UFC on ESPN+ 23 adds trifecta of bantamweight bouts

A trio of 135-pound fights have been added to the UFC’s return to South Korea.

Ryan Benoit (10-5 MMA, 3-3 UFC) vs. Heili Alateng (13-7-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC), Raoni Barcelos (14-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) vs. Said Nurmagomedov (13-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC), and Kyung Ho Kang(16-8 MMA, 5-2 UFC) vs. Pingyuan Liu (13-6 MMA, 2-1 UFC) have been added to UFC on ESPN+ 23.

The promotion announced all three bouts in social media posts earlier this week. MMA Fighting was the first to report the Barcelos vs. Nurmagomedov booking.

After 25 months away from MMA competition, Benoit will move up from 125 pounds. The Texas-based fighter most recently fought at UFC Fight Night 121 in November 2017, when he head-kicked Ashkan Mokhtarian en route to a third-round TKO victory.

His opponent, China’s Alateng debuted in August at UFC on ESPN+ 15. Alateng defeated fellow UFC newcomer Danaa Batgerel by unanimous decision, winning “Fight of the Night” in the process.

Also on the card, Brazil’s Barcelos will look to keep his perfect Russia’s Nurmagomedov. Through three UFC appearances, Barcelos has maintained a 100 percent finishing rate. After he knocked out Kurt Holobaugh in his debut, Barcelos submitted Chris Gutierrez and ground-and-pound TKO’d Carlos Huachin.

Nurmagomedov has won back-to-back outings to kick off his UFC tenure. After he won a controversial split decision against Justin Scoggins in July 2018, Nurmagomedov body-kicked his way to victory against Ricardo Ramos in February.

In the final of three bantamweight additions, it’ll be a homecoming for South Korea’s Kang. “Mr. Perfect” Kang has gone 3-1 since returning from mandatory military obligations in South Korea. Kang is riding back-to-back victories over Teruto Ishihara and Brandon Davis.

China’s Liu suffered his first UFC loss in his last fight in July, when he was brutally knocked out by a knee from Jonathan Martinez. Prior to that, Liu defeated Martin Day and Damian Stasiak by decision.

UFC on ESPN+ 23 takes place Saturday, Dec. 21 at Sajik Arena in Busan, South Korea. The main card streams on ESPN+ after prelims on ESPN.

With the addition, the UFC on ESPN+ 23 lineup includes:

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