The Octagon lays down at the Target Center this Saturday in Minneapolis, Minnesota for UFC on ESPN 3. There’s 13 fights scheduled to take place, and below are the top five fighters to watch out for.
The main event of UFC on ESPN 3 is the fight everyone is looking forward to the most as heavyweight sluggers Francis Ngannou and Junior dos Santos square off for five rounds or less. These are two of the most powerful knockout artists the sport has ever seen and the odds are someone will be put to sleep in this one. Although JDS is the former champ and on a roll right now with three straight wins, the fighter to watch out for in this fight is undoubtedly Ngannou.
The physical specimen from Cameroon has knocked out Cain Velasquez and Curtis Blaydes in his last two fights in less than two minutes combined. He’s bounced back nicely from the awful six month-stretch he had to begin 2018 when he lost to Stipe Miocic and Derrick Lewis. A win here over JDS and Ngannou could be fighting the winner of UFC 241’s Daniel Cormier vs. Miocic 2 for the UFC heavyweight title later this year.
We don’t see flyweight bouts very often in the UFC these days, but the co-main event this weekend sees Joseph Benavidez take on Jussier Formiga. This is actually a rematch, as these two previously met back in 2013, with Benavidez winning by first-round TKO. They now meet again in 2019 with a potential title shot on the line. Benavidez has won two straight fights and eight of his last nine overall, while Formiga is on a four-fight winning streak himself.
If UFC flyweight champion Henry Cejudo returns back to 125lbs, the winner of this fight should absolutely be next in line for his belt. Considering Benavidez has a previous victory over Cejudo from back in 2016, if he can defeat Formiga in impressive fashion he may finally get that elusive title shot that he craves so much. The fact he has that previous win over Cejudo makes Benavidez the fighter to watch out for in this matchup between top contenders in the UFC flyweight division.
Anthony Rocco Martin
The UFC welterweight division is absolutely stacked, so much so that Anthony Rocco Martin isn’t even ranked in the top-15 despite a 4-0 record since moving up to 170lbs. The American Top Team product appears to have found the right weight class for himself and he now gets the opportunity to get a ranking number next to his name when he takes on respected veteran Demian Maia this weekend. This is by far the best opponent Martin has ever had, but considering how good he’s looked in his last couple of fights you can’t count him out of this fight. It goes without saying a win over Maia would be absolutely massive for Martin’s career.
When you talk about the next wave of light heavyweight prospects, don’t forget about Alonzo Menifield. The Dana White’s Contender Series veteran is an undefeated physical specimen who has won all eight of his pro fights by stoppage. He absolutely destroyed Vinicius Moreira in his UFC debut by devastating knockout and he now takes on submission ace Paul Craig this weekend at UFC on ESPN 3. Along with other young fighters like Johnny Walker and Aleksandar Rakic, the future of the UFC’s 205lbs division is very bright at the moment. Jon Jones should be keeping his eye on Menifield, because this guy has all the potential in the world.
The UFC women’s strawweight division needs fresh contenders for champion Jessica Andrade judging by the fact Weili Zhang is getting the next title shot. Well, Emily Whitmire could be one of them. After losing her UFC debut, the Ultimate Fighter veteran has won her last two fights in a row, including a 71-second submission win over Aleksandra Albu in her last fight that set a record for the fastest tapout at 115lbs in UFC history. Whitmire takes on UFC newcomer Amanda Ribas this weekend, and a big win should earn her a ranked opponent her next time out. In a shallow division, she isn’t that far away from title contention.
Which fighters are you most looking forward to watching at UFC on ESPN 3?