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Abus Magomedov of Russia celebrates his TKO victory over Dustin Stoltzfus in a middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at The Accor Arena on September 03, 2022 in Paris, France. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
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Fight By Fight Preview | UFC Fight Night: Strickland vs Magomedov

Preview Each One Of The Fights Taking Place On UFC Fight Night: Strickland vs Magomedov.

In previewing the first event of June, I laid out that the next dozen weeks inside the Octagon were akin to a 12-course meal (complete with wine pairings, obviously) where each event fit as both a distinct, individual delicacy, but also as a piece of the larger, overall presentation.

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If the initial event of the run — the June 3 fight card headlined by Kai Kara-France and Amir Albazi — was an amuse-bouche designed to give fight fans a little sample of what the full menu would eventually offer, this weekend’s fight card is the palette-cleansing sorbet that comes before one of the main courses is set at each place.

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Obviously, UFC 290 next week is that main course — a sumptuous feast of delicious fights — but don’t sleep on the sorbet; it’s an important part of the overall dinner experience and usually carries enough lively flavor and coolness to catch your attention and build further anticipation for the rest of the meal.

Here’s a look at the menu for this weekend.

Bon Appétit!

Sean Strickland walks to the Octagon in a middleweight fight during the UFC 276 event at T-Mobile Arena on July 02, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Sean Strickland walks to the Octagon in a middleweight fight during the UFC 276 event at T-Mobile Arena on July 02, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Main Event: Sean Strickland vs. Abus Magomedov

Location: UFC APEX — Las Vegas, NV

Where to Watch: ESPN / ESPN+

Other Main Card Matches:

    • Damir Ismagulov vs. Grant Dawson
    • Max Griffin vs. Michael Morales
    • Ariane Lipski vs. Melissa Gatto
    • Ismael Bonfim vs. Benoit Saint Denis
    • Brunno Ferreira vs. Nursulton Ruziboev

Prelim Matches:

    • Kevin Lee vs. Rinat Fakhretdinov
    • Joanderson Brito vs. Westin Wilson
    • Yana Santos vs. Karol Rosa
    • Guram Kutateladze vs. Elves Brener
    • Ivana Petrovic vs. Luana Carolina
    • Alexandr Romanov vs. Blagoy Ivanov

Main Event: Sean Strickland vs. Abus Magomedov

Abus Magomedov of Russia poses for a portrait backstage during the UFC Fight Night event at The Accor Arena on September 03, 2022 in Paris, France. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)
Abus Magomedov of Russia poses for a portrait backstage during the UFC Fight Night event at The Accor Arena on September 03, 2022 in Paris, France. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

Middleweights occupy the top of the marquee as Top 10 stalwart Sean Strickland faces off with Russian-German veteran Abus Magomedov.

You know exactly what you’re going to get from Strickland each and every time he steps into the Octagon: forward pressure, lots of volume, a little in-fight smack talk, and toughness for days. He won five straight after returning from a two-year hiatus following a grizzly motorcycle accident and rebounded from a split decision loss to Jared Cannonier in the final fight of 2022 by beating Nassourdine Imavov on short notice in the first main event of 2023.

Magomedov is the polar opposite for UFC fans — an unheralded up and comer with just a single appearance on the biggest stage in the sport. But the 32-year-old dispatched Dustin Stoltzfus in 19 seconds in his debut and is an impressive 12-1-1 over his last 14 fights, with 10 finishes.

FREE FIGHTS: Strickland vs Imavov | Magomedov vs Stoltzfus

These are the kinds of matchups that genuinely make sense at middleweight — instant tests against established competitors that have either failed to reach the top of the division or have already been turned back by the champion — and we’re seeing another one later in the month with Paulo Costa taking on Ikram Aliskerov.

Strickland is already on the short list of possible contenders because he’s one of the few names in the Top 10 that has yet to face champ Israel Adesanya; if he picks up another win here, he strengthens his case. If Magomedov goes out and beats him — either emphatically or by the skin of his teeth — he immediately establishes himself as a serious person of interest at the top the middleweight division.

Other Main Card Fights

Damir Ismagulov vs. Grant Dawson

Grant Dawson reacts after his victory over Mark O. Madsen of Denmark in a lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on November 05, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Grant Dawson reacts after his victory over Mark O. Madsen of Denmark in a lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on November 05, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Damir Ismagulov and Grant Dawson face off in the co-main event, meeting in what should be a competitive and instructive battle in the lightweight division.

Ismagulov is a 32-year-old Russian with a stellar 24-2 record that includes UFC victories over Joel Alvarez, Thiago Moises, and Guram Kutateladze. His only loss in the last seven years came last time out against Arman Tsarukyan, a bona fide Top 10 talent and the ascending boogeyman of the lightweight division.

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Dawson has also done a ton of great work in the shadows and relative silence, compiling a 7-0-1 record in eight UFC starts since claiming a contract on the opening season of Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS). A brawny Midwest kid with strong grappling and a solid understanding of how to play to his strengths inside the Octagon, Dawson has shown clear and obvious improvements since relocating to South Florida and training at American Top Team.

This is an outstanding battle of fighters currently stationed in the lower third of the Top 15. Each is capable of beating the other handily and working their way forward in the division, but pairing them together makes that challenge more daunting. Everything hinges on who is able to dictate the terms of engagement, and how each deals with the best weapons the other brings to the table on Saturday night.

Max Griffin vs. Michael Morales

Michael Morales of Ecuador poses for a post fight portrait backstage during the UFC 277 event at American Airlines Center on July 30, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)
Michael Morales of Ecuador poses for a post fight portrait backstage during the UFC 277 event at American Airlines Center on July 30, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

This is a classic “veteran versus prospect” pairing in the welterweight division, as Max Griffin shares the Octagon with Michael Morales.

Despite being 37 years old and well over a decade deep into his career, Griffin has never looked better. He enters this weekend’s main card assignment off a victory over Tim Means, and has won four of his last five, with the only setback coming by split decision in an impossibly close fight with Neil Magny in March 2022.

READ: Max Griffin Wants to Teach Morales A Lesson

A member of the DWCS Class of ’21, Morales posted stoppage wins over Trevin Giles and Adam Fugitt to begin his UFC tenure, extending his record to 14-0 in the process. Tall, rangy, and with good power for the division, the 23-year-old from Ecuador, who trains at the Entram Gym in Tijuana, is one of the better prospects on the roster, and projects to be a future factor in the 170-pound weight class.

This pairing is designed to determine how close we are to that future, as Morales has passed his first two tests with flying colors, and now steps in against a dangerous, savvy veteran in the midst of a very good run of results. Griffin has no interest in being a steppingstone, so it’ll be interesting to see how things play out once they get in there and get after it this weekend.

Ariane Lipski vs. Melissa Gatto

Melissa Gatto of Brazil reacts after her TKO victory over Sijara Eubanks in their flyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on December 18, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Melissa Gatto of Brazil reacts after her TKO victory over Sijara Eubanks in their flyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on December 18, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Ariane Lipski looks to build on a strong outing, while Melissa Gatto aims to rebound from her first professional loss in this crucial flyweight pairing.

After four years of inconsistency produced a 3-5 record inside the Octagon, Lipski turned in her most complete and impressive performance to date in March, stepping out and piecing up JJ Aldrich en route to a unanimous decision win. Still only 29, the former KSW boss can start making real headway in the 125-pound ranks if she can parlay her first appearance of the year into another positive result in her second outing of 2023.

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Gatto earned stoppage wins over Victoria Leonardo and Sijara Eubanks in her first two UFC bouts to elevate her record to 8-0-2, which landed her opposite Tracy Cortez at UFC 274 last May. The Brazilian struggled to deal with the wrestling and top pressure of the Arizona native, spending long stretches pinned to the fence or the canvas, resulting in her unbeaten run coming to a halt.

Lipski and Gatto cross paths here at a critical time for each athlete: the former needs to show her win over Aldrich and form in that fight wasn’t a one-off, while the latter is out to prove she’s better than her most recent performance. Both like to throw, and each has flashed some confidence on the ground (at least from top position), so this should be a competitive back-and-forth wherever it takes place, for as long as it lasts.

Ismael Bonfim vs. Benoit Saint Denis

Benoît Saint-Denis Gets Epic TKO In Front Of His Home Crowd | UFC Fight Night: Gane vs Tuivasa
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Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

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Benoît Saint-Denis Gets Epic TKO In Front Of His Home Crowd | UFC Fight Night: Gane vs Tuivasa
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Banger Alert! Banger Alert! Banger Alert!

Ismael Bonfim and Benoit Saint-Denis share the Octagon in a lightweight contest that has Fight of the Night written all over it… unless one of them fancies picking up a Performance of the Night bonus instead.

Following his contract-winning turn on DWCS last season, Bonfim debuted at UFC 283 in Rio de Janeiro and registered a second-round stoppage win over Terrance McKinney. Now 19-3 overall and brandishing a 13-fight winning streak, the elder of the two Bonfim boys on the UFC roster looks like he could be a fun, all-action addition to the lightweight ranks at the very least, and a potential dark horse to track in the division, depending on how things shake out.

RELATED: Bonfim Lands On UFC's 2023 Newcomer List

Saint-Denis carrying the “God of War” nom de punch is quite fitting because the 27-year-old Frenchman has never met a fist fight that didn’t excite him. After getting battered by Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos up a division in his Octagon debut, Saint-Denis has returned to lightweight and registered consecutive second-round stoppage wins over Niklas Stolze and Gabriel Miranda.

The chance that these two meet in the middle and start trading punches and kicks until someone falls down (and stays down) are high, which means you’re going to want to be locked into your seat, refreshments restocked, distractions removed as soon as this one gets underway.

Brunno Ferreira vs. Nursulton Ruziboev

Brunno Ferreira of Brazil reacts after his knockout victory over Gregory Rodrigues of Brazil in a middleweight fight during the UFC 283 event at Jeunesse Arena on January 21, 2023 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC)
Brunno Ferreira of Brazil reacts after his knockout victory over Gregory Rodrigues of Brazil in a middleweight fight during the UFC 283 event at Jeunesse Arena on January 21, 2023 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC)

Middleweights close out the main card and middleweights open the main card as well, as sophomore Brunno Ferreira welcomes freshman Nursulton Ruziboev to the Octagon for the first time.

Ferreira tagged in on short notice for Brad Tavares opposite Gregory Rodrigues at UFC 283 and promptly put “Robocop” to sleep with a perfect counter left towards the end of the opening stanza. It was the fourth straight first-round finish for the undefeated “Hulk,” who has yet to venture beyond the 68-second mark of the second round in his career.

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Training with the Philly crew that includes Sean Brady, Joe Pyfer, and Pat Sabatini, the 29-year-old Ruziboev arrives in the UFC with bushels of experience, but few bouts against names that ring out for anyone beyond the hardest of hardcore fans. “Black” has won eight straight overall and 10 of his last 11, with all of those victories coming inside the distance.

Individually, neither man has any interest in asking the judges to sort out who won the fight, so putting them together should, in theory, produce an action-packed main card opener on Saturday.

Prelim Fights

Kevin Lee vs. Rinat Fakhretdinov

Kevin Lee prepares to fight Daniel Rodriguez in a welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on August 28, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Kevin Lee prepares to fight Daniel Rodriguez in a welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on August 28, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Kevin Lee makes his return to the UFC in the night’s final preliminary card bout, facing off with Rinat Fakhretdinov in an intriguing welterweight clash. Lee always hovered around contention, but struggled to find consistency, going 2-5 over his last seven fights before a one-fight absence from the Octagon. Fakhretdinov debuted earlier this year with a one-sided decision win over Bryan Battle and will look to catapult himself into the greater MMA consciousness by turning back Lee on Saturday.

Joanderson Brito vs. Westin Wilson

Joanderson Brito Sinks In Rear Naked Choke In Round 1 | UFC Fight Night: Grasso vs Araújo
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Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

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Joanderson Brito Sinks In Rear Naked Choke In Round 1 | UFC Fight Night: Grasso vs Araújo
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DWCS grad Joanderson Brito faces off with Westin Wilson in this short-notice featherweight pairing. Brito, who was slated to face Khusein Askhabov, has won his last two bouts in less than three minutes combined, while the 34-year-old veteran Wilson steps in hoping to score one of the bigger upsets of the year. Will Brito keep cruising, or will Wilson shock the world?

Yana Santos vs. Karol Rosa

Yana Santos of Russia battles Holly Holm in a bantamweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at AT&T Center on March 25, 2023 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)
Yana Santos of Russia battles Holly Holm in a bantamweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at AT&T Center on March 25, 2023 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)

Yana Santos and Karol Rosa never crossed paths as bantamweights, meeting here in the featherweight division instead. Santos returned from maternity leave in March, dropping a unanimous decision to Holly Holm, moving her to 4-4 in the UFC. Rosa ventured to the 145-pound ranks for the first time earlier this year, losing a decision to Norma Dumont.

Guram Kutateladze vs. Elves Brener

Guram Kutateladze of Georgia kicks Damir Ismagulov of Russia in a middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Moody Center on June 18, 2022 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)
Guram Kutateladze of Georgia kicks Damir Ismagulov of Russia in a middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Moody Center on June 18, 2022 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

Guram Kutateladze tags in to face off with Elves Brener in this intriguing lightweight pairing. “The Georgian Viking” missed out on the chance to face Jamie Mullarkey last month due to visa issues, but jumped at the chance to replace Jordan Leavitt here. Brener landed on the happy side of a split decision verdict in his promotional debut, edging out Zubaira Tukhugov at UFC 284.

Ivana Petrovic vs. Luana Carolina

Luana Carolina of Brazil is seen during a flyweight fight against Joanne Wood of Scotland during the UFC 286 event at The O2 Arena on March 18, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Luana Carolina of Brazil is seen during a flyweight fight against Joanne Wood of Scotland during the UFC 286 event at The O2 Arena on March 18, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Promotional newcomer Ivana Petrovic looks to continue her unbeaten ways as she steps into the Octagon for the first time in a matchup against Brazilian veteran Luana Carolina. Sporting a 6-0 record with five finishes, the Ares FC champ Petrovic is another promising young talent to watch in the flyweight ranks. Carolina is a notoriously tough out, but comes into this one on a two-fight slide, having dropped back-to-back fights in London to Molly McCann and Joanne Wood.

Alexandr Romanov vs. Blagoy Ivanov

 Blagoy Ivanov of Bulgaria punches Marcos Rogerio de Lima of Brazil in a heavyweight fight during the UFC 274 event at Footprint Center on May 07, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Blagoy Ivanov of Bulgaria punches Marcos Rogerio de Lima of Brazil in a heavyweight fight during the UFC 274 event at Footprint Center on May 07, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

The two men stationed at Nos. 14 and 15 in the heavyweight rankings kick off the show on Saturday, as Alexandr Romanov meets Blagoy Ivanov in this clash of European powerhouses. Romanov has dropped two straight since pushing his record to 16-0 with victories in each of his first five UFC appearances, most recently getting stopped in March by Alexander Volkov. Ivanov ended a two-year absence last May, besting Marcos Rogerio de Lima on the scorecards, but landed on the wrong side of the results in his meeting with Marcin Tybura in February.

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UFC Fight Night: Strickland vs Magomedov took place live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada on July 1, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!