UFC on ESPN+ 17: Rodriguez vs. Stephens Main Card Preview

UFC on ESPN+ 17
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 19: Yahir Rodriguez of Mexico and Jeremy Stephens of USA face of during the UFC Fight Night Rodriguez v Stephens: Ultimate Media Day on September 19, 2019 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC)

The UFC returns to Mexico on Saturday September 21, 2019 for UFC on ESPN+ 17. The event will take place inside the Arena Ciudad De Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico. The cards features several fighters looking to take a step up in their respective divisions. In the past, the UFC has tried on several occasions to attach themselves to a fighter that can appeal to the Latin American market. They are hoping main eventer Yair Rodriguez can be that person as he battles the hard-hitting Jeremy Stephens in the main spot of the night’s card.


Rodriguez (11-2) returns to the cage for the first time in almost a year coming off of his knockout of the year contender over the Korean Zombie at UFC Fight Night 139. Three of Rodriguez’s last four victories have come by knockout. It would be great to see if a win here will get Rodriguez back in the cage on a more consistent basis with this being his second bout since the summer of 2017. The UFC is wanting to put the Mexican market on the back of Rodriguez but he needs to be a bit more of an active fighter for that to translate to success for the UFC.

Stephens (28-16) is a “go for broke” knockout artist looking to rebound after back to back loses to Jose Aldo and Zabit Magomedsharipov. Prior to those bouts, Stephens had earth-shattering knockouts of Doo Ho Choi and Josh Emmett. This bout has all the makings of a knockout waiting to happen. Both fighters like to push the pace and are not of afraid of engaging in a fire-fight if needed. Stephens has been in the UFC for 12 years and this could be his last chance to make a push toward the UFC gold.


The co-main event will see another 11-2 Mexican star, this time in the form of Alexa Grasso as she heads into battle with Carla Esparza (14-6.) Though only 3-2 since joining the UFC, Grasso is coming off of a dominating performance of Karolina Kowalkiewicz in June 2019 and looking string together her first back to back winning streak in the UFC. Currently ranked number nine, this could propel Grasso up the strawweight ranks with a huge win over the division’s first ever champion.

The BJJ brownbelt, Esparza, is the number eight ranked strawweight also looking to piece together a back to back winning streak coming off of her unanimous decision victory over Virna Jandiroba in April 2019. Along with being the UFC’s first strawweight champion, she was also the first strawweight champion of Invicta FC. If Esparza wants to wear the gold again she needs a win here to start a nice winning streak against a tough opponent. Esparza will want to use her world class wrestling and ground game if she wants to get the victory over Grasso. This is a huge matchup in the women’s strawweight division.


The flyweights will be in action as the 10-0 Askar Askarov battles Brandon Moreno. Askarov is making his debut, previously with ACA (formerly known as ACB) and all 10 wins are via finish. The women’s bantamweight division will also take the stage as the UFC’s number 10 women’s bantamweight Irene Aldana will take on Vanessa Melo. Mexico’s own, Aldana has won three of her last four and would love nothing more than to earn another victory in her home country. In featherweight action to start the main card of the show, Mexican featherweight Martin Bravo will face Steven Peterson. Both fighters are on a two fight winning streak and a loss could mean getting cut from the UFC. It is a do or die fight potentially for both of these fighters.

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