The UFC returns to the UFC APEX in Las Vegas for the second time in successive weeks on Saturday night with a cracking card in store before the madness of UFC 281 in New York City next weekend.

Looking to set the table nicely for that bumper card at Madison Square Garden, Brazilian strawweight rivals Marina Rodriguez and Amanda Lemos clash atop the bill on Saturday night seeking to cement their status as the next lady in line for a crack at the 115lb belt.

Plus there’s action between two ranked veterans of the welterweight scene as Neil Magny throws down against Daniel Rodriguez, while lightweights Grant Dawson and Mark Madsen put their undefeated UFC records on the line in a must-see contest on the main card.

With all that coming your way this weekend, here are three reasons you can’t miss UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez vs Lemos on BT Sport.

The Straw house

It’s not often strawweights get the shine with a UFC main event – but Marina Rodriguez and Amanda Lemos will be looking to take full advantage on Saturday night as they trade leather in an intriguing five-rounder at the UFC APEX.

Rodriguez comes into the bout on a hot streak of four wins including a pair of victories against Mackenzie Dern and Yan Xiaonan on her last two Octagon outings.

Those wins have moved her up to third on the strawweight ladder, seemingly on the cusp of championship contention for the first time in her UFC career – and victory might well see her become the standout contender among the rest of the division given her shared history with the champion Carla Esparza.

Rodriguez dropped a narrow split decision loss to Esparza on Fight Island a little over two years ago – her last defeat in the Octagon – so the opportunity to scratch that from her record in a championship contest will provide plenty of motivation heading into Saturday night.

“I’m very confident that I defeat Amanda, no matter how”
- Marina Rodriguez

Speaking at the media day earlier this week, the 36-year-old was in a confident mood, telling reporters she plans to be in attendance when Esparza defends her 115lb title against Zhang Weili at UFC 281 next weekend.

 “I’m very confident that I defeat Amanda, no matter how, I’m going to be the next [title] challenger.

“If everything goes perfectly, I’m going to be there to see this fight [Esparza vs Zhang].”

However, Brazilian countrywoman Lemos will be anything but a pushover having established herself as a genuine contender in the strawweight top 10 in recent times.

The 35-year-old is 6-1 since making the move to 115lb, picking up notable wins over the likes of Michelle Waterson-Gomez and Angela Hill along the way.

Lemos has also become renowned as one of the best finishers in the division having only gone the distance in two of her six UFC wins, mixing high-volume striking with a mean submission game.

With the 115lb belt on the line in New York in 7 days’ time, who will make a statement to put the name in the conversation for next up?

War of wills at welterweight

Despite no relation, Saturday night sees a Rodriguez double header with welterweight contender Daniel featuring in the co-main event as he takes on Neil Magny over three rounds.

This fight had been set to take place a couple of weeks ago before an elbow infection forced Rodriguez to postpone but the Californian is fighting fit and ready to go as he looks to extend his winning run to five at Magny’s expense.

“D-Rod” may feel like he has a point to prove this weekend too having come up trumps in a controversial decision win against Li Jingliang in a hastily-arrange catchweight contest following the infamous chaos at UFC 279 in September.

“After my last fight, I kind of have a chip on my shoulder”
- Neil Magny

However, the 35-year-old was the one who emerged with his arm raised and the former Combate and Bellator man will be on the hunt for a big win to solidify his position in the top 15 heading into 2023.

Magny is in a similar position heading into this one as he looks to ensure he retains the number next to his name in the UFC’s 170lb ladder having lost two of his last four.

A second round submission defeat to Shavkat Rakhmonov last time out was certainly no disgrace given the calibre of the rising Kazakh superstar – but Magny will be determined to avoid making it back-to-back losses when he steps into the Octagon this Saturday night.

That hasn’t happened for nine years and “The Haitian Sensation” has proven himself one of the UFC’s toughest gatekeepers since, defeating the likes of Geoff Neal, Li Jingliang, Robbie Lawler and Kelvin Gastelum.

“I definitely know he’s a dangerous opponent, and he brings some pretty good skill sets to the table," Magny told this week.

“Being a heavy-hitting southpaw boxer, that’s definitely a dangerous game to play with. There’s a reason why he and I are facing one another. You don’t get to be in the Top 15 by being average, so I’m definitely not looking past him at all. I do realize it’s a massive test in front of me Saturday night and I’m excited for it.

“After my last fight, I kind of have a chip on my shoulder and something to prove, and I feel like after his last fight he wants to do the same. There was doubt going around like, ‘Oh, maybe Li Jingliang won that fight,’ so we’re both going out there to prove a point and I think that’s what makes it an exciting fight.”

Last-minute lightweight chaos

Like a game of kerplunk, the marbles of fate have finally dropped in place after a turbulent build-up to match two lightweight contenders together in what promises to be a cracking contest on Saturday night.

It sees Grant Dawson takes on Mark Madsen in a battle of two men unfamiliar with the feeling of defeat inside the UFC Octagon.

Dawson is currently unbeaten in seven trips to the fabled combat arena and comes into the contest off the back of an impressive submission victory over Jared Gordon in April.

Still only 28, the Wisconsin fighter is looking to build some momentum heading into what could be a career-defining 12 months having recently joined the revered American Top Team gym down in Florida.

“The winner of this fight gets ranked Monday, 100 percent in my opinion,” Dawson said this week.

“This is one of the best matchups, because it’s not grappler vs. grappler or striker vs. striker. This is competitor vs. competitor. Lifelong competitor at the highest level competing against a lifelong competitor at the highest level.

“So, whoever wins this fight, it’s not gonna be about who’s the better wrestler, who’s the better this or who’s the better that. It’s gonna be who is the better competitor, and that’s what I’m excited about.”

Meanwhile Denmark’s Madsen, who won silver in Greco-Roman wrestling at the 2016 Olympic Games, hopes to keep his professional undefeated career intact having extended to 12-0 on his last assignment with a win over Vinc Pichel in April.

The 38-year-old, who is one of the fiercest competitors in the division, had been set to meet Drakkar Klose last week before the American pulled out with a knee injury but “The Olympian” looks to have bagged an equally decent match-up against a talented competitor in Dawson.

Can the veteran pick up the best win of his UFC tenure to move into the 155lb rankings?

Don't miss UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez vs Lemos this Saturday night from 9pm on BT Sport 2 HD. Click here for more information on all the ways you can watch.