Headlined by the interim Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight title bout between Yoel Romero and Luke Rockhold, UFC 221 goes down on Saturday in Perth, Australia. Beyond the main card, the event offers an intriguing preliminary lineup that includes a lightweight clash between Damien Brown and Dong Hyun Kim. Here are five reasons to turn into the undercard:
1. Pearson tries to save his spot on the roster.
“The Ultimate Fighter 9” winner Ross Pearson’s career has been in a tailspin since 2016, as he finds himself on a four-fight losing streak. A knockout loss to Dan Hooker at UFC Fight Night 110 in June brought into question Pearson’s future and spurred debate about whether or not he should continue fighting. After an extended layoff, “The Real Deal” will attempt to right his ship against Mizuto Hirota. It could be the 33-year-old Pearson’s last hurrah inside the Octagon.
2. Nguyen draws his biggest test to date.
Ben Nguyen has enjoyed a strong start to his UFC career, winning four of his first five fights. He earned a “Performance of the Night” bonus in his most recent appearance, as he surprised and submitted Tim Elliott with a rear-naked choke at UFC Fight Night “Lewis vs. Hunt” on June 11. Nguyen’s degree of difficulty will rise significantly when he faces Jussier da Silva in a key battle at 125 pounds. “Formiga” has sharpened his skills against some of the top flyweights in the sport, including Ian McCall, Joseph Benavidez, John Dodson and Henry Cejudo.
3. Once-beaten Volkanovski, undefeated Kennedy fight for higher ground.
The Australia-based Alexander Volkanovski and Canada’s Jeremy Kennedy are a combined 6-0 in the UFC heading into their featherweight confrontation on the undercard. The winner will earn himself an even bigger opportunity down the road and could conceivably muscle his way into the top-15 rankings at 145 pounds.
4. Underdog Wilkinson seeks first Octagon win on home soil.
Rob Wilkinson’s promotional debut did not go according to plan, as he succumbed to second-round punches from Siyar Bahadurzada at UFC Fight Night 115 in September. The Australian’s path does not get any easier against the unbeaten Israel Adesanya. An Australia Fighting Championship titleholder and Glory Kickboxing veteran, the 28-year-old Adesanya has finished all 11 of his opponents by knockout or technical knockout, five of them in the first round.
5. Opposites attract.
The featured prelim between Brown and Kim shines the spotlight on fighters headed in opposite directions. Kim, 29, is coming off of back-to-back wins against Brendan O’Reilly and Takanori Gomi, while Brown finds himself on the other end of the spectrum following consecutive defeats to Vinc Pichel and Frank Camacho. Expect a violent and entertaining affair between these two lightweights, both eager to prove they belong on the sport’s grandest stage.