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'UFC on ESPN 35: Font vs. Vera' fight-by-fight preview, Prelims

We break down this weekend's entire card for UFC on ESPN 35, top to bottom, ahead of Saturday's event in Las Vegas.

The action in the UFC Apex continues this weekend as bantamweights looking to move into top contender status collide.

Rob Font and Marlon "Chito" Vera will meet each other in the main event this weekend with plenty on the line. The UFC bantamweight division has some clarity after Aljamain Sterling unified the belt with a win over Petr Yan and it's the perfect time for Font or Vera to make a statement.

Preview that high-octane matchip along with the other great fights from "UFC Fight on ESPN 35: Font vs Vera." First up, it's the prelims.

Daniel da Silva vs. Francisco Figueiredo

Brazilian flyweights Daniel da Silva (11-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC) and Francisco Figueiredo (12-4-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) are tasked with closing out the prelims, as each arrives in Las Vegas looking to bounce back after suffering setbacks in their most recent appearances.

Da Silva made his promotional debut in October, landing on the wrong side of a second-round stoppage against rising star Jeff Molina. The 25-year-old had some positive moments in the opening stanza and had won 10 of his first 11 appearances prior to stepping into the octagon for the first time, so there is reason to believe he could bounce back and take positive steps forward in his second trip into the UFC cage on Saturday.

Figueiredo got his hand raised in his UFC debut last January, earning a unanimous decision win over Jerome Rivera, but couldn't maintain that momentum through his sophomore appearance. He dropped a unanimous decision to Canadian veteran Malcolm Gordon in July, and after briefly being linked to a clash with British prospect Jake Hadley, he looks to rebound this weekend against his countryman.

While da Silva debuted without much fanfare, Figueiredo carries the burden of being the younger brother of the current ruler of the 125-pound weight class. It will be curious to see if the younger, more dynamic fighter can bounce back quickly and hand Figueiredo a second straight loss or if the slightly older, more seasoned fighter can find his way back to the win column this weekend.

Gabe Green vs. Yohan Lainesse

Welterweights with a combined 18 wins in 21 appearances meet here, as Gabe Green (10-3 MMA, 1-1 UFC) welcomes Yohan Lainesse (8-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) to the octagon for the first time.

Green gave a good accounting of himself in his short-notice debut opposite Daniel Rodriguez, going the distance with the streaking veteran. He got back into the win column with a confident effort opposite Phil Rowe at UFC 258 last February, giving him seven wins in his last eight appearances as he readies to square off with Lainesse on Saturday.

After winning the CFFC welterweight title with a second-round stoppage win over Evan Cutts in July, the 28-year-old Lainesse picked up a UFC contract with a first-round finish of Justin Burlinson on Dana White's Contender Series. Now 8-0 for his career with six of his victories coming inside the distance, "The White Lion" looks to maintain his winning ways and make an immediate impact in the 170-pound weight class with a victory over Green.

Will the slightly more experienced Green spoil the French-Canadian newcomer's debut, or will Lainesse keep rolling and get his hand raised again this weekend?

Natan Levy vs. Mike Breeden

Dana White's Contender Series alums Natan Levy (6-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC) and Mike Breeden (10-4 MMA, 0-1 UFC) square off in a preliminary card contest carrying great importance for the UFC lightweights.

Levy moved to 6-0 and punched his ticket to the octagon with a third-round submission win over Shaheen Santana on Season 4 of the annual talent search series. After a pair of scuttled bouts, the Syndicate MMA representative debuted a year later and landed on the wrong side of the results, dropping a unanimous decision to Rafa Garcia to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten.

Breeden also competed on the fourth season of the Contender Series, dropping a decision to Anthony Romero. He bounced back with a pair of victories closer to home under the Fighting Alliance Championship banner, and jumped at the chance to sub in for Leonardo Santos last October opposite Alexander Hernandez, only to be felled and stopped by “Alexander the Great” in 80 seconds.

Lightweight is perpetually flush with talent and neither of these men wants any part of a second setback in as many appearances, so expect each to be sharp and looking to control things from the outset, producing an entertaining and competitive clash early on Saturday’s card.

Gina Mazany vs. Shanna Young

Gina Mazany (7-5 MMA, 2-5 UFC) and Shanna Young (7-4 MMA, 0-2 UFC) square off in a battle of veteran competitors looking to get things moving in the right direction in 2022.

After making her first five UFC appearances in the bantamweight division, Mazany moved down to flyweight for a November 2021 fight with Rachael Ostovich, earning a third-round stoppage win, but she was unable to maintain that momentum in her second appearance at 125 pounds. Though she started well, Mazany's gas tank quickly ran dry, and she was overwhelmed and finished by Priscila Cachoeira, leaving her with a 2-5 mark inside the octagon ahead of this weekend’s clash with Young.

The 31-year-old "Shanimal" has dropped each of her first two UFC appearances, suffering a unanimous decision defeat to Macy Chiasson in her debut before getting stopped by Stephanie Egger last time out, so Young certainly wants to avoid an 0-3 start to her UFC career.

Can Mazany maintain her pace and get back into the win column or will Young earn her first UFC victory this weekend?

Tatsuro Taira vs. Carlos Candelario

Saturday's show commences in the flyweight ranks, as Shooto champion Tatsuro Taira (10-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) makes his promotional debut opposite fellow newcomer Carlos Candelario (8-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC).

Unbeaten in 10 professional appearances after a 9-0 run as an amateur, the 22-year-old Taira is arguably the best Japanese prospect to matriculate to the UFC since Kyoji Horiguchi. With good size for the division, a solid strength of schedule, and finishes in eight of his 10 wins, Taira is definitely one to watch going forward in the 125-pound weight class.

Candelario didn’t earn a contract following his victory on the first season of Dana White’s Contender Series, but he made history in Season 5, becoming the first fighter to lose but still be called to compete in the UFC following his debated split-decision loss to Victor Altamarino on last year's opening week. The 30-year-old New England native is 8-1 overall and should serve as a tremendous test for the promising Japanese prospect on Saturday night.

The flyweight division is flush with talent at the moment, but each of these men is worth keeping tabs on long term. This weekend's victor should take a solid step forward, but whomever is vanquished will likely still be heard from in the future as well.

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