The UFC will take center stage in front of a national audience this weekend as the promotion hosts UFC Fight Night on Saturday (3 p.m. on ABC/ESPN+, with prelims at 11:30 a.m. on ESPN/ESPN+).

The fight card will be headlined by former interim featherweight title challenger Josh Emmett facing rising contender Ilia Topuria. Women’s flyweight up-and-comers Amanda Ribas and Maycee Barber will fight in the co-main event. But there are also some intriguing matchups further down the card that fans should also keep their eye on.

Former UFC women’s featherweight title challenger and current ESPN MMA analyst Megan Anderson highlights the top storylines to watch during the action this weekend.


Could we be looking at the next title challenger?

Considering the landscape of the men’s featherweight division, a win for Topuria could shoot him up the rankings into the next title shot.

The champion, Alexander Volkanovski, is defending his title against interim champion Yair Rodriguez next month at UFC 290. Max Holloway, ranked No. 2 in ESPN’s divisional rankings, is booked to fight “Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung in August. Fifth-ranked Brian Ortega is coming off an injury against Rodriguez last July. Eighth-ranked Arnold Allen is coming off a loss to Holloway. And Calvin Kattar, ranked No. 9, is also coming off an injury in a loss to Allen last October. This makes for an interesting situation: Topuria could instantly stake his claim as the top contender in the division with a big win.

Topuria (13-0) has some things going for him. He’s undefeated, and being able to say that at this level as he enters his sixth fight in the Octagon is impressive. More important than stacking wins, Topuria is finishing opponents, with 12 of his 13 wins coming by way of submission (8) or knockout (4). With a win this weekend, I wouldn’t be surprised if he calls for a title shot.

Conversely, a win for Emmett would keep him in the conversation of top contenders. Coming off a loss to Rodriguez in an interim title fight at UFC 284 in February, Emmett could find himself outside the group of top contenders at 145 pounds if he comes up short.

Before his recent loss, Emmett hadn’t lost a fight since 2018. Although a win here would be a great way to get back on track, I don’t think it’s enough to make him a title contender just yet. He would likely need to win one more after this fight before he gets another crack at the belt. But if he wins, it could set him up perfectly for a fight with Allen or Ortega.


Major women’s flyweight implications

Just as in the main event between Emmett and Topuria, there will be a lot on the line in the co-main event between Ribas and Barber. Both are rising contenders in the women’s flyweight division that is longing for more star power, as its longtime champion, Valentina Shevchenko, was upset by now-champ Alexa Grasso.

Ribas (11-3), who is 2-2 in her past four fights, is coming off a win over Viviane Araujo at UFC 285 in March. On a four-fight win streak, Barber (12-2) enters the fight following a split decision win over Andrea Lee at a UFC Fight Night in March.

While Ribas and Barber boast impressive professional records, neither has earned a signature win. On national television, the co-main event could be the perfect opportunity to get that standout victory.

With the women’s flyweight division getting its first new champion since 2018, the weight class is as wide open as ever. Ribas or Barber could use this fight as the step that solidifies the winner as a future title contender.


Heavy fists will fly to open the main card

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Brendan Allen gets Sam Alvey to tap out

Brendan Allen knocks down Sam Alvey with a big left hook then submits him via rear-naked choke.

Saturday’s main card will open with two fights featuring fighters with significant striking power. First, Brendan Allen will have his hands full in a tough matchup with Bruno Silva.

Both fighters have a high finish rate, Allen with six of his nine UFC wins coming via knockout or submission and Silva with all four of his UFC wins coming by knockout.

I don’t see this fight going the distance. Silva has lost twice by submission, and while Allen has power in his hands, his background is in jiu-jitsu. So I could see Allen taking the fight to the ground to nullify Silva’s fight-altering power and using his ground game to put Silva in an unfavorable position. Allen has 12 career submission finishes.

Following Allen vs. Silva, David Onama will take on Gabriel Santos. Onama is another skilled fighter with serious power in his hands. He also has a knack for ending up in exciting fights. He always ends up in absolute wars if he doesn’t finish his opponent early. Get ready for back-to-back exciting fights to open the main card.


Robertson, who started her UFC career at women’s flyweight, recently dropped to strawweight to face Piera Rodriguez in April and looked great in her divisional debut.

I wasn’t the only one impressed with her performance, as the UFC matchmakers booked her to face a fellow up-and-comer in the division, Tabatha Ricci. Robertson is a high-level grappler, with seven of her nine UFC wins coming via submission. Last December, she even beat former strawweight champion Rose Namajunas in a grappling match.

Robertson was always undersized for the women’s flyweight division, so strawweight feels right for her. If she can get a win over Ricci, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her shoot up the rankings in the division quickly.

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