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PHOENIX — One of the UFC’s most popular and dynamic weight classes takes center stage on Saturday, with Charles Oliveira (32-8) preparing to step into the Octagon against Justin Gaethje (23-3) in the main event UFC 274 inside Footprint Center. However, Oliveira missed weight on Friday, resulting in him getting stripped of the lightweight title. Gaethje, who made weight on Friday, is eligible to win the title on Saturday night.
Gaethje, of Arizona, is a former interim champion, whose only loss in the last four years came against Khabib Nurmagomedov in the Dagestani’s final fight. Up until the missed weight, Oliveira had done a tremendous job stepping into the role as champion, recording exciting finishes against Michael Chandler and Dustin Poirier.
In the co-main event, strawweight champion Rose Namajunas (11-4) and Carla Esparza (18-6) will meet in a rematch of the first strawweight title fight in UFC history in 2014. Esparza won the initial meeting by submission.
And fan favorites Chandler (22-7) and Tony Ferguson (25-6) could steal the spotlight from the main and co-main events.
Follow Brett Okamoto and Jeff Wagenheim with for live updates below or watch the fights on ESPN+ PPV.
Fight in progress: Heavyweight: Blagoy Ivanov (18-4, 2-3 UFC, +130) vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima (19-8-1, 8-5 UFC, -155)
Welterweight: Andre Fialho (16-4, 2-1 UFC) def. Cameron VanCamp (15-6-1, 0-1 UFC) by TKO (Watch on ESPN+)
Andre Fialho manages to land a left hand that drops Cameron VanCamp to secure the knockout win.
Fialho has been a busy man, fighting three times in 2022. He didn’t have to spend much time in the cage tonight, as he used a tight left-hook counterpunch to knock out VanCamp at 2:35 of Round 1.
Fialho, 28 and from Portugal, had been stunned by a punch earlier in the short fight. That moment of success emboldened VanCamp, who came forward with heavy offense — but light on the defense. He paid the price.
VanCamp, a 29-year-old from Indianapolis, Indiana, saw a four-fight winning streak come to a sudden and violent end in his UFC debut.
Women’s flyweight: Tracy Cortez (10-1, 4-0 UFC) def. Melissa Gatto (8-1-2, 2-1 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch on ESPN+)
Tracy Cortez earned a unanimous decision win over Melissa Gatto at UFC 274. Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC
The biggest early-evening ovation from the Phoenix crowd greeted the walkout of Cortez. Once the prelim was underway, the Scottsdale, Arizona, fighter lived up to the enthusiasm in this meeting of rising 125-pounders.
The 28-year-old Cortez showed no fear of Gatto’s grappling, taking her down early and often, delivering damage while on the canvas and defending well whenever the Brazilian went for a submission. All three judges scored the fight 29-28 for Cortez, who has won 10 in a row since dropping her MMA debut in 2017.
Gatto, 28, suffered her first career defeat. She threatened several times but seemed a step behind in terms of positioning, getting reversed repeatedly.
Men’s flyweight: CJ Vergara (10-3-1, 1-1 UFC) def. Kleydson Rodrigues (7-2, 0-1 UFC) by split decision (Watch on ESPN+)
CJ Vergara and Kleydson Rodrigues go back and forth on the ground in an exciting exchange.
In essence, a split decision comes down to a difference of opinion. In this case, the split could refer to what looked like two entirely different fights between these men.
Vergara, 30 and from San Antonio, Texas, earned his first UFC win with his brutal work in Round 2. He dominated on the canvas, delivering elbow after elbow to the head and sending Rodrigues back to his corner at the end of those five minutes with grotesque swelling on his forehead. It could very well have been a 10-8 round, but none of the judges saw it that way. All three scored the fight 29-28.
Rodrigues, a 26-year-old Brazilian, was making his UFC debut amid high expectations while riding a seven-fight winning streak. He showed off aggressive striking in the first round and had moments in the third, a testament to his resilience. But it was not enough to earn him the win.
Strawweight: Loopy Godinez (8-2, 4-2 UFC) def. Ariane Carnelossi (14-3, 2-2 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch on ESPN+)
Loopy Godinez doesn’t let up as she keeps the pressure on Ariane Carnelossi with a flurry of punches at the end of their fight.
The co-main event much later in the evening will be a strawweight title fight, but those two women have a tall task to try to put on the 115-pound performance of the night after what Godinez did in this early prelim.
The 28-year-old, born in Mexico and fighting out of Vancouver, Canada, was all over Carnelossi from the get-go, securing a takedown in the opening seconds of the fight and maintaining top control for the entirety of Round 1 while delivering a steady dose of ground-and-pound. Rounds 2 and 3 played out the same way, as Godinez thoroughly dominated every second of the fight by going 8-for-8 on takedowns. The judges all scored her way every round, two of them giving her one 10-8 card.
Carnelossi, touted for her physicality and ferocity, could not put either on display. The 29-year-old Brazilian came in having won 14 of 15, but a dominant Godinez performance halted that run.
Men’s bantamweight: Journey Newson (10-3 1 NC, 1-2 1 NC UFC) def. Fernie Garcia (10-2, 0-1 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch on ESPN+)
Journey Newsom earned his first UFC win with the victory over Fernie Garcia. Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC
Newson had not fought since September 2020, and during his extended layoff, he developed some urgency, as he was in Garcia’s face for much of their 15 minutes inside the Octagon and earned a clear decision for his first victory in his fourth UFC fight.
Newson, a 33-year-old from Portland, Oregon, came at Garcia with an array of punches and kicks, peppering him with shots before hurting him twice in the final round — once with a punch, once with a kick. Two of the judges scored all three rounds his way, and the other had it 29-28, also in Newson’s favor.
Garcia, 30 and from Dallas, saw a five-fight winning streak end in his UFC debut. He showed some boxing skills early but never ramped up his aggression enough to put Newson in danger.
Still to come:
Lightweight championship*: Charles Oliveira (32-8 1 NC, 20-8 1 NC UFC, -170) vs. Justin Gaethje (23-3, 6-3 UFC, +145)
Strawweight championship: Rose Namajunas (c) (12-4, 9-3 UFC, -220) vs. Carla Esparza (19-6, 9-4 UFC, +180)
Lightweight: Michael Chandler (22-7, 1 -2 UFC, -360) vs. Tony Ferguson (26-6, 15-4 UFC, +280
Light heavyweight: Mauricio Rua (27-12-1, 11-1001 UFC, +190) vs. Ovince Saint Preux (25-16, 13-11 UFC, -230)
Welterweight: Randy Brown (14-4, 8-4 UFC, -105) vs. Khaos Williams (13-2, 4-1 UFC, -115)
Women’s featherweight: Macy Chiasson (8-2, 5-2 UFC, +180) vs. Norma Dumont (7-1, 3-1 UFC, -220)
Men’s flyweight: Brandon Royval (13-6, 3-2 UFC, -260) vs. Matt Schnell (15-5 1 NC, 5-3 1 NC UFC, +210)
Welterweight: Francisco Trinaldo (27-8, 17-7 UFC, -115) vs. Danny Roberts (18-5, 7-4 UFC, -105)
(c) = defending champion
* = Only Justin Gaethje can win the lightweight title at UFC 274