Justin Gaethje’s highly-anticipated title challenge against Charles Oliveira tops the UFC 274 billing but there are plenty of other brilliant match-ups.
Rose Namajunas’ co-main event strawweight title fight with Carla Esparza is a classic striker versus grappler encounter, while Tony Ferguson is a huge underdog against Michael Chandler.
Elsewhere, Danny Roberts is the British interest on the card and Sportsmail has taken a closer look at the must-see fights outside of the main event this weekend…
Charles Oliveira (L) fights Justin Gaethje (right) on Saturday in the main event at UFC 274
Rose Namajunas vs Carla Esparza
Strawweight title fight
Carla Esparza is the wrestling queen of the women’s strawweight division and holds the record for takedowns (42).
Her control time of almost 55 minutes is 10 minutes longer than her closest rival and Namajunas will have been working hard on the mats to prepare for this one.
The winner of this one will be tied alongside Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the most wins in division history so there is plenty on the line.
Namajunas was sensational in beating Zhang Weili twice and her opponents are more reputable than Esparza’s.
Rose Namajunas became UFC strawweight champion by devastating Zhang Weili
Namajunas finished Weili in their first fight and fought to a decision in the second
That said, the challenger is on a five-fight winning streak and fully deserves her shot at the belt. These two fought for the first time in 2014 and Esparza won by rear-naked choke.
Of course, both women have come a long way since then but the basic premise of the fight remains the same.
If Namajunas can stay upright and make this a stand-up battle, she has more than enough skill to coast to a decision or find a finish.
But Esparza is an elite wrestler and will look to dominate on the ground – if she can take the champion down and keep her there, chances are there will be a new strawweight champion on Saturday night.
Esparza is a brilliant grappler and will be looking to take down Namajunas
Michael Chandler vs Tony Ferguson
‘The people’s main event’, as it is being called. Can Tony Ferguson stop his career sliding ever further into the mire?
His stock was at an all-time high at the start of the pandemic before it all came crashing down.
That decision not to wait for Khabib Nurmagomedov and instead face Gaethje might prove the ruining of him. He’s never been the same since.
Gaethje put a horrible beating on ‘El Cucuy’ and since then, he’s suffered defeats by Charles Oliveira and Beneil Dariush.
There’s no shame in losing to Oliveira, who has since proven his class as a worthy champion and Dariush can give anyone a rough night.
Ferguson has lost his last three fights and is in need of a win to get his career back on track
Ferguson has never quite looked the same since his defeat by Gaethje
But it was the manner of those losses that have been so concerning. Ferguson has looked a shell of himself and the murmurs that he should retire will grow louder if Chandler can put him away.
The former Bellator champion is also in desperate need of a victory.
Having lost to Oliveira and then Gaethje, a win over the 38-year-old is a must if he has aspirations of a money fight with Conor McGregor or another tilt at the title.
Chandler is a heavy favourite and matches up well on paper. He is the more powerful man, has genuine knockout power and a solid wrestling base.
Ferguson’s jiu-jitsu is elite but he’ll do very well to secure a takedown. It is tough to assess how far he has fallen given the high quality of opposition but if this is another lacklustre showing, he should consider calling time on what has been an outstanding career.
Chandler is a heavy favourite to beat Ferguson and has the power advantage
Donald Cerrone vs Joe Lauzon
With a combined age of 76, this is legends league kind of scrap.
Cerrone has not won a fight since May 2019 and appears to be very close to the exit door. Perhaps this could even be his final act.
‘Cowboy’ has given so much to the UFC but the latest TKO defeat by Alex Morono was concerning.
That’s why Dana White and Co have matched him up with a fighter only two years younger at 37 who has also been around in the UFC for an age.
Lauzon has been fighting in the organisation since 2006, never winning more than three in a row and never losing more than three.
Donald Cerrone (right) is now 39 and not the fighter he once was in the octagon
His last fight was back in 2019 and given Cerrone’s recent form, Lauzon might feel this is an ideal encounter with a fellow legend.
The start could be crucial here. Cerrone is the slowest of slow starters and is a tortoise out of the blocks.
He’s been finished quickly on multiple occasions and Lauzon loves to set an early pace.
That said, Lauzon can been flat footed and in terms of striking skill, Cerrone is the more refined fighter.
His kicks can be lethal but he’ll have to get them working quickly in a three-rounder. This is one for the fans and should be the perfect way to kick off the main card.
Joe Lauzon is a veteran of the sport and should put on a strong showing against Cerrone
Francisco Trinaldo vs Danny Roberts
‘Hot Chocolate’ is the only Brit on the card and takes on a 43-year-old UFC veteran in Trinaldo.
The Brazilian may be long in the tooth but remains dangerous having won four of his last five. The height and reach advantage of four inches lands in Roberts’ corner.
Consecutive victories over Zelim Imadaev and Ramazan Emeev have the Croydon-born 34-year-old carrying plenty of momentum into this.
He is a technical striker and loves to throw combinations while his opponent is methodical and powerful.
Danny Roberts has won his last two and claiming Francisco Trinaldo’s scalp would be huge
Trinaldo knocked out Roberts’ countryman Jai Herbert and also holds wins over the likes of Jim Miller and Bobby Green.
But he has never been able to mix it with the elite operators and a win for Roberts here would do plenty for his visibility at welterweight.
The Brit’s takedown defence has been targeted in the past so if he is having the better of Trinaldo in the stand-up, look for the Brazilian to drag him to the mat.
Andre Fialho vs Cameron VanCamp
Fialho is a fun fighter to watch and demolished Miguel Baeza for a Performance of the Night bonus in his second UFC appearance.
The Portuguese welterweight is stepping back into the octagon just three weeks later against VanCamp, who has won his last four.
Three of those have been finishes but he has his work cut out in this one.
Fialho is a knockout artist and 12 of his 15 fights have ended that way in his favour.
Andre Fialho (right) is working off a three-week turnaround and looking for another KO
This is already his third fight this year after signing and losing a decision against Michel Pereira in January.
The busy striker could have a power advantage here too. VanCamp usually fights at lightweight but is moving up for this one.
Dana White and Co love an active fighter and especially a KO artist. Expect the Sanford MMA athlete to come out swinging and the bookies give him almost an 80 per cent chance of winning.