Nashville MMA’s Luke Sanders (10-0) has stepped up on short notice to make his long-awaited UFC debut against Maximo Blanco (12-6-1, 1 NC) at UFC Fight Night 81 on Jan. 17 in Boston. Both fighters will be moving up to featherweight for this bout.
Sanders has competed under the Strikeforce, XFC and RFA banners and is the reigning RFA bantamweight champ. The 30-year-old Middle Tennessee native is unbeaten in pro MMA competition and has knocked out six of the 10 opponents he’s faced. We thought the UFC dropped the ball by not adding Sanders to their event in Nashville last August, but better late than never, even if it is at 145-pounds.
Blanco was originally supposed to fight Dennis Bermudez on the card but Bermudez was forced to withdraw due to injury. Blanco comes in having won his last three in a row, most recently scoring a 16-second TKO over Mike De La Torre last July. The 32-year-old Venezuelan has finished 8 of his 12 wins by knockout.
Former bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz will challenge TJ Dillashaw for his 135-pound title in the headliner.
UFC Fight Night 81 now includes:
MAIN CARD (FOX Sports 1, 10 p.m. ET)
- Champ T.J. Dillashaw vs. Dominick Cruz – for bantamweight title
- Eddie Alvarez vs. Anthony Pettis
- Travis Browne vs. Matt Mitrione
- Ross Pearson vs. Francisco Trinaldo
PRELIMINARY CARD (FOX Sports 1, 8 p.m. ET)
- Patrick Cote vs. Ben Saunders
- Mairbek Taisumov vs. Chris Wade
- Maximo Blanco vs. Luke Sanders
- Tim Boetsch vs. Ed Herman
PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC Fight Pass, 6 p.m. ET)
- Daron Cruickshank vs. Paul Felder
- Ilir Latifi vs. Sean O’Connell
- Jimy Hettes vs. Charles Rosa
- Rob Font vs. Joey Gomez
- Francimar Barroso vs. Abdul-Kerim Edilov