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The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to Mexico City, Mexico, as UFC Fight Night 159 takes place this Saturday. A number of top fighters are competing in the event, so let’s take a look at them and the possible implications their fights could have on the rankings.
In the main event, an explosive featherweight matchup is on the cards as Yair Rodriguez collides with the hard-hitting Jeremy Stephens. Rodriguez (11-2) has only competed twice since 2017 and is 1-1 in those bouts. However, that loss came against Frankie Edgar while his most recent outing was in November last year when he famously knocked out Chan Sung Jung in the last second of their UFC Denver headliner. Because of that, “El Pantera” is still ranked high. Sherdog have him as the eighth-best featherweight in the world while he is No. 7 in the UFC rankings.
His opponent in Stephens (28-16), meanwhile, will be looking to end his recent losing skid. After embarking on a three-fight winning run, “Lil’ Heathen” has now lost two in a row. Those losses were against top opposition, however, as he was knocked out by Jose Aldo and outpointed by Zabit Magomedsharipov. Likewise, Stephens is still rated high as a result. ESPN rate him as the ninth-best featherweight in the world while he is just below Rodriguez in the UFC rankings at No. 8. A win for either fighter could see them move up further.
Ranked strawweights meet in the co-main event as former champion Carla Esparza takes on Alexa Grasso. Esparza (14-6) bounced back from her two-fight losing skid with a unanimous decision victory over Virna Jandiroba earlier this year. She is currently rated as the eighth-best strawweight in the world by Sherdog, the 10th by ESPN and she is No. 8 in the UFC rankings.
As for Grasso (11-2), she will be looking to make two wins in a row following her unanimous decision win over former title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz earlier this summer. The 26-year-old is currently rated as the ninth-best strawweight in the world by ESPN and is No. 9 in the rankings. Like in the main event, a win for either competitor could see them climb the strawweight ranks further.
Brandon Moreno makes his return to the Octagon as he takes on the undefeated Askar Askarov in a flyweight bout. The last time Moreno (15-5) competed for the promotion in Mexico, he was outpointed by Sergio Pettis. Another loss to Alexandre Pantoja followed before he was released. He wouldn’t be gone for long as after winning the Legacy Fighting Alliance flyweight title, he was called back to the Las Vegas-based promotion. He is currently ranked No. 9 in the UFC rankings. Askarov (10-0), meanwhile, will be making his UFC debut. He last fought in May 2018, where he choked out Rasul Albaskhanov at an Absolute Championship Akhmat event. A win over Moreno could see him insert himself into the top 10 after just one fight.
Lastly, Irene Aldana is also in action as she faces Vanessa Melo in a women’s bantamweight contest. Aldana (10-5) is coming off a split decision loss to Raquel Pennington earlier in the summer. It ended a three-fight winning streak that included wins over Lucie Pudilova and Bethe Correia. She will now look to get back on track and climb the rankings further. As of now, the 31-year-old is ranked No. 10 in the UFC. Like Askarov, Melo (9-5) will be making her promotional debut in the event and a win could see her insert himself into the top 10. The Brazilian has won her last four contests in a row.