UFC San Antonio has come and gone, leaving a swathe of questions for what is next for all the participants of the event. Hell, there’s even some questions regarding where some of those go who didn’t participate go.
Is there a better option than Cory Sandhagen’s callout of Merab Dvalishvili? Is there anyone at the top of women’s bantamweight that Holly Holm hasn’t tested herself against yet? How high up the ladder should the UFC attempt to push the youthful Maycee Barber? After his contest with Alex Perez was canceled at the last minute, what route should Manel Kape take?
Sit down and buckle in as I’ve got the appropriate answers to those questions, as well as the rest of the answers for the rest of the card. I’ll do my best to use the classic Silva/Shelby style of matchmaking in which those coming off wins are pit against other fighters coming off wins and the same with those coming off loses. My apologies that y’all aren’t being treated to the genius of my colleague Zane Simon, but I’ve done my best to fill in his shoes. Lets get into it!
Sandhagen made my job easy by calling out Dvalishvili. He even added some funk to the callout, though some might call it cringe. Regardless, it’s a contest that makes a lot of sense, especially when one runs down the other options available. Of the fighters who are presently ranked ahead of him, the only ones Sandhagen hasn’t fought are Dvalishvili and Sean O’Malley. O’Malley looks like he’s going to sit on the sidelines until he is granted a title shot, a reasonable likelihood given his popularity. A title shot involving O’Malley is likely to be a bigger draw than any of the other options. Sandhagen isn’t getting that fight. However, Sandhagen can expedite the likelihood of a title shot for himself by eliminating Dvalishvili. Dvalishvili won’t be fighting for the bantamweight gold so long as his teammate, Aljamain Sterling, remains champion. Thus, should Sterling defeat Henry Cejudo and flee for the featherweight division, it’s likely O’Malley and the winner of Dvalishvili and Sandhagen would fight for the vacant belt. It’s safe to say Sandhagen has thought all of this through. Thus, I’ll be excited to see Sandhagen and Dvalishvili throw down.
I don’t know who it was that was walking around in the skin of Marlon Vera, but that wasn’t Marlon Vera. There was zero killer instinct, the thing that had become the defining feature of the Vera who launched himself up the bantamweight rankings over the last few years. Regardless, Vera’s willingness to fight just about everyone, combined with a big chunk of the division being booked, has left some uncertainty about whom the Ecuadorian should face next. For instance, some of the other bantamweights coming off losses are Dominick Cruz, Rob Font, and Song Yadong… all fighters whom Vera has already faced.
Granted, Yadong and Font are booked in other fights, but only adds to the complication. An up-and-comer coming off a win, for instance, Jonathan Martinez, is another option. However, there is one fight out there available that I can’t just ignore. I admit I was reluctant to throw it out there given it feels like lazy matchmaking given it pairs the winners of the last two Fight Night main events and the losers of those same events. However, provided Vera doesn’t want to wait around for some other fights to play out, Vera vs. Petr Yan is a perfectly logical contest.
Following her loss to Ketlen Vieira last year, there were concerns Holm was no longer a top five bantamweight. After all, she is now 41 and didn’t look as mobile returning from knee surgery. Just because she flattened Yana Santos, it doesn’t mean Holm hasn’t slowed some, but Holm developed the perfect strategy to hide some of the holes that appeared against
Vieira. Given the static nature of the division, Holm has faced almost everyone at the top of the division, some of them twice. The only one she hasn’t has been declaring that she wants to face Amanda Nunes only. But no one is really excited to see that fight again after the one-sided nature of their most recent fight. Thus, here’s hoping Julianna Pena is up for it because Holm vs. Pena is the only fight that makes sense right now for either woman.
It’s impossible not to smile at Landwehr’s post-fight antics. It’s a good thing he always knows what he’s talking about, because there’s always a good chunk I can’t follow. The entertaining nature of those interviews tend to overshadow the improvements he’s been making. Landwehr asked to be able to run it back with Alex Caceres, which is fine with me. However, if that’s unable to be put back together for whatever reason, a contest between Andre Fili has just as much potential to be the barnburner. Maybe even more potential. Thus, the UFC should try running back Landwehr and Caceres, but shouldn’t hesitate to book Landwehr with Fili as plan B.
The youngster has made incredible strides in her time in the UFC. She isn’t solely relying on her aggression and physical talents any longer, mixing in some technique and smarts. There was some creativity in there too, somehow managing to trap Andrea Lee’s arm while Barber was on her back with Lee on top. That said, it was an incredibly close fight and eeking out a win over Lee, while indicative of progress, also shows she isn’t ready to be clashing with those at the top of the division, at least not yet. There’s a slew of ladies who have had their chance at claiming flyweight gold who are now playing gatekeeper, so there’s no shortage of options for Barber. The question is who does the UFC favor out of Katlyn Chookagian, Jennifer Maia, and Lauren Murphy? I feel confident in saying Barber’s next fight will be against one of them, but I can’t say which one. In my opinion, the Maia fight makes the most sense as both are coming off wins. Thus, a Barber and Maia clash will determine who breaks into the top of the division.
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