Under The Radar Fights For UFC 268: Usman V.S Covington 2

Updated: Nov 6, 2021

UFC's big splash return to Madison Square Garden is headlined by not 1 but 2 title rematches. China's own Weili Zhang is looking to earn back her UFC strawweight championship by beating current champion "Thug" Rose Namajunas. The latter of the two and the main event of the evening pins the UFC welterweight champion Kamaru "Nigerian Nightmare" Usman against his bitter rival Colby Covington after their first matchup at UFC 245 ended a close fight with a Usman 5th Round TKO. With a potential Fight Of The Year on the horizon with former UFC lightweight title challenger and one of the best Bellator fighters of all time, Michael "Iron" Chandler squares off against the former UFC interim lightweight champion Justin "The Highlight" Gaethje, it is guaranteed fireworks with 28 KO/TKO's between both men. The return of former Strikeforce and UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold delayed with him pulling out of his bout with rising rebel contender Sean Strickland; the UFC is looking for an opponent to fight Strickland on the main card. Former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar facing off against bantamweight main stay Marlon "Chito" Vera to start off the main card with a bang. The card is STACKED from top to bottom with matchups that excite any fight fan tuning in, but many of these bouts go under the radar compared to the star power the headliners deliver. The prelims and early prelims go unseen by most casual fans, but that should not be the case. With names like New York's own Gian Villante, Billy Quarantillo Shane Burgos, and Al Iaquinta, the debuts of 23-year-old Ian "The Future" Garry (one of the most popular fighters coming out of the UK) and Alex "Po Atan" Pereira featured on the lower levels on the card, they are fights you don't want to miss.

Phil Hawes V.S Chris Curtis

After Deron Winn fell ill and was pulled from his UFC Vegas 39 bout with Phil Hawes, Chris Curtis accepted the fight against Hawes and weighed in and was set to fight only on one day's notice. However, in a turn of events, Hawes turned down the change of opponent, and the bout was rescheduled for UFC 268 on November 6th, so each man gets a fair amount of time for training camp. Curtis makes his UFC debut after becoming the CES Welterweight champion and has stints on the PFL's 2nd season, and has fought and won on Dana White's Contender Series in 2018. Curtis is no stranger with UFC caliber talent, holding wins over UFC veterans Matt Dwyer and Kenny Robertson, as well as training with the likes of Sean Strickland and two-time DWCS alum Aaron Jeffery at Xtreme Couture. His hands are full with his UFC debut against Phil "Megatron" Hawes. Training out of Sanford MMA, Hawes was touted as a possible star in the UFC early in his career and his undefeated record of 3-0 inside the UFC and is on the fast track to being a household name. After his KO loss on the Contender Series, Hawes rattled off 3 straight finishes to earn another shot on the Contender Series 3 years later and makes the most with it, earning a 1st round KO over Khadzhimurat Bestaev and a UFC contract in the process. With his heavy hands and impressing wrestler, Hawes has beaten the likes of Nassourdine Imamov and Kyle Daukaus with his smothering ground control and high level of cardio he holds. The fight itself, Hawes is most likely looking to use his wrestling to neutralize the boxing pressure of Curtis, and with Curtis being a southpaw being even more difficult to get on the inside and shoot for a takedown. It ultimately comes down to the matchup of grit and a contrast of Hawes's wrestling and Curtis's boxing, and with a win at Madison Square Garden, Curtis is looking at a huge fight for his sophomore appearance, and Hawes can crack the top 15 inside the loaded UFC middleweight division.

C.J Vergara V.S Ode Osbourne

The first fighter from Season 5 of Dana White's Contender Series to make his UFC debut, CJ Vergara starched TUF Brazil Season 4 alum Bruno Korea in only 41 seconds with a knee to the body and earned himself a UFC contract on the 2nd week of the show. The former Fury FC flyweight champions makes a quick turnaround to square off against Ode "The Jamaican Sensation" Osbourne (9-4 MMA, 1-2 UFC). Osbourne, a fellow Contender Series alum, has found mixed results in his run so far in the UFC, with 2 stoppage losses to Brian Kelleher in his debut and most recently a flying knee KO to former RIZIN bantamweight champion Manel Kape back in August. Both fighters fight in a similar fashion, with Osbourne being a southpaw and having a well-rounded game while Vergara fights out of the orthodox stance. In the striking, Vergara has the edge in technique and higher fight IQ, as well as his power that can hold up later in a fight seen in his Fury FC title-winning bout against 2-time Contender Series alum Jacob Silva with a 3rd Round TKO. The experience and the higher level of competition is in Osbourne's corner, with already three fights into the UFC. As well as having better level of competition, Osbourne will most likely to look take this fight to the ground to attack what seems to be the weakest part of Vergara's game. The UFC sees high value in the 30-year-old fighting out of Texas, and his debut will put him in the deep end of a killer's row of UFC flyweights.

Melsik Baghdasaryan V.S Bruno Souza

Former K-1 kickboxer and contract winner on Season 4 of the contender series, Melsik "The Gun" Baghdasaryan, made the most of his UFC debut at the UFC Apex with a blistering 2nd round head kick knockout over fellow contender series alum Colin Anglin. Only holding a 6-1 MMA record at 29, Melsik was first scheduled to square off against former TKO featherweight champion T.J Laramie for his 2nd appearance, due to a bacterial infection, in steps in current LFA featherweight champion Bruno "The Tiger" Souza on only a week's notice. Souza is a 25-year-old prospect with a 10-1 record and fighting under the tutelage of former UFC middleweight champion and MMA legend Lyoto Machida. He holds impressive wins such as decision wins over current UFC fighter Kamuela Kirk and current Bellator lightweight Mike Hamel. Souza has a Machida-esque style with a karate stance and light on his feet; where he differs is his striking with more counter punches and more boxing utilized. With a strong strength of schedule for Souza, Baghdasaryan is in a tough test for his sophomore effort in the UFC. Coming from a kickboxing background, his favored place to fight is at range where he can fire off his lightning-quick kicks and fight at his distance, but the threat of a Souza takedown also looms in the air, so it is a real test to see if Melsik has good enough takedown defense and earn his label as an upcoming prospect in a stacked UFC featherweight division, or will Souza steal the thunder of the moment and earn his UFC moment with a finish over the standout Baghdasaryan in the big apple?

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