UFC Matchmaking Bulletin (1/9-1/14): Rodriguez Meets Nelson In London, Three Cancellations

MMA News has you covered with this week’s UFC matchmaking bulletin, featuring fights for welterweight striker Daniel Rodriguez, featherweight veteran Alex Caceres, and a pair of TUF alums in Juliana Miller and Zac Pauga.

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.

It was a relatively quiet week for the UFC in terms of major bookings, with Bellator’s return to Paris, headlined by Gegard Mousasi and Fabian Edwards, and the schedule for the inaugural PFL Europe season taking the main headlines prior to the weekend.

There were two major announcements regarding UFC 286 to close the week, though. As well as a lightweight bout between former interim champion Justin Gaethje and rising contender Rafael Fiziev getting confirmed for the London-held pay-per-view on March 18, a welterweight championship trilogy fight between Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman was made official.

While those revelations provided the week’s high, there were a few cancellations. For those failed pairings and any confirmed replacements, see below:

For detailed information on some bouts that may have flown under your radar between January 9 and January 14, scroll down and check out this week’s UFC matchmaking bulletin.

Carlston Harris vs. Ramiz Brahimaj – UFC Vegas 69 (February 18)

Welterweights Carlston Harris and Ramiz Brahimaj will look to make statements in their first appearances of 2023 at UFC Vegas 69.

Harris (17-5) massively impressed in his first two UFC outings. After arriving in the Octagon on the back of a victory over now-ONE Championship star Saygid Izagakhmaev, a protégé of the great Khabib Nurmagomedov, the Guyanese 35-year-old submitted Christian Aguilera in one round on debut before securing a first-round knockout win against Impa Kasanganay four months later in September 2021.

Having dropped his sole fight last year against charging contender Shavkat Rakhmonov, “Moçambique” will look to get back to winning ways at the expense of Brahimaj (10-4). The 30-year-old has exchanged wins and losses since his days under the LFA banner in 2018. That’s included a 2-2 stint in the UFC, where he most recently submitted Michael Gilmore last February.

This welterweight bout was confirmed by Harris on Instagram.

Jordan Wright vs. Zac Pauga – UFC event (February 18)

UFC Vegas 69 on February 18 will also see the return of Zac Pauga, a finalist in last year’s edition of The Ultimate Fighter.

Pauga (5-1) defeated Nyle Bartling and Jordan Heiderman to reach the heavyweight final in 2022. But at UFC Vegas 59, “The Ripper” was brutally knocked out by Mohammed Usman. The 34-year-old, who was previously unbeaten across five amateur and five professional MMA bouts, will hope to rebound next month when he returns to 205 pounds.

In his way of doing so will be Jordan Wright (12-4). Since a victory over Ike Villanueva on debut extended his prefect record to 11-0, “The Beverley Hills Ninja” has gone 1-4. He’s now riding a three-fight skid comprising two knockout setbacks and a submission. In his most recent outing, Wright’s woes were compounded by Duško Todorović at UFC Vegas 62 last October.

This light heavyweight matchup was first reported by MMA Junkie’s Nolan King.

Veronica Macedo vs. Juliana Miller – UFC 286 (March 18)

A month later, another competitor from last year’s TUF season will be in action at UFC 286 in London.

While Pauga fell short in the final, women’s flyweight Juliana Miller (3-1) had her hand raised by culminating her bad-blood feud with Brogan Walker via third-round TKO. With the result, “Killer” Miller cemented a place on the UFC roster, something she’ll look to enhance when she crosses the pond for the March 18 pay-per-view.

And in England’s capital, she’ll meet Veronica Macedo (6-4-1). The Venezuelan has been on the UFC roster since joining as an unbeaten 20-year-old in 2016, going 1-4 with defeats to Ashlee Evans-Smith, Andrea Lee, and Gillian Robertson getting her off to a winless start. While the 27-year-old rebounded by submitting Polyana Viana in 2019, she fell to another loss against Bea Malecki in her most recent outing almost three years ago.

This women’s flyweight fight was confirmed by Miller during an appearance on Xaria Bloom‘s Outside the Box podcast.

Gunnar Nelson vs. Daniel Rodriguez – UFC 286 (March 18)

In perhaps the most notable matchmaking announcement from the MMA leader this week, welterweights Daniel Rodriguez and Gunnar Nelson will collide at UFC 286 in London.

Rodriguez (17-3) quickly made an impact after signing for the UFC in 2020, reeling off wins over Tim Means, Gabe Green, and Dwight Grant. While a controversial decision loss to Nicolas Dalby provided a brief stall, “D-Rod” quickly rebounded, winning his next four en route to a place in the rankings.

Although a victory over Li Jingliang brought him into contention, a setback against veteran Neil Magny has left Rodriguez in search of a top-15 spot once again.

He can go some way to regaining a number on March 18 when he meets Nelson (17-5-1). After consecutive defeats to now-champion Leon Edwards and Gilbert Burns, the Icelandic welterweight was absent from the Octagon for over two years before opening a new multi-fight contract with a victory over Takashi Sato last March at UFC London.

This welterweight scrap was confirmed by Rodriguez and his management team, Iridium Sports Agency.

Alex Caceres vs. Nate Landwehr – UFC San Antonio (March 25)

The Texan crowd at UFC San Antonio on March 25 can bank on entertainment now that a featherweight fight between Alex Caceres and Nate Landwehr has been added to the card.

Caceres (20-13) made his 27th appearance under the UFC banner at the promotion’s final event of 2022, providing a late Knockout of the Year contender against Julian Erosa. The bonus-worthy performance saw “Bruce Leeroy” rebound from a defeat to Sodiq Yusuff earlier in the year, which marked his first setback in five fights.

The 34-year-old will look to return to a winning streak in 2023, something he’ll have the chance to do when he faces Landwehr (16-4). Like Caceres, “The Train” made a statement in his most recent outing, narrowly outpointing promising prospect David Onama in a memorable contest at UFC San Diego last August. The win marked his second straight, having submitted Ľudovít Klein the year prior.

This featherweight bout was first reported by The BRKRZ on Instagram.

Steven Peterson vs. Lucas Alexander – UFC San Antonio (March 25)

Also added to UFC San Antonio is a bout between seven-fight Octagon veteran Steven Peterson and Lucas Alexander, also in the featherweight division.

Peterson (19-10) has struggled for consistency since joining the UFC in 2018 on the back of a knockout win under the LFA banner. “Ocho” has gone 3-4 on MMA’s biggest stage, defeating Matt Bassete, Martin Bravo, and Chase Hooper, but falling to losses against Luis Peña, Brandon Davis, Alex Caceres, and most recently, Julian Erosa.

Having had a two-fight winning streak snapped by “Juicy J” last February, Peterson will hope to rebound at the expense of Alexander (7-3) on March 25. “The Lion” joined the UFC rising a five-fight winning run that saw him collect triumphs under the banners of Island Fights, Combat Night Pro, and Anthony Pettis FC. But in his UFC debut last October, the Brazilian was submitted inside one round by Joanderson Brito.

This featherweight contest was first reported by Cageside Press’ Dylan Rush.

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