Marlon Moraes knows how important UFC Fight Night 203 is to his career.

After going on a tear through the bantamweight division, Moraes (23-9-1 MMA, 5-5 UFC) got his first shot at UFC gold vs. then-champ Henry Cejudo at UFC 238 in June 2018. He started the fight strong, but would succumb to Cejudo’s pressure en route to a third-round TKO loss.

Following that fight, Moraes bounced back with an extremely questionable and controversial split decision win over Jose Aldo in December 2019. It’s his only victory in the past three years because Moraes has since suffered TKO losses to Cory Sandhagen, Rob Font, and Merab Dvalishvili.

There’s no shame in falling short to any of those names, but Moraes has the biggest expectations out of himself, and that’s to win those particular bouts. It didn’t go his way, though, and it had the Brazilian searching for answers.

Ahead of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 203 matchup with Song Yadong (17-4-1 MMA, 7-1-1 UFC), which serves as the co-main event at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas and streams on ESPN+, Moraes relocated his training to Tiger Muay Thai in Thailand and distanced himself from family for the past 10 weeks.

Moraes said he enters fight week feeling “phenomenal,” and he’s ready to dispatch of Yadong, who is nine years younger than him.

“He’s a good fighter,” Moraes told MMA Junkie and other reporters at Wednesday’s UFC Fight Night 203 media day. “He’s been in the game for a little bit. He started fighting young and he have what it takes to be here. He belongs in the UFC and I’m taking him real serious. I know his weapons and I’m prepared and ready.”

Moraes said he’s aware of the threat Yadong poses with his knockout power, but said it’s going to be a challenge for the Chinese fighter, “because I am just as good as him at what he’s good at.”

Ultimately it will be decided in the octagon, and Moraes appears to be feeling the pressure of the moment.

Regardless of the level of competition, dropping four fights in a row and five of six overall isn’t a good sign. Moraes, 33, has been fighting since April 2007 and has already accomplished a lot in the sport, but he has no desire to see his job security reach a point of critical concern.

“If I can’t hang with the top, this is it for me,” Moraes said. “I’m here to fight with the best.”

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