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Fighters On The Rise | UFC Fight Night: Rozenstruik vs Sakai

See Which Fighters To Keep An Eye On At UFC Fight Night: UFC Fight Night: Rozenstruik vs Sakai

The annual stretch of events from May through to the end of summer is always one of my favorite times of year because we get a ton of high-quality fight cards with a handful of weekends off mixed in along the way, creating a situation where you have these little one weekend respites that get you reinvigorated for what’s ahead.

And now we’ve arrived at the first post-free weekend fight card of this year’s Spring/Summer schedule and be honest: you’re excited, right?

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Here’s a closer look at three up-and-coming competitors you should be paying close attention to going forward.

This is the June 5 edition of Fighters on the Rise.

Roman Dolidze

Fighters You Should Know | UFC Fight Night: Rozenstruik vs Sakai
Fighters You Should Know | UFC Fight Night: Rozenstruik vs Sakai
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The nation of Georgia is enjoying a breakout inside the Octagon over the last year and change, with competitors like Giga Chikadze and Merab Dvalishvili stacking victories, climbing the rankings, and leading the charge. Not too far behind those contenders is Roman Dolidze, a 32-year-old middleweight that trains out of Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas.

After having his promotional debut delayed multiple times due to injuries and then the COVID-19 pandemic, Dolidze finally made the walk for the first time last summer, registering a first-round stoppage win over Khadis Ibragimov in July before holding on to earn a split decision victory over John Allan in his sophomore effort in December.

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He made his first appearance of 2021 in March, landing on the wrong side of the scorecards in a close, competitive fight with Trevin Giles, which halted his eight-fight unbeaten streak to begin his professional career. Dolidze returns here looking to make a quick return to the win column and become the middleweight representative for the advancing Georgian collective.

A very good grappler with constantly improving striking skills and burgeoning power, Dolidze profiles as a quintessential late bloomer — someone that arrived in the sport a little later than most of his contemporaries, is learning on the fly, but shows flashes of Top 10 upside and simply needs a little more experience in order to make it happen.

Getting a second fight in before the halfway point of 2021 creates the potential for a three-fight or four-fight year for the intriguing middleweight, who will only continue to improve and progress as he continues to log time inside the Octagon.

Manon Fiorot

 Manon Fiorot of France punches Victoria Leonardo in a flyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 20, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Manon Fiorot of France punches Victoria Leonardo in a flyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 20, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Manon Fiorot made a splash in her UFC debut earlier this year, kicking off the mid-week Fight Night event on Fight Island in January with a second-round head kick finish of Victoria Leonardo. The victory pushed the French newcomer’s overall winning streak to six and instantly established her as one to watch in the flyweight division, a position she can further cement this weekend with a victory in her meeting with newcomer Tabatha Ricci.

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The 31-year-old from Nice closed out her amateur career by winning gold in the 2017 IMMAF World Championships while competing at bantamweight before turning pro, dropping to flyweight, and quickly claiming championship gold under the EFC banner in South Africa. Three straight victories in the UAE Warriors promotion earned her a call to the UFC, and now “The Beast” looks to secure her second consecutive victory in as many trips into the Octagon in her United States debut on Saturday.

Fiorot looked outstanding in her initial UFC appearance earlier this year, and this weekend’s matchup with Ricci is another chance to showcase her talents, secure another victory, and continue making progress up the divisional ladder.

Flyweight is one of the most wide-open divisions in the UFC at the moment, so a second consecutive strong showing should elevate the French standout’s profile and put her in the running for another step up in competition next time out. 

Ariane Lipski

Ariane Lipski secures a knee bar submission against Luana Carolina in their flyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 19, 2020 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Zuffa LLC)
Ariane Lipski secures a knee bar submission against Luana Carolina in their flyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 19, 2020 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Ariane Lipski arrived in the UFC on a nine-fight winning streak and brandishing a reputation as a finisher worthy of the “Queen of Violence” sobriquet she sports.

After landing on the wrong side of the scorecards in each of her first two Octagon appearances, the 27-year-old Brazilian rebounded with consecutive victories, including a gnarly submission win over Luana Carolina last summer that earned a place on the podium in the Submission of the Year competition. She suffered a stoppage loss to Antonina Shevchenko last time out and returns this weekend opposite Montana De La Rosa with designs on collecting a victory and beginning a new extended run of success.

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Lipski is one of those athletes that began their careers at an early age, making her professional debut towards the end of 2013, a few months ahead of her 21st birthday. While she’s experienced a great deal of success overall, Lipski is clearly still developing as a competitor, and spent a great deal of this training camp working with the elite cast of coaches and fighters at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida.

This weekend’s pairing with De La Rosa should be a tremendous measuring stick for where Lipski falls within the divisional hierarchy and what kind of progress she’s made since her bout with Shevchenko. The former Ultimate Fighter contestant has faced a quality slate of competition during her UFC tenure and has continued to develop her striking to accompany her solid grappling game.

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As noted above with Fiorot, opportunities for advancement in the flyweight division are bountiful at the moment, so a big effort on Saturday could put Lipski on the brink of breaking into the Top 15.