The UFC Vegas 71 fight card is all done and dusted and, while it wasn’t a spectacular affair, it had some notable highlights. Most importantly, we learned that Sergei Pavlovich is absolutely ‘for real.’ The Russian heavyweight put it on Curtis Blaydes for the first round finish and should be looking at a chance for gold sometime soon. Otherwise Montel Jackson looked like a man on the rise, and Jeremiah Wells kept his welterweight win streak alive.
So, is Jon Jones going to stick around long enough to fight Sergei Pavlovich? Is Bruno Silva back on track as a feature action-fighter? Do we need to see King vs. Jared Gordon again?
To answer those questions—but not much else—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 post-UFC 287 bout ideas will actually make it off the page and into the Octagon. Now, let’s get to the fights!
At more or less every turn of the page for Sergei Pavlovich, I’ve doubted that he would put it all together and make it to title contention. I don’t know if it was the Alistair Overeem loss in 2018, or the fact that all of his wins just seemed like he was catching each opponent by surprise, but none of it seemed terribly sustainable.
Add to it that practically every name on his hit list looked ripe for the picking in hindsight, and every time Sergei Pavlovich stepped up to the plate in his last three bouts, I’ve thought “This will be the time he strikes out.” Now, instead, I have to reckon with the idea of Sergei Pavlovich as a title contender.
Curtis Blaydes has been doing a lot of kickboxing lately inside the Octagon. Performances against Chris Daukaus and Derrick Lewis were noted for his complete willingness to stand and trade for extended periods of time. Apparently that was also the game plan against Sergei Pavlovich, since Blaydes waded in and elected to trade hands with the Russian for a solid couple minutes before deciding to shoot his first takedown. Unfortunately, by that time he was already in desperation mode, and Sergei Pavlovich was more than ready for the reaching shot. A couple more exchanges and that was all she wrote for ‘Razor’ Blaydes.
The only questions left now are: Does Jon Jones fight Stipe Miocic? And, if he wins that fight, does he stick around to defend his title again? If he does—and assuming Dana White is serious when he says he won’t work with Francis Ngannou again—then Sergei Pavlovich vs. Jon Jones is absolutely a fight I’d love to see. Likewise if Miocic wins and doesn’t retire. That’s a great fight too. Sergei Pavlovich vs. the Jones/Miocic winner is the obvious fight to make, I just wish I could be more sure it’ll happen.
First and foremost, I feel bad for Curtis Blaydes. The man has unbeaten heavyweight UFC runs of six fights, four fights, and three fights. In a division as starving for talent as this one, that could easily have been enough to warrant at least one shot at UFC gold. Six was enough to get Ciryl Gane his first shot at an interim title. It was enough to get Francis Ngannou his first shot at Stipe Miocic. Blaydes is only 32-years-old so there’s nothing to say he won’t get there some day. But for as long as it takes heavyweight champions to defend their belts, he’ll be out of contendership for at lest another year, possibly two.
On the flip side, that means we get a potential Sergei Pavlovich title fight instead of a Curtis Blaydes one and I can’t pretend I’m not 100% more excited about that proposition. Even his best boxing performances—like his finish over Daukaus—don’t carry the same thrill of raw violence that his Russian counterpart can deliver.
All of that isn’t to say that Blaydes should be out of the running for big fights. Realistically, if we’re looking at the top of the division as it stands right this moment, a fight against Ciryl Gane makes fairly perfect sense. The other option, depending on what his return schedule looks like, would be a rematch against Tom Aspinall, whose knee exploded just 15-seconds into their fight last July.
If Aspinall is going to be back soon, it feels like he’d deserve another crack at Blaydes. Other, less tantalizing, options would include Tai Tuivasa, or Sergei Spivac. Since Aspinall’s been training hard lately and seems ready for a comeback, I’ll say Blaydes vs. Aspinall 2 is a rematch worth booking.
Brad Tavares looked pretty sharp for a couple minutes. Stepping in on hard 1-2s, keeping the pace and output on Bruno Silva, slipping hard shots and countering in the pocket. Then he overstepped himself on one combination and walked into a massive right hand counter. From that point, the fight was all in Silva’s court. The Brazilian just hits so damn hard. If an opponent lets him land one bomb, lots more bombs are going to follow.
Tavares protested the finish a bit, and I can commiserate with him there, the ref definitely stepped in a little soon. But the chances that the 35-year-old Xtreme Couture talent was about to rally and not just take more damage felt pretty damn slim.
As a result, that puts ‘Blindado’ back in the saddle in the middleweight division, in search of his next action fight. I was going to say he should face someone like Jun Yong Park (just because I love that guy), but then I realized that there’s only one perfect booking: Burno Silva against Joe Pyfer. Pyfer is fresh off a win over Gerald Meerschaert, who schooled Silva back when they met August of last year. Pyfer vs. Silva would be a singularly violent event.
KING & JARED GORDON
This isn’t a fight I would have ever thought needed to be run twice (and I can still see arguments to just have both men move on), but the 1st round no-contest via head clash felt exactly like the least satisfying version of this bout we could have gotten. Doubly so considering that Jared Gordon was really doing a good job adjusting to King’s [Bobby Green’s] game.
He was digging to the body well, countering in combination, and keeping up with King’s pace. Even standing through the first few minutes, this fight was close. Then King stepped in on a wild 1-2, met Gordon’s temple with his forehead, and sent him crashing to the mat.
Unfortunately, he then got to drop five or six shots on Gordon that knocked ‘Flash’ all the way cold, so the Kill Cliff FC fighter might need some time to recover. If that’s the case, then book King for a rematch with Drakkar Klose and get Gordon in against Vinc Pichel. But really, a rematch between these two is probably the best option here.
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