The flyweights are back in the UFC headline slot, with New Zealander fighter Kai Kara-France set to meet Iraqi Amir Albazi. Odds have yet to be set at FanDuel or any other online sportsbook for the match set to take place at UFC on ESPN 45 at UFC Apex Facility in Las Vegas on June 3.
The pair was bumped to top billing after the middleweight bout between Brendan Allen and Jack Hermansson was canceled, as Hermansson withdrew due to an injury. Allen (21-5) will fight Bruno Silva (23-8) at UFC Jacksonville on June 24 instead.
Kara-France (24-10 MMA, 7-3 UFC) talked in a recent “Who the fook are these guys?” podcast episode about the upgrade and how the original three-round fight with the number-seven ranked Albazi (16-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC) will now serve as the five-round main event.
“I’m going to go out there and remind everyone why I’m the best in the world,” said Kara-France, who is now a No. 3-seeded flyweight.
This will be his first fight since the loss, as he missed the chance to compete at UFC 284 due to a knee injury. Previously, he fought for an interim title at UFC 277 in July 2022 against reigning flyweight champion Brandon Moreno. Kara-France appeared to have the upper hand before Moreno landed a powerful kick to his liver, causing the fight to end in a TKO at 4:34 of round three.
Meanwhile, Albazi has been making quite a name for himself since joining the UFC in 2020. The 29-year-old won all four of his previous UFC fights, with three knockouts, including his last UFC fight against Alessandro Costa in UFC Fight Night 216 in December.
“(Kara-France) has fought many veterans and also fought for the (interim) title,” said Albazi in an interview with Swedish MMA outlet MMAnytt.
“His strength is in the stand-up, and his weakness is his grappling, where I thrive, so it will be a battle of wills.”
To face such “a strong opponent,” Albazi has been training in Las Vegas and receiving assistance from elite fighters such as current bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling.
Fight Night lineup
Apart from the headlining pair, there will be nine other fights on the June 3 Fight Night. Some UFC veterans, such as Miesha Tate, Jim Miller, and Alex Caceres, will anchor this card.
Miesha Tate, a former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion, will fight against the number 10 ranked Mayra Bueno Silva.
Jim Miller, the current holder of the most bouts and most wins in UFC history as well as the UFC lightweight division, will face off against L’udovit “Mr. Highlight” Klein in the lightweight fight of the night.
MMA veteran Alex Caceres is going to meet Daniel Pineda in the Featherweight division.
Unfairness towards flyweights
The fight will mark the first flyweight fight to headline a UFC card since December 2020, when Brandon Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo fought to a majority draw in the first fight of their historic quadrilogy. There have been 100 events since then.
The UFC has been receiving criticism over its treatment of the men’s flyweight division. Once, they released many talented fighters from the roster and even considered cutting the division entirely. The division has since made a comeback and is now well-regarded by UFC President Dana White and the organization.
One of the most well-known rivalries in UFC was between Brandon Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo, who fought each other four times for the flyweight title.
However, the UFC received another backlash as they slotted a No. 1 contender fight between Brandon Royval and Matheus Nicolau on the prelims, which means it was not featured as part of the main card.
Fans and critics believe that the high-stakes flyweight bout deserved to be on the main card, given the recent success and importance of the division.
This might be another reason why the fight between Kara-France and Albazi is slotted as the headline.
This event will be available for streaming via ESPN+.