Republicans hit a significant stumbling block in their push to enact some of the strictest voting laws in the nation. But they could yet pass the measures through a special session of the Legislature.

Voting rights activists during a protest in Austin in early May against the Texas voting legislation.?Voting rights activists during a protest in Austin in early May against the Texas voting legislation.?Credit…Mikala Compton/ReutersNick Corasaniti

By Nick Corasaniti

May 31, 2021

Democrats in the Texas Legislature staged a dramatic, late-night walkout on Sunday night to force the failure of a sweeping Republican overhaul of state election laws. The move, which deprived the session of the minimum number of lawmakers required for a vote before a midnight deadline, was a stunning setback for state Republicans who had made a new voting law one of their top priorities.

The effort is not entirely dead, however. Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, indicated that he would call a special session of the Legislature, which could start as early as June 1, or Tuesday, to restart the process. The governor has said that he strongly supported an election bill, and in a statement he called the failure to reach one on Sunday ^deeply disappointing. ̄ He was widely expected to sign whatever measure Republicans passed.

^Election Integrity & Bail Reform were emergency items for this legislative session, ̄ Mr. Abbott said on Twitter on Sunday night. ^They will be added to the special session agenda. ̄ He did not specify when the session would start.

While Republicans would still be favored to pass a bill in a special session, the unexpected turn of events on Sunday presents a new hurdle in their push to enact a far-reaching election law that would install some of the most rigid voting restrictions in the country, and cement the state as one of the hardest in which to cast a ballot.

The final bill, known as S.B. 7, included new restrictions on absentee voting; granted broad new autonomy and authority to partisan poll watchers; escalated punishments for mistakes or offenses by election officials; and banned both drive-through voting and 24-hour voting, which were used for the first time during the 2020 election in Harris County, home to Houston and a growing number of the state¨s Democratic voters.

Republicans¨ inability to pass the measure on Sunday night was the first major stumble for the party in its monthslong drive to restrict voting across the nation, and an embarrassment for G.O.P. leaders in the Texas Legislature who at least momentarily fell short of a top legislative goal for both the governor and the Republican Party.

After a lengthy debate in the State House of Representatives in which Democrats raised numerous objections, staged lengthy question-and-answer sessions and leveraged procedural maneuvers, Democrats departed en masse, leaving the chamber roughly 14 members short of the required 100-member quorum to continue business. Without the requisite number of legislators, Dade Phelan, the speaker of the State House, adjourned the session around 11 p.m. local time, effectively killing the bill for this legislative session.

The Democratic flight was sparked by State Representative Chris Turner, the party¨s caucus chair in the House, who sent a text message to members at 10:35 p.m. local time.

^Members, take your key and leave the chamber discreetly, ̄ Mr. Turner wrote. ^Do not go to the gallery. Leave the building. ~ Chris ̄

In a statement early Monday, Mr. Turner said the walkout had been a last resort.

^It became obvious Republicans were going to cut off debate to ram through their vote suppression legislation, ̄ he said. ^At that point, we had no choice but to take extraordinary measures to protect our constituents and their right to vote. ̄

Early Monday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, lashed out at his House colleagues and indirectly criticized the Republican leadership in the House, saying in a statement that it had ^failed the people of Texas tonight. No excuse. ̄

If Mr. Abbott calls a special session, Republican legislators would have to start from scratch, but it is possible that they could simply use the same language and provisions from S.B. 7, or even introduce a bill with more strident restrictions on voting access.

From the outset, the push to install new restrictions on voting in Texas has been upended by legislative missteps and tension among Republicans in the State Capitol, marked by multiple late-night voting sessions in both chambers. After two different versions of the bill were passed by the House and the Senate, legislators took the bill behind closed doors to hash out a final version in a panel known as a conference committee.

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State Representative Briscoe Cain, left, was one of the Republican sponsors of the voting legislation.State Representative Briscoe Cain, left, was one of the Republican sponsors of the voting legislation.Credit…Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman, via Associated Press

The conference committee took more than a week to finalize the measures, reaching an agreement on Friday, releasing the details of the legislation on Saturday and leaving both chambers with less than 48 hours to pass the bill.

A legislative power play by Republicans in the Senate late Saturday led to an all-night session and hours of impassioned debate and objections from Democrats. Early Sunday, the Senate passed the bill largely along party lines.

During debate late Sunday, State Representative Travis Clardy, a Republican, acknowledged that advancing the bill through the conference committee had proved to be a lengthy process, but he defended the panel¨s methods.

^A lot of this was done late, I don¨t get to control the clock, ̄ Mr. Clardy said. ^But I can assure you that the members of the committee did their absolute best, dead-level best, to make sure we¨ve provided information to all members, including representative rows. And then we did everything that we could to make sure this was transparent. ̄

The effort in Texas, a major state with a booming population, represents the apex of the national Republican push to install tall new barriers to voting after President Donald J. Trump¨s loss last year to Joseph R. Biden Jr., with expansive restrictions already becoming law in Iowa, Georgia and Florida in 2021. Fueled by Mr. Trump¨s false claims of widespread fraud in the election, Republicans have passed the bills almost entirely along partisan lines, brushing off the protestations of Democrats, civil rights groups, voting rights groups, major corporations and faith leaders.

But the party¨s setback in Texas is unlikely to calm Democratic pressure in Washington to pass new federal voting laws. President Biden and key Democrats in Congress are confronting rising calls from their party to do whatever is needed ! including abolishing the Senate filibuster, which moderate senators have resisted ! to push through a major voting rights and elections overhaul that would counteract the wave of Republican laws.

After the Texas bill became public on Saturday, Mr. Biden denounced it, along with similar measures in Georgia and Florida, as ^an assault on democracy, ̄ blasting the moves in a statement as ^disproportionately targeting Black and Brown Americans. ̄

The Battle Over Voting Rights

Amid months of false claims by former President Donald J. Trump that the 2020 election was stolen from him,?Republican lawmakers in many states are marching ahead?to pass laws making it harder to vote and changing how elections are run, frustrating Democrats and even some election officials in their own party.

A Key Topic: The rules and procedures of elections have become a central issue in American politics. The Brennan Center for Justice, a liberal-leaning law and justice institute at New York University, counts 361 bills in 47 states?that seek to tighten voting rules. At the same time, 843 bills have been introduced with provisions to improve access to voting.The Basic Measures:?The restrictions vary by state but can include limiting the use of ballot drop boxes, adding identification requirements for voters requesting absentee ballots, and doing away with local laws that allow automatic registration for absentee voting.More Extreme Measures:?Some measures go beyond altering how one votes, including tweaking Electoral College and judicial election rules, clamping down on citizen-led ballot initiatives, and outlawing private donations that provide resources for administering elections.Pushback:?This Republican effort has led Democrats in Congress to find a way to pass federal voting laws. A sweeping voting rights bill?passed the House in March, but faces difficult obstacles in the Senate. Republicans have remained united against the proposal and even if the bill became law, it would likely face steep legal challenges.Florida:?Measures here include?limiting the use of drop boxes, adding more identification requirements for absentee ballots, requiring voters to request an absentee ballot for each election, limiting who could collect and drop off ballots, and further empowering partisan observers during the ballot-counting process.Texas:?The next big move could happen here, where Republicans in the legislature are brushing aside objections from corporate titans?and moving on a vast election bill that would be among the most severe in the nation. It would impose new restrictions on early voting,?ban drive-through voting, threaten election officials with harsher penalties and greatly empower partisan poll watchers.Other States:?Arizona¨s Republican-controlled Legislature passed a bill that would limit the distribution of mail ballots. The bill, which includes removing voters from the state¨s Permanent Early Voting List if they do not cast a ballot at least once every two years, may be only the first in a series of voting restrictions to be enacted there. Georgia Republicans in March enacted far-reaching new voting laws that limit ballot drop-boxes and make the distribution of water within certain boundaries of a polling station a misdemeanor. Iowa has also imposed new limits, including reducing the period for early voting and in-person voting hours on Election Day. And bills to restrict voting have been moving through the Republican-led Legislature in Michigan.

He urged Congress to pass Democrats¨ voting bills, the most ambitious of which, the For the People Act, would expand access to the ballot, reduce the role of money in politics, strengthen enforcement of existing election laws and limit gerrymandering. Another measure, the narrower John Lewis Voting Rights Act, would restore crucial parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013, including the requirement that some states receive federal approval before changing their election laws.

Aside from Texas, multiple states, including Arizona, Ohio and Michigan, have legislatures that are still in session and that may move forward on new voting laws. Republicans in Michigan have pledged to work around a likely veto from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, by collecting signatures from citizens and seeking to pass new restrictions through a ballot initiative.

ImageTexas residents headed to the polls on the final day of early voting in Dallas in October 2020.Credit…Nitashia Johnson for The New York Times

Republican lawmakers in battleground states have been backed in their effort by a party base and conservative media that have largely embraced the election falsehoods spread by Mr. Trump and his allies. G.O.P. legislators have argued that the nation must improve its ^election security ̄ even though the results of the last election have been confirmed by multiple audits, lawsuits, court decisions, election officials and even Mr. Trump¨s own attorney general as free, safe, fair and secure.

In debate late Sunday night, Democratic legislators seized on a provision added late in the process that would make it easier to overturn the results of an election in the state in some circumstances. Texas law previously required proof that illicit votes had resulted in a wrongful victory. The new measure says that the number of fraudulent votes would simply need to be equal to the winning vote differential; it would not matter for whom those votes had been cast.

^They can use this to overthrow the voice of the people, to overthrow the voice of Texas, ̄ said State Representative John Bucy III, a Democrat from near Austin. ^Do we want to throw out our ability to let the voices be heard through elections? ̄

As with bills passed in other states, voting rights groups said the new provisions in Texas, if passed, would be likely to disproportionately affect poorer people and those of color.

^All the provisions have an impact on minorities one way or another, ̄ Gilberto Hinojosa, the chair of the Texas Democratic Party, said on Sunday. ^That¨s what it¨s intended to. They¨re not trying to stop Republicans from going out to vote. They¨re trying to stop Democrats from going out to vote and the base of the Democratic Party is overwhelmingly African-American and Hispanic. ̄

Republicans in the Legislature had defended the bill, falsely arguing that it contained no restrictions on voting and saying that it was part of a yearslong effort to strengthen election security in the state. Even so, they acknowledged that there was no widespread voting fraud last year in Texas, and the Republican secretary of state testified that the state¨s election was ^smooth and secure. ̄

^This isn¨t about who won or who lost, it¨s really to make the process better, ̄ State Senator Bryan Hughes, one of the Republican sponsors of the bill, said in an interview this month. ^We want to make the elections more accessible and more secure, make them smoother. ̄

Briscoe Cain, the sponsor of the bill in the House, said late Sunday that the bill was meant to ensure that ^conduct of elections be uniform and consistent throughout the state, to reduce the likelihood of fraud and the conduct of elections, to protect the secrecy the ballot, promote voter access and ensure that all legally cast ballots are counted. ̄

Voting rights groups have long pointed to Texas as one of the hardest states in the country for voters to cast ballots. One recent study by Northern Illinois University ranked Texas last in an index measuring the difficulty of voting. The report cited a host of factors, including a drastic reduction of polling stations in some parts of the state and strict voter identification laws.

David Montgomery contributed reporting from Austin, Texas. Reporting was also contributed by Austin Ramzy and Anna Schaverien.

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Jairzinho Rozenstruik of Suriname prepares to fight Ciryl Gane in a heavyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 27, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Jairzinho Rozenstruik of Suriname prepares to fight Ciryl Gane in a heavyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 27, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Top 10 heavyweights looking to get back into the win column following main event setbacks headline here in Las Vegas as Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Augusto Sakai square off inside the UFC APEX.

Following a rookie campaign that saw him win four fights in 11 months to rocket into contention, Rozenstruik has dropped two of his last three as he¨s looked to establish himself as a true championship threat, falling to current champ Francis Ngannou and emerging standout Ciryl Gane, with a victory over Junior Dos Santos sandwiched in between.

Watch UFC Fight Night: Ronzenstruik Vs Sakai

Sakai similarly began his UFC tenure with four straight victories to work his way into the main event picture, where he ran into Alistair Overeem last fall and suffered his first loss in nearly three years. Now 15-2-1 overall, the 30-year-old Brazilian looks to reclaim some momentum and make a push towards the top of the rankings by toppling ^Bigi Boy. ̄

There was a great deal of action in the heavyweight division in February and March and things are poised to ramp up again, starting this week, which means every outcome over the next several months will be critical in determining how things stack up in the Top 15 and setting a course for future pairings in the second half of the year.

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UFC Vegas 17 Highlight: Marcin Tybura Gets TKO Over Hardy

UFC Vegas 17 Highlight: Marcin Tybura Gets TKO Over Hardy

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Marcin Tybura earns the TKO win at UFC Fight Night: Thompson vs Neal.

Saturday¨s event wraps with a doubleheader in the heavyweight ranks, as Walt Harris and Marcin Tybura lock horns in the penultimate bout of the evening.

Harris arrives in Las Vegas looking to start anew after personal tragedy and unfavorable results derailed his ascent. ^The Big Ticket ̄ was stopped by Alistair Overeem in May, his first appearance after the death of his daughter, Aniah Blanchard, and then suffered a similar fate against Alexander Volkov in October.

View The Entire UFC Fight Night: Rozenstruik Vs?Sakai Card

Tybura has re-established himself as a tough, veteran out in the middle of the Top 15 after putting together a four-fight winning streak in 2020. The former M-1 Global champ endured a two-year struggle where he went 1-4, losing to a collection of Top 10 talents, but rattled off victories in February, July, October, and December last year to get right back into the thick of the chase.

As mentioned above, the heavyweight division is currently being remodeled and this is an opportunity for each of these men to advance their positions in the rankings and set themselves up for greater opportunities in the summer and fall.

Roman Dolidze of Georgia has his hands wrapped prior to his fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on March 20, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

Roman Dolidze of Georgia has his hands wrapped prior to his fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on March 20, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

Roman Dolidze looks to bounce-back after suffering the first loss of his career earlier this year as he welcomes Laureano Staropoli to the UFC middleweight division for the first time.

After earning victories at light heavyweight in each of his first two Octagon appearances to push his overall record to 8-0, the 32-year-old Dolidze dropped a close decision to Trevin Giles earlier this year in his first trip down to the 185-pound weight class. Now the Georgian finisher aims to recover quickly and resume his push towards contention in what should be an entertaining clash with Staropoli on Saturday evening.

The 28-year-old Argentine moves up to middleweight hoping to snap a two-fight skid, the latest of which came in August when he missed weight and dropped a decision to Tim Means. He¨s unbeaten at middleweight in his career, but has never faced anyone as dangerous as Dolidze, which makes this an intriguing opportunity for the 28-year-old from La Plata.

Santiago Ponzinibbio of Argentina prepares to fight Li Jingliang of China in a welterweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 17, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Santiago Ponzinibbio of Argentina prepares to fight Li Jingliang of China in a welterweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 17, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Speaking of talented fighters from Argentina, Santiago Ponzinibbio makes his second start following a two-year absence this weekend, aiming to get back into the win column in a clash against undefeated rising star Miguel Baeza.

Injuries that progressed into a series of scary medical situations forced Ponzinibbio to press pause on his career in the midst of a seven-fight winning streak, resulting in a 26-month stay on the sidelines. He returned in January and had his run of success halted by Li Jingliang, but looks to return to the form that carried him to victories over the likes of Sean Strickland, Gunnar Nelson, Mike Perry, and Neil Magny prior to his hiatus.

RELATED: Miguel Baeza Has His Sights On The Top

Baeza is one of the brightest up-and-coming talents in the UFC at the moment !?a 28-year-old finisher with a perfect 10-0 record and three consecutive stoppage wins inside the Octagon. The MMA Masters representative followed up his second-round stoppage win over Matt Brown in May with a second-round submission victory over Takashi Sato in November, and he could force his way into the Top 15 with another impressive showing here.

As always, the welterweight division has been one of the most active in the UFC over the first five months of the year and shows no signs of slowing down heading into the summer. Each of these men carries Top 10 ambitions and talents, so this should be an electric affair early in the main card this weekend.

Dusko Todorovic reacts after defeating Dequan Townsend in their middleweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on October 04, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

Dusko Todorovic reacts after defeating Dequan Townsend in their middleweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on October 04, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

It¨s a battle of middleweights with Contender Series ties as Dusko Todorovic makes his third trip into the Octagon to face off with Brazilian veteran Gregory Rodrigues.

Fighting out of Belgrade, Serbia, Todorovic earned his UFC contract with a unanimous decision victory over Teddy Ash on Season 3 of the Contender Series. He debuted in the UFC last October with a win over Dequan Townsend but caught his first career loss early this year in a clash with fellow Contender Series grad Punahele Soriano.

Rodrigues appeared on last season¨s split run of the talent search series, losing to Jordan Williams in mid-September, which snapped his six-fight winning streak. Since then, the 29-year-old has posted back-to-back stoppage wins over Al Matavao and Josh Fremd to earn this short-notice call-up to the UFC.

Tom Breese of England celebrates his victory over KB Bhullar of Canada in their middleweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on October 11, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

Tom Breese of England celebrates his victory over KB Bhullar of Canada in their middleweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on October 11, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa L

Tom Breese and Antonio Arroyo meet here in a clash of middleweights looking to start fresh and build consistency inside the Octagon.

A former standout prospect, Breese has alternated wins and losses over his last six outings, a span that stretches back to his victory over Keita Nakamura in February 2016. After an impressive showing against KB Bhullar in October of last year, Breese landed on the wrong side of a second-round submission finish against Omari Akhmedov in January, and now looks to bounce back in this meeting with Arroyo.

It¨s been two losses and two fights called off due to weight cutting issues for Arroyo since graduating to the UFC from the Contender Series in the summer of 2019. Last time out, the Brazilian couldn¨t fend off the takedowns of Deron Winn, who put him on the deck a dozen times, so it will be interesting to see what kind of improvements the Marajo Brothers representative has made since then.

Makwan Amirkhani reacts after his submission victory over Danny Henry in their featherweight fight during the UFC 251 event at Flash Forum on July 12, 2020 on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Makwan Amirkhani reacts after his submission victory over Danny Henry in their featherweight fight during the UFC 251 event at Flash Forum on July 12, 2020 on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Consistently entertaining, but inconsistent in his results as of late, Makwan Amirkhani aims to get back into the win column this weekend as he makes his 2021 debut against short-notice replacement Kamuela Kirk on Saturday.

The flamboyant and fan-friendly ^Mr. Finland ̄ is 6-3 inside the Octagon through his first nine UFC appearances, collecting a host of solid victories and losses to a trio of Top 15 talents. Conditioning and pacing have often been his Achilles heel, but if Amirkhani can sort those issues out, he has the technical skills to be another dangerous threat in the treacherous 145-pound weight class.

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Kirk came up short in his quest to earn a UFC contract when he faced Billy Quarantillo on the Contender Series, but after already registering a pair of stoppage wins this year, he was tabbed to replace Nate Landwehr here. A pro since 2014, the 27-year-old Kirk trains alongside UFC athletes Kevin Natividad and Luis Saldana, and forced his last opponent, Contender Series alum Daniel Swain, to opt out on the stool following the second round of their main event clash at LFA 107.

Will Amirkhani be able to parlay his edge in experience and slick grappling into a strong performance or can Kirk walk in and upset the apple cart in his promotional debut?

Montana De La Rosa prepares to fight Viviane Araujo in a flyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on September 05, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Montana De La Rosa prepares to fight Viviane Araujo in a flyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on September 05, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Flyweights looking to work their way into the Top 15 before the year is out collide here as Montana De La Rosa squares off with Ariane Lipski.

A contestant on Season 26 of The Ultimate Fighter, De La Rosa began her UFC career with three straight victories, but positive results have been harder to come by as she¨s faced more experienced competition. Last time out, the Texas-based 26-year-old fought Mayra Bueno Silva to a draw, bringing her record to 4-2-1 inside the Octagon.

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Now in her third year on the UFC roster, Lipski looked to be building momentum midway through last year after picking up a second consecutive victory with a nasty kneebar finish of Luana Carolina in July evened out her record at 2-2. But four months later, the Brazilian landed on the wrong side of a second-round stoppage finish and enters this pairing with De La Rosa once again looking to get back to .500 inside the Octagon and get herself moving in the right direction once again.

Tanner Boser of Canada poses for a portrait after his victory during the UFC Fight Night event inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 26, 2020 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

Tanner Boser of Canada poses for a portrait after his victory during the UFC Fight Night event inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 26, 2020 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

Intriguing figures on the outside of the heavyweight Top 15 looking in meet here as Canadian Tanner Boser takes on Swedish veteran Ilir Latifi.

Stoppage wins over Philipe Lins and Raphael Pessoa a month apart last summer had Boser moving towards the Top 15, but a unanimous decision loss to Andrei Arlovski in November slowed his momentum. Now 3-2 inside the Octagon, the pride of Bonnyville, Alberta will look to start another winning streak as he shares the cage with another seasoned competitor in Latifi on Saturday.

A longtime fixture in the light heavyweight division, Latifi made his UFC heavyweight debut last winter, dropping a close decision to Derrick Lewis at UFC 247. The 37-year-old fan favorite has now dropped three straight, but is the kind of seasoned, dangerous veteran that is more than capable of snapping out of this skid and starting a run this weekend.

Muslim Salikhov kicks Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos in their welterweight fight during the UFC 251 event at Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 12, 2020 on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Muslim Salikhov kicks Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos in their welterweight fight during the UFC 251 event at Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 12, 2020 on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

After missing weight for the first time in his career last time out, Francisco Trinaldo brings his three-fight winning streak to welterweight in an intriguing showdown with the ^King of Kung Fu, ̄ Muslim Salikhov, this weekend in Las Vegas.

Now in his 10th year on the UFC roster, the 42-year-old Trinaldo continues to defy Father Time, securing a pair of victories in as many appearances in 2020 to push his record to 16-6 inside the Octagon and 26-7 overall. ^Massaranduba ̄ has shared the cage with an expansive collection of top-end lightweight talent over the years, and it will be interesting to see if he can be as competitive and successful as he moves up to the 170-pound weight class here.

Athlete Profiles: Trinaldo?| Salikhov

Salikhov extended his winning streak to four in his lone appearance of last year, registering a split decision victory over Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos in July. A multi-time world champion in Sanda, the 36-year-old has earned a victory in 15 of his last 16 appearances, with a dozen stoppages during that stretch, including a first-round knockout win over Nordine Taleb at UFC 242.

 Mason Jones punches Mike Davis in a lightweight 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)

Mason Jones punches Mike Davis in a lightweight 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)

Action shifts to the lightweight division here as Brazilian veteran Alan Patrick squares off with Welsh sophomore Mason Jones.

The 37-year-old Patrick returned from a two-year absence last September, dropping a unanimous decision to Bobby Green that sends him into this contest on a two-fight skid. Tall and rangy for the 155-pound ranks, Patrick has a wealth of UFC experience and veteran savvy that makes him more than capable of bouncing back this weekend and being a tough assignment for the emerging Jones.

Athlete Profiles: Patrick | Jones

A former two-division champion under the Cage Warriors banner, Jones made his promotional debut earlier this year, falling on the sour side of the scorecards in an entertaining back-and-forth battle with Mike Davis. It was the 26-year-old¨s first professional setback, so you can be sure he¨s been champing at the bit to get back to work and get back to his winning ways.

Manon Fiorot celebrates after her victory over 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 celebrates after her victory over 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)

Flyweights looking to continue their climb up the 125-pound rankings meet on this weekend¨s preliminary card as Manon Fiorot takes on ^The Iron Lady, ̄ Maryna Moroz.

A former amateur world champion, France¨s Fiorot made a splash in her promotional debut back in January, securing a second-round stoppage win over Victoria Leonardo on Fight Island. Now 6-1 in her professional career and riding a six-fight winning streak, the 31-year-old can establish herself as an intriguing figure to watch in the flyweight division with a seventh consecutive victory on Saturday.

Moroz burst on the scene seven years ago with a first-round submission win over Joanne Calderwood, after which she climbed on the Octagon fence and called out then-champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who was sitting in the front row. There have been ups and downs since then, but the 29-year-old is 2-0 since moving to flyweight and has the athletic upside to develop into a factor in the division going forward.

Promising featherweights that have recently run into setbacks face off in this one as Sean Woodson and Youssef Zalal?share the Octagon on Saturday night.

A member of the Contender Series Class of ¨19, Woodson won his promotional debut against Kyle Bochniak less than three months after earning his contract but faded hard and was ultimately submitted by resilient veteran Julian Erosa last spring. After being forced out of a matchup with Jonathan Pearce last November, the towering ^Sniper ̄ returns this weekend, looking to rebound from his first professional defeat and reclaim some of the momentum he carried following his debut.

Athlete Profiles: Woodson | Zalal

Through the first eight months of last year, Zalal was one of the biggest breakout stars in the UFC, having earned three straight victories to emerge as someone to watch in the 145-pound weight class. But after losing to late replacement-turned-rising star Ilia Topuria in October, the Factory X Muay Thai representative dropped his 2021 debut to SeungWoo Choi in February, sending him into this one on a two-fight slide.

Each of these men have shown glimpses of being entertaining, all-action additions in the middle of the featherweight pack, with the potential to climb much higher, only to have youthful miscues and inexperience halt their progress. The division is flush with talent, so it will be interesting to see which of these fighters will be able to right the ship this weekend, and which one will be forced to regroup once again.

UFC Vegas 16: Jordan Leavitt Slam KOs Matt Wiman

UFC Vegas 16: Jordan Leavitt Slam KOs Matt Wiman

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This weekend¨s action gets underway in the lightweight division, as Claudio Puelles returns to the Octagon for the first time in nearly 21 months to face off with promising sophomore Jordan Leavitt.

After losing his UFC debut all the way back in November 2016, Puelles enters Saturday¨s opener on a two-fight winning streak, having followed up his come-from-behind kneebar finish of Felipe Silva with a dominant decision victory over Marcos Mariano. Still just 25 years old, the Peruvian lightweight has battled injuries and inactivity throughout his limited UFC tenure, sending him into this one as a giant question mark in the 155-pound weight class.

Athlete Profiles: Puelles | Leavitt

Syndicate MMA¨s Leavitt followed up his first-round submission win on the Contender Series last summer with an impactful debut victory, slamming veteran Matt Wiman into defeat just 22 seconds into their December engagement. Now ^The Monkey King ̄ is back, looking to build upon his perfect 8-0 record and take another step forward in the treacherous lightweight division.

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