Thursday, June 30, 2022

UFC Matchmaking Bulletin (6/6-6/11): Perez Meets Pantoja At UFC 277

MMA News has you covered with this week’s matchmaking bulletin, featuring fights for top-five flyweight Alexandre Pantoja, bantamweight veteran Brian Kelleher, and powerhouse Kennedy Nzechukwu.

With UFC cards being held most weekends, Mick Maynard and Sean Shelby have their matchmaking work cut out if they’re to fill them, meaning new bouts are confirmed each and every week.

In recent days, a number of huge fights were reported, confirmed or made official by the UFC and reputable sources. For more information on those matchups, check out the links below:

If you’ve had your fix of big announcements since last Monday, scroll down and check out this week’s matchmaking bulletin, featuring a number of bouts that may have flown under your radar between June 6 and June 11.

Brian Kelleher vs. Mario Bautista – UFC Vegas 57 (June 25)

Later this month, bantamweight veteran Brian Kelleher will enter the Octagon for the third time in 2022 and 15th time in his UFC career. At UFC Vegas 57 on June 25, the 35-year-old will look to return to the win column at the expense of prospect Mario Bautista.

Kelleher (24-13) has faced some of the best since joining the MMA leader in 2017, sharing the cage with the likes of of current ONE champion John Lineker, the great Renan Barão, and current top-five contender Marlon “Chito” Vera.

After a defeat on the scorecards to ranked bantamweight Ricky Simón last February, Kelleher won consecutive fights for the third time in his UFC tenure, including a featherweight victory over Kevin Croom in January this year. But he failed to secure his first three-fight win streak in the Octagon at UFC 272, falling to a submission at the hands of surging prospect Umar Nurmagomedov.

The veteran is now set to go toe-to-toe with another prospect as he looks to rebound. Bautista (9-2) has gone 3-2 since entering the UFC as an undefeated up-and-comer, with one of the losses coming at the hands of former interim title challenger Cory Sandhagen.

Having returned to the win column last time out against Jay Perrin, the 28-year-old will look to further establish his name in the division with a win over fan favorite “Boom” Kelleher.

This matchup was first reported by Bautista’s management team, Iridium Sports Agency.

Karl Roberson vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu – UFC Vegas 58 (July 9)

UFC Vegas 58 looks set to have a tough act to follow, coming just a week after UFC 276 headlines International Fight Week. Looking to do their best to match the pay-per-view action will be light heavyweights Karl Roberson and Kennedy Nzechukwu.

Roberson (9-5), a nine-fight UFC veteran, is perhaps on his final life inside the Octagon. After winning four of his first six outings, with one of the losses coming to former light heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira, the American’s form fell off a cliff.

First, in a bad blood co-main event with Marvin Vettori, “Baby K” missed weight by a mammoth 4.5 pounds and was submitted in just one round. He then fell to a two-fight skid at middleweight courtesy of another submission, this time at the hands of Brendan Allen. His attempt to rebound back at 205 pounds earlier this year didn’t go to plan, with Khalil Rountree Jr. stopping him via TKO in the second round.

Also looking to bounce back from a skid will be Nzechukwu (9-3). Roberson’s fellow Dana White‘s Contender Series alum showed immense promise after bonus-worthy knockouts of Carlos Ulberg and Danilo Marques left him 3-1 in the Octagon, with the only loss being to ranked contender Paul Craig.

But after back-to-back defeats against Da Un Jung and Nicolae Negumereanu, the 29-year-old Nigerian is in desperate need of finding his way back into the win column.

It’ll be three-fight skid versus two-fight skid on July 9, with both men’s places on the UFC roster perhaps on the line. This matchup was first reported by Paradigm Sports.

Nathaniel Wood vs. Charles Rosa – UFC London (July 23)

Thank the Lord, Nathaniel Wood finally has a fight.

Wood (17-5) hasn’t been in a action since a unanimous decision loss to Casey Kenney in October 2020. After a bout with Jonathan Martinez was shelved, the Englishman sat out 2021, with his sights set on an impactful 2022 comeback.

If everything had gone to plan, that would have happened in front of a home crowd on March 19. “The Prospect” was initially scheduled to share the Octagon inside The O2 with Liudvik Sholinian. But when he pulled out due to the war in Ukraine, featherweight Vince Morales stepped into save the day, or so we thought.

Just days before the memorable event, “Vendetta” withdrew through illness, leaving Wood without an opponent and watching his compatriots thrill the English crowd from the side. But now, after a long search for a willing opponent, it appears that Wood has gotten his wish in the former of veteran 145lber Charles Rosa.

Rosa (14-7) has competed in the Octagon since 2014, facing the likes of Yair Rodriguez, Shane Burgos, and Bryce Mitchell. “Boston Strong” looks set to enter enemy territory on July 23 and will look to rebound from an unsuccessful lightweight bout against TJ Brown last time out.

This addition to UFC London was first reported by Al Zullino, with Wood himself later confirming his participation on July 23.

Alexandre Pantoja vs. Alex Perez – UFC 277 (July 30)

Former flyweight title challenger Alex Perez was originally set to be in action at UFC Long Island on July 16. However, his scheduled opponent, #3-ranked Askar Askarov, was forced to withdraw.

With that , the UFC has made a like-for-like substitution, rankings-wise, with Askarov’s fellow #3 contender Alexandre Pantoja stepping into face Perez two weeks later at UFC 277.

When he makes the walk on July 30, Perez (24-6) will be doing so for the first time since a failed attempt at dethroning Deiveson Figueiredo in November 2020’s UFC 255 main event, which saw him submitted in less than two minutes. Thanks to a failed booking against Askarov and a cursed pairing with Matt Schnell, 2021 marked Perez’s first inactive year since he made his professional debut in 2011.

When he makes his comeback, Perez will be hoping to find the form that led him to 6-1 in the UFC prior to meeting “Deus Da Guerra.” But that will be no easy task against Pantoja (24-5), who can perhaps feel unlucky not to be fighting for the title. The Brazilian seemingly cemented himself as the first challenger to Brandon Moreno late last year after back-to-back victories over Manel Kape and Brandon Royval.

But after a knee injury prevented him from making the desired December date, Figueiredo stepped in, and after a one-month delay, regained the gold. Now back to full health, “The Cannibal” will be looking to move back in line for a championship opportunity at the expense of the returning Perez.

This matchup was first reported by AgFight.

Who do you envision having their hands raised in these UFC matchups?

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