There's not much to say about this show and that's a good thing, really. The preliminary card barely rates any mention, but the main card deserves quite a bit of praise. It's one of those rare events where over saturation works to the fan's benefit. Because the UFC can tailor its events around a tiered structure in terms of significance, it can fashion events like these, namely, shows that aren't premium but only because of where fighters are in their careers at the time they're competing.
In other words, this is one of those cards where in two years, you can look back at it and see how many fighters were in title shots, won titles or at least put the rest of their divisions on notice. This main card is filled with elite talent, albeit those still in the climbing stage of their career. If these fighters can continue their ascension, it's fights like these that will serve as sign posts for how we understand them and view the successes of their career.
As I've argued previously, because of the technology UFC has had to harness to do events in Brazil and other places not necessarily wired for the digital age, they are more mobile than ever. Albuquerque deserved a show a long time ago, but it would've been difficult for UFC to host the right tier of show until more recently.
That's it. There isn't much to say. It's a very strong main card that could be a major window into the future. It's in a town with a strong fighting community. It's what fight sports are supposed to look like when it's just short of the very best.
At stake: top ranking and a little national pride, too. It doesn't take a genius to see what's going on here. Khabilov is a fighter on the rise and Henderson, a former champion, needs to prove he can win without a couple of judges seeing it his way in razor-thin bouts. The winner here probably won't get a title shot, but they will claim (or hold) top 5 placement. For Henderson, that's merely status quo. It's a bit different for Khabilov. His rise is emblematic of an entire wave of dead-eyed destroyers from Dagestan that are causing eyebrows to rise in both UFC and Bellator. A win for him here wouldn't just be a rankings shake up, it would be continued proof that just as the Ossetia region provides the best wrestlers on the planet, it's going to send more and more of their tough as nails literal manhandlers to wreck shop at a rate and scale that can't be dismissed as some sort of aberrant, over represented talent pool that's only good at the front end.
At stake: relevancy. I have a hard time believing either fighter will be cut after a loss here. Not saying that their resumes would make it impossible, but Sanchez is adored by UFC brass and Pearson is valuable for the UFC's continued push into the UK. Still, even if they can hang onto their jobs, they'll certainly lose something both still have a little bit of: the ability to matter to fans. There are concerns about all the damage Sanchez has incurred in his career. If he takes more here and is stopped, what could he really do going forward? Pearson is also viewed as the better fighter and certainly the better striker. If he can't defeat a shopworn Sanchez, on what level is he competing? These two need a win to prove that whatever their limitations, they can actually compete at a high professional level in this sport.
At stake: title shot short list. This one is pretty straight forward. Both of these gentlemen have lost to flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, but Johnson doesn't have a long list of contenders to face. Dodson gave Johnson everything he could handle, although Moraga was basically handled. Still, who is Johnson going to face assuming he gets by Ali Bagautinov? It's not so clear. The result of this fight, however, might help make that easier to figure out.
At stake: a chance to start over. This fight holds more of a surprise factor, on paper, than any of the others. I've always been a believer High is one of those types of fighters who has had good performances, but couldn't ever quite turn the corner into a position where he was able to use the full breadth of his abilities. Now we find him at lightweight for the first time. He was a physical specimen, albeit a smaller one, at welterweight, so he's looking to see what advantages a weight class drops confers. The truth is no one knows, but a) he had promise at welterweight and b) who saw T.J. Grant going from also-ran welterweight to lightweight destroyer?
As for dos Anjos, he was cobbling together an impressive resume before being derailed by Khabib Nurmagomedov. This is his chance while he still has youth on his side to get back on the horse and make one more charge at the top. Beating High, I suspect, will tell us a lot. Losing will do just the same.
At stake: staying employed. Hallman is a semi-valuable asset insofar as having an international fighter on the roster the UFC can use for overseas shows, but has so far not shown himself to be a particularly standout fighter. He come back against Francisco Trinaldo was impressive, but not enough to elevate his status. He was also recently unable to do a whole lot against Al Iaquinta. A loss may not mean being let go, but it puts him perilously close to the edge.
As for Yves, it's hard and unpleasant to even contemplate it, but one wonders how much he has left to give. He's been a sensational fighter for what seems like ages now, but his ability to take a shot isn't what it once was. He's also losing to fighters it feels like he would've handled 5 or 6 years ago. If he can't beat Hallmann, it's not clear what business he'll have holding a UFC roster spot. Winning is only good enough to stick around for now.
At stake: proving they can do it. We know both guys have talents. We know both guys have shown flashes of brilliance. In the case of Perez, we know he's got a personality and nationality that buoys his popularity. What we don't know is if either guy can consistently win at this level. Emerging victorious here doesn't quell those concerns, but it does put them on the back burner for a bit longer.