UFC Fight Night in Sacramento, California, presented Saturday the return of the timeless "California Kid" in Urijah Faber, as well as the resurgence of former featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie and several first-round results from the city's own alpha male team .
What's next for Faber, De Randamie, Aspen Ladd and the other top names this weekend? Here is the ESPN take.
Germaine de Randamie, bantamweight
Result: Defeated Aspen Ladd via TKO first round
Following: Amanda Nunes
This is the fight that Randamie has wanted for years, and she deserves it. Even when he climbed to 145 pounds to fight for the inaugural UFC title in 2017, he always said he wanted to go back to 135 at some point, fighting with Amanda Nunes. The two met in 2013. Nunes won by knockout in the first round.
Put aside any criticism you may have about how De Randamie handled the whole "featherweight, Cris Cyborg" situation and just look at the facts. She has won five in a row. She beat Brazilian contender Ketlen Vieira in the standings. It is dangerous for the feet, enough to represent a threat to the double champion. She is next in line.
Aspen Ladd, bantamweight
Result: Lost to Germaine de Randamie by TKO in the first round
Following: Marion Reneau
The UFC Fight Night card this Saturday in San Antonio will include two welterweights in order to get the title picture and the next test for former NFL star Greg Hardy. Rafael Dos Anjos, who broke a two-fight winning streak in May, and Leon Edwards, winner of seven consecutive bouts, will meet in the main event. Hardy will also be on the main card when he faces Juan Adams.
UFC Fight Night: Two Anjos vs. Edwards
• Saturday, July 20, San Antonio.
• Preliminaries: ESPN 6 p.m. ET
• Principal card: ESPN 9 p.m. ET
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The strike was early, but so was the opportunity in general for Ladd, 24 years old. It's easy to say this now, but for the record, I also said it before the fight. This was too much, too soon. De Randamie has been fighting for almost 20 years. Ladd's roof is high, but he is still learning. You can not learn on the fly, against an experienced kickboxer, under the pressure of a UFC main event. It was a recipe for a loss.
All good, however. Ladd is still young and mature for his age. It seems that she will handle the loss well. She faced the media. She was kind to De Randamie and referee Herb Dean. Give it back a little. Reserve it against a classified opponent, but much more manageable, in Marion Reneau below. She will come back.
Urijah Faber reflects on his victory by knockout against Ricky Simon in the hometown of Faber, Sacramento, and challenges Henry Cejudo. For more information about UFC, register here for ESPN + http://plus.espn.com/ufc
Urijah Faber, bantamweight
Result: Defeated Ricky Simon through TKO first round
Following: Rob Font
I have been covering MMA for more than 10 years, and Faber's victory over Ricky Simon is a moment that will always stand out for me. Amazing.
This is not supposed to happen. A 40-year-old sport pioneer is not expected to return from a 2½ year layoff, and believes a 26-year-old prospect in the first round. We are used to seeing this situation go the other way. As a target journalist, I do not know if I'm supposed to say this … but I'll say it anyway. I was really happy for Faber. The whole night was fantastic to see.
All that said, you're crazy if you think Faber should jump the bantamweight line and fight the defense double champion Henry Cejudo. Cejudo needs to defend not just one, but two belts at this time. He has many challengers waiting for him. I understand that Cejudo wants (and deserves) the biggest fights possible … and I certainly do not blame Faber for calling his shot … but that confrontation does not make sense. If Faber is serious about making a career, then do it. Upload the rows. Rob Font in October in Boston is the play.
Josh Emmett knocks down Mirsad Bektic with a left-handed jab, then unleashes a wave of auctioneers. For more information about UFC, register here for ESPN + http://plus.espn.com/ufc
Result: Defeated Mirsad Bektic TKO first round
Following: Zabit Magomedsharipov
Apparently, Josh Emmett woke up feeling dangerous on Saturday. Clearly he has established himself as one of, if not the best hitter in the division, but what I like most about what Emmett is doing is that he is not just going out hunting for heads. He knocked Bektic down with a jab in this fight. He is using feints and footwork to establish his power, and we know he is a strong fighter over that, due to his college education.
The UFC will head to Moscow on November 9. The word is that Zabit Magomedsharipov is in consideration of holder. Who are you going to fight with? As much as he thinks he is ready for a title shot, Alex Volkanovski is still ahead of him and that card is not a pay per view. I want to see Magomedsharipov against an opponent who can present adversity in the form of a single blow. And that is Emmett.
Result: Defeated Sheymon Moraes through first-round TKO
Following: Shane burgos
I'm not ready to anoint Fili the next featherweight champion, but this is a guy you want to watch at this time. He signed with the UFC in 2013 under a fair amount of fanfare. For a long time there has been a large number of people in Fili's potential. It took him a minute to realize. He comes from an unstable background, and had to grow, even after signing with the UFC. It seems as if he had.
The Alpha Male team is extremely high in Fili at this time. Boys like Faber and fight coach Danny Castillo will rant about their work ethic. He used to be the guy to skip the practice. Now he is the first there. Your confidence is high. He is a talented striker with the strong ability of TAM to fight. I would like to see it against another featherweight in which I am extremely tall: Shane Burgos.
Julianna Peña, bantamweight
Result: Defeated Nicco Montaño by unanimous decision.
Following: Ketlen Vieira
Peña had a slow start in his first fight in 2 and a half years, as he lost the opening round to Nicco Montaño. However, after that Peña was quite vintage. Yes, she left a couple of years ago, but I do not see why Peña would not take back what he had left in terms of classification. She was there for a shot at the title when she took a break. His only defeat in the UFC came at the hands of the flyweight champion. Valentina Shevchenko.
Vieira has not fought since March 2018, but is still highly ranked. She is undefeated. You already feel that Nunes is halfway to clean up the division. She is a champion that needs challengers. De Randamie fits that description for me. And if Peña and Vieira fought, whoever wins would fit that description, too.
Result: Defeated Darren Elkins by unanimous decision
Following: Jeremy Stephens
It's not easy to find Hall fights. We know that since he won The Ultimate Fighter in 2015. Since then, he has only fought three times because of a combination of potential opponents who reject him and what kind of opponent Hall is willing to accept. Hall is never going to be that guy who simply jumps into the featherweight pool and accepts any fight offered. He believes he is world class and is now looking for a top 10 opponent.
And if it depended on me, I would give it to him. He loves or hates his fighting style (personally, I'm very intrigued by him), Hall has seen a class above the competition he has fought so far. He wants to fight in the UFC Fight Night event scheduled for December 9 in Washington, D.C. That makes it a little harder to find an opponent now, since there are still five months left, but Jeremy Stephens seems reasonable. Stephens has been around the UFC since 2007. He has fought against everyone. He has fought against multiple generations of fighters at this point. And somehow he's only 33 years old and he's ranked in the top 10. But he's also coming off a couple of defeats. I think there would be something to be gained for both in this confrontation.