The Ultimate Fighting Championship is building up its yearly trip to Brooklyn, New York, in a big way.
On Wednesday, a pair of reports from MMA Fighting and French publication La Sueur indicated that two major matchups at UFC 249 are currently in the works. First, Jeremy Stephens (28-17,1 NC) will now be facing Calvin Kattar (20-4) at this event at featherweight, while heavyweights Ciryl Gane (6-0) and Shamil Abdurakhimov (20-5) will square off as well. Sherdog.com has since confirmed the bout between Gane and Abdurakhimov with sources familiar to the situation.
Stephens will be looking to turn around a lengthy skid that has seen him lose three of his last four, with the other a no-contest to Yair Rodriguez. His last win came in 2018 when he knocked out Josh Emmett in the second round via elbows. Stephens and Katter were originally set to face off at UFC 248, but an injury pushed the bout back a month. "Lil' Heathen" holds two UFC fights fewer than Donald Cerrone (34) and also trails Jim Miller (33) by one, with the former holding the most appearances in company history.
Kattar will attempt to rebound from a defeat on the scorecards to Zabit Magomedsharipov in November, although the two combined for a "Fight of the Night"-winning performance. That loss stopped a two-fight first-round knockout streak, which saw him finish Chris Fishgold and Ricardo Lamas in less than a round each. "The Boston Finisher" has knocked out his opponent in three of his four victories inside the Octagon to date.
Unbeaten in six bouts as a professional, the Frenchman has finished five of those opponents inside the distance. His most recent bout with Tanner Boser in December marked the first time "Bon Gamin" had ever reached the scorecards. Gane made his victorious promotional debut when he tapped Raphael Pessoa with a first-round arm-triangle, and then went on to score the first heel hook in the UFC's heavyweight division since 2009 when he submitted Don'Tale Mayes with one at UFC Fight Night 162 in October.
Abdurakhimov suffered a setback in his heavyweight title aspirations when Curtis Blaydes knocked him out in September at UFC 242. The loss broke a three-fight win streak that saw him record victories over Marcin Tybura, Andrei Arlovski and Chase Sherman. This will be the first bout for "Abrek" in the United States since his headliner agianst Derrick Lewis in 2016, with the fighter from Dagestan competing four times in Asia since then.
UFC 249 will be held on April 18 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The main event sees the long-awaited lightweight championship tilt between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson. Additionally, Ronaldo Souza returns to the middleweight division against Uriah Hall, while former strawweight champs are set for a rematch as Jessica Andrade takes on Rose Namajunas.