For the first time since August 2016, the Ultimate Fighting Championship is returning to Vancouver.
UFC Fight Night 158 goes down tonight (Saturday) inside Rogers Arena, with a main event featuring two of the top lightweight fighters squaring off.
The fourth-ranked Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (36-12) takes on fifth-ranked Justin Gaethje (20-2), with big implications in the division on the line.
Cerrone most recently lost to Tony Ferguson at UFC 238 in June, but had previously won his last three bouts. Gaethje last fought in March and scored a win over Edson Barboza. He’s on a two-fight win streak.
The other top fight sees ninth-ranked light heavyweight fighter Glover Teixeira (29-7) battle 13th-ranked Nikita Krylov (26-6). Teixeira last defeated Ion Cutjelaba in April, and is on a two-fight win streak. Krylov last picked up a win over Ovince Saint Preux in April.
Local flavour on the main card sees Vancouver’s Tristan Connelly challenge Michel Pereira (23-9). The fight was originally scheduled to see Pereira take on Russian Sergey Khandozhko, but he was forced off the card due to visa issues. Connelly is making his UFC debut on Saturday, and has a professional Mixed Martial Arts record of 13-6.
Pereira vs. Connelly was set to occur in the welterweight division (170 pounds), but Pereira failed to make weight at 172. He forfeits 20 per cent of his purse for not making weight.
The other B.C. fighter on the card is Squamish’s Cole Smith, who takes on Miles Johns on the undercard in the bantamweight division. Smith made his UFC debut in May and defeated Mitch Gagnon. Smith has a professional MMA record of 7-0. Johns also has a perfect record at 9-0.
Also in the bantamweight division, Winnipeg’s Brad Katona (9-1) fights Hunter Azure (7-0).
Other fighters with Canadian connections include: Windsor’s Kyle Prepolec (12-6) taking on Austin Hubbard (10-3) in the lightweight division and Toronto-based fighter Misha Cirkunov (14-5) battling Jimmy Crute (10-0) in the light heavyweight division.
Main card bouts also include: Todd Duffee (9-3) against Jeff Hughes (10-2) in the heavyweight division and Uriah Hall (15-9) vs. Antonio Carlos Jr. (11-3) in the middleweight division.
Rounding out the undercard are: Marcin Tybura (17-5) vs. Augusto Sakai (13-1) in the heavyweight division, Chas Skelly (17-3) against Jordan Griffin (17-6) in the featherweight division and Louis Smolka (15-6) vs. Ryan MacDonald (10-1) in the bantamweight division.
All of the listed fights will be a maximum of three rounds of five minutes, except for the main event which will go a maximum of five rounds.
The undercard matches begin at 2 p.m., with the main card scheduled to start at 5 p.m.
Black Press reporter Ben Lypka will be covering the show, follow him on Twitter – @BenLypka for live coverage.