While the main attraction is at the top of the card, there are several bouts at UFC Glendale carrying must watch action for fans of mixed martial arts.
While anticipation in the Gila River Arena will be for the expected barn-burner between Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje, there are several storylines going into the card that are expected to deliver on fight night. From anticipated returns, to appearances by potential future superstars, there will be no shortage of things to watch out for at UFC Glendale.
In the co-main event, former interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit will be facing the heavy hitting Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira who steps in on roughly two week’s notice to replace Matt Brown. Condit famously went the distance with Robbie Lawler in 2016 for the welterweight championship where he was five minutes from becoming world champion before a strong finish by Lawler helped the champion retain the title. When Condit was submitted quickly by Demian Maia in his next outing, he stunned the MMA world by stepping away from the cage. He took a sixteen-month layoff, seemingly content with his fighting career being over, before he returned in a losing effort to top-ten ranked Neil Magny last December. He has since admitted that he was not as focused as he could have been and looks to remedy the situation on Saturday.
Oliveira has long had a reputation as an exciting contender, but it’s his last outing that has made fans a believer of his gamesmanship. His back-and-forth battle with Yancy Medeiros last December brought so much excitement that it succeeded in stealing attention from the Eddie Alvarez and Justin Gaethje bout that came roughly a half hour later, no small feat to be sure. Now, he steps in to face another exciting fighter in Condit in an attempt to get back in the win column.
On the undercard, “The Last Stylebender” Israel Adesanya steps back into the Octagon after a showing flashes of promise in his UFC debut. An undefeated prospect, Adesanya needed two rounds to stop Rob Wilkinson in Australia in February. Many expected Adesanya to be able to eliminate the veteran Wilkinson with ease but it wasn’t until the second round where Wilkinson stopped throwing offense that Adesanya was able to get the finish. The New Zealand product took the victory in stride, but admitted that he did not get to showcase the dazzling array of skills that were expected of him. He now promises to show more of what made him one of the most highly touted prospects in MMA as he takes on Marvin Vettori who enters his fifth UFC bout after years on the European circuit.
In preliminary action, former middleweight title challenger Yushin Okami returns to the welterweight division as he faces former TUF finalist Dhiego Lima. Okami was once best-known for having an official victory against Anderson Silva, albeit by disqualification due to actions by “The Spider.” He went on to have 18 fights in the UFC, becoming a perennial top-five contender in the organization. When he was released after going 3-1 in four bouts in 2012, it was a surprise to many. The reason given was the UFC felt there was nowhere left for Okami to go in the UFC after a failed attempt to gain the middleweight title.
He struggled in the World Series of Fighting, going 2-2 against top-flight competition. He made the move down to the welterweight division but it wasn’t until last year that he returned to prominence. The UFC lost half of their headliner as Mauricio “Shogun” Rua pulled out of his fight with Ovince Saint Preux for the promotion’s return to Japan. Okami agreed to move up to face the light-heavyweight contender where he was subsequently submitted in an embarrassingly dominant fashion.
For Dhiego Lima, an unsuccessful first run in the UFC led to his release from the promotion in 2015. He would be returning to the organization the same way he arrived the first time: through The Ultimate Fighter. This time he was part of the “Redemption” season where several fighters who did not pan out in the UFC were given a second chance to make it into the organization. Lima reached the finals of the competition again, this time losing to Jesse Taylor. Taylor would subsequently be suspended for failing a pre-fight drug test for his next bout, blemishing his own story of redemption in the eyes of the fans and media. For Lima, he was now faced with the uneasy circumstances of having lost his own chance at redeeming himself with a TUF victory and yet doing his part of remaining a clean fighter. A win over Okami will not put a trophy on his mantle, but will go a long way toward easing the loss last year.
In a weekend packed with MMA action, it should be noted that UFC Glendale could be one of the final bouts aired on the FOX network as their current broadcast deal with the UFC is set to expire at the end of this year. If so, then the card is a great testament to the formula that worked for the UFC over the past several years in pitting future title contenders and up-and-coming stars in their greatest bouts.