The UFC is back to business, and this weekend will be returning to its home state of Nevada for Saturday's UFC Fight Night card. With limits to fighters the UFC can schedule based on international travel restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic, however, these cards are still being cobbled together as best the promotion can manage given the circumstances.
Saturday's UFC Fight Night card will be headlined by a welterweight showdown featuring former 170-pound champion Tyron Woodley taking on rising contender Gilbert Burns. But the rest of the card -- which airs on ESPN and streams on ESPN+ -- has some sneaky good fights scattered throughout.
Let's take a look at three fights to keep an eye on from Saturday's fight card at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas.
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Blagoy Ivanov vs. Agusto Sakai: Big boys throwing big bombs will always be an attraction in combat sports. Ivanov's story is incredible, having been the victim of a stabbing, placed in an artificial coma and clawing his way back to being in condition to compete in mixed martial arts again. Ivanov (18-3) has lost three times in his career, to Alexander Volkov, Junior dos Santos and Derrick Lewis, all of whom are top-tier heavyweights.
Sakai's lone career loss came via split decision against Cheick Kongo in Bellator. A win on Dana White's Contender Series punched his ticket to the UFC where he's earned three victories, with two coming by knockout. With 23 combined stoppage wins, the fight promises the kind of explosive finish heavyweight fans hope for.
Spike Carlyle vs. Billy Quarantillo: This 150-pound catchweight fight has a lot going for it as an under-the-radar bout. Quarantillo (13-2) also punched his way to the UFC with a win on Dana White's Contender Series and proved his status as a roster member was legitimate by submitting Jacob Kilburn in his Octagon debut last December. The win was the sixth straight for Quarantillo. Similarly Carlyle (9-1) is on a five-fight winning streak and just emerged victorious in his Ocatgon debut in February, taking out Aaron Cruz by TKO in 85 seconds.
In 25 combined fights, Carlyle and Quarantillo have only gone to the judges' scorecards five times. Carlyle has won five fights by knockout and three by submission. Quarantillo has five wins by knockout and five by submission. Both men have the ability to finish the fight with either strikes or submissions, and that makes for a dynamic clash between two men who are looking to really make their mark in the Octagon.
Katlyn Chookagian vs. Antonina Shevchenko: A women's flyweight bout that is interesting for the positioning of both women. Chookagian (13-3) was placed in the spot of challenging Antonina's sister Valentina Shevchenko in her most recent outing. Chookagian was demolished and now sits in an uncertain position within the division -- a contender who no one will want to see fight for the title again any time soon.
Shevchenko (8-1) will look to repeat her sister's success against Chookagian, knowing that if she loses, it would be her second defeat in her three most recent fights. It's unlikely she would ever fight her sister for the flyweight title, but if Valentina moves up in weight, Antonina will want to be in line to fill the gap as division champion. The fight might not steal the show, but it will prove an interesting clash between two women who very much need a victory to retain relevance in the division.