Randy Brown is the UFC 302 fighter to watch

Randy Brown fights Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos on the UFC 302 main card on Saturday.
UFC 217: Brown v Gall
UFC 217: Brown v Gall / Mike Stobe/GettyImages

On June 1, combat sports fans will have their choice between the Queensberry vs. Matchroom boxing card and UFC 302. Those who choose to tune into the UFC pay-per-view event will get to view the potential final fight in the career of Dustin Poirier in his third championship opportunity.

In his 40th professional fight, Poirier will challenge the undisputed lightweight king and reigning pound-for-pound no. 1 fighter, Islam Makhachev. Interestingly, once the two lightweights step into the cage at UFC 302, Poirier will have challenged each of the last three 155-pound champion at different points in his career.

Makhachev and Poirier will receive all the attention during fight week but the co-main event of UFC 302 will also be a point of interest with two fan favorite middleweight contenders meeting in a five-round fight. In his first fight since losing the 185-pound title, Sean Strickland will return against former title challenger Paulo Costa.

The top two fights of the night will be the primary selling points for the sixth pay-per-view event of 2024, but a rising star may have his breakout moment earlier on in the night. In his 18th walk to the Octagon, Randy Brown will open the main card at roughly 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT against promotional veteran Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos.

Through 23 professional fights ahead of his matchup with Zaleski, Brown has put together an 18-5 record while quietly being arguably the most underrated fighter in the entire UFC.

Like many young prospects, Brown signed with the promotion as a 7-0 undefeated athlete at just 24 years old. He suffered through his growing pains but has since found his form while being on the verge of truly breaking through in the welterweight division.

Randy Brown will fight Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos on the UFC 302 main card

Through his 23 fights, Brown has primarily lost to top-level contenders in the division while often flying under the radar. In his last 10 fights, Brown is an impressive 8-2 with his only losses being against Vicente Luque and Jack Della Maddalena.

For most of his career, Brown was always a fighter who had the skills and the physical qualities to set his high potential but just could not seem to put it together. In a weight class capped at 170 pounds, Brown is a monstrous 6'2" with a ridiculous 78-inch reach. Those two numbers alone made many label him a prospect on the rise early in his career.

However, through his first seven fights in the UFC, Brown went just 4-3. He showed flashes of greatness with the length and athleticism everyone saw in him but had also shown a potential weakness in his grappling. Michael Graves gave him the first loss of his career with a rear-naked choke, Belal Muhammad took him down on repeat, then Niko Price turned him into a highlight by becoming one of the few fighters to win by hammerfist knockout from bottom position.

But since the loss to Price, Brown has been on the tear, showcasing his potential to compete with the elite contenders of the division. With a win over Zaleski, Brown could be on the verge of receiving another shot at breaking into the 170-pound rankings.

As of fight week, Brown is priced as a moderately sized 2-1 favorite with the line growing in his favor since its opening. As a fringe top 15 contender for several years, Zaleski would likely profile as the best win in Brown's career should he get his hand raised at UFC 302.

Similar to Brown, Zaleski has only lost twice in his last 10 fights. However, he is coming off a draw in his last outing with Rinat Fakhretdinov and a controversial split decision win in his previous outing. Though few doubt his career credentials, many have begun to wonder if his age is beginning to take a toll on his output.

When Brown fights in big moments, he has tended to succeed spectacularly. Fresh off a knockout win over credentialed striker Muslim Salikhov, another big performance from the surging athlete would do wonders for his career with many expected to keep an eye on the high-profile event.