Yan Xiaonan eyes winner’s circle in octagon at UFC Fight Night

Saturday’s UFC Fight Night represents a chance for Yan Xiaonan to reassert herself in the women’s strawweight title picture.

Xiaonan fights fifth-ranked Mackenzie Dern in the Fight Night main event, which takes place at a closed UFC Apex. After two consecutive losses, Xiaonan (15-3, 1 NC) desperately needs this victory to stay in contention.

“The UFC showed a lot of confidence in me by hosting the main event,” Xiaonan said, speaking through a translator. “I always put a lot of pressure on myself every fight, so it won’t be any different.”

Dern (12-2) enters the fight as a favorite. His Brazilian jiu-jitsu is elite. In the end, that’s the key to the fight. If Xiaonan can stop Dern from making her way onto the mat, she should be able to deal some damage herself. But if Dern attacks and throws a vicious ground-and-pound play, it’s going to end badly for Xiaonan.

“I’ve done a lot of floor training and I’m ready for the fight to go to the floor,” Xiaonan said. “My training prepared me”

Both women are looking for a chance against strawweight champion Carla Esparza. For Xiaonan, who is ranked sixth in the division, a win here won’t catapult her to a title, but it could lead to a fight against former two-time champion Rose Namajunas.

“Rose is still someone I want to fight against,” Xiaonan said. “She’s an opponent I want. But I’m focused on this fight. This is the fight I need. You’ll see me being more careful. I’ll be aggressive, but I’ll also be smarter.

McKee makes the case for trilogy against ‘Pitbull’

Saturday’s Bellator 286 is a pivotal night for AJ McKee’s future.

McKee makes his lightweight debut against Spike Carlyle. It’s his first fight since relinquishing the featherweight title to Patrício “Pitbull” Freire, and he needs a convincing win over Carlyle to show off his star power. The best-case scenario for McKee is a spectacular knockout victory in front of his home crowd in Long Beach, Calif., followed by a successful title defense by Freire in the main event against Ádám Borics. The night could then end with a face-to-face Pitbull-McKee, in the extension of their trilogy.

Once he completes the trilogy, McKee can move up to lightweight for good.

AJ McKee (red gloves) and Pat Curran (blue gloves) during Bellator 221 at Allstate Arena.

The future for the top of the featherweight division will be much clearer by the end of 286, starting with the Aaron Pico-Jeremy Kennedy fight. If Pico defeats Kennedy, his next goal will be to redeem himself against Borics, who defeated him in June 2019 – which was also Pico’s last loss.

If all of this falls into place, it begins to pave the way for Pico’s highly anticipated run as champion. At just 26, he’s already one of the most exciting mixed martial artists on Bellator’s roster, but he needs the belt to cement his place among the sport’s best.

What to watch: ONE on Prime Video 2

In addition to UFC and Bellator, tomorrow night also features action from ONE Championship.

ONE on Prime Video 2 is headlined by strawweight champion Xiong Jing Nan defending the belt against Angela Lee. The two shared their first two fights (Jing Nan by TKO in March 2019, followed by Lee tonight the score in the rematch with a submission win in October), and that should settle the score on who is better in ONE.

This fight is also unique as Lee is aiming for double champion status. Already the reigning ONE atomweight champion, she is also looking to place the strawweight belt around her waist. If she wins, it leads to an interesting debate – where does she fall against the court in women’s MMA?

Lee’s brother, Christian, will be looking to earn his own two-time champion status. Already the ONE lightweight champion, he challenges welterweight champion Kiamrian Abbasov in November at Prime Video 4.

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