A pair of upcoming fight cards have received updates to them, and I’ll give my thoughts on the new bouts in today’s MMA odds and ends.
Chance Rencountre vs. Kyle Stewart, UFC on ESPN+ 1 (UFC Fight Night 143)
We hopefully have the last fight card update for the UFC on ESPN+ 1 card this weekend, taking place Saturday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Chance Rencountre finally has his opponent as he’ll take on Octagon newcomer Kyle Stewart in a lightweight bout on the card. ESPN first broke the news. Rencountre’s original opponent Randy Brown was pulled from the card due to a rumored USADA flagging, while Dwight Grant was not cleared to fight due to an eye injury. Rencountre (12-3) lost a decision to Belal Muhammad in his UFC debut but had won four straight bouts prior to it. Stewart (11-1) has only lost once in his career, to top LFA prospect James Nakashima, and in his last bout defeated Braden Smith by decision. I think most will look to fade Rencountre in this spot, and I expect Stewart to actually be a slight favorite here despite making his UFC debut on short notice.
Lando Vannata vs. Marcos Rosa, UFC 234
Lightweight Lando Vannata recently reupped a new four-fight contract with the UFC, and he now returns to fight Octagon newcomer Marcos Rosa at UFC 234, taking place February 10 at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia. ESPN broke the news. Vannata (9-3-2) only has a 1-3-2 record in the UFC, but almost every one of his fights has been exciting which is why the UFC decided to bring him back. He’s coming off of a draw against Matt Frevola, and hasn’t actually won a fight since a KO win over John Makdessi in December 2016. Rosa (6-4) is a veteran of the Brazilian regional circuit and has actually won three of his last four bouts by stoppage. Finally it seems like the UFC has booked Vannata a winnable fight, and I expect him to be a sizeable favorite to get his hand raised.
Dong Hyun Ma vs. Devonte Smith, UFC 234
And finally, Dong Hyun Ma (formerly known as “the other” Dong Yun Kim) will return at UFC 234 when he takes on Devonte Smith in what should be an action-packed lightweight bout. Ma (16-8-3) is 3-2 overall in the UFC and is currently riding a three-fight win streak including a notable TKO win over Takanori Gomi and a decision win over Damien Brown. Smith (9-1) is 1-0 so far in the UFC with a ridiculous KO win over Julian Erosa. He has won his last five fights, and all nine of his pro wins have come by stoppage, with his lone defeat a TKO loss to John Gunther. I very much enjoy watching Ma fight and I have to give the UFC matchmakers props for booking what is sure to be an exciting fight. But I am very high on Smith and I think he’s going to come in here and end Ma’s win streak. Look for Smith to be the favorite in the sportsbooks after his flashy UFC debut.