UFC Fight Night – Derrick Lewis vs. Aleksei Oleinik –

One of the most popular fighters in the heavyweight division has a chance to get closer to another title shot.

Derrick Lewis meets Aleksei Oleinik in the main event of UFC Fight Night on Saturday in Las Vegas in a battle of two streaking contenders. The bout will take place at the UFC Apex with no fans in attendance, and it will air on ESPN+.

Lewis (23-7, 1 NC) has won two straight and five of his past seven fights. The Houston resident lost to Daniel Cormier in a heavyweight title fight at UFC 230 in November 2018 at Madison Square Garden, but he has worked his way back into the title picture. Lewis, 35, is ranked No. 6 among MMA heavyweights by ESPN. He is tied with two others — Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos — for the most knockouts in UFC heavyweight history (10).

Oleinik (59-13-1) has won two in a row and four of his past six. The Ukraine native, who lives and trains in Florida, is coming off a split-decision victory over former champion Fabricio Werdum at UFC 249 in March. Oleinik, 43, is a submission master with 46 submission finishes in his 59 career wins. He is also one of the most seasoned veterans in the game. Earlier this year, Oleinik became the first UFC fighter to compete in MMA — and win — in four different decades.

In the co-main event Saturday, former middleweight champion Chris Weidman faces a must-win scenario against Omari Akhmedov. Weidman (14-5) has won just once in his past six fights. Akhmedov (20-4-1), meanwhile, is surging. The Dagestan native is unbeaten in the past six.

Also on the card, Beneil Dariush meets Scott Holtzman in a catchweight bout (following Dariush missing the lightweight limit Friday), all-action middleweights Darren Stewart and Maki Pitolo face off, and Yana Kunitskaya meets Julija Stoliarenko in a women’s bantamweight battle.

Marc Raimondi, Brett Okamoto and Jeff Wagenheim recap the action as it takes place in Las Vegas.

Fight in progress:

Lightweight: Nasrat Haqparast (11-3, 3-2 UFC, -230) vs. Alex Munoz (6-0, 0-0 UFC, +190)


Middleweight: Andrew Sanchez (13-5, 5-3 UFC) defeats Wellington Turman (16-4, 1-2 UFC) by KO

Recap to come.

Men’s featherweight: Gavin Tucker (12-1, 3-1 UFC) defeats Justin Jaynes (16-5, 1-1 UFC) by third-round rear-naked choke

After a weird sequence in the first round that saw Tucker nearly get finished and then have his shorts slide down, Tucker rallied to beat Jaynes by submission (rear-naked choke) at 1:43 of the third round.

Near the end of the first, Jaynes dropped Tucker with a left uppercut and followed up with hard combinations. Tucker, clearly in trouble, shot for a takedown and Jaynes looked to cinch in a guillotine choke. Tucker wiggled free of Jaynes’ clasped guard, but had his shorts slide down in the process, exposing his Reebok underwear. Somehow Tucker, with his shorts below his butt, got into a mount, then went for an arm-triangle choke as time expired in the round.

Tucker had all the momentum from there. He peppered Jaynes with combinations in the second round and in the third he landed a huge knee that opened up a cut on Jaynes’ face. Tucker eventually took a compromised Jaynes down, got his back and finished with the choke.

Tucker, 34, has now won two straight following the lone loss of his career to Rick Glenn in 2017. The Canadian won for the second straight time via third-round rear-naked choke. Jaynes had a five-fight winning streak snapped. The 30-year-old Michigan native, who lives and trains in Las Vegas, was coming off a 41-second knockout of Frank Camacho in his UFC debut back in June.

— Raimondi

Men’s featherweight: Youssef Zalal (10-2, 3-0 UFC) vs. Peter Barrett (11-4, 0-1 UFC)

Zalal did exactly what he was supposed to do as the event’s biggest betting favorite: He won in style.

Zalal, 23, failed to record a finish against a durable Barrett, but not for lack of effort. Zalal hurt Barrett badly with a spinning back kick to the face in the opening round, and he threatened to submit him via rear-naked choke in the second and third. Ultimately, Zalal settled for a dominant unanimous decision, via scores of 30-26, 30-26 and 30-27.

Zalal, who was born in Morocco and now trains out of Denver, landed 69% of his attempted strikes, according to UFC Stats, compared to just 32% for Barrett. He became the first UFC fighter to record three wins in 2020. His entire UFC career has taken place in 2020, as he debuted with the promotion in February.

Barrett, of Massachusetts, falls to 0-1 in the UFC. He earned his way into the promotion with a win on the Dana White Contender Series in August 2019.

— Okamoto

Men’s bantamweight: Irwin Rivera (10-5, 1-1 UFC) defeats Ali Al-Qaisi (8-4, 0-1 UFC) by split decision

Maybe it was his slight edge in aggressiveness. Maybe he was rewarded for some of his unorthodox attacks. Whatever it was that swayed two of the three judges his way, Rivera found his way into the UFC win column for the first time by the narrowest of margins.

The 31-year-old Mexican fighter, who trains out of Sanford MMA in South Florida, certainly didn’t outclass Al-Qaisi, who was making his UFC debut. But Rivera, fighting inside the Octagon for the second time, used some key takedowns and flashy techniques — lead uppercuts, superman jabs, flying knees — to eke this one out. All three judges scored the bout 29-28.

Al-Qaisi, 29, from Jordan, came in on a five-fight winning streak and looked solid, though at times he was stiff and hesitant. But this one barely got away.

— Wagenheim

Watch this fight on ESPN+.

Still to come

Heavyweight: Derrick Lewis (23-7, 1 NC; 14-5 UFC, -200) vs. Aleksei Oleinik (59-13-1, 8-4 UFC, +175)
Middleweight: Chris Weidman (14-5, 9-5 UFC, -135) vs. Omari Akhmedov (20-4-1, 8-3-1 UFC, +115)
Middleweight: Darren Stewart (11-5, 3-1 UFC, -155) vs. Maki Pitolo (13-5, 1-1 UFC, +135)
Women’s bantamweight: Yana Kunitskaya (12-5, 2-2 UFC, -230) vs. Julija Stoliarenko (9-4-1, 0-1 UFC, +190)
Lightweight: Beneil Dariush (18-4-1, 12-4-1 UFC, -185) vs. Scott Holtzman (14-3, 7-3 UFC, +165)
Welterweight: Tim Means (29-12-1, 11-9-1 UFC, +120) vs. Laureano Staropoli (9-2, 2-1 UFC, -140)
Middleweight: Kevin Holland (17-5, 4-2 UFC, -450) vs. Joaquin Buckley (10-2, 0-0 UFC, +360)

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