With names like Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, Josh Barnett and Sage Northcutt, Saturday’s UFC on FOX event features several exceptional names on the 13-fight card. However, taking a glance at the prelims, there are a number of intriguing matchups that are being overshadowed by the star power on main card.
Here are five solid fights flying under the radar.
Tarec Saffiedine vs. Jake Ellenberger
In the featured preliminary bout, these welterweights look to prove their relevancy in one of the UFC’s toughest divisions. Saffiedine (15-4) has been derailed by injuries and hasn’t competed since an October 2014 knockout loss to Rory MacDonald. Prior to the setback, the former Strikeforce welterweight champion was on a five-fight win streak. Interestingly enough, Saffiedine is now training with MacDonald at Tristar and it will be interesting to see what types of adjustments the Belgian has made. Ellenberger (30-10) is in dire need of a victory having gone 1-4 in his last five fights. It should be noted all of those losses were to top-notch competition: MacDonald, Robbie Lawler, Kelvin Gastelum and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. Look for both men to come out with a sense of urgency, as both will look to make a statement and put the rest of the division on notice.
Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira
TUF Nations finalist Aubin-Mercier looks to make it four straight wins when he battles this Brazilian. Aubin-Mercier (7-1) is coming off a unanimous decision victory over Tony Sims at UFC Fight Night 74, which was just the second fight in his career that went the distance. At 26 years of age, the Quebec native remains one of the few up-and-coming Canadian prospects in the UFC. Ferreira (11-2) is coming of back-to-back losses for the first time in his career. After racking up an impressive 11-0 record – including wins over Colton Smith and Ramsey Nijem – the 31-year-old suffered losses to Beneil Dariush and Dustin Poirier. What makes this matchup interesting is that both fighters are extremely tough to finish and have 13 combined stoppage victories in 21 combined fights.
Matt Dwyer vs. Randy Brown
Kelowna, B.C.’s Dwyer looks for his second win in the UFC as he takes on Brown, who is making his UFC debut. Dwyer (8-3) lost a hard fought unanimous decision to Alan Jouban in his last outing. The fight did earned the Canadian a Fight of the Night bonus though. Prior to the loss, Dwyer was coming off a first-round knockout over William Macario which earned him a Performance of the Night award. Brown (6-0) was discovered by Dana White while the UFC president was filming his reality show “Looking for a Fight” at Ring of Combat 53 last year. “Rude Boy” earned a first-round knockout victory in that fight and subsequently inked a contract with the UFC. With Dwyer looking to keep his job and Brown looking to make a statement in his debut, expect fireworks between these two welterweights.
Kevin Casey vs. Rafael Natal
An important matchup in the middleweight division pits TUF 17 contestant Casey against Renzo Gracie product Natal. Casey (9-3, 2 NC) has had one of the most bizarre UFC tenures thus far including an overturned fight – at UFC 175 against Bubba Bush – due to testing positive for PEDs and his last fight which was ruled a No Contest due to an accidental eye poke against Antonio Carlos Jr at UFC Fight Night 80. Natal (20-6-1) has quietly amassed an impressive three-fight win streak and is 6-2 in his last eight fights. Ranked as the No. 15 contender in the UFC’s middleweight division, a win over Casey could propel Natal up the ladder and into a notable matchup in his next fight.
Dustin Ortiz vs. Wilson Reis
Two of the UFC’s most underrated flyweights clash as Roufusport product Ortiz battles Bellator veteran Reis. Ortiz (15-4) is coming off an impressive TKO victory over Willie Gates at UFC Fight Night 73, his third win in four fights. Both of Ortiz’s losses in the UFC have come to former flyweight title challengers Joseph Benavidez and John Moraga. Reis (19-6) is coming off a unanimous decision loss to grappling ace Jussier Formiga, which snapped his two fight win streak. With the flyweight division being wide open at the moment in terms of finding the next title challenger, don’t be surprised if the winner of this matchup inches one step closer to a shot at Demetrious Johnson’s belt.