The latest UFC Vegas card didn’t necessarily feel like a dud on paper, but ended up being a real miss-able night for the world’s largest MMA promotion. Even with Bryce Mitchell and Dan Ige putting on a rock solid co-main event and Marina Rodriguez styling all over Michelle Waterson-Gomez, nothing could make up for the headliner between Rafael Fiziev and Mateusz Gamrot ending via second round injury. Throw a couple undercard stinkers in the mix and it wasn’t a great night of fights.
Still, can Gamrot get the kind of top 5 booking he’s looking for? Is Marina Rodriguez primed for a title eliminator? And can Bryce Mitchell overcome the forces of Satan before the Dark Lord covers the world in darkness?
To answer those questions—plus a couple more—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!
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UFC Vegas 79: Fights to Make
It really is too damn bad that Rafael Fiziev came up lame with that knee injury in the second round because his fight with Mateusz Gamrot was just starting to get interesting. Gamrot largely failed to get the fight to the mat in round 1, and found himself getting picked off at range. But round 2 opened with a big takedown from the ‘Gamer’ that seemed like it could spell the start of a long night for Fiziev. Basically, this fight went just long enough to give us all a taste of how good it could be.
After the bout Gamrot gave fans his future fight wish list. It’s a shame he didn’t think it out a little more thoroughly. First the Pole announced that his dream fight would be Islam Makhachev. Feeling he wouldn’t get that bout, however Gamrot then called out Charles Oliveira… who is currently set to face Islam Makhachev. Could Gamrot possibly face the loser of that title fight? Maybe. But that feels pretty unlikely too.
Fortunately for ATT talent, there are plenty of other, more realistic options. Dan Hooker is coming off a rock solid win and always makes for a fun fight. Grant Dawson is facing Bobby Green in the coming weeks and win there would have him primed for bigger things. Beneil Dariush is a top 5 lightweight coming off a loss and in need of a bounce back, he could make for a solid option too.
Really, though, there’s one much more obvious choice. Sooner or later Michael Chandler needs to face facts, he’s not getting that Conor McGregor booking. If that’s the case, then Gamrot is a poor consolation for ‘Iron’ Mike, but a nice plan B for the fans. Mateusz Gamrot vs. Michael Chandler would be a terrific fight.
Hopefully Rafael Fiziev won’t be sidelined too long after this injury. It’s always tough to say with knees. It could be six months, it could be two years. For the sake of this article, I’ll lean on optimism and the idea that Fiziev will be ready to go again in he next few months. If that’s the case, then there are two obvious fights right now out there waiting for Fiziev: Dan Hooker & Beneil Dariush. The Dariush fight seems like an especially awesome idea, so lets go Dariush vs. Fiziev, assuming the injury isn’t too bad (but is too bad to keep Fiziev from getting an instant rematch with Gamrot).
This was a very close run thing for Bryce Mitchell. Dan Ige started out strong, stuffing almost every takedown Mitchell tried. But ‘Thug Nasty’ kept trying and finding ways to drag Ige to the mat. By round 3 he had really turned the momentum firmly in his favor. The first two rounds may have been close, but that was all it took to get Mitchell the decision win. After the victory, Mitchell had a whole bunch more crazy nonsense to spout, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s clearly a top 15 featherweight.
That should mean matchups with Movsar Evloev, Giga Chikadze, Calvin Kattar, or possibly Sodiq Yusuff (if Youssuf can grab a win in his next fight against Edson Barboza). Is it even a question, though? That Evloev fight was an absolute banger the first two times they tried to book it. Give it one more shot. Movsar Evloev vs. Bryce Mitchell is a fight that must happen someday.
A completely one-sided ass kicking from Marina Rodriguez. When Michelle Waterson-Gomez hit that first takedown it seemed like she might have a strong gameplan to get her into a fight she didn’t have many answers for last time around. That illusion all ended as soon as Rodriguez got back to her feet and kept the clinch. The Brazilian absolutely detonated Waterson-Gomez with knees to the head and body inside, had her badly cut, clearly injured, and there was a point in the first round where the ‘Karate Hottie’ essentially didn’t throw any offense for a full minute. Then it went on for several minutes more.
After the bout, Rodriguez called out Tatiana Suarez. It’s not the most likely booking in the world, even with Weili Zhang likely to fight Yan Xiaonan for her next title defense, but it’s an idea worth pursuing if Suarez is willing to stay active instead of waiting for gold. If Jessica Andrade can beat Mackenzie Dern, I’d also love to see Andrade vs. Rodriguez. Or if Luana Pinheiro beats Amanda Ribas that’d be another great option too. But all those choices are chancy and based on bouts that haven’t happened yet, so why not aim high. Book Suarez vs. Rodriguez if Suarez is willing.
It wasn’t as pretty as his KO over Gabe Green, but Bryan Battle did a great job to come back from adversity against AJ Fletcher and put the man away. The ‘Butcher’ has proved to be a shockingly opportunistic fighter in the welterweight division and his 77″ reach can make him a problem for all sorts of opposition. He’s still got problems letting his opponents dictate range and pace, and paid for it by eating a huge elbow inside early, but he’s proven to be a hell of a tough out and great at keeping his confidence.
He passed up on calling anyone out, seemingly suggesting that he should have a spot in the rankings after this win. Realistically, however, Battle has yet to pick up a victory over anyone not clinging to the bottom of the roster. Fights against Carlston Harris, Song Kenan, Mike Malott, Uros Medic, or Khaos Williams would all be reasonable steps forward. I really like what Medic has been showing lately, and it’d be interesting to see him face someone who wasn’t daunted by his length. Medic vs. Battle would be a great scrap.
There was always a great chance that this fight was going to be violent. Every Charles Jourdain fight is going to be violent. But, the idea that Jourdain might beat Ricardo Ramos via submission, and do it in the opening round? I don’t think anyone saw that coming. An electrifying win for the 27-year-old that should have him creeping toward the top 15 at featherweight. (Although maybe not considering Nathaniel Wood still isn’t ranked).
I could fart around with a bunch of different options like Kyle Nelson, or Jourdain’s callout of Cub Swanson, or even Jack Shore or Jonathan Pierce. But Billy Quarantillo is coming off a win and isn’t booked right now and that’d be a stupidly good fight. Billy Quarantillo vs. Charles Jourdain has to happen.
A vintage performance inside the Octagon for Tim Means. Andre Fialho put the ‘Dirty Bird’ on the ropes a couple times, but Means was able to shake off Fialho’s offense and crack him repeatedly with heavy counters. When leading the action, Means did a whole bunch of work to the body—which felt like it really paid off in round 3, with Fialho clearly fading and Means pouring on the pressure. A high kick to a clinch knee and a barrage of punches put the stamp on the fight for a thrilling victory for the 39-year-old.
That kind of win should set Means up for another good action scrap, preferably something with a decently high profile to it, even if Means has always been willing to take on any opponent at any time. Fights with Randy Brown, Santiago Ponzinibbio, or even Uros Medic would all be solid options. This time around I’ll go winner/loser and pick the highest profile bout. Tim Means vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio feels like a great action fight we should see before both men retire.
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