The Russian is coming off of a split decision win over Fabricio Werdum at UFC 249, whereas Derrick Lewis is coming off of a unanimous decision victory over Ilir Latifi at UFC 247.
In the co-main event, former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman will take on Omari Akhmedov. This is the first fight for Weidman in ten-months and he has moved back down to middleweight after getting brutally knocked out in his light heavyweight debut against Dominick Reyes at UFC Boston last October.
UFC on ESPN+ 32: Lewis vs. Oleinik Prelims
Men’s bantamweight: Irwin Rivera (10-5, 1-1 UFC) defeats Ali Al-Qaisi (8-4, 0-1 UFC) by split decision
Men’s featherweight: Youssef Zalal (10-2, 3-0 UFC) vs. Peter Barrett (11-4, 0-1 UFC)
“I feel good! I had a lot of things to prove to myself from that last fight, so I came in today – I don’t know if you guys saw me in the corner just talking to the coaches… I really didn’t listen in the last fight, it kind of messed me up… I’m young, I just learn every day and every fight, so I did a lot better than the last fight, I’m happy with that. I wish I got a finish. I’m so mad that I didn’t get a finish, but you move on to move on.
“This is my second fight in six weeks. It just shows the hard work that we did for the past… I don’t know how many years. I got an amazing team, amazing people around me, I’m blessed and grateful for the opportunities. These opportunities don’t come around that often, so when you have the chance, you take them.
“Before 2020, we sat down with the coaches and decided it was really time to go and grow, really just push it, and see where life takes us. We never knew we would have 3 fights in 2020, we just went with the flow and really focused on getting better as a mixed martial artist, as a person in general. So, for me, that was the main focus and fights came to me. I didn’t really have to rush for fights. Fights came in and I took them. I took the opportunities and thank God, I’m grateful and blessed that I’m doing great.” Rivera said.
Men’s featherweight: Gavin Tucker (12-1, 3-1 UFC) defeats Justin Jaynes (16-5, 1-1 UFC) by third-round rear-naked choke
“Getting tested is a part of this. I think that only accelerates me in the end. All the stuff you work through just shows I’m full of grit, I’m there until the fight is over. I wasn’t going anywhere through any of those things. I got tested on both ends, and worked my way through it.
“He was throwing 150% on everything, so you had to be super careful with this guy and I got a little loose with my hands as I have had a tendency to do in the past and paid the price. When I came in the second, I said “ok, no more looseness. Stay tight, get back to this sharp kickboxing and get back on track”. And that’s good.
“When you get tested like that and you can come back, it makes you confident in yourself. I got tested in both ends, fought through it, came back, got a big win, got a finish and showed my grit and my abilities a little bit more. I’m actually happy with everything that just happened, it was a good experience.
“I’d like to continue the momentum. Like I said to Paul [Felder] earlier, I’ve tried to rush it, back to back fights in the past and it turns into a bad thing for me, because you end up breaking down. I would like to get three fights a year. I think that’s a reasonable amount. I tried to do four and five fights a year and I ended up missing a year because I just pushed myself back into the trench, so I’m going to make the attempt. I don’t want to jinx it.
“I’m healthy and I’m going to stay healthy. I feel completely fine to fight soon again, so I would like to get back on track as soon as possible without putting myself in a place where I’m going to fall into old habits and do the same things. You have to learn from these mistakes or else you are just running in the hamster wheel and I don’t want to do that.” Tucker said.
Middleweight: Andrew Sanchez (13-5, 5-3 UFC) defeats Wellington Turman (16-4, 1-2 UFC) by first-round KO
“My confidence is back and it’s higher than ever. I can do everything. I was just pumping out decisions, close fights… Ever since I lost that close fight to Anthony Smith I was like, I really can’t just rely on my wrestling for every fight, someone is going to stop it. I worked endlessly, diligently, on my striking, became obsessed with it.
“I took a bit of a dive… I was lost, trying to figure out my style, kind of lost my identity, and you saw it in my last fight. I was doing a lot of guard, I was learning bit by bit, and I feel like it all melted together now. I think now is when I make my run, now is the real beginning.
“He came out hard. He threw a front kick that hit me right in the chin. Hit me with something that kind of buzzed me a bit. He was throwing big and he was missing big. He started slowing down, I started jumping the one-twos I’ve been working on nonstop since getting up to Tristar. I rocked him a couple of times and one of them just laid him out flat. For a decision machine like myself, it feels good to get a finish.” Sanchez said.
Lightweight: Nasrat Haqparast (12-3, 4-2 UFC) defeats Alex Munoz (6-1, 0-1 UFC) by unanimous decision
“It was for sure a very big moment for me personally. A lot of things outside of fighting… I had a lot of pressure and I really just wanted to show my real skill set. In my last fight against Drew Dober, I was immature, I wanted to kill him, my emotions took the best of me. Today, I really got to show my skill set and it’s just the beginning.
“Alex was 6-0 and you should not forget he is the wrestling coach of Team Alpha Male. In the octagon, it’s always 0-0. It’s not the guy with the biggest experience against the other one, sometimes we see big upsets. You should never take anyone lightly just because he doesn’t have UFC fights.
“It was his debut, he had a lot of pressure. He was trained for years, he was a super athlete and had a good chin… It was a good test for me just to improve my skills, improve my octagon confidence. In my opinion, I have the best team in the world, we can beat everybody with a good preparation. It takes time, we will get better and I really think we have the potential to do something great.
“Alex was 6-0 and you should not forget he is the wrestling coach of Team Alpha Male. In the octagon, it’s always 0-0. It’s not the guy with the biggest experience against the other one, sometimes we see big upsets. You should never take anyone lightly just because he doesn’t have UFC fights. It was his debut, he had a lot of pressure.
“He was trained for years, he was a super athlete and had a good chin… It was a good test for me just to improve my skills, improve my octagon confidence. In my opinion, I have the best team in the world, we can beat everybody with a good preparation. It takes time, we will get better and I really think we have the potential to do something great.
“Now I’ll go back to Germany, take some family time, take some rest because of some injuries, then I’ll go back to training.” Haqparast said.
Middleweight: Kevin Holland (18-5, 5-2 UFC) defeats Joaquin Buckley (10-3, 0-1 UFC) by third-round KO
“That was like Sugar Sean O’Malley type stuff right there! That was pretty cool! I didn’t know it was that clean, I thought it was kind of sloppy… That was pretty decent, I didn’t know it was that decent.
“Any victory is a great feeling, but overall I’ve been saying let’s go bucko for a while. I didn’t think Buckley was coming to fight like that and he came to fight! Mad props to him for stepping up, mad props to him for bringing the fight. Honestly – I have to sit back and really think about it – but I think that was one of the most fun fights I’ve ever been in, the back-and-forths, the smack talking… It was almost like a street affair, with some cardio. That was dope.
“Put me in there as much as I can until I hit 30, then I’m going to slow down a little bit. But I want to have fun and to me, there’s no better job than fighting. Every time they call me, I’ll take the fight.” Holland said.
Welterweight: Tim Means (29-12-1, 11-9-1 UFC) defeats Laureano Staropoli (9-2, 2-1 UFC) via unanimous decision
“I can look myself in the mirror and tell myself the truth right out of the gate, I’m not a quitter. I might do some stupid things along the way and own what I do wrong, earn my reputation, earn my way, but I don’t quit. And that’s what we were stating out today: we don’t quit.
“We saw everything in practice. Some of those spinning attacks were a little bit quicker, so I kind of waited out the first round, waited for the second round, let him get dog-tired. Kept mixing the body locks, the takedowns. Started trying to wear him down, I could hear him slowly breathing. We were working on head kicks
“I think I dropped him with a head kick in the second round. I wanted to jump on him a little bit quicker, but it just shows the durability of guys in this weight class and in the UFC. And this guy in particular, tough as nails. There is not an easy fight in this league.
“I have some cheesecake waiting for me back at the hotel now. I’m going to throw down on that, talk to the coaches and I imagine I’ll get a call soon. I also have to get back and talk to the doctor about the hardware I have in my ankle from when I broke my leg last year, get some screws removed and on to the next fight.” Tim Means said.
Lightweight: Beneil Dariush (18-4-1, 12-4-1 UFC) knocks out Scott Holtzman (14-3, 7-3 UFC) in the first round via a spinning back fist