The waiting is almost over. After what seems like an eternity, 24 fighters have put themselves through unique and unprecedented training camps in order to compete on Saturday nights historical event in Jacksonville, Florida. Originally due to take place on April 18th in Brooklyn, New York, the powers that be at the UFC have been strong advocates in continuing with events during the pandemic that has altered the world as we know it.
Whilst the last event, UFC Fight Night: Lee vs Oliveira, took place behind closed doors and with safety precautions in place, those involved tomorrow haven been going through strict and stringent health and safety checks since touching down in Florida. With many a discussion and debate surrounding whether or not these events should be taking place at all, the fact of the matter is that those competing are not doing so with a gun to their head. Fighters want to fight and rightly or wrongly, that’s exactly what they will be doing in the 3 scheduled events over the coming week.
The fact that Anthony Pettis (22-10) vs Donald Cerrone (36-14) is taking place on the prelims has left many scratching their heads as this is a worthy main card fight at the very least but these are unique times we’re currently in. Seven years on from their previous encounter, Pettis and Cerrone will go again on Saturday night. When they last meet, Pettis finished Cerrone with a perfectly timed 1st round body kick in what was Pettis’ most successful period in his time with the UFC.
During that time, Pettis went on a 5-fight win streak beating the likes of Cerrone, Jeremy Stephens, Joe Lauzon, Benson Henderson and Gilbert Melendez but since beating Melendez at UFC 181, Pettis picked up 4 wins in his next 12 encounters. However, Anthony Pettis is not one to shy away from a challenge and the fact that he has faced the likes of Tony Ferguson, Dustin Poirier, Nate Diaz, Max Holloway and Edson Barboza is testament to his fighting reputation and faith that the UFC have in him.
Another man with whom the UFC hold the utmost respect is of course Donald Cerrone. With the most fights, wins, finishes, knockdowns and bonuses in UFC history, Cerrone is a true legend of the sport. Currently on a three-fight losing streak, Cerrone is the true epitome of a man born to fight. Like Pettis, Cerrone is always a willing and game competitor. While many in the UFC would be concerned with a losing streak like that of Cerrone, the defeats in question have come against Conor McGregor, Justin Gaethje and Tony Ferguson.
Elsewhere on the prelims, Fabricio Werdum (23-8) makes his return to the Octagon in a heavyweight showdown with Aleksei Oleinik (58-13-1). Former heavyweight champion Werdum last competed in March 2018 where he was on the wrong end of a 4th round KO against Alexander Volkov in London. Oleinik, the only man in UFC history to pull off an Ezekiel choke submission (on two occasions) comes into this one on the back of a submission victory over Maurice Greene at UFC 246 in January.
Originally scheduled for the cancelled, and now rescheduled, UFC Fight Night: Overeem vs Harris card in April, Carla Esparza (15-6) and Michelle Waterson (17-7) belatedly get their chance to meet. Esparza and Waterson will both be looking to enhance their rankings in the strawweight top ten. Inaugural and former UFC strawweight champion Esparza is currently on a 2-fight win streak following decision victories over Alexa Grasso and Virna Jandiroba. Former Invicta FC atomweight champion Michelle Waterson, makes her 8th UFC appearance on Saturday and enters the Octagon on the back of a unanimous decision defeat to another former strawweight champion in Joanna Jędrzejczyk.
TUF runner up Uriah Hall (15-9) takes on decorated submission wrestler and BJJ specialist, Jacare Souza (26-8) in the opening fight of the main prelims. Hall will be looking to extend his unbeaten run to 3 following a split decision win over Antônio Carlos Júnior and a KO win over Bevon Lewis. Jacare returns to the middleweight division following a debut defeat at light heavyweight when losing out to a split decision against Jan Błachowicz. Prior to that, Jacare last had his hand raised in victory following a 3rd round KO win against Chris Weidman at UFC 230 in November 2018.
Completing the card will be a welterweight bout between Vicente Luque and Niko Price, a featherweight encounter between Bryce Mitchell and Charles Rosa, and kicking of proceedings, a light heavyweight showdown between Ryan Spann and Sam Alvey.
Following a unanimous decision defeat to Stephen Thompson in November last year, Vicente Luque (17-7) returns to action against Niko Price (14-3) in the final fight of the early prelim portion of the card. Prior to his defeat against Thompson, Luque surged to a 6-fight win streak which began with a submission (D’Arce choke) victory over his opponent tomorrow night, Niko Price. Earning a POTN bonus in his last fight, Niko Price finished James Vick with an upkick KO on the UFC Fight Night: Joanna vs Waterson card in October last year.
In the featherweight division, Bryce Mitchell (12-0) looks to continue his unbeaten run against Charles Rosa (15-3). Making his 4th UFC appearance, Mitchell competed on Team Cormier in the penultimate TUF series. Picking up a sensational twister submission in his last fight, Mitchell comes up against Charles Rosa who scored a verbal submission win over Manny Bermudez in October last year.
The opening fight of UFC 249 sees Ryan Spann (22-5) take on Sam Alvey (33-13) in the light heavyweight division. Former LFA competitor Spann is currently unbeaten in the UFC and riding a 7-fight win streak dating back to September 2017 when he beat LeMarcus Tucker (LFA 23). In comparison, UFC veteran Alvey comes into this fight against the dangerous Spann on a 3-fight losing streak following defeats against Klidson Abreau, Jimmy Crute and Lil Nog.
UFC 249 takes place on Saturday 9th May at the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida from 11pm GMT with the prelims on UFC Fight Pass and the main card on BT Sport.