talented fighter. He has the potential to go a long way inside the promotion. This is the perfect bounce-back fight for him, taking on a young prospect with a lot of raw talent that still needs to be refined. By forcing the fight to take place at a high tempo, Saaiman will exploit some of the technical deficiencies of Talbott and force him into making errors. An errant strike, thrown without thinking, will provide Saaiman the opening he needs to land a counter right hook that floors Talbott and a few more shots on the ground will force the referee to halt the contest.

Kuhl: Payton Talbott and Cameron Saimann are both young athletes, clocking in at 25 and 23 years old, respectively. And in their combined pro and amateur record is 26-1 with the sole loss between them coming in Saimann’s last UFC outing against Christian Rodriguez last October. Talbott entered the UFC from the Contender Series four months ago with a third-round submission of Nick Aguirre. And, while I agree with my colleague that sometimes a fighter needs a wake-up call to kick it into the next gear, Talbott is going to pose some problems for Saimann.

Looking at strength of schedules, Talbott’s previous opponents have had very similar records to Saimann’s. In addition, Talbott is a slightly higher-volume striker with great takedown defense, He also has height and reach advantages. Saimann may have a few more UFC fights, but Talbott is young and hungry, and the slight betting favorite.

I have Talbott coming in and playing spoiler to Saimann’s prospect for the future. Talbott takes this one by TKO after the midpoint of Round 2.

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

Kuhl: What the hell happened to Edmen Shahbazyan? He comes into the Contender Series 6-0 and scores a 40-second TKO. He follows that up with four wins in a row, three by first-round stoppage, and the final one was a head-kick knockout of UFC vet Brad Tavares. Since then, he has gone 1-4, with three of those losses coming by TKO finish. I mean, if that isn’t a flash in a pan, then what is? On Saturday, he locks horns with AJ Dobson, who is 1-2 in his last three fights, and if Shahbazyan can’t get past him as a heavy betting favorite, his career in the UFC could come to a close.

Petela: Sometimes moving away from the UFC can be the best thing that happens to a fighter and sometimes not. The latter is the case for Youssef Zalal. He got cut after a four-fight winless streak and has fared well outside of the promotion. He won three consecutive MMA fights on the regional scene to earn another crack in the big show, but he has a tough draw in his return. Billy Quarantillo will be way too much, and, when the UFC executives see how much growth Zalal needs, his second run will be over almost before it starts.

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

Petela: Smart money is on Ricardo Ramos vs. Julian Erosa being a fight that steals the show. Ramos is always in entertaining bouts and he has the ability to turn any average fight into a showstopper in an instant. Erosa is the same way, and that will be even more amplified because he has lost two straight fights. His back is against the wall and he will pull out all the stops in this showdown. These two featherweights will set the bar high for the fights on the main card.

Kuhl: I’m liking the match-up between Billy Quarantillo and Youssef Zalal. Quarantillo has been around the UFC for a while, but he’s also proven to be beatable. He’s tough guy, but Zalal could be a bad match-up for him.

Zalal came into the UFC with a 7-2 record, but, after going 3-0 in his first three Octagon battles, he lost three decisions in a row, before he was released. However, the first of those three losses was to now-champ Ilia Topuria, who Alexander Volkanovski couldn’t even make it through two rounds against, and his last loss to Sean Woodson was a split decision that could have easily gone Zalal’s way.

I don’t think the lopsided odds in this one tell the real story, and this fight should be fire.

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

Kuhl: Trey Ogden and Kurt Holobaugh are a couple gritty regional vets – with Holobaugh in his second UFC stint – and these guys are both fun to watch. This should be a fantastic fight, and if the bonus doesn’t go to the winner due to a finish, these guys should put on a Fight of the Night scrap to earn some extra cash.

Petela: Surely, Miles Johns is leaving with some bonus money. He is taking on Cody Gibson, who made his return to the Octagon at UFC 292 when he dropped a thrilling back-and-forth contest to Brad Katona. The two bantamweights will both be out to prove that they belong in the promotion and that will lead to fireworks. I expect Johns to get the better of the action and an emphatic stoppage will earn him $50K.

Pair this card with…

Petela: Strawberry Margaritas. The perfect drink for “ladies night” with two of the most talented female fighters on the planet on the marquee. While it might be a bit of a feminine drink, tequila brings the heat and so will Amanda Ribas and Rose Namajunas. The margs will hit you hard though, so pace yourself so you are still able to remember all the action in the main event.

Kuhl: What goes better with Matt’s strawberry margaritas than cotija tacos? When you have a drink that is sweet and strong, much like the headlining combatants, you need something salty and savory to balance it out. So, put some corn tortillas in a hot, oiled skillet, cover them with cotija cheese and throw them in the broiler for about a minute. Just as the edges of the cheese start to brown, take them out, and cover them in a tasty Mexican-style slaw with cabbage, onions, cilantro, tomatoes, fresh jalapenos, and either some pineapple or mango. These things will blow your mind, just like this somewhat low-key fight card.

Fight Kuhl’s Pick Petela’s Pick
Main Card (ESPN+, 10 p.m. ET)
Women’s FlyW: Amanda Ribas vs. Rose Namajunas Namajunas Ribas
HW: Karl Williams vs. Justin Tafa Tafa Tafa
MW: Edmen Shahbazyan vs. AJ Dobson Shahbazyan Shahbazyan
BW: Payton Talbott vs. Cameron Saaiman Talbott Saaiman
FW: Billy Quarantillo vs. Youssef Zalal Quarantillo Quarantillo
FW: Luis Pajuelo vs. Fernando Padilla Pajuelo Padilla
Preliminary Card (ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET)
LW: Trey Ogden vs. Kurt Holobaugh Holobaugh Ogden
FW: Ricardo Ramos vs. Julian Erosa Ramos Erosa
BW: Miles Johns vs. Cody Gibson Johns Johns
FW: Steven Nguyen vs. Jarno Errens Nguyen Errens
Women’s BW: Montserrat Rendon vs. Darya Zheleznyakova Zheleznyakova Rendon
FlyW: Igor Severino vs. Andre Lima Lima Severino
HW: Mohammed Usman vs. Mick Parkin Parkin Usman