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Paul Craig of Scotland is introduced prior to facing Andre Muniz of Brazil in their middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night at The O2 Arena on July 22, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
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Fight By Fight Preview | UFC Fight Night: Allen vs Craig

A Comprehensive Look At What’s On Tap This Weekend As The Action Touches Down At The UFC APEX For The Final Time In 2023

We’re back at the UFC APEX for the final time in 2023 with a card capped by a clash between ascending names in the middleweight division, which is also how we ended 2022 and started the year.

Yes, technically, the 2023 opener was a light heavyweight bout, but the plan was for it to be a middleweight pairing and the current middleweight champion stepped up on short notice, so you know what I mean.

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This weekend, Brendan Allen and Paul Craig face off in a bout that will determine which one is viewed as a dark horse contender in the 185-pound weight class heading into next year, with a host of competitive and compelling pairings stacked behind them, giving Saturday’s fight card a chance to be an entertaining and informative wrap to a quality year of action inside the UFC APEX.

It’s a card flush with promising newcomers and boasting some low-key critical matchups sprinkled in for good measure, and you can get a sense of what to expect when the action hits the Octagon by checking out the preview below.

Main Event: Brendan Allen vs Paul Craig

Location: UFC APEX — Las Vegas, Nevada

Where to Watch: ESPN+

Other Main Card Matches:

  • Michael Morales vs Jake Matthews
  • Chase Hooper vs Jordan Leavitt
  • Payton Talbott vs Nick Aguirre
  • Luana Pinheiro vs Amanda Ribas
  • Jonny Parsons vs Uros Medic

Prelim Matches:

  • Jonathan Pearce vs Joanderson Brito
  • Chad Anheliger vs Jose Johnson
  • Mick Parkin vs Caio Machado
  • Jeka Saragih vs Lucas Alexander
  • Lucie Pudilova vs Ailin Perez
  • Trey Ogden vs Nikolas Motta
  • Charles Johnson vs Rafael Estevam

Main Event: Brendan Allen vs. Paul Craig

Paul Craig of Scotland reacts after defeating Andre Muniz of Brazil in their middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night at The O2 Arena on July 22, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Paul Craig of Scotland reacts after defeating Andre Muniz of Brazil in their middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night at The O2 Arena on July 22, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Ranked middleweights looking to close out the year with another quality effort face off in the main event as Brendan Allen and Paul Craig go head-to-head in the final bout at the APEX this year.

Allen earned a trio of victories in 2022 and looks to accomplish the same feat with a victory this weekend, entering his first scheduled UFC main event having earned five straight wins, with each of the last three coming by way of rear-naked choke submission. The 27-year-old Louisiana native has always flashed upside, but now seems to be putting it all together, fighting with more poise and confidence than at any other point of his career.

Brendan Allen Sit Down Interview With Brendan Fitzgerald
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Brendan Allen Sit Down Interview With Brendan Fitzgerald
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Saturday marks Craig’s sophomore appearance at middleweight, but the Scottish finisher made a sharp impression in his divisional debut, smashing through Andre Muniz in London to announce his arrival and halt a two-fight skid. He’s big for the division, continues to sharpen his striking skills, and has been in there with a host of top-end light heavyweight talent, which makes him a real wild card now that he’s joined the 185-pound ranks.

WATCH FREE FIGHTS: Allen vs Muniz | Craig vs Muniz

There is the potential for this to be a high-level grappling match, as both Allen and Craig do their best work on the canvas, with the added wrinkle being that the Scotsman is slick off his back, and therefore might be accepting of takedowns. Allen should have an edge on the feet in terms of the diversity and fluidity of his striking, but Craig can crack, so wherever this plays out, we should get a competitive battle to close out the show.

Next year is going to be an interesting one in the middleweight division, especially with the title on the line to close out UFC 297 in Toronto, so a big performance and quality win for either man should position them for another showdown with a ranked opponent and a chance to keep climbing the divisional ladder in the opening quarter of 2024.

Other Main Card Fights

Michael Morales vs Jake Matthews

Michael Morales of Ecuador prepares to face Max Griffin in a welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on July 01, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Michael Morales of Ecuador prepares to face Max Griffin in a welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on July 01, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Welterweights meet in the co-main event as Michael Morales puts his undefeated record on the line against Australian veteran Jake Matthews in Saturday’s penultimate pairing.

Brandishing a perfect 15-0 mark that includes wins in each of his first three UFC appearances, Morales looks to keep his methodical march up the rankings going as he returns to the APEX this weekend. After impressing on Season 5 of Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS), the Ecuadorian prospect posted stoppage wins over Trevin Giles and Adam Fugitt in his rookie year on the roster, and followed that up with a hard-fought decision nod over Max Griffin at the start of July.

Dana White Reacts To UFC 295: Procházka vs Pereira

Still just 29 years old, Matthews has been on the UFC roster for a decade and has more appearances inside the Octagon (18) than Morales does fights. After opening his time at welterweight with six wins in seven starts, the former TUF Nations contestant has alternated losses and wins over his last four, offering glimpses of quality athleticism and finishing instincts.

While not quite your classic “prospect versus veteran” clash, this is a bout designed (I think) to get another read on how Morales acquits himself against an opponent with far more experience in the Octagon, while upping the level of finishing threat from his last outing. Matthews may have shown some inconsistency over his last four, but he also ran through Andre Fialho and dominated Darrius Flowers, and clearly has the skills to do the same to his 25-year-old adversary here if Morales isn’t on point on Saturday night.

Chase Hooper vs Jordan Leavitt

Chase Hooper poses for a post fight portrait backstage during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on May 20, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)
Chase Hooper poses for a post fight portrait backstage during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on May 20, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

Chase Hooper and Jordan Leavitt face off in the middle of this weekend’s main card in a lightweight clash that should be all kinds of fun.

Hooper made his UFC lightweight debut last time out and looked sharp, turning in a solid all-around effort against Nick Fiore to get himself back into the win column and maintain his pattern of alternating wins and losses inside the Octagon. The Oregon native continues to grow into his considerable frame and his understanding of how to deploy his weapons effectively at this level, and remains the kind of young fighter that is worth keeping an eye on as he looks to earn consecutive victories inside the Octagon for the first time.

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A member of the DWCS Class of 2020, Leavitt also rebounded with his most impressive outing to date last time out, earning a Performance of the Night bonus for his first-round stoppage win over Victor Martinez. The Syndicate MMA representative is 4-2 in the UFC, 11-2 overall and, like Hooper, is still working to sharpen his striking and turn it into a strong compliment for his quality grappling.

Both of these athletes are still putting the pieces together, and pairing them off together is the right decision for each of them at this point in their development. This one could play out in any number of ways, but the grappling fanatic in me hopes we get a scramble-filled battle on the canvas full of attacks and counters, submission attempts and defenses.

Payton Talbott vs Nick Aguirre

Payton Talbott kicks Reyes Cortez Jr. in a bantamweight fight during Dana White's Contender Series season seven, week one at UFC APEX on August 08, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Al Powers/Zuffa LLC)
Payton Talbott kicks Reyes Cortez Jr. in a bantamweight fight during Dana White's Contender Series season seven, week one at UFC APEX on August 08, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Al Powers/Zuffa LLC)

Recent DWCS winner Payton Talbott makes his promotional debut this weekend, facing off with Nick Aguirre in a main card clash in the bantamweight division.

Unbeaten in six pro starts, Talbott scored a unanimous decision win and UFC contract in August, rallying after dropping the opening round to defeat Reyes Cortez Jr. A Las Vegas native, Talbott had finished each of his previous fight outings inside the distance, and will look to get back to his fight-ending ways in his homecoming this weekend.

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Aguirre made his first trip into the Octagon earlier this year, stepping in on short notice and dropping a decision to Dan Argueta. It was the first career loss for the McKendree University alum, and you can be certain that “Slick Nick” will want to avoid that loss turning into a losing streak when he steps in with Talbott on Saturday evening.

Luana Pinheiro vs Amanda Ribas

Amanda Ribas of Brazil poses on the scale during the UFC Fight Night ceremonial weigh-in at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on June 23, 2023 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)
Amanda Ribas of Brazil poses on the scale during the UFC Fight Night ceremonial weigh-in at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on June 23, 2023 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

It’s a meeting between ranked Brazilian strawweights as Luana Pinheiro welcomes Amanda Ribas back to the 115-pound ranks this weekend.

After missing all of 2022 recovering from a knee injury, Pinheiro pushed her winning streak to nine with a split decision victory over Michelle Waterson-Gomez at UFC 287 in Miami. The 29-year-old currently sits at No. 9 in the rankings, and her ceiling remains undefined as she continues posting victories with each step up in competition.

See What's Happening In The Strawweight Division

Ribas fights at strawweight for the first time in two years, looking to showcase the form that carried her to a unanimous decision win over Virna Jandiroba in her last appearance in the division. She went 1-2 in her last three fights at flyweight, most recently landing on the business end of things in a clash with Maycee Barber, yet is still an intriguing addition back into the mix because we’ve seen her succeed against quality competition in the past.

More than any other bout on the card besides the main event, this is a high-stakes battle that is going to tell us a great deal about where each of these two women currently stand in the division and what is reasonable to expect from them going forward. This is Pinheiro’s toughest assignment to date, while also being a great measuring stick opportunity for Ribas, and it will be fascinating to see how things play out when these compatriots clash inside the Octagon.

Jonny Parsons vs Uros Medic

Uroš Medić Delivers A Big Time KO Against Morales | UFC Fight Night: Holm vs Vieira
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Uroš Medić Delivers A Big Time KO Against Morales | UFC Fight Night: Holm vs Vieira
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Saturday’s main card opens with a banger in the welterweight division as Jonny Parsons and Uros Medic share the space inside the eight-sided proving ground.

Nearly two years after earning his contract with a split decision win over Solomon Renfro on Season 5 of Dana White’s Contender Series, Parsons finally made his promotional debut in July, getting the better of Danny Roberts in an absolute slobberknocker in London. The 32-year-old Muay Thai stylist has now won six straight overall, and should bring his trademark aggression and toughness into this one.

Medic ventured up to welterweight for the first time in his UFC tenure last time out, collecting a third-round stoppage win over Matthew Semelsberger at UFC 291. “The Doctor” has good size for the division, keen finishing instincts, and has never gone to the scorecards in his 10-fight career.

Individually, each of these men is guaranteed action with a high potential for chaos inside the Octagon. Together, this should be a highly combustible way to kick off the main card this weekend at the UFC APEX.

Preliminary Card Fights

Jonathan Pearce vs Joanderson Brito

Joanderson Brito of Brazil reacts after his victory over Westin Wilson in a featherweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on July 01, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Joanderson Brito of Brazil reacts after his victory over Westin Wilson in a featherweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on July 01, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

The prelims wrap with an outstanding pairing in the featherweight division, as Jonathan Pearce returns to take on Joanderson Brito.

Unbeaten in five starts in the 145-pound weight class, Pearce broke into the rankings earlier in his run, but has since fallen out as a result of an extended stay on the sidelines. He earned a trio of wins in 2022, and profiles as a potential dark horse in the division if he can keep his run of positive results going through this one.

Brito has rebounded from a loss to Bill Algeo in his promotional debut with three straight first-round stoppage wins, blasting through veteran staple Andre Fili in 41 seconds before dispatching late replacements Lucas Alexander and Westin Wilson in his last two outings. The 28-year-old Brazilian has gone 13-1-1 over his last 15 outings, and will look to take a big step forward with a victory here.

Chad Anheliger vs Jose Johnson

Chad Anheliger Gets TKO In UFC Debut | UFC Fight Night: Walker vs Hill
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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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Chad Anheliger Gets TKO In UFC Debut | UFC Fight Night: Walker vs Hill
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Chad Anheliger and Jose Johnson face off here in a battle of DWCS alums looking to get things moving in the right direction again.

After registering a third-round stoppage win over Jesse Strader in his promotional debut, Anheliger dropped a unanimous decision to Alatangheili in his sophomore outing last September and hasn’t competed since. As for the 28-year-old Johnson, his second appearance on the Contender Series saw him earn a win and a contract, but his debut in August found him on the wrong side of the third twister submission in UFC history.

Mick Parkin vs Caio Machado

Mick Parkin of England reacts after defeating Jamal Pogues in their heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night at The O2 Arena on July 22, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Mick Parkin of England reacts after defeating Jamal Pogues in their heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night at The O2 Arena on July 22, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Heavyweight neophytes square off here as Britain’s Mick Parkin welcomes Brazilian Caio Machado to the UFC.

Following a first-round upset win on Season 6 of the Contender Series, Parkin showed heaps of promise in his promotional debut victory over Jamal Pogues earlier this summer in London. Machado won a decision over an unengaged Kevin Szaflarski to run his winning streak to seven and garner this opportunity, but now the former Battlefield Fight League champ needs to show he has the goods to compete at this level.

Jeka Saragih vs Lucas Alexander

Jeka Saragih of Indonesia punches Anshul Jubli of India in a lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 04, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Jeka Saragih of Indonesia punches Anshul Jubli of India in a lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 04, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Road to UFC finalist Jeka Saragih returns to action against Lucas Alexander in what should be a spirited featherweight affair this weekend.

Saragih, the first Indonesian to compete in the UFC, was stopped by Anshul Jubli in the lightweight finale in February, but now drops down a division to see if the 145-pound ranks are a more suitable fit. After falling to Brito in his short-notice debut, Alexander bounced back with a unanimous decision win over veteran Steven Peterson last time out, getting himself moving in the right direction again while pushing his record to 8-3 overall.

Lucie Pudilova vs Ailin Perez

Lucie Pudilova of Czech Republic poses for a post fight portrait backstage during the UFC 278 event at Vivint Arena on August 20, 2022 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)
Lucie Pudilova of Czech Republic poses for a post fight portrait backstage during the UFC 278 event at Vivint Arena on August 20, 2022 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

It’s a meeting between 29-year-old bantamweights looking to head into 2024 on a high note here as Lucie Pudilova shares the Octagon with Ailin Perez.

Pudilova made her return to the UFC last August with a win over Wu Yanan, but landed on the wrong side of a debated split decision verdict last time out, halting her tidy three-fight winning streak. Perez looked infinitely better in her second UFC appearance in July, registering a unanimous decision win over Ashlee Evans-Smith to move to 8-2 overall.

Trey Ogden vs Nikolas Motta

Nikolas Motta Secures First Round TKO With Vicious Left Hook | UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen vs Song
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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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Nikolas Motta Secures First Round TKO With Vicious Left Hook | UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen vs Song
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Lightweights aiming to get back in the win column clash here as Trey Ogden faces off with Nikolas Motta.

Ogden has made a number of appearances cornering other athletes in the UFC this year, but his lone foray into the Octagon himself resulted in a unanimous decision loss to Ignacio Bahamondes at UFC 287 in April. The 30-year-old Motta has yet to go beyond the second round in three UFC starts, but unfortunately, he’s been on the business end of two of those finishes, including last time out where he was stopped by Manuel Torres in under two minutes.

Charles Johnson vs Rafael Estevam

Charles Johnson prepares to fight Ode Osbourne of Jamaica in a catchweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 25, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Charles Johnson prepares to fight Ode Osbourne of Jamaica in a catchweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 25, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Flyweights Charles Johnson and Rafael Estevam get the call to open the show this weekend in Las Vegas.

Johnson looked to be building a little momentum when he kicked off his 2024 campaign with a first-round stoppage win over Jimmy Flick that gave him consecutive UFC victories, but since then, “InnerG” has dropped back-to-back decisions to Ode Osbourne and Cody Durden. After a pair of cancelled bouts, the 27-year-old Estevam finally makes his promotional debut, carrying an 11-0 record with seven finishes into his first appearance under the UFC banner.

Don't miss a moment of UFC Fight Night: Allen vs Craig, live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. Prelims start at 2pm ET/11am PT, while the main card kicks off at 5pm ET/2pm PT.