Before UFC Phoenix becomes the first main card on ESPN in the new era, three fights will kick off the action on the streaming service ESPN+.
A former champion is in the main event of UFC Phoenix, with Cain Velasquez making his return to the Octagon against Cain Velasquez. There’s also another former champion on the opposite end of the card residing on the ESPN+ prelims in Renan Barao when he faces Luke Sanders along with now one other fight.
The two-fight ESPN+ preliminary card is as follows:
- Renan Barao vs. Luke Sanders
- Alexandra Albu vs. Emily Whitmire
Originally scheduled to headline the early prelims was a strawweight bout between Jessica Penne and Jodie Esquibel. Unfortunately, Penne suffered an undisclosed injury this morning and was removed from the card.
Renan Barao looks to turn things around against Luke Sanders. A former pound-for-pound great, Barao won his first seven fights in the Octagon and defended the bantamweight title three times in spectacular fashion. But it all crumbled when TJ Dillashaw knocked him out in the fifth round to take his title. Since then, Barao is 2-5 and has lost three in a row. Sanders came into the UFC as an undefeated RFA champion and won by first-round submission in his first fight. However, he hasn’t been able to follow that up, going 1-3 since then, looking to snap a two-fight losing streak.
But first, it will be strawweights Alexandra Albu and Emily Whitmire. Albu rarely fights, with only three to her name since making her MMA debut in 2013. However, when she does, it’s entertaining, with fun Octagon victories over Izabela Badurek and Kailin Curran. Whitmire is a TUF 26 alum with a 1-1 record both on the show and in the Octagon. She is 3-2 overall in her career and is coming off a win over Jamie Moyle.
Check out the recaps of the UFC Phoenix ESPN+ Prelims below:
Alexandra Albu vs. Emily Whitmire
This fight was a quick one. Emily Whitmire ducked under the initial attack of Albu and landed a double-leg takedown. After a scramble, Whitmire took the back of Albu, established hooks and choked out her opponent with ease.
Emily Whitmire def. Alexandra Albu by Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) in Round 1 (1:01)
Renan Barao vs. Luke Sanders
Renan Barao was able to control the first round with a variety of kicks. Most notably, a body kick that damaged Sanders late in the round. Sanders was able to land sparse big shots on the feet and attempted to clinch up with Barao multiple times. He was able to land a takedown off a caught kick late in the round, but it was too little too late to make a difference in the scorecards.
The second round started with another Barao body kick. Sanders walked through it and landed a left straight, right hook, then a one-two to drop the former champion. Sanders pounced on him and finished the fight just over a minute into the second round.
Luke Sanders def. Renan Barao by KO (Punches) in Round 2 (1:01)