In the third season of HBO's hit show "Succession," Kendall Roy throws himself an opulent, hipster, faux-edgy 40th birthday party. At one point, the neurotic scion of the Roy family, hearing music he doesn't recognize, asks one of the party coordinators-slash-staffers he has around him at all times, "Are they playing from the approved playlist in the main room, because my thing was all bangers, all the time."
Do you know who else was thinking "all bangers, all the time?"
Dana White and the UFC matchmakers when they put together this fight card!
Saturday's return to Phoenix's Footprint Center for UFC 274 brings a collection of compelling, exciting, sure-to-entertain matchups to the octagon. From the opening bout of the evening through the lightweight championship main event, it is all bangers, and I cannot wait for the action to get underway.
First up, it's the prelims.
Randy Brown vs. Khaos Williams
The prelims wrap with a compelling clash in the welterweight division as Randy Brown (14-4 MMA, 8-4 UFC) and Khaos Williams (13-2 MMA, 4-1 UFC) meet to determine which of them will take another step forward in their shared quest to reach the top 15.
Brown arrives having earned consecutive victories and wins in four of his last five outings. The former "Lookin' for a Fight" signee has made steady progress since matriculating to the UFC, and after a pair of quality wins in 2021, aims to build upon that success in his first appearance of the year.
Williams has won four of his first five UFC appearances, earning rapid knockout wins over Alex Morono and Abdul Razak Alhassan before suffering a loss to Michel Pereira and rebounding with victories over Matthew Semelsberger and Miguel Baeza. Having established a clear baseline for where he stands in the division, "The Oxfighter" touches down in Phoenix looking for a second consecutive stoppage win.
Welterweight is brimming with talent, as per usual, and the competition to crack the top 15 is a rugged as ever. As such, this is a critical opportunity for each of these hopefuls to further bolster their case for a place in the rankings, or at the very least, a date with someone sporting a number next to their name next time out.
Macy Chiasson vs. Norma Dumont
Macy Chiasson (7-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) and Norma Dumont (7-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) meet on Saturday’s prelims, marking just the second bout between female combatants this year to be contested in the 145-pound weight class.
Since claiming victory on Season 28 of "The Ultimate Fighter" (at featherweight), Chiasson has alternated between winning two fights and losing one. She beat Gina Mazany and Sarah Moras, then lost to Lina Lansberg before beating Shanna Young and Marion Reneau and losing to Raquel Pennington. It's a little early to call this a crossroad moment for the Fortis MMA representative, but it is an important fight for the talented 30-year-old.
Dumont suffered a first-round stoppage loss to Megan Anderson in her promotional debut but has earned three straight victories since. After missing weight for a bantamweight assignment against Ashlee Evans-Smith, the 31-year-old Brazilian returned to the featherweight division and posted consecutive victories over Felicia Spencer and Aspen Ladd.
With divisional champ Amanda Nunes locked into her rivalry with Julianna Peña, there is an opportunity for the winner of this one to stake a claim as the top contender in the division, especially Dumont. Either way, this should be a spirited battle between two competitors looking to make a statement to start their 2022 campaigns.
Brandon Royval vs. Matt Schnell
In five UFC appearances, Royval has gone 3-2 while facing nothing but top-10 talents. After earning finishes in his first two outings, the Factory X Muay Thai represented halted a two-fight skid on the first event of the year when he landed on the happy side of the cards in a close battle with Rogerio Bontorin.
Schnell has bounced around between flyweight and bantamweight during his first nine UFC appearances, cobbling together a 5-3 record with one no contest verdict. The 32-year-old Louisiana native has earned those five wins in his last seven starts, and will look to shake off the rust from a frustrating year without stepping into the octagon when he does so this weekend.
Things are starting to get congested towards the top of the flyweight division, but that’s good news for these two, as the winner shouldn’t have any difficulty finding a willing dance partner to share the floor with in the second half of the year.
Blagoy Ivanov vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima
Blagoy Ivanov (18-4 MMA, 2-3 UFC) ends a near two-year hiatus and looks to halt a two-fight skid when he steps in on Saturday with Marcos Rogerio de Lima (19-7-1 MMA, 8-5 UFC), who aims to build on his two-fight winning streak this weekend.
The Bulgarian heavyweight Ivanov last competed on May 30, 2020, suffering a split-decision loss to Augusto Sakai, which came seven months after suffering a similar fate in a pairing with Derrick Lewis. Now 35 years old, "Baga" looks to re-establish himself as a top-15 presence in the big boy division by picking up the 19th win of his career at UFC 274.
Now in his ninth year on the UFC roster, de Lima debuted with a win at heavyweight, before shifting to the 205-pound ranks for his next six appearances, posting a 3-3 record. He transitioned back to heavyweight with a win over Adam Wieczorek at UFC 230, and after alternating wins and losses through his first four outings, the Brazilian veteran posted back-to-back wins over Maurice Greene and Ben Rothwell last year.
Will Ivanov get back into the win column and show he’s still got plenty to offer or can “Pezao” post another win and continue his transformation into an intriguing dark horse in the heavyweight division?
Francisco Trinaldo vs. Danny Roberts
Ageless Brazilian Francisco Trinaldo (27-8 MMA, 17-7 UFC) looks to secure the 18th win of his UFC career and second straight win as a welterweight, while British veteran Danny Roberts (18-5 MMA, 7-4 UFC) has designs on collecting a third straight win while halting his opponent’s ascent.
Trinaldo has quietly put together an impressive career inside the octagon, entering Saturday’s contest with a 17-7 record that includes wins over Ross Pearson, Paul Felder, Jim Miller, Bobby Green and Jai Herbert. Last time out, “Massaranduba” landed on the favorable side of a split decision verdict in a clash with Dwight Grant, and he looks to improve on that effort here.
After nearly two years on the sidelines, Roberts returned to action last October in Las Vegas, collecting a split decision win over Ramazan Emeev. It was his first appearance since knocking out Zelim Imadaev in Russia and a reminder of what the 34-year-old southpaw is capable of when he’s healthy, focused, and firing on all cylinders.
This is one of those fights that highlights the depth of the welterweight division, and should serve as a perfect lead in to the televised prelims on Saturday night.
Tracy Cortez vs. Melissa Gatto
Intriguing flyweight hopefuls Tracy Cortez (9-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) and Melissa Gatto (8-0-2 MMA, 2-0 UFC) face off here in a battle that should determine which one of them will make a push for a place in the rankings in 2022.
Cortez dropped her professional debut in the summer of 2017, but hasn’t been beaten since, carrying a nine-fight winning streak that includes her Contender Series triumph and three straight UFC victories into this weekend's clash with Gatto. This is a homecoming for the 28-year-old Fight Ready MMA representative, who was born in raised in Maryvale, a largely Hispanic community within the city of Phoenix.
The 26-year-old Gatto is unbeaten in her 10-fight career, posting eight wins and two draws. After nearly three years on the sidelines, she finally made her promotional debut last August, posting a second-round stoppage win over Victoria Leonardo before following it up with a third-round finish of Sijara Eubanks in December.
The women's 125-pound weight class has an outstanding blend of emerging talents and tenured veterans, and the competition for a place in the top 15 is fierce. While a spot in the rankings isn’t assured for either of these women with a win, a date with a ranked opponent feels like a realistic next step for whomever emerges victorious this weekend.
Kleydson Rodrigues vs. C.J. Vergara
It’s a clash between members of the Class of '21 from Dana White's Contender Series, as Kleydson Rodrigues (7-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) makes his promotional debut against fellow series graduate C.J. Vergara (9-3-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC).
A member of Team Nogueira, the 26-year-old Rodrigues pushed his winning streak to six with a unanimous decision win over Santo Curatolo last September, punching his ticket to the UFC in the process. He’s earned four finishes during that stretch and could make an instant impression in the flyweight division if he’s able to put away Vergara this weekend.
A protege of respected veteran Pete Spratt, Vergara parlayed his first-round stoppage win over Bruno Korea into a UFC contract and made a quick turnaround to debut at UFC 268 in New York City. The 30-year-old landed on the business end of a unanimous decision result in that one, halting his five-fight winning streak, and he returns here looking to get back to those winning ways.
Flyweight is packed with talent and everyone is trying to stand out, so don’t be surprised if these two come together for a fast-paced, action-packed battle early in the evening on Saturday.
Ariane Carnelossi vs. Loopy Godinez
Talented strawweights looking to build off quality results in 2021 meet in this one as Brazilian Ariane Carnelossi (14-2 MMA, 2-1 UFC) faces off with Mexican-Canadian sophomore Loopy Godinez (7-2 MMA, 2-2 UFC).
After missing all of 2020 following surgery, Carnelossi returned to action last April, registering a second-round stoppage win over a Na Liang. She was forced to undergo another minor procedure following the win, but returned in impressive fashion in October, submitting Istela Nunes in the third round to push her record to 14-2 overall.
Godinez felt like she was everywhere during her rookie campaign in 2021, fighting four times, including on back-to-back weekends, posting a 2-2 record in the process.
The former LFA champ caught a debated split decision loss to Jessica Penne in her debut before submitting Silvana Gomez Juarez for her first UFC win, then hustled right back into the cage, up a division, in a losing effort opposite Luana Carolina. A month later, Godinez returned to strawweight and scored a unanimous decision win over Loma Lookboonmee, evening out her record in the octagon and bringing her career tally to 7-2 through her first nine fights.
Both women are powerful grapplers, so it will be interesting to see who will be able to get the upper hand in the clinch and on the canvas, if it gets there.
Journey Newson vs. Fernie Garcia
Journey Newson (9-3 MMA, 0-2 UFC) returns to action and welcomes Fernie Garcia (10-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) to the octagon for the first time in this battle of bantamweights each searching for their first UFC win.
The 33-year-old Newson has made three appearances inside the UFC cage to date, losing to Ricardo Ramos and Randy Costa with a no contest result against Domingo Pilarte sandwiched in between. His fight with Pilarte was originally a 38-second knockout victory, but a positive test for marijuana following the UFC 247 contest in Houston resulted in the result being changed.
Now, after being forced to withdraw from an assignment last March, Newson is finally ready to resume his career.
Another member of the Fortis MMA crew to graduate to the UFC through Dana White's Contender Series, Garcia scored a first-round stoppage win over Joshua Weems last October to earn his call to the biggest stage in the sport. He arrives on a five-fight winning streak and sporting a 10-1 record overall, plus he's backed by a team that has a tremendous amount of experience as he makes that walk to the octagon for the first time.
Andre Fialho vs. Cameron VanCamp
A late addition to the lineup in the welterweight division sees Andre Fialho (15-4 MMA, 1-1 UFC) make the quick turnaround to welcome Cameron VanCamp (15-5-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) to the octagon for the first time.
After debuting on short-notice in January and giving a good accounting for himself in a loss, Fialho returned in mid-April and collected a first-round stoppage win over Miguel Baeza. The Portuguese prospect was more aggressive, more collected in his second appearance, flashing the devastating power that produced four finishes in as many starts last year and has him on an upward trajectory in the 170-pound weight class.
VanCamp was inked to fill in on short notice opposite Nikolas Motta last fall, but the bout ended up being scrapped due to injuries. The 29-year-old finally gets the chance to make the walk for the first time here, looking to build on his four-fight winning streak that includes a victory over UFC vet Dan Stittgen and add to his 15 career wins.
Can Fialho continue making a case for a place on the podium when the mid-year list of top newcomers comes out in the summer, or will VanCamp make a splash by scoring the upset this weekend?
This story first published at UFC.com.