Luke Sanders (12-3) will make his return to the Octagon against former bantamweight champion Renan Barao (34-7, 1 NC) at UFC on ESPN 1 on Feb. 17. Sanders announced the matchup via social media on Friday.

UFC on ESPN 1 will mark the organization’s premiere on their new broadcast home with the sports network giant. Though not yet official, the UFC is rumored to be targeting a heavyweight matchup between former champ Cain Velasquez and Francis Ngannou for the headliner. The event will be held from Talking Stick Arena in Phoenix.

Sanders is looking to rebound from a submission loss to Rani Yahya at UFC Fight Night 135 back in August. Prior to that the 33-year-old Nashville native and former RFA champ won a unanimous decision over Patrick Williams at UFC on Fox 29 last April. Now 2-3 inside the octagon, “Cool Hand” also holds a submission win over Maximo Blanco at featherweight from his UFC debut in Jan. 2016.

Barao could be on the chopping block here as he’s dropped his last three fights in a row. The 31-year-old Brazilian most recently dropped a split decision to relatively unknown Andre Ewell at UFC Fight Night 137 in September. And Barao also missed weight by five pounds for the fight.¬†

Before that Barao had suffered unanimous decision losses to Brian Kelleher and Aljamain Sterling. His last victory was a unanimous decision over Phillipe Nover in Sept. 2016.

Barao won the interim UFC bantamweight championship back in 2013 with a TKO over Eddie Wineland. He was later promoted to undisputed champ and had a successful title defense over Urijah Faber in Feb. 2014 before losing the belt to TJ Dillashaw three months later.

The current UFC on ESPN 1 lineup now includes:

  • Women’s Flyweight: Lauren Murphy vs. Ashlee Evans-Smith
  • Women’s Strawweight: Jessica Penne vs. Jodie Esquibel
  • Bantamweight: Jimmie Rivera vs. Aljamain Sterling
  • Lightweight: James Vick vs. Paul Felder
  • Bantamweight: Benito Lopez vs. Manny Bermudez
  • Women’s Strawweight: Cortney Casey vs. Cynthia Calvillo
  • Featherweight bout: Myles Jury vs. Andre Fili¬†
  • Women’s Strawweight: Aleksandra Albu vs. Emily Whitmire
  • Lightweight bout: Scott Holtzman vs. Nik Lentz
  • Featherweight bout: Alex Caceres vs. Kron Gracie
  • Bantamweight: Renan Barao vs. Luke Sanders

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