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Marcus McGhee punches Journey Newson in a bantamweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on April 29, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
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Fighters On The Rise | UFC Fight Night: Luque vs Dos Anjos

Three Can't-Miss Combatants To Watch For On Saturday's Las Vegas Event

After four consecutive weeks on the road, the UFC returns home to Las Vegas for a weekend before departing on another four-week odyssey abroad, bring a lineup to the APEX on Saturday headlined by veteran Brazilian welterweights Vicente Luque and Rafael Dos Anjos.

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This weekend’s fight card features a lot of names that will likely be unfamiliar to casual viewers, but that doesn’t mean it is devoid of talent. On the contrary, Saturday’s homecoming is flush with up-and-coming competitors coming off quality efforts, and a number of fighters looking to use this opportunity to command a greater share of the spotlight and become a larger part of the post-fight discourse on Sunday and Monday.

From that group, three particular fighters stand out as must-watch attractions this weekend, as each has impressed through their initial appearances, and seem posed to keep making waves this weekend and beyond.

Here’s a closer look at those athletes in the latest edition of Fighters on the Rise

Iasmin Lucindo

Iasmin Lucindo of Brazil kicks Brogan Walker in a flyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on April 22, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Iasmin Lucindo of Brazil kicks Brogan Walker in a flyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on April 22, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

The 21-year-old Brazilian flyweight impressed in a losing effort against Yazmin Jauregui in her promotional debut last August before returning in April and registering a unanimous decision win over recent TUF finalist Brogan Walker. Now Lucindo faces off with fellow Brazilian Polyana Viana in a fight that is both a step up in competition and a measuring stick moment to see where the young fighter currently stands in the 125-pound weight class.

Despite having already made 19 professional appearances and 14 victories, Lucindo is still in the very early days of her career and developing as a fighter. Many of those efforts came against similarly inexperienced opposition, and it’s really only her last few bouts that serve as a benchmark for building expectations about her potential inside the Octagon.

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Giving Jauregui a run for her money on the main card of what was ostensibly a hometown fight for her in San Diego was a good initial effort for the promising prospect. She didn’t look overwhelmed or out of place, and proved she belonged by returning eight months later and out-working Walker from bell-to-bell.

While Viana has one less fight than Lucindo, her last eight appearances have come on the UFC stage, and she enters off a first-round stoppage win over Jinh Yu Frey last November. The 31-year-old has won three of her last four, all of them coming by way of first-round finish, with her lone setback coming against the streaking Tabatha Ricci.

This is an outstanding matchup to gauge where Lucindo falls in the divisional hierarchy, to see how much she’s developed since besting Walker, and to give a greater understanding of the heights she could potentially reach in four or five years as she continues to train, gain experience, and refine her skills.

Marcus McGhee

Marcus McGhee secures a rear choke submission against Journey Newson in a bantamweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on April 29, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Marcus McGhee secures a rear choke submission against Journey Newson in a bantamweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on April 29, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

If you didn’t come away from McGhee’s April debut eager to see him back in the Octagon, you and I cannot be friends.

The 33-year-old MMA Lab representative stepped up to replace Brian Kelleher on three-days’ notice in a fight with Journey Newson, and then rolled into the cage and collected a second-round submission victory. At no time did the moment seem too big for him or did the task before him seem too daunting; he belonged, impressing throughout and capitalizing on the opportunity to finish the fight as soon as it was presented to him.

Efforts like that should resonate with the audience — it did with me, clearly — and position McGhee as a genuine person of interest in the bantamweight division.

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Saturday night, “The Maniac” squares off with JP Buys, who moves back to the 135-pound weight class following a one-fight return to flyweight that ended in a first-round stoppage loss to Cody Durden. The Dana White’s Contender Series grad has gone 0-3 since punching his ticket to the UFC, alternating between fighting at flyweight and bantamweight, and will undoubtedly be approaching this one with a “do or die” attitude.

McGhee is one of those fighters that reached the pro ranks later than most of his contemporaries and, as such, doesn’t have as much experience as one might expect a 33-year-old to possess. But he’s 7-1 overall, trains with an outstanding team that continues to produce contenders, and clearly has the finishing capabilities to be an intriguing new addition to the diverse talent pool at bantamweight.

Martin Buday

Martin Buday's Pure Dominance | Dana White's Contender Series Free Fight
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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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Martin Buday's Pure Dominance | Dana White's Contender Series Free Fight
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Winning consistently in the UFC is difficult, and thus far, all Buday has done is post victories.

A member of the Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS) Class of ’21, the 31-year-old Slovakian heavyweight has pushed his overall winning streak to 11 with consecutive decision wins over Chris Barnett, Lukasz Brzeski, and Jake Collier inside the Octagon. None of the three were particularly dominant, and none of them ranked high in terms of aesthetics and excitement, but three trips into the UFC cage have yielded three victories.

This weekend, Buday makes his second start of 2023 and fourth appearance on the big stage in a pairing with fellow DWCS alum Josh Parisian. The Michigan-based fighter graduated a year earlier than Buday and has struggled to find consistency since touching down on the main roster, alternating losses and wins through his first five outings, and entering this one off a unanimous decision defeat to Jamal Pogues in February.

Saturday’s return to action feels like an opportunity for the big man from Slovakia to potentially make a statement and truly announce his presence on the heavyweight stage. A four-fight winning streak is difficult to come by in any division, and navigating the waters at heavyweight, where one shot can end your night, without stumbling is an achievement, regardless of how Buday has gotten things done.

That being said, it always feels like there is more to Buday than what we’ve seen from him thus far inside the Octagon — he’s a massive human being, a brown belt in jiu jitsu, and looks like a guy that could stop you cold if he let go of his hands a little more — so it will be interesting to see if this pairing sends a message and results in a career-best performance this weekend in Las Vegas.

UFC Fight Night: Luque vs Dos Anjos took place live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas on August 12, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass