Maia (26-9 MMA, 20-9 UFC), who has challenged for both the middleweight and welterweight championships during a UFC run which dates back to 2007, is coming off a first-round submission of Lyman Good at UFC Fortaleza on Feb. 1. That got Maia back into the win column after a three-fight losing streak.
Martin (16-4 MMA, 8-4 UFC), for his part, gets his biggest career fight on the strength of a four-fight win streak. The scrappy Bostonian decisioned Sergio Moraes in his last octagon encounter at UFC Wichita.
UFC Minneapolis will be headlined by a rematch between Tyron Woodley and Robbie Lawler. Woodley knocked out Lawler in the opening round of their UFC 201 fight to claim the welterweight crown.
PLANTATION, Fla. – Jack Hermansson didn’t hesitate to accept a short-notice opportunity to fight Ronaldo Souza in Saturday’s UFC on ESPN+ 8 headliner.
Despite beating David Branch just 28 days prior to this weekend’s event, Hermansson (19-4 MMA, 6-2 UFC) was ready to go when the UFC came calling for him to fight Souza (26-6 MMA, 9-3 UFC) in a key middleweight bout. The Swedish fighter wants to be a top contender, and beating someone with the prestige of “Jacare” takes him a long way toward that goal.
“David Branch was respected and ‘Jacare’ is probably even more respected,” Hermansson told reporters, including MMA Junkie, at UFC on ESPN+ 8 media day. “He’s known as one of the best guys in the division and one of the best grapplers in the sport. I think a win over him should be a statement.”
UFC on ESPN+ 8 takes place at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla. Hermansson vs. Souza headlines the main card, which streams on ESPN+ following prelims on ESPN and ESPN2.
Souza was originally supposed to rematch Yoel Romero in the upcoming main event, but Romero was forced to withdraw due to illness. The Brazilian admits he was reluctant to take on a lesson-ranked foe in Hermansson, but ultimately agreed because he was promised a title shot against the winner of Robert Whittaker vs. Israel Adesanya.
Hermansson said the stakes aren’t as clear for him, but given Souza’s stature in the sport, he knows what an exciting and impressive win would do for his career.
“I don’t got any promises at all,” Hermansson said. “‘Jacare’ is a really legit opponent. He’s super, super dangerous. There is only the best guys in the division that have been able to beat him, and if I beat him I think I’m one of the best guys in the division. I’m going to do it and I’m going to show everybody that I belong here, that I belong at the top and a title shot will come eventually.”
Although Hermansson is essentially in a situation where he had to carry over his previous training camp into this one, he said he’s still confident going into fight night. Souza has competed against the best during his storied career, but Hermansson said he offers a combination of skills the former Strikeforce champ hasn’t encountered.
“I think everybody tries to destroy me but that doesn’t always mean that they will be successful,” Hermansson said. “I think I match up good. He’s a really powerful opponent. He hits hard, he’s strong and I have a high pace, I’m fast, I’m precise and I have a big variety in my techniques. I think it’s going to be hard for him in there. I think I know what he will bring to the table, but you never know what I will bring to the table.”
Greg Hardy will be in familiar territory on Saturday night. The former pro bowler will enter the Octagon for the second time in his career and will be the co-main event once again.
Although some disagree with Hardy getting the spot, the 30-year-old is quite happy with co-headliner status.
“It’s like being in the Super Bowl back to back,” Hardy told MMA Junkie at media day. “It’s like being in a playoff game over and over again. It gives me confidence. I’ve got the opportunity to come out, show what I’ve got. The powers that be believe in me. It’s a great feeling.”
The hope for Hardy is the fight turns out much better than his last. In January, he took on Allen Crowder. In the third round, the former NFL star landed an illegal knee which resulted in a disqualification and the first loss on Hardy’s record.
Ultimately, Hardy says he has moved past that, with the help of his American Top Team coaches and teammates.
“We took some time, watched the film, calmed down after an aggressive fight, and just broke the fight down and moved forward,” Hardy said. “It was actually a fun process. … It was more just me being a young fighter. Not heeding all my coaches’ advice with all the adrenaline and this, this and the other. I don’t do nerves. I’ve been a professional athlete too long.”
In the end, Hardy is more than ready for his second UFC fight. ‘The Prince of War’ knows he will get his first UFC win on Saturday as he believes he has too many tools compared to Smoliakov.
“I don’t think I match up with anybody,” Hardy said. “I think I might be the biggest person in the UFC. Hopefully, I’m the fastest, one of the most athletic. I think the only difference between me and everybody else is my intelligence in the game and my training experience. I’ve been working every day tirelessly trying to catch up on that, but athletically and physically, there’s no comparison.”
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 4/25/2019.