Continuing UFC’s current weekly streak of events, the promotion heads to Mexico City, Mexico this week for UFC on ESPN+ 17. The city is no stranger to UFC events, as this time it will be the promotion’s fifth appearance there. As expected, a large portion of UFC’s Mexican talent are booked for this show. That goes all the way up to the main event, where Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico’s own Yair Rodriguez will face Jeremy Stephens. Before looking at the main event, it’s worth going through the preliminary portion of the card which begins at 5PM EST on ESPN+ (on UFC Fight Pass in Canada for the first hour, switching to TSN2 at 6PM).
Bout 1: Claudio Puelles (8-2) vs. Marcos Mariano (6-5) (Lightweight)
The evening kicks off with a lightweight battle between Claudio Puelles and Marcos Mariano. Both fighters got off to a rough start in their UFC debuts, both losing. Mariano is coming off that loss, while Puelles was able to recover back in May of 2018, giving Felipe Silva a kneebar in the third round to win. While Mariano isn’t favoured to win, he has the advantage of being the fresher fighter, last competing seven months ago instead of the 16-month gap that Puelles has.
Bout 2: Sijara Eubanks (4-3) vs. Bethe Correia (10-4-1) (Bantamweight)
The thin women’s bantamweight division sees action on this card as Sijara Eubanks faces Bethe Correia. Eubanks has had an interesting past 12 months of her career. Last November at Madison Square Garden, it was originally announced that Eubanks would faced Valentina Shevchenko for the Flyweight Championship. That plan was cancelled, as the main event was replaced by Daniel Cormier defending his UFC Heavyweight Championship against Derrick Lewis. Instead, she beat Roxanne Modafferi via decision for the second time in her career (the other time being on The Ultimate Fighter Season 26). Eubanks is looking to come back after her first loss in the UFC, going three rounds against Aspen Ladd. Bethe Correia’s last win came in 2016, defeating Jessica Eye. Since then, she’s went 0-2-1, recently losing to Irene Aldana (who is also on this card) via an armbar.
Bout 3: Vinicius Moreira (9-3) vs. Paul Craig (11-4) (Light Heavyweight)
Vinicius Moreira entered the UFC in 2018, earning a contract after a victory through the Brazilian spinoff of Dana White’s Contender Series. Since then it hasn’t been easy for him, losing twice in a row, getting finished twice in a row. Risking taking his third loss in a row, he will face Paul Craig, who has taken turns in the win and loss column since his 2016 promotional debut. Recently losing via punches to Alonzo Menifield, Craig aims to even his UFC record (3-4 currently).
Bout 4: Sergio Pettis (17-5) vs. Tyson Nam (18-9-1) (Flyweight)
Longtime UFC fighter Sergio Pettis will take the role of a gatekeeper when facing Tyson Nam, who will be making his UFC debut. Pettis’ last loss came in 2018, losing via decision to Rob Font. On a two fight losing streak, Pettis last won against Joseph Benavidez through scorecards. Nam has recently fought in high level promotions like X-1 and Fight Nights Global, stringing together four wins with a loss in-between since 2017. Despite making his UFC debut this year, Nam has been involved in the sport since 2006. While Pettis has to prove that he still has it, Nam will aim to show UFC fans that he has it in the first place.
Bout 5: Angela Hill (9-7) vs. Ariane Carnelossi (12-1) (Strawweight)
Brazil’s Ariane Carnelossi has amassed an impressive MMA record since debuting in 2014. Her 13-fight record has only one blemish, which came in her debut against Amanda Ribas, who coincidentally is also on the UFC roster nowadays. Recently getting victories in Thunder Fight and Future FC, Carnelossi will make her UFC debut against Angela Hill on Saturday. Hill has had a busy 2019, already fighting three times. Coming off a loss, Hill has a 2019 record of 1-2, recently losing to Xiaonan Yan. While Carnelossi has the more impressive record, Hill’s experience at a higher level will put the stats to the test.
Bout 6: Polo Reyes (8-6) vs. Kyle Nelson (12-3) (Featherweight)
As the preliminary part of the card is near wrapping up, the card sees it’s first Mexican fighter in Polo Reyes make an appearance against fellow featherweight Kyle Nelson. Both fighters have had a rough 2019 so far, both on a two fight losing streak. Similarly, both fighters have also been finished in their respective losses. Nelson has yet to get a victory in the UFC while Reyes is entering his eighth UFC fight, picking up four wins along the way.
Bout 7: Jose Alberto Quiñones (7-3) vs. Carlos Huachin (10-4-2) (Bantamweight)
Starting it off will be Mexico’s Jose Alberto Quiñones facing Peru’s Carlos Huachin. Earlier this year Quiñones had his four fight winning streak broken by Nathaniel Wood, who finished him with a second round rear naked choke. Huachin also had a four-fight winning streak broken with his last fight, but it had more importance since it was his entrance in the promotion. Attempting to defeat Mexico’s own, Huachin will try to prove himself as the prelims conclude.
Bout 8: Martin Bravo (11-2) vs. Steven Peterson (17-9) (Featherweight)
At 8PM EST, the main card will begin on ESPN+ (and TSN3 in Canada). The start of the main card will see Mexican fighter Martin Bravo face Steven Peterson. Both fighters aim to snap a two-fight losing streak. Bravo has a 1-2 UFC record, last winning two years ago. Peterson has a 1-3 record, fighting in LFA prior to that.
Bout 9: Irene Aldana (10-5) vs. Vanessa Melo (10-5) (Bantamweight)
Irene Aldana and Vanessa Melo have equal records, but that won’t be the same after Saturday. Aldana is the most favoured to win Mexican fighter on this card, being around the -500 to -700 in Vegas odds. Melo is making her UFC debut, riding a five-fight win streak. Aldana is coming off a loss, to Raquel Pennington. It won’t be an easy entrance bout for Melo, as Aldana is currently ranked #10 within the division. Melo took this fight on short notice, possibly explaining her weigh in troubles on Friday, weighing in four pounds over the bantamweight limit (140 pounds).
Bout 10: Askar Askarov (10-0) vs. Brandon Moreno (15-5) (Flyweight)
Newcomer Askar Askarov and returning Brandon Moreno will clash high up on the Fight Night card. Askarov has attained a large amount of his wins within the high level Russian MMA promotion Absolute Championship Berkut (ACB). Moreno was previously in the UFC, losing to Sergio Pettis two years ago before being release. He competed once in Legacy Fight Alliance (LFA), earning a win via TKO, and also earning his way back into the UFC.
Bout 11: Carla Esparza (14-6) vs. Alexa Grasso (11-2) (Strawweight)
The co-main event of the evening features two ranked strawweight fighters in Carla Esparza and Alexa Grasso. Carla “The Cookie Monster” Esparza recently went three rounds against Virna Jandiroba to come back from a two-fight losing streak. Grasso picked up a win three months ago against the well known Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Both fighters have a pretty experienced resume within the promotion now, with Grasso holding a 3-2 UFC and Esparza having the more experienced 5-4 record.
Bout 12: Yair Rodriguez (11-2) vs. Jeremy Stephens (28-16) (Featherweight)
The main event of the evening will see Mexican MMA pro Yair Rodriguez face Jeremy Stephens. Rodriguez’s last win was a polarizing win, knocking out “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung with an elbow in the final second of a five round fight. Rodriguez, who was arguably losing the fight before the finish, took Sung Jung’s lights out while in the process of ducking down. Fans argued whether the finish was pure luck or a telegraphed move. Nonetheless, it was a win, and brought the fighter back from a doctor’s stoppage loss to Frankie Edgar in 2017.
The opponent of Rodriguez, Jeremy Stephens has a much larger track record in the sport. As a matter of fact, Stephens’ 15-15 record just within the UFC still gives him more professional bouts than what Rodriguez had. While he holds the larger resume, he hasn’t seen success lately. Losing recently to Jose Aldo and Zabit Magomedsharipov, Stephens hasn’t won since Josh Emmett in early 2018. Both ranked featherweights, a win could put them in the title picture within another fight or two.
UFC will have another ESPN+ exclusive event next week, when the promotion heads to the Royal Arena in Copenhagen, Denmark. Main eventing the card will be middleweights Jack Hermansson and Jared Cannonier. The card begins at 11 AM EST, with the main card kicking off three hours afterwards.