It wasn’t an important night of fights, but as far as small cards go, UFC Vegas: Dawson vs. Green very much over-delivered. Bobby Green put a stamp on the night’s action with a remarkable round 1 knockout of Grant Dawson in the main event. Joe Pyfer got a statement win over Abdul Razak Alhassan, and Joquin Buckley looked like a serious threat to the welterweight division with a 3-round pasting of Alex Morono.
So, is Green set to make a run at lightweight contendership? Is Pyfer ready for a ranked opponent at 185? And is Buckley’s future really written in the stars?
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!
UFC Vegas 80: Fights to Make
Of all the outcomes I might have expected, Bobby Green via first round KO wasn’t among them. ‘King’ has been a stalwart action fighter for years in the UFC lightweight division, but his reputation has never included the label of ‘knockout artist’. Despite a decade in the Octagon, Grant Dawson marks only the second fighter Green has finished with punches in his UFC tenure. That said, Dawson’s steady rise in the UFC has been marked by a notable lack of defense. A strikes defended ratio of just 45% is well below the standard for elite competitors at 155. This kind of a loss was always coming, it’s just surprising that it happened here.
The win puts Green right back in among ranked talent, a fitting place for a fighter who has only seemed to have improved his technical skills as his career has gone on. Is there a title run in the offing? Probably not, but at 37, this is his last time to try. As such, fights with Diego Ferreira, Renato Moicano, Dan Hooker, or Jalin Turner would all be sensible. If Hooker is willing, then Dan Hooker vs. Bobby Green would be one hell of an awesome war. If he’s not, then Moicano vs. Green is a fantastic plan B.
As I mentioned up above, Grant Dawson was always heading into this defeat sooner or later. Despite all his success as a back control artist, he’s often looked like a less-than-dominating wrestler. Top of the foodchain athletes like Arman Tsarukyan, Mateusz Gamrot, or Michael Chandler etc. would very likely strand him on his feet where his striking game was a complete liability. Maybe it’s best in the long run that he learn that lesson now.
That said, as a 29-year-old with a career record of 20-2-1, it’s not like Dawson should be taking a big step backward. Rafael Dos Anjos and Jalin Turner are both ranked and coming off losses as well. Renato Moicano and Carlos Ferreira are both sitting without a next fight booked. All of them would make interesting matchups for Dawson’s grappling-focused attack. With back-to-back split decision disappointments, Turner feels like the man most in need of a statement win. And his rangy kickboxing feels like a huge challenge for Dawson’s vulnerability to all things punch & kick. Turner vs. Dawson to see which rising contender is actually just a pretender.
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Okay, sure, he wasn’t ready to check low kicks, but Joe Pyfer looked good out there. He dealt with every last little bit of Abdul Razak Alhassan’s offense in the opening round, parrying wild hooks, slipping shots, and firing his own strikes with great power and smooth combinations. Then, when Alhassan did start to find some success with low kicks in the second, Pyfer showed off his powerful wrestling chops and a decisive submission transition game. It’s the kind of skill set that could see him blow through a lot of competition on his way up the middleweight division.
That said, it is worth wondering if it’d be too early to start talking about Pyfer getting a shot at a ranked opponent. Gerald Meerschaert is a quality veteran win, but beating Amedovski and Alhassan is more or less just proof that ‘Bodybagz’ is better than the lowest end of 185 lbs. A fight against someone like Anthony Hernandez or Chris Crutis would be a hell of a step up. However, bouts with Gregory Rodrigues, Roman Kopylov, Michal Oleksiejczuk would all provide fantastic tests. And a win in any of those fights feels like it would be a definitive sign that Pyfer was ready for the elite. Roman Kopylov has looked like a buzzsaw lately, Kopylov vs. Pyfer sounds like a fight that could be rematched 3 years later with a title shot on the line.
He didn’t get the finish, but Joaquin Buckley absolutely thrashed Alex Morono. A somewhat back and forth first round turned decidedly more one-sided as time went on, with Morono fading hard as ‘New Mansa’ continued to pour on pace and power. By the time the third round rolled around, Buckley was in 10-8 territory. That’s the kind of victory that should see the 29-year-old knocking around the edges of the top 15 at welterweight.
A rematch with Kevin Holland wouldn’t be out of the question, and Neil Magny is forever the gatekeeper to the elite, but the idea of a Jack Della Maddalena fight is so damn enticing. Two men more than willing to throw down in the pocket round after round after round. If a ranked welterweight fight is out of the question, then bouts against Randy Brown, Li Jingliang, or Daniel Rodriguez (providing his USADA suspension isn’t too long) would all make a ton of sense. But if Buckley is going to get his wish for a headlining spot, then Jack Della Maddalena should be the man across from him.
This fight couldn’t have gone any more the way it was drawn up. Ricky Glenn’s been looking chinny lately, tends to start slow, and Drew Dober is a fast starter with dynamite in his hands. Once Dober started to find the target, there was nothing but trouble left for Glenn. The fight was over almost before it started. I could absolutely see Dober take on the likes of Dan Hooker, Jalin Turner, or Diego Ferreira. But it seems a lot more likely he won’t get a ranked bout. Instead, L’udovit Klein just got himself a big win, so how about Klein vs. Dober? Would be a guaranteed fire fight.
It wasn’t quite the violent thriller fans might have expected when they saw a Bill Algeo fight on this week’s UFC card. Then again, it didn’t really need to be either. Alexander Hernandez seemed comfortable playing a long-range game of tag, trading single shots with Algeo for 15 minutes. That was perfect for ‘Senor Perfecto’ and his ropy striking style, picking up a knockdown along the way. That puts Algeo on a two fight win streak in 2023 and should leave him primed for another fun action booking.
After his win, the 34-year-old decided he should just call out half the featherweight division. Algeo said he was looking for bouts against Billy Quarantillo, Kron Gracie, or Nate Landwehr. Of those, the Quarantillo option immediately sticks out as a great fight. And, if Quarantillo’s social media is to be believed, it’s a fight he’d like to have as well. No reason not to book it. Billy Quarantillo vs. Bill Algeo would be a surefire thriller.
Another strong showing from Karolina Kowalkiewicz that shows off how much training at ATT has returned the necessary confidence to her game. Kowalkiewicz couldn’t get her wrestling game going at all, and found Belbita more or less matching her shot-for-shot, but she never stopped pressing the action. Over time her better strike selection made the difference, with Belbita’s left eye nearly swelling closed by the third round. A work-woman like performance from the former title contender.
All that said, Belbita isn’t exactly a notable name at women’s strawweight, and Kowalkiewicz didn’t exactly blow her away. She got a decent win, her fourth in a row, and should take a step up, but it’s not like she’s suddenly a contender again. Considering Michelle Waterson beat her once before, that wouldn’t be the worst rematch, but it’s definitely lost some luster with the beating the ‘Karate Hottie’ took last time she hit the Octagon. More likely opponents like Gillian Robertson, Loma Lookboonmee, Cory McKenna, or Mizuki Inoue would be more interesting matchups. I like the idea of the Mizuki fight. She had enough hype at one point to make this a reasonable next step for her, without being a big jump into the deep end for either woman. Kowalkiewicz vs. Mizuki feels like a rock solid booking.
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