For all of the attention that has been fixated on the pair set to compete in the UFC 246 main-event, the promotional matchmakers have come through with some compelling matchups, stacking the card from top-to-bottom with prospects and potential future contenders.
A lot has been made of the apparent lack of support for the mega-star McGregor at the top of the UFC 246 fight-card.
Sure, names like Anthony Pettis and Holly Holm still carry some weight, but in a time where major PPV events are generally bursting with household names and pivotal title-eliminators, it’s pretty fair to say that Dana and co. have taken something of a backstep with this one.
Of course, given Conor’s ability to draw eyes, you could forgive the UFC for reserving some of their stars for another event – but even with this being the case, UFC 246 still has more than enough reasons to tune in.
With that in mind, here’s a list of five fighters who could well steal the show once everything is underway on Saturday night.
For quite some time now, Ferreira has been amongst the most underrated talents in the UFC lightweight division.
Entering the promotion and posting a 2-2 record – including a first-round KO defeat to Dustin Poirier – was enough to quell much of the buzz that surrounded him upon signing.
From there on out, however, the Brazilian has won five on the trot – with his most recent victory, a decision over the highly-touted Mairbek Taisumov, standing as the best victory of the lot.
Though known for his stellar grappling skills (a consequence of his third-degree BJJ black-belt), Ferreira displayed a maturing MMA skillset during his victory over the Russian contender – a win that surprised the MMA community to no end, while making it very clear that he is ready for an elite test.
Facing Anthony Pettis on the main-card, Ferreira, with a win, would likely move towards a top-8 opponent – a position that would leave him in the company of some of the most popular fighters on the roster.
Maycee Barber is a woman on a mission – the mission in question being a pursuit of Jon Jones’ status as the youngest champion in UFC history.
At 21, Barber still has time to work with if she does, in fact, reach her goal but as we all know, talk is cheap. Thankfully, everything we’ve seen from Maycee up until this point has proven that she is a superb talent at 125lbs.
With eight wins in eight fights so far, Barber has been carving out a reputation for herself as one of the finest finishers in the lower weight-classes at present – taking home seven stoppage victories which included five from strikes.
In the evergreen Roxanne Modafferi, Barber will be taking on one of the most experienced fighters in the women’s divisions – a true pioneer who will be making the walk for the 40th time once this one gets underway.
With a top-5 opponent no doubt awaiting the winner, look to this contest as one that could well single out a fighter who will challenge Valentina Shevchenko for her flyweight crown at some point this year.
Another huge talent in the ongoing wave of Nigerian domination in MMA, Sodiq Yusuff has emerged as a premier talent within the featherweight division – one who could well push on for a spot in the divisional rankings with an impressive win.
With the type of power in his hands that can see him end a fight with even the slightest of openings, Yusuff’s ability to counter his last opponent Gabriel Benetiz while moving backwards at UFC 241 saw him make a real statement about his intentions at 145lbs.
Now facing the underrated Andre Fili on the UFC 246 main-card, there has been some interesting discussion among the fans about this matchup’s potential to go either way and its early position as one of the night’s action fights on paper.
For Yusuff, if he can pull off the win, we could well see another Nigerian make a push towards title honours in 2020 if all goes to plan for him.
Prior to making his UFC debut with a draw against Brandon Moreno, this Dagestan-born talent had gone a perfect 10-0 since turning professional in 2013.
A 100% finishing record with wins coming from strikes, chokes, and even a rare twister submission were enough to see him brought into the world’s flagship promotion with a tough test in the form of Moreno.
So far, we’ve seen strong grappling and wrestling from this Russian talent as well as enough power on the feet to suggest that he should be the favourite over the stuttering Tim Elliott – who has traded wins and losses on his way to a 3-3 record in his last five.
As the #7-ranked flyweight in the world, though, for Askarov, a victory here will no doubt edge him towards an eventual shot at the title and from a stylistic perspective, he does seem to match up well against his fellow top-10 125lb-r’s.
Haqparast could well be the most promising fighter on this list. At 24-years-old, this German lightweight seems to already possess all of the physicality needed to be a problem in the sport’s most dangerous division and based off of his recent form, he’s just dying to get a top-15 test.
In Drew Dober, Nasrat will be facing an opponent with a wealth of experience inside the octagon and all of the tools needed to spring the upset but with victories over the likes of the resurgent Marc Diakeise and Joaquim Silva in his back pocket, do not be fooled by this prospect’s relatively green appearance.
Combining slick and powerful boxing with an ever-improving sense of feel and fight IQ, Haqparast will be looking to make a major statement on fight-night, one that will see him add to his nine career finishes from eleven wins.