Friday, May 24, 2024

UFC 301 fight card: Jose Aldo vs. Jonathan Martinez, Michel Pereira vs. Ihor Potieira among fights to watch

Brazilian mixed martial artists play home games against international competition at UFC 301. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil hosts the promotion’s next pay-per-view as UFC flyweight champion Alexandre Pantoja returns to this birthplace to fight Steve Erceg.

The most high-profile name on the card is UFC Hall of Famer Jose Aldo. The record-setting featherweight champion ends a 20-month retirement to complete the last fight on his UFC contract. Aldo, 37, takes on rising bantamweight contender Jonathan Martinez, 30, after a proposed fight with Dominick Cruz reportedly fell through. It’s been nearly two years since Aldo fought MMA, but he’s kept himself busy with a trio of low-level boxing bouts.

Another fan-favorite on the weekend lineup is Michel Pereira. The dancing madman is on a seven-fight winning streak since dialing back the zaniness and looks like a credible threat for the middleweight elite.

Take a look below at the fights that deserve your attention at UFC 301.

Jonathan Martinez vs. Jose Aldo

The King of Rio is back. UFC president Dana White surprised everyone with the news that Aldo was returning. Concern about Aldo’s two-year MMA absence is reasonable, but he’s stayed busy and exited in fine form. Aldo retired after losing a competent decision to Merab Dvalishvili, who will likely challenge UFC bantamweight champ Sean O’Malley next. Before that, Aldo defeated three ranked bantamweights: Rob Font, Pedro Munhoz and Marlon Vera. Martinez is on the best run of his career, winning six straight against guys like Adriano Yanez, Said Nurmagomedov and Cub Swanson, including two leg kick TKOs. Aldo has legendary leg kicks in his arsenal so it’ll be interesting to see how their styles pair up. The atmosphere will be feverish as the King of Rio comes home.

Jack Shore vs. Joanderson Brito

Shore is on the comeback. The Welsh fighter once seemed a major bantamweight threat, winning his first five UFC fights and compiling a 16-0 professional record. A submission loss to Ricky Simon redirected Shore to the featherweight division where he may find new life. Shore tapped out Makwan Amirkhani at UFC 286 and hopes to continue his 145-pound run against a dangerous opponent. Brito is a fierce finisher with an 88% stoppage rate in 16 wins. The Brazilian is on a four-fight winning streak with finishes of Jonathan Pearce and Andre Fili. Most impressively, Brito holds a technical decision win against fast-rising featherweight Diego Lopes on “Contender Series.” Expect the winner of this fight to knock on the door of the featherweight elite.

Michel Pereira vs. Ihor Potieira

Pereira is pure fun. The capoeira specialist has reigned in some of his antics — such as stamina-draining pre-fight dancing and wild flipping strikes — in exchange for a winning mentality. Pereira still possesses a flair for the dramatic, but a more measured approach has resulted in the longest winning streak of his pro career against his toughest opposition. Pereira started his seven-fight winning streak at welterweight but finishes against middleweights Michal Oleksiejczuk and Andre Petroski suggest he’s better suited for 185. A strong showcase against Potieira could line him up for a Top 15 opponent.

“Life changes us and maybe I’ve been maturing. But I’ll always want to go in there and I’ll always want to put on a show…” Periera told CBS Sports through an interpreter. “I think there will be a lot of movement in the fight. It’ll be a very intense fight. I know he’s coming well-prepared and so am I. It’s going be fireworks inside the cage.”

Honorable mentions: Joaquim Silva vs. Drakkar Klose

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