The Ultimate Fighting Championship put together a solid slate of prelims for UFC on ESPN 22—a second-tier card scheduled for Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. This six-fight undercard is buoyed by two strong fights at the top. Tracy Cortez is one of the UFC’s most promising prospects on the female side, and she moves down to flyweight for a difficult test against Justine Kish in the featured prelim. In support, Alexander Romanov looks to keep his status as a rare intriguing heavyweight prospect in a three-round encounter with Juan Espino. Beyond those pairings, it will be interesting to see what Jessica Penne has left in the tank after a four-year layoff, and the bantamweight opener between Tony Gravely and Anthony Birchak looks like fun.
Now to the preview for the UFC on ESPN 22 “Whittaker vs. Gastelum” prelims:
Women’s FlyweightsNR | Tracy Cortez (8-1, 2-0 UFC) vs. NR | Justine Kish (7-3, 3-3 UFC)
ODDS: Cortez (-240), Kish (+200)
She entered the UFC just a shade over two years after her professional debut, but Cortez is already building something interesting. First and foremost, Cortez has proven to be an effective wrestler, even up a weight class from her natural division. After spending her career at flyweight, Cortez moved up to bantamweight for the first two fights of her UFC run. Despite the size disadvantage, Cortez managed to control and beat Vanessa Melo and Stephanie Egger without much issue. Now she drops back to 125 pounds for her UFC flyweight debut. Kish’s six-plus years on the UFC roster have been marred by injuries, but she is a solid enough fighter once she makes her way to the cage. Kish can be a physical force and a hard-hitting striker, but there is a bit of a stiffness to what she does, which can leave her open defensively once her opponents key in on what she brings to the table. That looked to be remedied a bit in her last fight against Sabina Mazo, but overall, it is hard not to see Cortez finding success whenever she decides to shoot on Kish and tries to take this fight to the mat. Kish could cause some trouble for Cortez on the feet given that the latter is quite hittable in her own right. However, Kish is not a knockout artist and Cortez has looked quite durable. If Kish enjoys some early striking success, that just figures to make Cortez move to wrestling that much sooner. The pick is Cortez via decision.
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