UFC Vegas 57 delivered mostly as advertised. A card without a lot of star power created some rock-solid, meaningful performances, but not much in the way of truly electric moments. Mateusz Gamrot & Arman Tsarukyan proved they’re both among lightweight’s best scramblers. Shavkat Rakhmonov looked ever bit the part of a future contender. And Umar Nurmagomedov put the bantamweight division on notice.
So, can Gamrot get that Justin Gaethje fight he asked for? Will Stephen Thompson repeat Neil Magny’s mistake? Is there anything we can do to stop Carlos Ulberg from becoming an unstoppable force of handsomeness?
To answer those questions—and a few other things—I’ll be 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!
Whatever fans may have thought of the scorecards, there’s no denying that Mateusz Gamrot absolutely fought his heart out at UFC Vegas 57. The former KSW double-champ kept up an impossibly frenetic wrestling and grappling pace over five rounds, coupled with a regular diet of punches. Off his victory, he seems poised to try for a run at the lightweight elite.
It’s too bad that Gregor Gillespie seems so uninterested in fighting the top 10-5 at 155 right now, because Gamrot vs. Gillespie seems like another badass mirror match of cardio machines. For now, though, I’m just going to assume that fight doesn’t get made. I’ve also seen rumors that the UFC is looking to re-book Dariush vs. Makhachev for sometime this fall. That leaves three clear options I can see: Justin Gaethje, Michael Chandler, and the Fiziev/RDA winner. Gamrot made his intentions clear, with a call-out of Gaethje post-fight, but I don’t honestly think that’s a bout the ‘Highlight’ will care about. Of all the options, Gamrot vs. the Fiziev/RDA winner seems most likely to happen.
A rough decision loss for Arman Tsarukyan in a fight he did very, very well in. To my eyes, the Armenian fighter landed the best and most damaging shots in pretty much every round of the fight. But Gamrot did well to keep things close, and get his own punches off, and Tsarukyan did seem to flag a little late. Whether he should have taken the win or not, I can’t imagine the experience will have done him any harm. I expect next time Tsarukyan steps inside the Octagon, he’ll look just that much sharper and more well conditioned. The question is, who’s going to be across the cage from him?
Bouts with Bobby Green, Renato Moicano, or Grant Dawson would all make decent sense. But there are also two bookings upcoming where the winner could be in prime position for a fight like Tsarukyan: Brad Riddell vs. Jalin Turner & Carlos Diego Ferreira vs. Drakkar Klose. Between those, I think the Riddell/Turner fight offers the best possible potential for a thriller. Tsarukyan vs. the Riddell/Turner winner seems like a great option coming off this controversial loss.
Neil Magny has been a gold standard at welterweight when it comes to separating the pretenders from the contenders for years. He’s always tough, always consistent, and has size and range that a lot of other welterweights aren’t prepared to deal with. Shavkat Rakhmonov looked thoroughly prepared. He snapped Magny’s head back time and time again with jabs, and when the two men clinched up, he proved to be the stronger wrestler and grappler as well. It was all bad news for Magny, who got dominated for almost 10 full minutes before getting tapped in the final seconds of round 2. Four-straight dominating UFC wins to take Rakhmonov’s record to a shiny 15-0.
After the bout, he called out Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson. It’s not a bad call, after all Thompson is still a big name. The kind of callout that could easily come with a Fight Night main event slot. But with Thompson coming off two wrestle-heavy losses, is that a fight he’d want? Bouts with Michael Chiesa, Sean Brady, Michel Pereira, and the Neal/Luque winner would all serve just as well, if not better in terms of competition, but the wouldn’t necessarily come with the same high profile. Given that Holland called for the Brady fight, I’ll say book Rakhmonov vs. Pereira. That’d be a truly fascinating bout. But right now, I just want to see Rakhmonov fight anyone. Get him back in the cage ASAP.
Christos Giagos was always going to give Thiago Moises a lot of opportunities to work with. It was just a question as to whether or not he could turn those chances into a win. A nifty little trip off a clinch was all Moises needed to get a back take and eventually slap on the rear naked choke. A dominating first round finish for the Brazilian, and a much needed return to form after getting finished in back-to-back fights. After the bout, Moises called out Joe Solecki. Seeing as how both men love to grapple, that seems like a perfect fight, so I’m definitely all about it. If the UFC can’t make that happen, however, I’d love to see him against Ricky Glenn, Claudio Puelles, or Mark O. Madsen. Moises vs. Solecki is a great fight, but there are plenty of other options for the ATT talent.
Pure domination from Umar Nurmagomedov. Maness proved he was tough and that he could survive for 15 minutes, but that’s about all he got done in a bout where he landed exactly one significant strike. Nurmagomedov picked him off with kicks outside, and countered neatly with takedowns every time Maness tried to bring things into his range. Just a perfectly orchestrated victory for the Dagestani. After that bout it sounds like he wants to rocket up the division as quick as he can. Fights against Adrian Yanez, Chris Gutierrez, Cody Stamann, Rafael Assuncao, or Jonathan Martinez feel like they’d all be good, if not quite giant, leaps forward. But, if the kid is confident, why not give him what he wants? Ricky Simon & Jack Shore have a fight coming up. Nurmagomedov vs. either man would be a major test. Barring that, I’d probably say go with a fight like Stamann, and then look for those top 15 bouts.
Chris Curtis’ Octagon career continues to be nothing short of a resounding success. Vieira came out ready to throw 1-2s and hit takedowns behind them, but Curtis stuffed the grappling entirely and forced Vieira into a pure kickboxing bout. It was a fight Vieira did okay with for a solid round, but also the kind of skill test that was always going to steer in the ‘Action Man’’s favor given enough time. By the end of the final round, it felt like Curtis was landing whatever he wanted and Vieira was resigned to attempting to pull guard. After the vicotry, it may be time to start pushing Curtis toward a top 15 kind of booking. Nassourdine Imavov’s bout against Kelvin Gastelum fell apart due to Visa issues. If he can get those solved in the near future, Imavov vs. Curtis is exactly the kind of fight Curtis deserves. If that’s not possible then a bout against Krzysztof Jotko or the Dricus du Plessis vs. Brad Tavares winner would both be strong options.
Is it a sign of major improvement for Carlos Ulberg, or just a fluky flash KO? It’s hard to know for sure, but given that it’s the quickest Tafon Nchukwi has ever been finished it’s at least safe to say that ‘Black Jag’ possesses some serious speed and power. His UFC career may have gotten off to a rocky start, but he’s sitting at 2-1 right now and it feels like he’s got some nice momentum going. As for what that means next? Fights against Philipe Lins, Tyson Pedro, or Alonzo Menifield would all make sense. Between those, I’ll say the UFC should go with Ulberg vs. Lins. At one point, Lins seemed like a serious prospect. Can he finally put together back-to-back wins inside the Octagon? Or will Ulberg continue his climb? Ulberg vs. Lins is a solid next step at light heavyweight.
A really terrific performance from Bautista. He took the fight to Kelleher right off the bat with some heavy range strikes, into a well timed takedown, and then another nifty trip into side control after Kelleher got to his feet. That led straight to mount, and right into Kelleher giving up his neck for the RNC. It’s two straight wins for Bautista following his KO loss to Trevin Jones. After the fight, he called for one of the night’s other bantamweight winners. While a booking against Morozov is fine and sensible, I’m never one to lean on pairings from the same fight card. Instead, fights with Heili Alateng or Kyler Phillips would both make sense. But, I’ll say the UFC should book Bautista vs. Davey Grant. Grant’s wildman firepower should make for an absolute war, and a good test for Bautista to make sure he has the chin to really move up the division. Bautista vs. Grant would be a real scrap.
OTHER BOUTS: Neil Magny vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio 2, Josh Parisian vs. William Knight, Alan Baudot vs. Chris Barnett, Christos Giagos vs. Omar Morales, Nate Maness vs. Trevin Jones, Rodolfo Vieira vs. Julian Marquez, Tafon Nchukwi vs. Marcin Prachnio, Shayilan Nuerdanbieke vs. Joanderson Brito, TJ Brown vs. Danny Chavez, Sergey Morozov vs. John Castaneda, Raulian Paiva vs. Khalid Taha, Cody Durden vs. Ode Osbourne, JP Buys vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov, Brian Kelleher vs. Vince Morales, Vanessa Demopoulos vs. Sam Hughes, Jinh Yu Frey vs. Mizuki Inoue
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