Preview – Light Heavyweight Contenders Meet at UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Ankalaev

The UFC returns to the APEX in Las Vegas this weekend for another very exciting fight night and a card that ias absolutely loaded with ranked fighters. In fact, all three fights we’re going to take a closer look at will feature two fighters who are in the top 15 in their respective divisions.

Two of the top six light heavyweights are going to step into the octagon, know that the top of this division is as wide open as it’s ever been. Plus, two ranked bantamweights are going to look to score an impressive victory and vault up the rankings and two top featherweights will look to do the same.

Featherweight bout: Sodiq Yusuff vs. Alex Caceres

A classic clash of styles in this one. The 12th-ranked Yusuff is a knockout specialist, with an 11-2 record and six of his wins coming by knockout. He is however, coming off of his first loss in the UFC, after dropping a decision to Arnold Allen last April. Prior to that, he had won six in a row with three knockouts. He’s a dangerous striker and he’s certainly going to want to keep this fight on the feet.

That would be because of the extraordinary submission game of Caceres, who comes into this fight with a 19-12 record and seven submissions. He also comes in on a five-fight win streak. The UFC veteran made his debut all the way back in 2011 so he knows a thing or two about stepping into the octagon and now he’s going to be looking to improve that #15 next to his name. He is going to be looking to do whatever he can to get this fight to the floor and look for a submission.

Bantamweight bout: Marlon Moraes vs. Song Yadong

This is the odds-on favorite for “Fight of the Night” Moraes has struggled of late, but he never disappoints when it comes to putting on a show. In fact, of his last eight fights, only one has gone the distance and that was a very close split decision victory over future Hall of Famer Jose Aldo. Since that fight though, Moraes has lost three in a row to some of the best fighters in the class and has been knocked out all three times. He’s going to need a win here to turn things around and there are a lot of ways he can accomplish that as he is a very well-rounded fighter.

That is also the case for Yadong though, as the 14th-ranked bantamweight comes in with an 18-6 record and seven knockouts. He also has three submission wins under his belt though and he can hold his own on the floor. Yadong is coming off of a devastating knockout win over Julio Arce back in November and adding Moraes to his highlight reel would do a lot for this ranking. I am expecting to see some fireworks in this bout, one way or another.

Light heavyweight bout: Thiago Santos vs. Magomed Ankalaev

It’s hard to say if the top of any division in the UFC has ever been as open as the light heavyweight division is right now. With the 42-year-old Glover Teixeira currently sitting on the throne and no contenders really separating themselves from the rest of the class, it’s an exciting time in this division as a big win can really shake up the rankings at any time.

That’s got to be on the mind of former championship challenger Thiago Santos, who currently sits at the fifth spot in the rankings. With a 22-9 record and 15 knockouts, Santos is one of the most effective power punches in the class and he can put anyone to sleep in the blink of an eye. He managed to stop a skid his last time out, winning a decision over Johnny Walker to end a three-fight losing streak. Now, he’s going to look to build some momentum and perhaps leapfrog a few contenders to earn a rematch with Teixeira. He’s going to want to land some of those big punches, but that will be easier said than done against another very tough striker.

Half of Ankalaev’s fights have ended in knockout victories. With a 15-1 record, the 29 year old is being touted as one of the next big things in the UFC and with good reason. He’ll be looking for his eighth win in a row and another knockout to add to his total. Ankalaev is dangerous with all of his limbs, having landed several explosive head kicks in his recent contests. If he can keep Santos at a distance and pick him apart with those kicks, Ankalaev could be looking at a title shot sooner than later.

UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Ankalaev will be held Saturday, March 12 at 7 PM ET. Fight fans can watch live on ESPN+.

Mike Mack
Mack is the Editorial Director for Marvel and ESPN content and he has covered comic cons, theme park events, video game showcases and other fun events. He is a fan of theme parks, sports, movies, Marvel Comics and is a self-proclaimed "nerd."