The UFC ushers in the ESPN era with UFC on ESPN+ 1 on Saturday, January 19 in Brooklyn, NY.
Its solid main card features Henry Cejudo defending his flyweight title from bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw, who is looking to become the next two-division champion. There’s more than a title on the line there–the UFC flyweight division as a whole could be in play.
While the main card features five other solid fights, some of the event’s most interesting and anticipated match-ups can be found on the preliminary card.
Donald Cerrone vs. Alexander Hernandez
If we’re being honest, this fight should have been at least the co-main event. It looks like the UFC is using it to kick off its televised ESPN cards with a bang, as it will headline the ESPN prelims.
Cerrone makes his return to lightweight, where he was once a title challenger, to take on the rising Hernandez. Hernandez is 2-0 in his UFC career with wins over Beneil Dariush and Olivier Aubin-Mercier. “Cowboy” is his toughest test and highest-profile opponent to date. He holds wins over former UFC lightweight champions Eddie Alvarez and Benson Henderson, Edson Barboza, Mike Perry, Yancy Medeiros, Matt Brown, Rick Story, and more.
There’s an element of bad blood here, too, as the two verbally jousted each other at the press conference. Hernandez will put his power and well-rounded game to the test against Cerrone’s veteran savvy, Muay Thai technique and Jiu-Jitsu. It should be a barn-burner.
Joanne Calderwood vs. Ariane Lipski
Lipski, aka “The Violence Queen,” makes her eagerly awaited UFC debut against promotion mainstay “JoJo” Calderwood.
Lipski is on a nine-fight tear which saw her become the KSW flyweight queen, where she made two title defenses. Eight of her 11 wins are finishes, which is a rarity in women’s MMA. The Brazilian prospect has the skill-set, finishing instincts and attractiveness to become a major star. She faces a stiff UFC debut test in Calderwood, however.
Once a top prospect herself, Calderwood is 4-3 in the UFC so far. But that’s not the full story; she’s 2-0 at flyweight with wins over Valerie Letourneau and Kalindra Faria. It’s no secret that Calderwood was depleting herself to make strawweight. With a win over Lipski, “JoJo” would prove that she deserves to be labeled a top prospect once again, especially since she’s a much improved version of herself at flyweight who’s yet to taste defeat.
Calderwood is a finisher as well, having finished half of her 12 career wins and both of her two in the UFC flyweight division. She’ll be Lipski’s toughest opponent yet.
Dennis Bermudez vs. Te Edwards
Bermudez, a long-time staple of the UFC featherweight division, moves up to make his UFC lightweight debut. He’ll look to snap his four-fight losing streak against Contender Series prospect Edwards.
Long Island’s Bermudez has been on the wrong end of three split decisions in a row, while Edwards will look to get in the ‘W’ column after a loss to Don Madge in his UFC debut. What’s interesting about this match-up is that both can wrestle and like to trade hands. Bermudez is the more experienced man, having wins over Max Holloway, Clay Guida, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Rony Jason and Steven Siler. But Edwards will have a size advantage, which means he’ll likely be the stronger fighter.
It will be interesting to see how Bermudez attempts to overcome a size disadvantage in what will be a reoccurring theme for him if he intends to make a run at lightweight. Edwards will look to show that his last loss was a fluke and that he’s a prospect to watch.
Belal Muhammad vs. Geoff Neal
Muhammad is seeking his fifth straight win, which in the UFC welterweight division is impressive in its own right. Neal, a finish-friendly prospect, will be looking for his own fifth straight win. The winner should get a crack at a top-15 opponent.
Neal enters the bout with back-to-back UFC stoppages over Brian Camozzi and Frank Camacho. Muhammad’s run features wins over Tim Means, Jordan Mein, Randy Brown and Chance Rencountre.
The longer the bout goes, the more it favors Muhammad; all of Neal’s stoppage wins have come in the first or second round. It will be intriguing to see whether Neal can put Muhammad away, or if Muhammad can outlast him and pick up a decision or finish of his own. This welterweight clash can be found on the ESPN+ early prelims.
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