High implications for the UFC's middleweight division as Swedish submission artist and the #6 middleweight in the world Jack "The Joker" Hermansson (22-6 MMA, 9-4 UFC) squares off against the UFC's mad man Sean "Tarzan" Strickland (24-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC). Strickland is a character to say the least, with simple caveman urges and the want to "be the first person to kill someone in the octagon". A scheduled bout with Luke Rockhold fell through due to an injury, Strickland looks to carry his win streak to 6 and put his name into the hat for a potential title shot for Kamaru Usman's title. Hermansson has struggled to hit the upper echelon of 185 with losses to the more high level guys like former UFC title challenger Marvin Vettori and Jared Cannonier but looking to get himself another win streak after dominating the slumping Edmen Shahbazyan to a unanimous decision victory back in . The co-main event slot holds Nick Diaz Academy product Nick Maximov (7-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) coming back for his sophomore effort against Dana White's Contender Series alum and Hawaiian powerhouse Punahele "Puna" Soriano (8-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC). Soriano is coming off of his first professional MMA loss to fringe top 15 middleweight Brendan Allen and is looking to get back to his KO victory ways against the submission ace Maximov. With fight nights not seen as highly compared to pay-per-views, the UFC has put together a great card for the start of February 2022.
The original finale of the 28th rendition of The Ultimate Fighter is taking place with season winner Bryan "Pooh Bear" Battle (6-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) faces off against Tresean "Mr. Vicious" Gore (3-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC). Gore was forced out against Battle in the finale of the season back in August with a knee injury and Gilbert Urbina took his place in the finale after losing to Gore via 2nd round KO in the semi-finals. With both Battle and Gore green while being early in their MMA careers, Gore showed signs of greatness and legitimate potential while on the show. With heavy Justin Gaethje style low kicks and heavy hands to match, his ground game is evolving along with his overall game shown in his previous fights. Gore also is a very stand up act and has a bright and likeably personality that aids with his ability in the cage. This is not a cake walk however, Battle is no joke on the ground and arguably has the better grappling but the fight ending power Gore holds in his hands and feet, the path to victory is simple. Tresean is looking to claim the title of the TUF Season 28 winner that he never got a fair chance to win to open up the main card on Saturday night.
One of the stars in the making from the 5th season of Dana White's Contender Series is Brazilian Jis Jistu ace Jailton "Malhadinho" Almedia. After out-grappling and submitting Dagestani wrestler and then 9-0 prospect Nasrudin Nasrudinov in the 2nd round with a tight rear naked choke, he is pinned up against fellow submission ace Danilo Marques (11-3 MMA, 2-1 UFC) in a brute test of grappling. Almeida outside of his submission chops has very solid boxing credentials and his stand up is a threat with 5 KO/TKO's out of his 14 wins. The rest of his wins are by submission leaving him with a 100% finishing rate and Dana and the brass behind the UFC love killers like that. Marques is a solid test towards how well he will far in his UFC debut with the bright lights on him, but he is a serious prospect that can make the leap to a ranking sooner rather than later. He also has fantastic cardio and relentless pressure for the takedown and the submission with a knock to find chokes that end the fight. He compares himself to the great Khabib Nurmagomedov to the way he fights and the way he wants to bust the doors down of the UFC and stake his claim and he will begin the Jailton Almeida story on Saturday night.
The Canadian Muay thai specialist "Mean" Hakeem Dawodu (12-2-1 MMA, 5-2 UFC) looks to make a statement for a top 15 ranking in the stacked featherweight division against TUF Season 27 winner Mike "Lone Wolf" Trizano (9-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC). Fighting since 2013, Dawodu has made his presence known with deadly striking in the WSOF (now known as the PFL) for his first 8 fights with 6 ending by way of KO/TKO and holds a win over current UFC welterweight Mike Malott which happens to be his only loss. His UFC run has come with the highest of highs and lowest of lows, losing his debut and his first ever professional loss to Danny Henry in under 40 seconds to then rattling off 5 straight wins with a highlight reel head kick KO over Yoshinori Horie back in 2019. Now coming off a unanimous decision loss to Mosvar Evloev at UFC 263 where the lack of wrestling really was noticeable, is looking to show a new and improved Hakeem Dawodu on route to a win over Trizano and a rightful second chance to enter the shark invested top 15 rankings for the featherweights.