The middle card in October’s five-event line-up features the second consecutive main event featuring female fighters, as Aspen Ladd and Norma Dumont meet in an impromptu featherweight clash just a week after Mackenzie Dern and Marina Rodriguez topped the marquee in their pivotal strawweight engagement.
If you read this column on the regular, you know I have a soft spot for events like this — fight cards that are short on familiar names, but flush with intriguing, emerging talents stepping into the Octagon again, offering another chance to assess where they stand in their respective divisions and get a better idea of what their respective futures might hold, both in the short- and long-term sense.
These are the cards where breakthrough efforts can creep by unnoticed and major advances in skills can fly under the radar, but it’s also an opportunity to pay close attention, take in those efforts, and make another read on a trio of impressive talents that are all coming off strong performances and will look to take another step forward on Saturday.
Here’s a closer look at those competitors.
This is the October 16 edition of Fighters on the Rise.
Manon Fiorot made the mid-year “Newcomers of the Year” list and will look to cement her place on the year-end edition this weekend when she steps in against Mayra Bueno Silva in their re-scheduled clash from UFC 266.
Through two fights in the UFC, France’s Fiorot is 2-0 with a pair of second-round standing TKO stoppages, following up her January debut win over Victoria Leonardo with a July encore opposite Tabitha Ricci.
Now, the Ricci fight came together on short notice and the diminutive Brazilian “Baby Shark” typically fights in the strawweight division, so I understand the “don’t put too much stock in that one” comments… however, the job is to beat whomever they put in front of you and both times she’s ventured into the Octagon this year, “The Beast” has done that in impressive fashion.
A former amateur world champion, the 31-year-old striker has won seven straight since losing her professional debut to Leah McCourt in a 138-pound catchweight engagement, earning finishes in six of those seven contests, including each of the last five.
This weekend, Fiorot squares off with Silva in a tough assignment that should illuminate where she stands in the division at the moment.
Highlight: Fiorot KOs Tabitha Ricci
The 30-year-old Brazilian is 7-1-1 overall and 2-1-1 in the UFC, having battled Montana De La Rosa to a draw last time out while holding wins over Mara Romero Borella and Gillian Robertson, and a loss to Maryna Moroz. This assignment is the toughest to date for Fiorot in the UFC and puts her in the Octagon across from a highly skilled, dangerous opponent who will look to test her takedown defense and abilities on the ground.
So far, Fiorot is an intriguing figure in the flyweight division, but if she delivers anything similar to her first two performances this weekend, she could find herself with a number next to her name and a lot of people talking about her as a potential dark horse contender in the division heading into next year.
After being on the sidelines for over two years following a gruesome injury that required not one, but two surgical procedures to repair, Julian Marquez made up for lost time in the first half of 2021, returning to register a pair of stoppage wins to once again put himself on the radar as someone to watch in the 185-pound weight class.
In February at UFC 258, the Glory MMA & Fitness representative pulled off one of the top comeback victories of the year, latching onto an anaconda choke late in the third round of his clash with Maki Pitolo to secure the submission win and a Performance of the Night bonus. A shade under two months later, Marquez returned opposite Sam Alvey and once again collected a finish and a bonus, putting “Smile’N Sam” to sleep with a second-round rear-naked choke in a back-and-forth bout that earned the duo Fight of the Night honors.
Highlights: Marquez Finishes Sam Alvey
This weekend, the burly 31-year-old steps in against fellow Dana White’s Contender Series alum Jordan Wright in a battle of middleweight finishers. The 29-year-old Wright collected a first-round stoppage win over Ike Villanueva in his promotional debut last August in a light heavyweight assignment and rebounded from a second-round stoppage loss to Joaquin Buckley by dispatching Jamie Pickett in 64 seconds at UFC 262 in May to push his record to 12-1 with 1 no contest and maintain his 100-percent finishing rate.
There is always a little more room to move in the middleweight division, and a third straight victory would certainly vault Marquez higher up the divisional ladder heading towards the end of the year. If he can secure another win and collect another finish against Wright, “The Cuban Missile Crisis” will put himself in prime position to challenge for a place in the rankings and secure a step up in competition next time out.