Former UFC bantamweight champ Cody Garbrandt will take on the surging Rob Font in the main event of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas. The winner will have the inside track on a future title shot in a wide-open division, one of the best in the UFC.
ESPN has Garbrandt ranked No. 4 and Font ranked No. 5 at 135 pounds.
Garbrandt (12-3) snapped a three-fight losing streak by knocking out Raphael Assuncao in May 2020. The Ohio native has gone to decision only twice in 10 UFC fights, reflecting an aggressive style that makes him a fan favorite. He held the bantamweight title in 2016 and 2017. Garbrandt, 29, is coming off a bout with COVID-19 that caused blood clots and other serious health issues. But now healthy, “No Love” remains one of the most dangerous fighters in the world.
Font (18-4) has won three in a row, most recently a first-round TKO over former title challenger Marlon Moraes in December. The Massachusetts native has 12 finishes in 18 career wins. Font, 33, has won six of his last eight fights overall.
In the co-main event, the next UFC women’s strawweight title challenger could be determined in a bout between former champion Carla Esparza and the red-hot Yan Xiaonan. Esparza (17-6), who won the inaugural UFC strawweight championship in 2014, has won four straight. Yan (13-1, 1 NC), a standout from China, is on a 12-fight unbeaten streak going back nearly 11 years.
Also on the card, middleweight contender Jack Hermansson will take on blue-chip prospect Edmen Shahbazyan, former women’s featherweight title challenger Felicia Spencer meets Norma Dumont and grizzled heavyweight veteran Ben Rothwell faces the debuting Chris “Beast Boy” Barnett.
Follow along as Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim recap the action or watch the fights on ESPN+.
Fight in progress:
For more than a year, Culibao had been looking for his first UFC victory. He nearly had one in his last fight, but it ended up being a draw.
Now, Culibao finally has what he wanted. Culibao beat Nuerdanbieke via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) in a hard-fought battle. Nuerdanbieke tried hard to get things to the ground, but Culibao staved off basically all of his attempts and kept things on the feet.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) May 22, 2021
“It’s been a long journey,” Culibao said in his postfight interview. “I think I’m the first fighter to go one loss, one draw and then finally one win. It’s a big weight off my shoulders.”
Nuerdanbieke had clinch control for almost the entire first round, but once Culibao was able to break free he let his hands go. In the second round, Nuerdanbieke looked winded with all the unsuccessful attempts to get Culibao down and Culibao was able to get off with combinations. In the third round, Culibao had his most success, bloodying Nuerdanbieke’s face with big right hands. Nuerdanbieke nearly had a takedown late, but Culibao escaped, got to his feet and landed a hard combination.
Culibao, 26, lost his UFC debut to Jalin Turner in February 2020. The Australia native went to a split draw last October against Charles Jourdain. Those were the only two non-victories of his career. Nuerdanbieke, a 27-year-old China native, was making his UFC debut on a two-fight winning streak.
Dvorak, 28, of Czech Republic, scored an impressive stoppage over a late-replacement opponent in Ronderos.
The flyweight prospect posted his 10th career first-round finish as he tapped Ronderos, 26, of Columbia, via rear-naked choke just 2:18 into the fight. The choke came moments after Dvorak landed a winging right hand that visibly hurt Ronderos and backed him up to the fence.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) May 22, 2021
Ronderos looked for the home run in overhand right hands, but Dvorak saw them coming and expertly slipped out of the way, and landed counter shots.
Ronderos took the fight this week after Dvorak’s original opponent — 25-year-old promising prospect Raulian Paiva — had to pull out because of weight management issues, according to the UFC.
Dvorak, who hasn’t lost since 2012, went into Saturday ranked No. 11 by the UFC.
After nearly two years out of the cage, Ismagulov had a rude welcome back, getting dropped in the opening seconds by Alves, who immediately clamped on a guillotine choke.
But Ismagulov worked his neck free, doing so methodically, just as he did everything else for the rest of the 15 minutes in winning his 15th straight fight.
Ismagulov, a 30-year-old Russian who has not lost since 2015, won by decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28), as he has all but one of his past six. He landed more than twice as many strikes as his opponent, including a series of hard body shots while the fight was on the canvas. He was never in trouble, although he tired in Round 3, giving Alves a chance late in the bout.
But down the stretch Alves, who is 30 and from Brazil, simply did not have the urgency needed to turn the fight his way. As a result, his five-fight winning streak came to an end.
Still to come:
Bantamweight: Rob Font (18-4, 8-3 UFC, -115) vs. Cody Garbrandt (12-3, 7-3 UFC, -105)
Strawweight: Yan Xiaonan (13-1, 6-0 UFC, -120) vs. Carla Esparza (18-6, 8-4 UFC, +100)
Heavyweight: Justin Tafa (4-2, 1-2 UFC, -190) vs. Jared Vanderaa (11-5, 0-1 UFC, +160)
Women’s featherweight: Felicia Spencer (8-2, 2-2 UFC, -180) vs. Norma Dumont (5-1, 1-1 UFC, +155)
Men’s bantamweight: Ricardo Ramos (14-3, 5-2 UFC, +105) vs. Bill Algeo (14-5, 1-1 UFC, -125)
Middleweight: Jack Hermansson (21-6, 8-4 UFC, -155) vs. Edmen Shahbazyan (11-1, 4-1 UFC, +130)
Heavyweight: Ben Rothwell (38-13, 9-6 UFC, -340) vs. Chris Barnett (21-6, 0-0 UFC, +270)
Welterweight: Court McGee (20-10, 8-9 UFC, -115) vs. Claudio Silva (14-2, 5-1 UFC, -105)