UFC Fight Night: Ilia Topuria vs Josh Emmett – Fights to make

All the best, most interesting, and unquestionably coolest fights that need to happen following UFC on ABC 5: Josh Emmett vs. Ilia Topuria.

By: Zane Simon | 3 months ago

The UFC put together a Fight Night card with a little more punch on Saturday for their return to ABC. It didn’t hurt either that the event was out from under the Apex and in front of a live audience. In the main event, Ilia Topura asserted his place as a featherweight contender over Josh Emmett. Maycee Barber reminded everyone why she was once one of flyweight’s brightest prospects, and Brendan Allen continued to look like a man on a mission.

So, is Ilia Topuria on the cusp of grabbing UFC gold? Is Barber ready for the top 5 at flyweight? And is Joshua Van the next big thing.

To answer those questions—and maybe a couple 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!


There’s no question, at this point, that Ilia Topuria is on the edge of greatness. The Georgian walked into the UFC with a game built not just on speed and power, but on sharp pocket boxing, and dynamic wrestling and controlled grappling. While he’s had his scares in the Octagon, he’s continued to look more polished and controlled as his career moves forward. Never more so than against Josh Emmett on Saturday night.

That kind of domination should have him perfectly lined up, if not for the winner of Volkanovski vs. Rodriguez, then for someone who has already had their chance to contend. It’s almost too bad that Max Holloway is booked in that tragic bout against Chan Sung-Jung. With both Brian Ortega and Arnold Allen free, either man would make for an excellent booking. That Allen fight feels especially like a war that we need to see sometime in the not too distant future.

Then again, a closer look at the featherweight top ten of the moment shows a division where literally every fighter ranked above Topuria that’s not named Holloway is currently riding a loss. Why put Topuria against a fighter who isn’t in position to contend right now for his next bout. With no other title challengers primed for their own shots at the belt, ‘El Matador’ is the man of the moment. Topuria vs. the Volkanovski/Rodriguez winner seems like the logical next title fight.


If the narrative around Ilia Topuria is that he’s found his time to contend, then the narrative around Josh Emmett is starting to look a lot more like he’s missed it. At 38-years-old and with lopsided losses in his last two fights, Emmett’s run from 2019-22 may have been his pinnacle as an elite performer. It’s especially unfortunate as well, since speed and power were always such serious parts of the long time Alpha Male fighter’s game. As that kind of physicality diminishes, have a crafty, technical skill base becomes more and more important to papering over the holes that age brings.

That said, there should still be some thrilling wars left for Emmett in the featherweight division. Bouts with Giga Chikadze, Bryce Mitchell, or a rematch with Calvin Kattar all seem like they’d make a fair amount sense. Given where Kattar’s at and how controversial their first fight was, that seems like the highest priority to me. Two men likely closer to the end of their contender status than the beginning, who already have a story between them and probably not too much time to find a conclusion. Emmett vs. Kattar 2 is a rematch worth seeing.

June 18, 2022, Austin, Texas, Austin, TX, United States: AUSTIN, TX - JUNE 18: (R-L) Calvin Kattar punches Josh Emmett in their featherweight bout during the UFC Fight Night: Kattar v Emmett event at Moody Center on June 18, 2022 in Austin, Texas, United States. Austin, Texas United States - ZUMAp175 20220618_zsa_p175_156 Copyright: xLouisxGrassex
These boys need to run it back. IMAGO/USA TODAY


There was never really a question that Maycee Barber had the physicality to contend at a high level in the woman’s flyweight division. The question was, without a defensively sound game anywhere, and seemingly without much of a technical punching game, could she turn her raw skills into a package dangerous enough to beat other woman who couldn’t easily be run over by her speed and power.

Ribas started strong against Barber, pushing her back to the fence and making her pay for her defensive lapses. But Ribas has plenty of gaps of her own on defense, and as she began to find out, the more she sat down and looked to trade with ‘The Future’ the more she got the worse end of the deal. If Barber can keep her offense consistent, especially in transition areas like the clinch, she can be a big problem in a division that still doesn’t have a ton of finishers.

MMA: UFC 283 - Murphy vs Andrade Jan 21, 2023; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Lauren Murphy (red gloves) enters the arena before the fight against Jessica Andrade (blue gloves) during UFC 283 at Jeunesse Arena. Rio de Janeiro Jeunesse Arena Brazil, EDITORIAL USE ONLY PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY Copyright: xJasonxdaxSilvax 20230121_szo_db3_0194
Murphy can be a tough test at 125. IMAGO/USA TODAY

Unfortunately at the moment, if Barber has any title ambitions, the top five of the flyweight division is already fully booked. There are a few former contenders without a bout just outside that level, though. Katlyn Chookagian, Lauren Murphy, and Jennifer Maia all need a bout and would all provide a serious test of Barber’s craft. Between them, I think Murphy is the most guaranteed to put on a fun show and not turn the bout into a simple grind. Murphy vs. Barber seems like a great next step for the 25-year-old.


For most of David Onama’s bout against Gabriel Santos, he seemed very nearly on the verge of losing. While Santos was happy to fall into Onama’s brutal pace and wild form, he was also the more technical fighter in almost every area. When Onama chased Santos to the ground, he was immediately tangled in submission attempts, when Onama met Santos in the pocket he was clipped up and hurt. It was really only when the two men found their way into the clinch that Onama seemed to have the more natural feel for the flow of the fight. As Santos started to fade, however, it turned out one advantage was all Onama needed.

Charles Jourdain just came off a win over Kron Gracie, Onama vs. Jourdain would be a thrill all the way through. If not that fight, then Bill Algeo would be pretty cool too.

May 6, 2023, Newark, New Jersey, USA: Newark, NJ: CHARLES JOURDAIN(Top) kicks KRON GRACIE(Bottom) during Featherweight bout at Prudential Center, Newark, NJ United States Newark USA - ZUMAr187 20230506_zsp_r187_040 Copyright: xJustinxRenfroex
Always a thrill. IMAGO/ ZUMA Wire


While Allen had a few brief scares slugging it out with Bruno Silva, the dramatic increase in his calm and confidence getting through a firefight was quickly evident. When push really came to shove, it was Silva who got hurt and Allen who poured on the power in the pocket. That led straight to a nifty club-n-sub, and the 5th-straight victory for the Kill Cliff FC talent.

With a win over Andre Muniz last time out, especially, Allen should be fighting his way up the division. He called out Jared Cannonier and Dricus Du Plessis (assuming Du Plessis loses to Whittaker), but still just ranked at #13, there’s a lot of space to cover between him and the top 5. It’s too bad Gastelum is chasing Shavkat Rakhmonov down at 170, because that would be a great booking. Otherwise Nassourdine Imavov, Jack Hermansson, or Roman Dolidze would all be decent options too. I really don’t want to see Imavov vs. Curtis again, so how about Imavov vs. Allen instead? Seems like a great fight.


Another day, another under-prepared opponent, another win for Neil Magny in the welterweight division. Philip Rowe decided to make this fight all about closing down Magny straight out of the gate, getting clinched up with him right away. He had the size to make it competitive, but that’s a bout Magny knows like the back of his hand. It wasn’t in any way the kind of victory that could raise the ‘Haitian Sensation”s profile in the Octagon, but it kept him treading water in that #11 spot in the rankings.

Interestingly everyone else other than Magny in the bottom half of the welterweight top 15 currently has a fight booked. The bout between Jack Della Maddalena and Sean Brady is probably the best fit for the 35-year old to see the winner, but with Magny so willing to fight anyone and with his tendency for close/boring grinds, another booking further down the division probably makes more sense. Randy Brown just picked up a win on the same card and would make sense.

But Elizeu Zaleski also got a big win recently and as a longtime veteran of the welterweight division feels like someone who should have a fight with Magny at some point. Zaleski vs. Magny seems like the right fight for both guys.


Given his size and speed, it seems like Randy Brown should have a lot more highlight wins to his record. He’s got the ability to put hands on people and to surprise opponents with creative strikes, but the consistency of form to actually go from hurting someone to putting them away. As a result he’s become a bit of a lost soul at 170 pounds. A man with 11 victories to his name who seems nowhere near the contender’s picture.

Nicolas Dalby has been around a long time and has been on a great run of form lately. His strength and pace could make him a big challenge for Brown’s tendency to let opponents dictate the tempo. Dalby vs. Brown is a great chance for Brown to add to his resume and make a case for himself as a top tier athlete.


Once again, Gillian Robertson’s lack of a striking game came back to bite her. Even as she’s developed more technique and more tools to manager the standup portions of her fights, she’s yet to find the confidence and consistency to make her striking game feel like it’s more than survival. Tabatha Ricci may not be some kind of striking savant, but she’s got plenty of confidence in her ability to throw hands. Luana Pinheiro had a close run of things in her last bout against Michelle Waterson-Gomez, Ricci vs. Pinheiro seems like it’d be a great chance to see if Ricci can keep her success running at women’s strawweight.

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About the author
Zane Simon
Zane Simon

Zane Simon is a senior editor, writer, and podcaster for Bloody Elbow. He has worked with the website since 2013, taking on a wide variety of roles. A lifelong combat sports fan, Zane has trained off & on in both boxing and Muay Thai. He currently hosts the long-running MMA Vivisection podcast, which he took over from Nate Wilcox & Dallas Winston in 2015, as well as the 6th Round podcast, started in 2014. Zane is also responsible for developing and maintaining the ‘List of current UFC fighters’ on Bloody Elbow, a resource he originally developed for Wikipedia in 2010.

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