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UFC 249: Breaking Down The ESPN Prelim Fights

Oh man, ESPN [1]is getting quite the four-card lineup as the prelim lead-in for UFC 249 [2] this coming Saturday night.

Three former UFC champions are in action along with several other top contenders.

And that’s just the four-bout card that airs prior to UFC 249’s main card from the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.

While no fans are allowed inside, the UFC is coming back sooner than most other major sports organizations after working with the state of Florida. Two more events are set for the coming days from the same venue.

Here’s a look at the bouts scheduled as part of the UFC 249 ESPN prelims:

Middleweight: Uriah Hall Vs. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza

We’ve got quite the opener for the ESPN prelims as Ultimate Fighter knockout artist Uriah Hall tangles with Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.

Hall picked up wins over Antonio Carlos Junior and Bevon Lewis in his last two bouts, improving to 15-9 overall. Souza, a former Strikeforce champion, has lost three of four but is still one of the top submission fighters in the sport.

Strawweight: Carla Esparza Vs. Michelle Waterson

Last year was a good one for former UFC strawweight champion Carla Esparza, as she improved to 15-6 with wins over Alexa Grasso and Virna Jandiroba. Those marked her first wins since 2017.

Michelle Waterson went 25 minutes with Joanna Jedrzejczyk last October, dropping a close decision to see her three-fight win streak snapped. “The Karate Hottie” is 17-7 overall, though, and this could be another classic with Esparza.

Heavyweight: Fabricio Werdum Vs. Aleksei Oleinik

The 42-year-old Fabricio Werdum is coming back after a suspension for a banned substance, and is coming off a loss to Alexander Volkov in his most recent bout back in 2018.

Werdum, though, is a former UFC heavyweight champion and has bested the likes of Cain Velasquez, Fedor Emelianenko and Travis Browne during his career.

Over the course of his career, Aleksei Oleinik has competed 72 times in MMA, winning 58 of those. He owns 46 career submissions, including a January finish of Maurice Greene at UFC 246.

Welterweight: Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone Vs. Anthony Pettis

Back in 2013, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Anthony Pettis squared off at UFC on FOX with “Showtime” delivering a first round finish after landing a kick to the body.

The two have been on a collision course ever since, and finally square off again this coming weekend.

Cerrone has dropped three straight, falling to former UFC champion Conor McGregor in January and UFC 249 main event fighters Justin Gaethje and Tony Ferguson last year. Still, you can never count the veteran out as evident by his 36 career wins.

Pettis is also down on his luck a bit, dropping two bouts to Carlos Diego Ferreira and Nate Diaz recently. However, he owns 22 wins including victories over Stephen Thompson, Benson Henderson and Jim Miller.