Preview: UFC on ESPN 28 Prelims

Montano vs. Wu

By Tom Feely Jul 29, 2021

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The Ultimate Fighting Championship chose quantity over quality with the UFC on ESPN 28 undercard this Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, but the matchups themselves could provide some exciting action. Much of the intrigue likely comes in the featured prelim, which sees former women’s flyweight champion Nicco Montano make a rare appearance against Yanan Wu. Further down the card, a bantamweight battle between Ronnie Lawrence and Trevin Jones sticks out as an under-the-radar gem. While nearly all other fighters scheduled to compete are looking to rebound from a loss, the potential still for some low-stakes fireworks.

Now to the preview for the UFC on ESPN “Hall vs. Strickland” prelims:

Women’s Bantamweights

NR | Nicco Montano (4-3, 1-1 UFC) vs. NR | Yanan Wu (11-4, 1-3 UFC)

ODDS: Montano (-220), Wu (+185)

It has been a strange UFC run for Montano. She was a relatively anonymous prospect when she was selected to be part of “The Ultimate Fighter” season that crowned the UFC’s first women’s flyweight champion; and it was a complete shock when she went ahead and won the entire competition, beating Roxanne Modafferi at the tail end of 2017 to earn the title. There was some potential for the UFC to go outside of its promotional box with Montano being the promotion’s first Native American champion, but her reign was doomed almost immediately. The narrative quickly set in that Montano was only keeping the belt warm for Valentina Shevchenko upon her move down to 125 pounds. When injuries pushed back Montano’s timeline to defend her belt against Shevchenko, that thought only became more of a talking point. Once Montano was finally healthy enough to defend her title against Shevchenko, she wound up losing it on the scale. She was hospitalized as part of her weight cut and the UFC was content to strip her of the belt and move on, leaving her as a footnote once Shevchenko started her reign over the division. That led to Montano’s full-time move to bantamweight, though she has still been inactive due to repeated injuries. Since her 2017 win over Modafferi, Montano’s lone appearance has been a July 2019 decision loss to Julianna Pena. Assuming Montano is in decent physical shape, she should rebound with a win against Wu, who has yet to show much at this level.

Sign up for ESPN+ right here, and you can then stream UFC 264 live on your smart TV, computer, phone, tablet or streaming device via the ESPN app.

Wu has bounced around between flyweight and bantamweight over the course of four UFC bouts and has only shown brief moments of success, one of which was an armbar that scored her lone UFC win over Lauren Mueller. Wu’s tall frame should theoretically lead to some athletic advantages, but it is damning that she handily lost a 2019 bout to Mizuki Inoue—a career strawweight who was not even particularly large for her natural division. Wu’s aimless approach should allow Montano to do whatever she pleases, and the former champion is a strong enough athlete that she was at a solid physical parity with Pena. Unless this last wave of injuries has sapped Montano badly, this figures to be a one-sided win. The pick is Montano via clear decision.

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