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Jairzinho Rozenstruik of Suriname reacts after defeating Chris Daukaus in a heavyweight fight during the UFC 282 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 10, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
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Fight By Fight Preview | UFC Fight Night: Rozenstruik vs Gaziev

Detailing The Matchups Set To Hit The Octagon On Saturday Night In Las Vegas

In the fall of 2020 on UFC Fight Island, there was an event that featured three future champions competing in the early days of their UFC careers.

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Dricus Du Plessis and Ilia Topuria stepped into the Octagon for the first time, posting victories over Markus Perez and Youssef Zalal, respectively. In between those two contests, interim heavyweight kingpin Tom Aspinall garnered a first-round win over Alan Baudot in his sophomore venture into the UFC cage.

Three years and change later, all three are champions.

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Saturday’s fight card carries the same potential as a future milestone event, as several of the top prospects and elite emerging talents in various divisions are set to make the walk to the Octagon in hopes of taking the next step down the road to greatness.

Here’s a look at the matchups on tap this weekend.

Main Event: Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs Shamil Gaziev

Location: UFC APEX — Las Vegas, NV

Where to Watch: ESPN+

Other Main Card Matches:

  • Vitor Petrino vs Tyson Pedro
  • Alex Perez vs Muhammad Mokaev
  • Eryk Anders vs Jamie Pickett
  • Umar Nurmagomedov vs Bekzat Almakhan
  • Matt Schnell vs Steve Erceg

Prelim Matches:

  • Aiemann Zahabi vs Javid Basharat
  • Christian Leroy Duncan vs Claudio Ribeiro
  • Abdul-Kareem Al-Selwady vs Loik Radzhadov

Main Event: Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs Shamil Gaziev

Jairzinho Rozenstruik of Suriname punches Augusto Sakai of Brazil in a heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on June 05, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Jairzinho Rozenstruik of Suriname punches Augusto Sakai of Brazil in a heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on June 05, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Action wraps in the heavyweight division with a clash between incumbent Top 15 competitor Jairzinho Rozenstruik and rankings hopeful Shamil Gaziev.

Entering his sixth year on the UFC roster, “Bigi Boy” arrives looking to find the form that produced four straight victories and wins in six of his first eight outings. While he’s dropped three of his last four, Rozenstruik has faced top tier competition and brings a wealth of main event experience into this one.

Gaziev gets a headlining assignment in his second UFC start, hitting the fast lane after pushing his record to 12-0 with a second-round stoppage win over Martin Buday in his promotional debut. The 34-year-old, who represents the Kingdom of Bahrain, has earned 11 of his 12 career wins by stoppage, including eight in the opening stanza.

This is a sharp piece of matchmaking by the UFC as it provides an opportunity to get an instant read on where Gaziev stands in the divisional hierarchy. Rozenstruik has been a fixture in the Top 15 for the last several years and has only lost to opponents stationed ahead of him in the rankings, and the outcome of those one will be extremely informative.

Other Main Card Fights

Vitor Petrino vs Tyson Pedro

Tyson Pedro of Australia reacts after his knockout victory over Anton Turkalj of Sweden in a light heavyweight fight during the UFC 293 event at Qudos Bank Arena on September 10, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Tyson Pedro of Australia reacts after his knockout victory over Anton Turkalj of Sweden in a light heavyweight fight during the UFC 293 event at Qudos Bank Arena on September 10, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

We move back a division in the co-main event as Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS) grad Vitor Petrino faces off with Tyson Pedro.

A member of the Class of ’22, the 26-year-old Petrino posted a trio of wins in his rookie year, moving from a decision win over Anton Turkalj to a third-round submission of Marcin Prachnio, and capped by a second-round knockout of Modestas Bukauskas. Now the Cristiano Marcelo protege gets a step up in competition to kick off his 2024 campaign.

The Australian veteran Pedro has gone 3-1 since returning from a multi-year absence, most recently registering a first-round stoppage win over Turkalj at UFC 293 last September. Now working with the City Kickboxing crew, the former Top 15 talent aims to move closer to returning to the rankings by halting Petrino’s unbeaten run.

Both men have a penchant for finishing fights and are comfortable wherever the action takes place, so sit down, buckle up, and enjoy.

Alex Perez vs Muhammad Mokaev

The first of two Top 15 pairings in the flyweight division features former title challenger Alex Perez and emerging star Muhammad Mokaev.

 Muhammad Mokaev of Russia punches Tim Elliott in a bantamweight fight during the UFC 294 event at Etihad Arena on October 21, 2023 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Muhammad Mokaev of Russia punches Tim Elliott in a bantamweight fight during the UFC 294 event at Etihad Arena on October 21, 2023 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Competing for the first time since losing to current champ Alexandre Pantoja in the summer of 2022, the 31-year-old Perez has struggled to stay healthy and make it to the Octagon over the last couple years. He scored a pair of first-round stoppage wins in order to garner his championship opportunity, and will be an outstanding test for Mokaev if he can get back there.

Unbeaten in a dozen pro fights, the 23-year-old Mokaev is one of the best young prospects in the entire sport. He’s garnered five straight wins since arriving in the UFC, including three straight third-round submissions, and profiles as a future title challenger.

This is the next logical step in Mokaev’s career progression, and how he does against Perez will provide further clarity in terms of where he stands in the division at the moment and how quickly he can move into contention.

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Eryk Anders vs Jamie Pickett

Veteran middleweights man the middle of the main card as Eryk Anders and Jamie Pickett face off on Saturday night.

Since posting 11 wins in his first 12 pro starts, Anders has run hot and cold inside the Octagon, going 4-7 with one no contest over his second dozen appearances. While he garnered Fight of the Night honors with Marc-Andre Barriault last time out, it unfortunately came in a unanimous decision loss that dropped him to 1-3 over his last four outings.

Pickett has struggled, as well, returning to Las Vegas in hopes of halting a four-fight slide. He garnered a pair of wins in the past and has frequently shown flashes of dynamic athleticism, but consistency and the willingness to wade into the fire have largely eluded him, leaving him backed into the corner here.

Umar Nurmagomedov vs Bekzat Almakham

 Umar Nurmagomedov of Russia punches Raoni Barcelos of Brazil in a bantamweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on January 14, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
 Umar Nurmagomedov of Russia punches Raoni Barcelos of Brazil in a bantamweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on January 14, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Umar Nurmagomedov and Bekzat Almakhan meet on Saturday in an intriguing bantamweight clash.

The last time Nurmagomedov stepped into the Octagon, the undefeated standout posted a first-round stoppage win over Raoni Barcelos that showcased his striking abilities and his elite upside in the division. He’s registered four wins in as many UFC starts to move to 16-0 overall, and at 28 years old, Khabib’s cousin is just now entering the prime of his career.

Almakhan arrives on a nine-fight winning streak and brandishing a 17-1 record overall, with a chance to make a massive splash in the division. 

Folks have been pining to see Nurmagomedov back in the Octagon since his win over Barcelos, and Almakhan carries significant upside despite this dangerous debut assignment. Don’t be surprised if this one ends up being the bantamweight version of the early lightweight clash between Islam Makhachev and Arman Tsarukyan.

Matt Schnell vs Steve Erceg

The main card opens with the second Top 15 pairing in the flyweight division as Matt Schnell squares off with Steve Erceg.

Schnell competed five times between 2021 and 2022, posting a 2-2 record with a no contest result, but was unable to make it to the Octagon for a pair of assignments last year. The 34-year-old is an all-action fighter just two fights removed from his insane comeback win over Sumudaerji, and represents a strong challenge for “Astroboy” here.

Steve Erceg of Australia punches David Dvorak of the Czech Republic in their flyweight fight during the UFC 289 event at Rogers Arena on June 10, 2023 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Steve Erceg of Australia punches David Dvorak of the Czech Republic in their flyweight fight during the UFC 289 event at Rogers Arena on June 10, 2023 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Erceg had a solid rookie campaign last year, kicking things off with a debut win over David Dvorak on short notice before successfully navigating a bout with short-notice replacement Alessandro Costa in November. The Aussie has earned 10 straight wins and a place in the Top 15, and could vault himself into the Top 10 with a victory over Schnell on Saturday.

Flyweight is one of the most consistently entertaining divisions in the UFC and this contest should be no different. Schnell is a chaos agent, and it will be interesting to see how the more contained, measured Erceg deals with that variable on the weekend.

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Preliminary Card Fights

Aiemann Zahabi vs Javid Basharat

Aiemann Zahabi and Javid Basharat meet in a crucial clash of ascending bantamweights on Saturday’s prelims.

The 36-year-old Zahabi has posted three straight wins, most recently flattening Aoriqileng at UFC 289 in Vancouver. Basharat is undefeated in 15 pro bouts, earning wins in each of his first three starts before his last bout with Victor Henry ended in a no contest due to an accidental low blow.

Christian Leroy Duncan vs Claudio Ribeiro

Christian Leroy Duncan of England kicks Armen Petrosyan of Russia in a middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on June 17, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Christian Leroy Duncan of England kicks Armen Petrosyan of Russia in a middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on June 17, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Christian Leroy Duncan and DWCS grad Claudio Ribeiro face off in an intriguing middleweight pairing.

Duncan bounced back from his first career loss with a second-round stoppage win over Denis Tiuliulin in November. Ribeiro has gone 1-2 in his first three UFC appearances, sandwiching a stoppage win over Joseph Holmes between losses to Abdul Razak Alhassan and Roman Kopylov.

Abdul-Kareem Al-Selwady vs Loik Radzhadov

Lightweights Abdul-Kareem Al-Selwady and Loik Radzhabov meet in an interesting preliminary card contest this weekend.

Al-Selwady scored an impressive decision win over Cage Warriors champ George Hardwick last season on the Contender Series, pushing his winning streak to five and his record to 15-3 overall. After out-hustling Esteban Ribovics in his first UFC appearance, Radzhabov landed on the wrong side of things last time out against streaking Polish fighter Mateusz Rebecki.

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UFC Fight Night: Rozenstruik vs Gaziev took place live from UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 2, 2024. See the final Prelims and Main Card results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass