Amanda Nunes and Cody Garbrandt are aiming to make statements at UFC 250 this weekend for vastly contrasting reasons.
For Nunes, her bout with Felicia Spencer at UFC’s APEX facility in Las Vegas marks the first defense of the featherweight belt she took from Cris Cyborg in sensational fashion a year and a half ago.
Garbrandt, meanwhile, returns to the Octagon after a 15-month hiatus with the former bantamweight champion on a three-fight losing streak.
Here, we take a look at three talking points ahead of Saturday’s fight action.
Nunes faces ‘FeeNom’ threat
The fearsome Nunes needed just 51 seconds to wrest the featherweight strap from Cyborg in December 2018 to become UFC’s third simultaneous two-weight champion. It was a devastating performance but not out of sync with her dominance in UFC, which now sees her on a 10-fight winning streak, including a 48-second win over Ronda Rousey and triumphs over Miesha Tate, Valentina Shevchenko and Holly Holm. Since defeating Cyborg, Nunes has defended her bantamweight strap against Holm and Germaine de Randamie.
For former Invicta FC featherweight champion Spencer – who put on a game showing in a losing effort in Cyborg’s final UFC fight – Nunes represents the greatest challenge of her career. The submission specialist is likely to try and take this one to the ground to avoid the striking ability of Nunes.
Garbrandt at career crossroads
In December 2016, the bantamweight world was at Garbrandt’s feet as he shocked the legendary Dominick Cruz to become champion at 135 pounds. But a couple of devastating knockout defeats to fierce rival T.J. Dillashaw were followed by a first-round loss to Pedro Munhoz in March last year. With champion Henry Cejudo announcing his UFC retirement after defeating Cruz at UFC 249 last the month, the bantamweight division is wide open, and Garbrandt has a huge opportunity to get his career back on track.
However, ‘No Love’ comes up against the fifth-ranked Raphael Assuncao – a man also out to recover from damaging defeats to Marlon Moraes and Cory Sandhagen. Victory could propel either toward a future title fight. Defeat … well best for both men not to contemplate what that could mean for their UFC futures.
Sterling-Sandhagen to stake bantamweight claims
In a night that will go a long way to shaping the future of the bantamweight division, the highly rated Aljamain Sterling goes up against Sandhagen to lay their respective claims for a title fight. Sterling, ranked second in the division, is an upcoming star who has won four straight bouts. His ‘Funk Master’ moniker is a fair reflection of his flair-fight style, but in Sandhagen he goes up against a fighter who is also riding the crest of a wave.
The American has won each of his five fights in UFC and only has one defeat overall on his MMA resume. This one has serious ‘Fight of the Night’ potential and is sure to have ramifications for the outcome of the title.