Considering how this map looks on paper, it turned out really well as you would expect. Of course, Islam Makhachev vs. Thiago Moises and Miesha Tate vs. Marion Reneau weren’t exactly thrillers, but they both finished impressively in the distance in an event where only two fights saw the final bell. For a fight card whose thrilling climax was Billy Quarantillo vs. Gabriel Benitez, that’s all anyone can really ask for.
So can the UFC finally find Makhachev in the top ten? Is Miesha Tate really about to run for the title? And how fast can the UFC move Amanda Lemos up through the strawweight division?
To answer these questions – but very few others – I’ll use the classic UFC Silva / Shelby fight booking methodology of years past. It means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and talents of equal duration against each other. Hopefully, by following this pattern, a few of these fighting ideas will come off the page and enter the Octagon. Now let’s move on to the fighting.
An absolutely dominant victory for Makhachev, who beat Moises 5-1 in important strikes and more than 8-1 in aggregate. There was not a single area of this fight, not at a distance, melee, or even on the mat, where Moises really competed with Dagestan. And at 29 with over a decade of combat experience, it’s time for the UFC to start reserving Khabib’s heir as a true contender. There’s no reason he couldn’t fight Beneil Dariush or Tony Ferguson next time around. Aside from the high probability that neither of the two men will want to take this kind of fight.
Instead, the most likely outcome looks like fights against Rafael Dos Anjos – which Makhachev himself called – or Gregor Gillespie (a fight I’ve personally campaigned for for years now). Considering all the options on the table, this really seems like a good time to book RDA against Makhachev again. It’s not quite a fight for the top contenders, but it’s clearly the kind of fight that – if he wins – would put him in the top 5 and ready to have a fight. Makhachev vs. RDA seems like a fight the UFC must try to book again.
Considering all of his time away from home, Tate looked pretty good upon his return to the UFC. She had a lot of even trades with standing Reneau, but started to gain the upper hand on those from the third round. And, more particularly, when she had to eat hard punches, she did so without fear of contact. Considering where Tate was mentally against Pennington when she retired, that seems like a particularly good sign.
After the fight, she made it clear that she had aspirations for the title first and foremost. She also has Holly Holm calling her on social media if she wants to try and speed her way to the belt. Still, I wouldn’t mind seeing her take at least one more fight before reconnecting her directly to the top contender’s photo. Irene Aldana comes off a big win, but struggled to secure that top-tier victory that would truly make her a member of the elite. Tate could be that fight. And if Tate can win it, then fights with Holm or Randamie and others make a lot more sense. Miesha Tate vs. Irene Aldana looks like a solid next reservation for the former UFC champion.
Huge victory for the “Gamer”. He got out and slapped his low leg right out of the door, brought Stephens to the mat, went north-south, and buckled the kimura seconds later. The fight couldn’t have gone more perfectly for him. After the victory, he called an opponent from the top 15. Sadly, even the top 15 fighters struggle to find them in the lightweight division. Still, if Gamrot wants a real serious challenge next time around – the kind of challenge that could build his CV as a prospective candidate – then I’ve picked one up.
Arman Tsarukyan has made his way into the UFC as one of the most promising young talents at lightweight. He has a fantastic grappling game, high level wrestling game, and the persistence as a striker to make life difficult for anyone who can’t find a way to hurt him. Hell, he even has a number next to his name right now. Can Gamrot beat Tsarukyan? Can he crack him standing? It would be a huge challenge, but exactly the one he needs to win if he is to become a title contender as fast as he wants. Mateusz Gamrot vs. Arman Tsarukyan is a leading light battle.
It wasn’t an easy win for him, and I’m not entirely convinced he won any of the rounds until he hit that fantastic comeback to RNC in the third round (officially it was 1 -1). But Vieira has improved a lot and recalled how dangerous he can be, even the smallest of opportunities. The win puts him back on track to climb into the middleweight division. Opponents like Andreas Michailidis, Jacob Malkoun and Jordan Wright all seem ideally placed to provide this. But I would also be a big fan of a clash against Roman Dolidze. The Georgian comes across as an expert grappler in his own right, and otherwise has a funky, low-yielding hitting style that should give Vieira the ability to move while standing. However, his size as a former LHW could very well negate one of Vieira’s biggest perks: his strength. Can Vieira beat someone they can’t easily outdo in muscle? It seems worth finding out as his LHW career continues. Vieira vs Dolidze should be a fun contest at 185 lbs.
Quarantillo had a decent call ready, in veteran Charles Rosa, who comes off a rebound victory over Justin Jaynes. And I can see the call. Both men love to wrestle, both have unstructured hitting games. But, I admit, this isn’t exactly the first fight I would have on my bucket list. Quarantillo has been an exceptionally outperforming fighter in the UFC, thanks to his incredibly high pace and pressure. Each of his fights is extremely entertaining, and I feel like I’d like to see him take on someone who comes up with his own style of fast paced action. Maybe Alex Caceres, Chas Skelly or even Lando Vannata. For some reason, Chas Skelly’s fight really appeals to me. Maybe just because Skelly is a strong wrestler in his own right, and I’m interested to see how Quarantillo hangs out with him on the mat. Chas Skelly vs. Billy Quarantillo looks like a fun, messy action fight.
Obviously, a victory Rodriguez had to have if he was to turn his continued success into a real workout in the welterweight division. Parsons was arriving on short notice, but had been a dangerous finisher regionally, and looked good out of the gate. Unfortunately for him, Rodriguez hits a bit too hard to try to hang on with him in a fire fight; the 1-2 that became the start of the end seemed to have broken Parsons’ orbit. It’s two straight wins after a rather questionable loss to Nicolas Dalby, and it should bring Rodriguez closer to an opponent in the 15-20 range. Someone like Muslim Salikhov, Randy Brown, Alex Morono, or Jake Matthews. On the flip side, Khaos Williams just put in a great performance from him last time around and has a similar reputation for his enormous combat-changing power. Khaos Williams vs. Daniel Rodriguez seems like a fight I have to see.
This fight really shouldn’t have been booked. And Lemos explained why just seconds into the fight, cracking ‘Conejo’ with a devastating kick. Sharp backlashes followed and this fight was over before it even really began. This should make Lemos a very high level opponent next time around. Someone like Marina Rodriguez, Virna Jandiroba or Nina Nunes. I would have loved to see Jandiroba’s fight, but it looks like she’s already booked to take on Amanda Lemos very soon. So how about a win / lose match instead. Nina Nunes was almost a title contender before taking a break from the Octagon. Her loss to Mackenzie Dern may have been a tough comeback in the UFC, but she still has a reputation for being a heavy, consistent forward on her feet. Can Lemos implement her game against a seasoned vet? Can Nunes bounce back and carve out her place in the top 10 again? Nunes vs. Lemos looks like it would be a pretty damn fun hitting battle.
OTHER BUTTONS: Thiago Moises vs. Drew Dober, Jeremy Stephens vs. John Makdessi, Dustin Stoltzfus v Antonio Arroyo, Gabriel Benitez vs. Gavin Tucker, Preston Parsons v Louis Cosce, Montserrat Ruiz vs. Liang Na, Sergei Morozov vs. John Castaneda, Khalid Taha vs. Journey Newson, Malcolm Gordon vs. Jeff Molina, Francisco Figueiredo vs. Cody Durden, Rodrigo Nascimento vs. Josh Parisian, Alan Baudot vs. Chris Barnett