UFC Vegas 74: Kara-France and Albazi Look to Secure Title Shot with Statement Victory

Kai Kara-France and Amir Albazi, UFC Vegas 74 weigh-in
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JUNE 02: (L-R) Opponents Kai Kara-France of New Zealand and Amir Albazi of Iraq face off during the UFC Fight Night weigh-in at UFC APEX on June 02, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

With the flyweight belt on the line in several weeks, Kai Kara-France and Amir Albazi will meet in a pivotal bout that could determine the next title challenger at UFC Vegas 74.

It’s easy to focus on the outcome of Kai Kara-France’s last bout and not the title picture as a whole.  Getting stopped by fan-favorite Brandon Moreno seemed to relegate the contender from New Zealand to the background as the fan-favorite went on to reclaim championship gold months later.  But it is not reflected on as much that Kara-France was well on his way to a victory on the scorecards before the turn of events in the fourth.  When considering the fact that the performance was against a proven veteran, and it reflects favorably for “Don’t Blink.”

But while there is an opportunity for Kara-France to get back into the title picture, it would also be fair to say that this is also a litmus test for whether he can maintain his position against the up-and-comers of the division.  A veteran of the UFC since 2016 when he debuted following a stint on The Ultimate Fighter, Kara-France has two losses to Moreno, Brandon Royal, and Alexandre Pantoja with the latter coming during the reality show.  With those three aforementioned names currently on a hot-streak, a loss for the City Kickboxing product could knock him out of the picture for the foreseeable future.

For Amir Albazi, Saturday marks the proverbial step into the big leagues for an up-and-comer who has excelled against his opposition so far.  “The Prince” enters the bout on a five fight win-streak and a 16-1 record overall.  The flyweight from Iraq has been a professional since 2009 and opened his career with an impressive 12-1 mark overseas before being picked up by the UFC in 2020.  Notably, Albazi did not compete in the United States until his third bout in the Octagon last year and his headliner at UFC Vegas 74 will be his third bout stateside overall.

If there is one glaring mark that has affected Albany’s career, it is that fight cancellations have kept him building on the momentum that he carried outside of the UFC.  He fought only one in 2020 and 2021 and even 2022 only saw a slight improvement with only two appearances.  Like several contenders before him, Albazi’s lack of consistency has been the biggest theft of hype in the quick-moving world of MMA.  While his name may not be the most eye-catching on paper for his UFC run, an upset of a veteran in Kara-France could propel him to the short list of contenders vying for the next title shot at 125 pounds.

When surveying the flyweight landscape, the title fight coming up in July between Brandon Moreno and Alexandre Pantoja makes the future intriguing for Saturday’s winner.  Kara-France has encountered both men already, but is further removed from his loss to Pantoja in particular after their time on The Ultimate Fighter in 2016 which could lead to a title shot materializing for him should Pantoja be victorious.  Albazi would be a fresh opponent for both, but a Pantoja victory would work best in his favor as well as the Brazilian defeated fellow front-runner Brandon Royval last year which means Albazi would be the breath of fresh air for the champion if the belt changes hands.  Should the winner need one more bout, then former RIZIN champion Manel Kape also stands out as an option.


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