UFC 250 is done and dusted. It ended without the electricity that buoyed the undercard, as Amanda Nunes pummeled Felicia Spencer for a dominant 5 round decision. Still, just before that Cody Garbrandt picked up an entry for knockout of the year, Aljamain Sterling manhandled Cory Sandhagen, and Sean O’Malley sent Eddie Wineland through several dimension yet undiscovered by man.
So, is there anything at all left for Amanda Nunes? How long does Aljamain Sterling have to wait to get his chance at UFC gold? And is the UFC gonna be able to contain the ‘Sugar Show’ for much longer?
I’ll be answering all those questions – and many more – using the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking methodology from the UFC of years past. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent up against one another. Hopefully, by following that model, a few of these bout ideas will actually make it off the page and into the Octagon. Now, let’s get to the fights.
If Amanda Nunes has been having any thoughts of pulling a Henry Cejudo and riding out of the UFC on top, this would be the time. There’s really no one fight of interest right now that fans are going to line up to see. Even a Shevchenko trilogy comes with the reminder that the first two weren’t exactly thrillers. If she just wants to keep plugging away with whatever bouts can be set in front of her, then there’s absolutely a fight to be made between Julianna Pena & Irene Aldana to crown one of them as the next title contender. However, Pena withdrew from a planned March fight against Aspen Ladd with an injury, so who knows how soon she’ll be ready to go again? For now, the reality is that Nunes is just best off waiting for the UFC to push a new challenger to the forefront. Until that happens? She might as well turn her focus elsewhere.
Well, she hasn’t fought Norma Dumont yet… That’s legitimately the only other person on the UFC roster at featherweight beyond Anderson and Fairn, who Spencer has already handled. Which means the real option here is for the UFC to convince either Spencer to try to move down (which seems unlikely) or for them to get a couple bantamweights to move up. Holly Holm or Germaine de Randamie would be the best candidates for that kind of fight, but Irene Aldana, Ketlen Vieira, or Macy Chiasson could also work. Of course, the UFC could also go try and find more featherweight women to bring into the promotion, but let’s be realistic here. If Germaine de Randamie still has a fight or two left in her before she retires, then let’s book GDR vs. Felicia Spencer.
Not the most blisteringly paced fight, but Garbrandt still clearly possesses the kind of shocking athleticism that can flip a bout on its head at any instant. The way he wound up on that knockout hook was absolutely wild. He crushed Assuncao, and re-announced his place among the bantamweight elite in stellar fashion. It’s almost too bad that Aldo is booked against Yan, because I’d love to see Garbrandt take on the former featherweight king right now. I also gotta wonder if Garbrandt has developed any friendship with Frankie Edgar while training with Mark Henry, because if Edgar beats Pedro Munhoz in their upcoming fight, then Edgar vs. Garbrand would be an amazingly weird fight. Realistically, there’s just not a clear next move for him, the way the division is laid out right now. But, since I’d love to see Garbrandt vs. Yan as well, I’ll just go ahead and say ‘No Love’ should take on the loser of Aldo vs. Yan. A high profile banger no matter the outcome.
A remarkable win for Sterling. Fans may not have got to see the three round technical battle they hoped for, but Sterling left no doubt who the better man was in the Octagon on the night. Frankly, he should be getting that shot at Yan over Aldo. Or maybe even over Yan at Aldo. Either way you slice it, he deserves to be fighting for the belt. There are other bouts he could take, like a fight with Garbrandt, or another bout with Marlon Moraes. But, the only fight that feels reasonable is a fight against the winner of Petr Yan vs. Jose Aldo for the UFC bantamweight title.
Just about the worst way this fight could have gone for Sandhagen’s hopes to be a title challenger in the near future. He didn’t get KO’d, but he was tapped out as fast as Aljamain Sterling got to a dominant position. I’m sure he’ll bounce back well, but there are a lot of tough fighters sitting out there waiting for him to slip up again. When Jimmy Rivera comes back from injury he’s a fighter I’d love to see Sandhagen face. There’s also the potential for a fight against Dominick Cruz, or Song Yadong. But there’s one fight that’s too cool to pass up, and there’s no better time to put it together than right now. Cory Sandhagen vs. Marlon Moraes. Out of the frying pan, into the fire for Sandhagen—but a huge opportunity to put himself immediately back in the conversation at 135 off a win. Sandhagen vs. Moraes would be a must-see war.
Not the most impressive performance from Magny, coming off his great win over Li Jingliang. But, he found his mojo by round 3 and really started pouring the volume on Rocco Martin. It’s a win that won’t likely advance his stock too much, but keeps him locked into that spot he’s long held as a gatekeeper to the welterweight elite. Geoff Neal, Michael Chiesa, and Vicente Luque are all looking to more firmly establish themselves as long term contenders at 170 lbs. Among them Chiesa seems like the most interesting stylistic threat. He doesn’t have the striking to hang with Magny straight up from range, but Magny’s love of clinch fighting seems like it’d give ‘Maverick’ great opportunities to drag this fight to the mat where he wants it. A chance for Chiesa to continue proving he’s a darkhorse welterweight contender, and for Magny to start putting together another long run of success. Chiesa vs. Magny for a battle of lanky welterweights.
Even expecting that this was a fight O’Malley could win, this was an aboslutely stunning performance from the bantamweight prospect. It’s time for him to start taking on ranked opposition to see what he can make out of his prodigious skills. He’s too clearly a big cut above the rank and file of his division, so let’s see how far he can go—and how fast. The fighter to make that happen? Rob Font. Font is coming off back to back wins over Ricky Simon and Sergio Pettis and has otherwise been a strong gatekeeper to the top 10 at 135. As another rangy striker with some solid pop in his hands, it’s also a fight that should guarantee some action. O’Malley vs. Font to see if ‘Sugar’ Sean is ready to sprint into the already deep contenders picture.
Exactly the performance Heinsich had to have if he was going to hold onto his spot in the top 15 of middleweight. He’s obviously got the athletic tools to be a very good fighter, but the technique and finishing skills have been lacking. Not the case here. He blitzed Meerschaert with low kicks and a huge overhand early in the round, and then followup GnP sealed the deal. That could line him up with a bout against Brad Tavares when he returns from injury, or perhaps Uriah Hall. But, the fight I’d really like to see ‘Hurricane’ Ian in is one against Edmen Shahbazyan. Shahbazyan could clearly be headed toward a bigger fight, but Heinisch’s combination of durability and athletic ability would make for a superb test for the prospect—on what seems like a run to title contention. If all that fails, he could settle for a fight with Krzyszytof Jotko, but Heinisch vs. Shahbazyan is definitely the most interesting next step.
An emotional win for Stamann. He stuck to his jab, hit takedowns when the opportunities presented themselves, and held on through a rougher third round to pick up the win. That’s a good bounce-back from that controversial draw to Song Yadong. He’s still not the biggest finishing threat at 135 lbs, but he’s proved himself to be a very difficult out for just about anyone. Bouts against Rob Font and John Dodson seem like they’d be reasonable followups. Not huge leaps forward in competition, but exactly the kind of bouts that will give Stamann a chance to prove he can put together dominant performances at bantamweight. John Dodson most resembles the guy that sets a real dividing line between the top 10 and the rest of the division. Cody Stamann vs. John Dodson would be a good way for Stamann to prove he’s truly among the elite.
A huge win for Perez here. One that showed once again that he has some really decent striking skills, and isn’t just a top control wrestler. With his only UFC loss coming to Joseph Benavidez, his talk about getting a title shot in 2020 doesn’t seem so unreasonable. This win alone will likely have him ranked in the top 5. So he could potentially just be one fight away from the flyweight title. What fight could that be? There’s honestly only one option: Brandon Moreno. Moreno’s return to the UFC has been highly successful so far, and he’s fresh off his own victory over Formiga. Let Moreno and Perez battle it out, and the winner can get a shot at the winner of Benavidez vs. Figueredo 2.
OTHER BOUTS: Raphael Assuncao vs. Jimmie Rivera, Anthony Rocco Martin vs. Alex Oliveira, Eddie Wineland vs. Guido Cannetti, Alex Caceres vs. Ricardo Ramos, Chase Hooper vs. Aalon Cruz, Gerald Meerschaert vs. Darren Stewart, Brian Kelleher vs. Alejandro Perez, Maki Pitolo vs. Jun Yong Park, Charles Byrd vs. Saparbek Safarov, Jussier Formiga vs. Rogerio Bontorin, Devin Clark vs. Paul Craig, Alonzo Menifield vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk, Herbert Burns vs. Grant Dawson, Evan Dunham vs. Clay Guida
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