The UFC heads to State Farm Arena in Hidalgo, Texas for the first time in promotional history for UFC Fight Night 94. It’s a card that’s light on big names, but it does feature a number of exciting fights between emerging contenders, especially the main event between lightweight standouts Dustin Poirier and Michael Johnson.
Below are the top-five things to watch for this Saturday night when the UFC invades Hidalgo.
1) Poirier, Johnson Clash In Wicked Lightweight Main Event
The main event of UFC Hidalgo is a fantastic five-round lightweight fight between two top-10 ranked fighters, Dustin Poirier and Michael Johnson. Since moving up to 155lbs following a devastating knockout loss at 145lbs to Conor McGregor, Poirier has looked like a brand new fighter. With increased durability in his new weight class, Poirier now has the confidence to stand and trade with his opponents and with huge knockout power for the division he has looked like a destroyer, winning four-straight fights against Bobby Green, Joseph Duffy, Yancy Medeiros and Carlos Diego Ferreira, three of them coming via knockout. Poirier has only shown his standup since moving up in weight, but when he was at featherweight we saw his slick submission game as well, which makes him one of the most well-rounded fighters currently at 155lbs.
As for Johnson, he’s riding a two-fight losing streak at the moment, but those losses were competitive decision defeats to Nate Diaz and Beneil Dariush, who are both highly-regarded fighters. Like Poirier, Johnson is known for his standup attack and knockout power, making this a highly-intriguing matchup that will shoot the winner closer to the top-five of the weight class. It’s a five-round fight and although both men have strong chins, with both men possessing knockout power this fight isn’t likely to last the full 25 minutes. This is one of the most-exciting lightweight matchups the UFC could have booked, so kudos to the matchmakers for putting it together.
2) Hall, Brunson Meet In Middleweight Co-Main Event
The co-main event of the evening features an intriguing middleweight matchup between top-15 ranked Derek Brunson and Uriah Hall. Brunson is currently riding a four-fight win streak and is an impressive 6-1 in the UFC with his lone loss coming to top contender Yoel Romero. The 32-year-old was criticized prior to coming over to the UFC for being a wrestling-first grinder, but in the last few years he has really shown off his knockout power as he’s riding a three-fight TKO streak over tough competition. In a stacked middleweight division, Brunson is quietly emerging as a dark horse contender.
Standing across the Octagon from Brunson will be Hall, a talented enigma who is known for his knockout power but also his inconsistent performances inside the Octagon. Hall owns a poor 5-4 record in the UFC and has been known to choke under pressure, but his incredible knockout win over Gegard Mousasi a year ago showed the MMA world just what a talent he is, and at 32 years old he’s in his athletic prime. Hall is coming off of a loss against Robert Whittaker so it’s kind of strange he’s fighting a guy like Brunson who is on a win streak, but that just speaks volumes about how high the UFC matchmakers are on him despite his up-and-down career. There are already a number of deserving title contenders in the middleweight division, but the winner of this fight will certainly add their name to that list.
3) Underrated Dunham Looks To Keep Rolling
One of the most underrated lightweights in the UFC is Evan Dunham and the veteran takes on UFC newcomer Rick Glenn in a main card contest. Dunham was originally set to fight Abel Trujillo, but due to an injury, Glenn, who normally fights at featherweight, moved up a weight class on short notice to face him. On paper, this is Dunham’s fight to lose. The 34-year-old was on a three-fight losing streak from 2013-2014 and looked to be done, but has since reeled off three wins in a row, beating Joe Lauzon, Ross Pearson and Rodrigo Damm. And although that three-fight losing streak looked bad at the time, in hindsight losing to Rafael dos Anjos, Donald Cerrone and Edson Barboza is nothing to scoff at.
Facing off against Dunham is Glenn, the former World Series of Fighting featherweight champion. Glenn, who is only 27, is on a three-fight win streak and has won 15 of his last 17 contests with one draw and one loss in that span. He’s a top prospect, but making his UFC debut on short notice against a long-tenured and talented veteran like Dunham is a tough spot.
4) Veteran Welterweights Carneiro, Robertson Lock Horns
Welterweight vets Roan Carneiro and Kenny Robertson face-off in what should be a fun fight. Carneiro is coming off a loss to Derek Brunson, but that was at middleweight and moving back down to welterweight should give the 39-year-old some new life. As for Robertson, he’s coming off of a controversial split decision loss to Ben Saunders and hasn’t fought in over a year since having surgery on his ACL, but prior to that he had rolled off three-straight wins in the UFC. Carneiro and Robertson are both known for their fantastic ground games, so if this fight hits the mat, the fans should really be in store for an interesting matchup between two guys who can finish their opponents from a variety of different positions on the ground.
5) Top Prospect Morales Makes UFC Debut
In the curtain jerker on the Fight Pass prelims, top prospect Albert Morales makes his UFC debut when he takes on TUF Latin America winner Alejandro Perez in a bantamweight contest. Morales, a veteran of Bellator, World Series of Fighting and RFA, has only been a pro since January 2015, but in less than two years has racked up a 6-0 record with five finishes while fighting in some of the top organizations outside of the UFC. Just 25, Morales has a very bright future in the sport and the fact he reached the UFC so soon is a testament to how talented he is.
For his UFC debut the matchmakers have actually given him a real test against Perez, who is 3-1 in the UFC and riding a two-fight win streak with two-straight TKO wins. Perez’s loss to Patrick Williams at UFC 188 hurt him, but rebounding with those two-straight wins has given him a second life in the stacked bantamweight division. Both Morales and Perez are talented fighters, so the winner of this fight is really going to elevate their status as a prospect at 135lbs.
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