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Karine Silva of Brazil reacts after her submission victory over Maryna Moroz of Ukraine in a flyweight fight during the UFC 292 event at TD Garden on August 19, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)
Athletes

Fighters on the Rise | UFC Fight Night: Nicolau vs Perez

Shining A Spotlight On Three Athletes To Watch This Weekend As The Action Returns To The UFC APEX

How’s everybody doing?

Have we calmed down from UFC 300 yet? Me neither, but that’s okay; it was a special night and one that is sure to be remembered and discussed for years to come.

Not having an event last weekend provided the right kind of room to try and fully digest everything that happened and allow everyone to really bask in the insanity that was the promotion’s tricentennial event, but now it’s time to get back to business with a card at the UFC APEX on Saturday.

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Headlined by Top 10 flyweights Matheus Nicolau and Alex Perez, this weekend’s fight card offers an opportunity to get a closer look at a couple dangerous ascending talents and catch the debut of an incoming heavyweight that carries a lot of intrigue with him as he makes the walk to the Octagon for the first time.

Spring is here and it’s time to dive into the latest edition of Fighters on the Rise.

Bogdan Guskov

Bogdan Guskov of Uzbekistan reacts after his knockout victory against Zac Pauga in a light heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 10, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Bogdan Guskov of Uzbekistan reacts after his knockout victory against Zac Pauga in a light heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 10, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Sometimes you have to give an athlete a pass when it comes to their initial appearance inside on the biggest stage the sport and Guskov is one of those guys.

The 31-year-old from Uzbekistan tagged in on short notice last September, replacing Azamat Murzakanov in a matchup against former title challenger and Top 15 stalwart Volkan Oezdemir, and didn’t make it out of the first round. The setback halted a four-fight winning streak, but also felt like one of those instances where we didn’t see a complete version of Guskov inside the Octagon.

In mid-February, the GOR MMA representative made his second start under the UFC banner and had a much better showing, dispatching Zac Pauga in under four minutes to collect his first victory inside the Octagon and push his record to 15-3. While he carries his hands low, he has clear power and found the mark once he had Pauga hurt, putting him away swiftly.

Bogdan Gustav Knocks Out Pauga With Brilliant Combo | UFC Fight Night: Hermansson vs Pyfer
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Bogdan Gustav Knocks Out Pauga With Brilliant Combo | UFC Fight Night: Hermansson vs Pyfer
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Guskov has finished all 15 of his wins, which makes him a genuine person of interest in the always turbulent light heavyweight division, and Saturday’s pairing with Ryan Spann serves as a quick opportunity to gauge where he stands in the division.

Spann has been a rankings staple for much of his UFC tenure, but has struggled with consistency. There have been moments where he’s looked like a legitimate contender and others where he’s made poor decisions that have cost him, and it’s difficult to forecast which version is going to turn up from one fight to the next.

Regardless of the fact that he’s currently on a two-fight skid, a win over Spann would certainly be the biggest victory of Guskov’s career and give him a ton of momentum heading into the second half of the year. It’s no easy feat, but a big win would put the UFC neophyte on the radar and in the rankings in the light heavyweight division.

Karine Silva

Karine Silva of Brazil poses for a portrait after her victory during the UFC 292 event at TD Garden on August 19, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)
Karine Silva of Brazil poses for a portrait after her victory during the UFC 292 event at TD Garden on August 19, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

One of the top ascending talents in the flyweight division, Silva’s move into the rankings and targeting of a spot in the Top 10 has felt like a somewhat stealth undertaking to this point.

After securing a contract on Season 5 of Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS), the 30-year-old Brazilian posted a first-round submission win over compatriot Poliana Botelho in her promotional debut and lone appearance of 2022. Last year, she quickly tapped out another Brazilian, Ketlen Souza, in her sophomore appearance inside the Octagon, and then wrapped her 2023 campaign by gaining a measure of revenge against Maryna Moroz, the last fighter to best Silva prior to her arrival in the UFC, submitting her at UFC 292 in Boston.

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Each of Silva’s three submissions wins have come in the opening round and each by a different finish, cycling through a D’Arce choke, a kneebar, and a guillotine choke to run her winning and finishing streaks to eight. In fact, al 17 of Silva’s career wins have ended inside the distance, which speaks to not only her finishing abilities and instincts, but also the way she approaches her fights.

Karine Silva Octagon Interview | UFC 292
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Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

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Karine Silva Octagon Interview | UFC 292
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She’s looking for opportunities to finish at all times, but never gets reckless with things, which makes her a formidable threat in the talent-rich 125-pound ranks. This weekend, Silva takes another step up in competition, facing off with yet another fellow Brazilian when she shares the Octagon with Ariane Lipski.

The former KSW champion struggled to start her UFC tenure, posting a 3-5 record through her first eight appearances, but has gone 3-0 since returning to flyweight. Last time out, the “Queen of Violence” collected a second-round submission win over Casey O’Neill to force her way into the Top 15.

This is clearly a stiff test for Silva, but also an outstanding opportunity to see whether the surging Brazilian is ready to make a push into the Top 10 and face one of the established names in the division. Thus far, she’s looked the part, but the truly difficult work remains ahead of her, and it’s time to see if she’s up to the task or not.

Jhonata Diniz

Jhonata Diniz of Brazil prepares to fight Eduardo Neves of Brazil in a heavyweight fight during Dana White's Contender Series season seven, week six at UFC APEX on September 12, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Jhonata Diniz of Brazil prepares to fight Eduardo Neves of Brazil in a heavyweight fight during Dana White's Contender Series season seven, week six at UFC APEX on September 12, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

With the unprecedented success of light heavyweight champion Alex Pereira and former middleweight ruler Israel Adesanya, there has been an understandably increased focus on fighters transitioning from the kickboxing ranks into the UFC Octagon, and Diniz is another making that shift.

After posting a 22-7 record in the ring, the 32-year-old Brazilian heavyweight shifted to MMA in the spring of 2022, and just 16 months later, pushed his record to 6-0 with a first-round stoppage win over former LFA champ Eduardo Neves on Season 7 of Dana White’s Contender Series. Each of his wins have come inside the opening five minutes, and the combination of his initial success and the recent track record of competitors making the same transition he’s attempting, there is a great deal of intrigue surrounding Diniz as he readies to step into the Octagon for the first time on Saturday.

Waiting to great him will be Austen Lane, the ex-NFL defensive lineman who landed in the UFC after earning a contract the previous fall through the annual talent search series. His debut ended abruptly following an accidental eye poke, and the subsequent rematch didn’t last much longer, as Lane was stopped by Justin Tafa.

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Diniz is undeniably still green when it comes to mixed martial arts, but there are quality foundational elements in place. He showed a good ability to deal with the strikes coming back his way and the poise to pick the right strikes to secure the finish in his clash with Neves, and profiles as someone worth tracking long term.

This weekend’s matchup with Lane is a good entrance exam as he officially joins the UFC heavyweight ranks, and if he passes, it’ll be interesting to see how he’s able to progress over the next few years.

UFC Fight Night: Nicolau vs Perez took place live from UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 27, 2024. See the final Prelims and Main Card Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!