The 34-year-old Aldana returns for the first time since stopping Yana Kunitskaya in the first round at UFC 264, despite missing weight by a significant margin. She's 3-1 in her last four fights, including a first-round knockout of Ketlen Vieira, and she's on the verge of submitting her name for title consideration once more.

Chiasson has had a fairly typical career since winning the featherweight competition on Season 28 of The Ultimate Fighter. She has five wins in seven fights, stumbling against more experienced opponents, but she is constantly improving, as one would expect from someone who is only 11 fights into their career.

Things are still a little uncertain at the top of the bantamweight division, as no one knows what will happen next for two-time champion Amanda Nunes. While it may be a stretch, a dominant performance by either woman in this contest could put them right in the mix, so expect to see the best of both Aldana and Chiasson this weekend at T-Mobile Arena.

Li Jingliang, a Chinese stalwart, looks to build on his Performance of the Night-winning performance in July by clashing with a dominant finisher in Daniel Rodriguez, who will be looking to break into the Top 15 of the welterweight division himself.

"The Leech," who has been a fixture in the Top 15 for several years, bounced back from his one-sided fight with Chimaev at UFC 267 with a second-round stoppage win over Muslim Salikhov on Long Island in mid-July. The 34-year-old has amassed an impressive resume over the years, entering Saturday's fight with an 11-5 record inside the Octagon, with his best victories coming in his most recent victories, indicating he's in top form heading into this one.

Rodriguez has a 6-1 record in seven starts since being called up to the UFC on short notice, and he enters Saturday's fight with Li on a three-fight winning streak. Last time out, "D-Rod" took a short-notice assignment against Kevin Lee, dropped the first round, then rallied for a unanimous decision victory to solidify his position just outside the Top 15.

A win for either man this weekend could lead to a meeting with a ranked opponent the following week. You know what to expect from the always focused, always crisp Rodriguez, but Li consistently brings the chaos, which is what makes this such an intriguing main card clash.

*The fight between Li Jingliang and Daniel Rodriguez will be fought at catchweight (180).

During this five-round co-main event inside T-Mobile Arena, rising welterweight star Khamzat Chimaev defends his unbeaten record against Kevin Holland, who is looking to continue his welterweight career.

Chimaev, who is undefeated in 11 professional fights and is coming off a crucial unanimous decision victory over Gilbert Burns in April, now gets the chance to headline an event and potentially compete over five rounds for the first time. After storming through his first four UFC fights, his fight with Burns at UFC 273 proved not only that he was mortal, but also that he could navigate his way through a grueling, back-and-forth affair.

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Following a breakout campaign in 2020 in which he won five fights in seven months, Holland struggled in 2021, suffering two lopsided losses and a no contest verdict in a fight with Kyle Daukaus, prompting him to decamp for the welterweight division. Since his arrival, the 29-year-old "Trailblazer" has earned two stoppage victories over veteran mainstays Alex Oliveira and Tim Means, reigniting speculation that he's a contender in the making.

The man dubbed "Big Mouth" has a fantastic opportunity on the line, as well as the chance to make a serious statement against Khamzat Chimaev.

*Due to weight-management issues, Khamzat Chimaev will now compete in a five-round catchweight (180) co-main event against Kevin Holland.

Nate Diaz arrives looking to spoil Tony Ferguson's return to the welterweight division, just as he did in his impromptu first meeting with Conor McGregor at UFC 196. He's lost his last two fights, but he proved in the final minute of his UFC 263 clash with newly minted welterweight champ Leon Edwards that he's always capable of shaking things up if you give him enough time.

Ferguson competes at 170-pounds for the first time since winning the welterweight division on Season 13 of The Ultimate Fighter. "El Cucuy," a long-time title contender and former interim lightweight champion, has lost four straight fights after a 12-fight winning streak, and looks to reverse course with a weight-cut this weekend.

Before MMA became my obsession (and career), I spent a lot of time at horse races, both thoroughbred and standardbred, which is "the one with the guys in the little carts behind the horses," as I frequently had to explain to people.

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Going to the races and betting on the horses was a family tradition passed down through generations, and what began as a day to get snacks and watch a couple races when I was quite young evolved into something I cared deeply about, eventually worked in, and closely followed. My brother was even more entrenched than I was, having spent many years as an announcer and television commentator, as well as working hands-on for various trainers.

And as a result of those experiences and neural connections, I can't help but make horse racing analogies all the time, even if they don't make sense to anyone else.

For example, last weekend's event in Paris felt to me like the horses coming out of the backstretch and hitting that big, sweeping turn that carries them to the top of the stretch — the setup to the big, final push to the finish line.

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While the stretch drive is the most thrilling, astute observers know that races are won and lost in the final turn. In terms of the UFC, the September schedule is jam-packed with crucial matchups for a variety of divisions, and what happened last weekend, as well as what happens this weekend and next, will have an undeniable impact on how things shake out heading into next year.

Here's a closer look at the middle leg of the UFC's three-week sprint to the finish line.

This is a fight-by-fight preview of UFC 279.

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