It’s always a special treat when UFC heads to Chicago, and that’s exactly where the promotion is headed this weekend with the UFC 238 pay-per-view set to take center stage. We’re being gifted an enticing fight card on Saturday night featuring two championship bouts along with a lightweight clash that has the potential to turn out as a Fight of the Year candidate when all is said and done.
When you reference a stacked card, though, it’s more than just the marquee fights you have to look at. UFC 238 has more to look forward to than just the three matchups previously mentioned, so let’s take a quick look at three other fights you should be paying attention to in the United Center on Saturday.
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1. Tai Tuivasa vs. Blagoy Ivanov — Heavyweight (main card): At 8-0 to begin his professional career including victories in his first three UFC appearances, Tuivasa burst onto the heavyweight scene for more than just chugging beer out of strangers’ shoes. The success in the cage for the 26-year-old, however, came to a screeching halt last December when he was brought back down to Earth by ex-heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos via TKO in the second round.
Without a ton of depth at heavyweight and at just 26, Tuivasa gets the opportunity to pick himself up and restart his climb up the ranks. A victory over the veteran Ivanov (17-2), who’s coming off a unanimous decision win over Ben Rothwell in what could best be described as a beautifully disastrous hoss fight at UFC Fight Night 146 in March, would prove to be a solid first step in regaining the confidence from some of the fans to to look upon him as an intriguing prospect to watch as a potential heavyweight title challenger in the future.
2. Tatiana Suarez vs. Nina Ansaroff — Women’s strawweight (preliminary card): The UFC women’s strawweight division was turned on its proverbial head recently after Jessica Andrade literally dropped Rose Namajunas on hers to stunningly claim the 115-pound title at UFC 237 in Brazil last month. To heighten the drama, a stoic Namajunas hinted after the title loss that an immediate rematch may not be in the cards as she ponders her next career move. With Namajunas potentially out of the picture, this preliminary main event on Saturday night becomes much more important.
Suarez (7-0) is one of the fastest-rising fighters in the promotion with four consecutive UFC wins, including a victory in “The Ultimate Fighter 23” women’s strawweight tournament final in 2016. Five of her seven career wins have come with a finish, making her one of the more dangerous women right now at 115 pounds. Ansaroff (10-5) has been on a tear of her own, rattling off four consecutive victories including a big decision win over former title challenger Claudia Gadelha at UFC 231 in December 2018. One of these women will see their momentum brought to an abrupt end on Saturday night, and the woman still firing on all cylinders after the dust settles could very well be coming face-to-face with Andrade sooner rather than later.
3. Aljamain Sterling vs. Pedro Munhoz — Bantamweight (preliminary card): The landscape of the bantamweight division will come into clear focus at UFC 238 when flyweight champion Henry Cejudo takes on top contender Marlon Moraes for the vacant 135-pound championship in the main event. The treat we get on this card is that, earlier in the evening here with this fight, we’re likely going to learn who will be the first man calling for an immediate shot at either Cejudo or Moraes.
Both Sterling (17-3) and Munhoz (18-3) enter this potential title eliminator on three-fight winning streaks, with Munhoz coming in on the heels finishing ex-champion Cody Garbrandt in the first round of a very brief yet exciting slug fest at UFC 235 this past March. As if championship implications weren’t enough to keep an eye on this upcoming matchup, Sterling recently took issues to a personal level by referencing Munhoz’s 2014 positive test for elevated testosterone levels which resulted in a victory being overturned at UFC Fight Night 54 and called for Munhoz to undergo more strenuous testing leading into this one. In a response recently provided to The Score, Munhoz, who has always denied any wrongdoing, fired back by calling Sterling a “f—ing scumbag” for bringing up the past incident. Championship aspirations and bad blood? What more can you really ask for?