The promising featherweight was scheduled to return earlier this summer, but the road to getting him into the Octagon in Shenzhen, China at the end of August turned out to be a dead end.
Originally scheduled to face Mike Grundy, the British newcomer was forced out of the bout with a late-stage injury, leading the UFC to replace him with Lv Zhenhong, setting up a rematch between he and Evloev. But Lv suffered a cut following the weigh-ins that prompted the cancellation of the bout and pushed Evloev’s sophomore appearance in the Octagon back to this weekend’s fight card in Singapore.
Injuries and cancellations are always disappointing, but they’re doubly frustrating when they keep a talented prospect from stepping into the cage and, by all measures, the 25-year-old Evloev is a fighter to watch in the featherweight ranks. Unbeaten in 11 bouts, he showcased a complete all-around game in his debut win over SeungWoo Choi in April and profiles as someone who could make a steady climb up the divisional ladder as he continues to develop.
Saturday presents a great opportunity to get a better read on where he currently sits in the division as Evloev squares off with former TUF Latin America winner Enrique Barzola.
The Peruvian competitor is 6-2 in the UFC and has established himself as a fixture in the middle of the featherweight division. Barzola had his four-fight winning streak snapped earlier this year by Kevin Aguilar, but bounced back with a split decision victory over Bobby Moffett in August, and presents as a stern test for the emerging Russian.
As much as Evloev has looked like the real deal thus far, Saturday’s pairing with Barzola will be his toughest test to date and how he performs will help further define where his ceiling rests and what kind of future he’s capable of having inside the Octagon.