It's Cowboy versus Cowboy, as the UFC heads to Pittsburgh, Pa. on February 21 (9 P.M. EST, FOX Sports 1) for a rare Sunday night show.
Former lightweight title challenger, Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone returns to action for the first time since losing his shot at the championship last December. Standing across from Cerrone inside the Octagon will be the Brazilian cowboy, Alex Oliveira, who was promoted to main-event status after intended headliner Tim Means was forced from the bout, provisionally suspended for breaking the organization's performance-enhancing drug policy.
Prior to his recent loss, Cerrone (28-7, 15-4 UFC) had won eight-straight bouts. But for the first time in his career, Cerrone will compete at welterweight, in hopes of gaining momentum in a new weight class. The move was also prompted by a second loss to lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos; it's rare for a UFC fighter to receive a third chance at any opponent.
Oliveira (13-3-1, 3-1 UFC), who is in the midst of a three fight winning streak, is also a natural lightweight moving up a division.
This bout will likely play out on the feet, as both Cerrone and Oliveira prefer to stand and trade punches, mixing in a vast variety of Muay Thai kicks and elbows. Cerrone will eventually find an opening to finish the fight, likely by strikes, but he has also shown an ability to swam for the submission after tagging and dropping opponents.
Co-main event:Derek Brunson vs. Roan Carneiro
A pair of top-fifteen middleweights square off, as Brunson and Carneiro both look to ascend up the divisional ranks.
Brunson (14-3, 5-1 UFC), known primarily as a grinding wrestler, has won three straight contests, displaying improved striking every time out. Carneiro (20-9, 3-3 UFC), who has not fought in nearly a year, is one of the finest Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners on the UFC roster.
As is the case with fighters like Brunson, they will use striking and pressure to push the bout to the cage wall, and look to dirty box along the fence. But Brunson will defer from the takedown game against Carneiro, avoiding the ground and the Brazilian's vast submission game.
If the fight hits the mat, Carneiro has the offensive guard skills to withstand Brunson's ground-and-pound, but don't expect the contest to head in that direction, as Brunson, the stronger of the two, will clinch with underhooks against the fence.
After 15 minutes, look for Brunson to earn the decision victory.
Dennis Bermudez vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri
Last we saw Dennis Bermudez, the Long Island, New York product was on the wrong side of a fight-ending flying knee at UFC 194. But, that was only after the UFC's eighth-ranked featherweight delivered one of the most exciting rounds of 2015.
Bermudez (14-5, 7-3 UFC) now finds himself in hot waters, having lost two straight inside the Octagon. The dominant wrestler will need a sense of urgency against opponent Tatsuya Kawajiri (35-8-2, 3-1 UFC), who has won two straight.
Ranked number 12 in the featherweight division, Kawajiri is a well-rounded fighter with 15 years of pro MMA experience. He's faced some of the top competition in the world, including Eddie Alvarez, Gilbert Melendez, and Shinya Aoki, but at 37 years old, his run as an elite mixed martial artist is curtailing.
Coming out of the gate, don't be surprised if both fighters use the first few minutes to feel each other out and establish range. And while Bermudez's striking has improved over time, he relies on the wrestling game to take over contests.
Look for Bermudez to avoid damage at all costs and control the bout with his wrestling against the cage, picking up a decision win.
Chris Camozzi vs. Joe Riggs
This middleweight bout features a pair of UFC veterans, both of whom have previously been released by the promotion, only to work their way back up to the major leagues.
Camozzi (22-10, 7-7 UFC), a former competitor on The Ultimate Fighter, has never lost outside of the UFC, but in the Octagon, he's fallen to some of the division's best. Riggs (41-16, 5-6 UFC), a durable pro with 15 years of experience, has fought for nearly every major North American MMA promotion.
Don't expect this bout to be pretty, but it should be action packed, as both Camozzi and Riggs have very little to lose.
Camozzi owns a height and reach advantage over Riggs, and will likely rely on his size to attack Riggs' legs with low kicks. while using jabs to keep Riggs at a distance. The constant battering will slow Riggs down. And eventually look for Camozzi to swarm for the finish in the later rounds.
James Krause vs. Shane Campbell
A pair of long and rangy lightweights kick off the main card, as Krause and Campbell both look to go over the .500 mark inside the Octagon.
Krause (22-7, 3-3 UFC) is a seasoned veteran, having previously competed inside the WEC and on The Ultimate Fighter. But during his UFC run, he has yet to establish any significant momentum.
Campbell (12-3, 1-1 UFC) first earned entrance into the UFC in 2015 by taking a short-notice fight that he would eventually lose.
With both fighters having won their most recent bouts, both Krause and Campbell need a second win to gain more favorable matchups. And while Campbell has looked good on his feet, Krause will be able to weather the stand up and engage in his own offense.
Eventually experience will show, and Krause will take the bout to the mat, where he will sink in the submission.