FIGHTS TO MAKE NEXT: UFC Fight Night 126 edition

Cole Henry, MMATorch Contributor

Donald Cerrone (photo credit Jane Kamin-Oncea © USA Today Sports)

With UFC Fight Night 126 in the books, it is time to look at what could be next for every fighter on the card.

(Writer note: I attended this event, so I am going to include a few details from that perspective.)

Main Card

Donald Cerrone def. Yancy Medeiros via TKO (Round 1)

It is often stated that Mark Twain once commented on his own death with the following statement…

“The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated…”

Donald Cerrone could have easily used that quote in his post-fight interview and it would have been a perfect fit. Cerrone came into the Medeiros fight on a three-fight losing streak which is the longest of his career. For the first time in a while it seemed as though he didn’t have the confidence of the people and it was fair to wonder if Cowboy’s best days were behind him. But then he knocked out Yancy Medeiros in the first round of the UFC Fight Night 126 main event all was forgiven.

Cerrone has reached a level that few MMA fighters reach, and I doubt he was ever in any danger of being cut, but still four straight losses would have been a tall mountain to overcome. I think he would be best served dropping back down to lightweight, but I don’t know if that’s something he is even considering at this stage.

He still has a lot of options at welterweight and one of those options is Santiago Ponzinibbio. Ponzinibbio has been on a solid run as of late and is currently riding a 6-fight win streak. I think it’s time that he is tested with a veteran and Cerrone fits the bill. With a few wins it’s possible that Cerrone could get back into the title conversation, but until then he’s going to have to put some wins together. It started with Medeiros and the next stop is Ponzinibbio.

Fight to make next: Donald Cerrone vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio

Yancy Medeiros was close to reaching the highest point that he has reached yet in his career. But like so many before him he couldn’t get past the Cowboy. Still though it was a good effort and he had a cool moment after the fight where he exchanged a hug with Cerrone’s grandmother.

However, this sport isn’t just about putting in a good effort and Medeiros was no doubt left disappointed by the outcome. He was just seconds from making it out of the round, but he got caught by a big shot and now it’s back to the drawing board.

Jorge Masvidal is in a very similar situation to Medeiros. Both guys were making noise but have since suffered crucial losses. This fight has a chance for high excitement and matters in terms of the rankings and it’s the fight to make next.

Fight to make next: Yancy Medeiros vs. Jorge Masvidal

 Derrick Lewis def. Marcin Tybura via TKO (Round 3)

Derrick Lewis got quite a reaction from the Austin crowd. Several of my friends told me that his entrance was not played on T.V. and if that’s the case it’s a crime. Lewis entered to Lil Troy’s “Wanna Be a Baller” and got the loudest reaction of the night from the live audience.

During the fight Lewis struggled at times with Tybura’s grappling, and has a real problem getting up or making any progress when put on his back. He is almost defenseless if his opponents can get to the mount position, and his usual method of escape is just an attempt to power out. But on the feet, he was able to find a home for his punches and eventually stopped Tybura with his massive power in the third round.

Lewis is now 8-2 in his last 10 fights and while it isn’t always pretty he has shown that his style can be effective. He wants a high ranked opponent next, but when looking at the roster you will see that most of the big names are already booked, or just don’t make sense as opponents for Lewis at this point.

A guy that does make sense is Ben Rothwell. Rothwell is currently serving an USADA suspension. Rothwell was fighting at a high level before his suspension and is a well-known commodity in the heavyweight division. A win over Rothwell could set Lewis up for a fight with Werdum and then he could possibly be looking at the title shot that has so far eluded him. That’s a lot of what ifs, but the Black Beast is popular, and he wins far more than he loses. That’s usually enough to get you a shot at heavyweight, so he can’t be far.

Fight to make next: Derrick Lewis vs. Ben Rothwell

Marcin Tybura looked good at times against Derrick Lewis, but ultimately couldn’t avoid the power of the Black Beast. Tybura is young, and well rounded, especially for the heavyweight division so he could still have a bright future.

One of my philosophies for booking fights, is that sometimes if you get one you have to give one in return. Tybura has now lost to top 10 opponents in back to back fights, so I think it’s about time that he risks his own ranking against a lower ranked opponent. Justin Ledet is a relatively unknown fighter at this stage, but he has shown himself to be perhaps just as well rounded as Tybura. He has shown good cardio, effective boxing, and submission skills in his 3 octagon appearances and I think it is about time that he gets a shot at a ranked opponent.

Fight to make next: Marcin Tybura vs. Justin Ledet

 James Vick def. Francisco Trinaldo via Unanimous Decision

James Vick continues to prove that he deserves respect. He picked up a solid win over a respected vet in Francisco Trinaldo, in front of a home state crowd and afterwards called out the elites of the division. He is 9-1 in 10 UFC appearances and continues to improve with each fight. He originally wanted to headline this card, but the UFC went in a different direction seemingly showing that they don’t quite have enough faith in Vick to consider him a headliner.

Despite the perception, at some point they are going to have to give him a big fight and I think that time is now. Kevin Lee has managed to go from up and comer to top ranked lightweight in just a couple of years’ time.

He was given a big opportunity against Tony Ferguson but couldn’t get it done and has since flirted with welterweight. If he does stay at lightweight though I think this fight makes a lot of sense. Despite his high ranking, Lee really doesn’t have a huge win (a top 5 opponent) but has just had more opportunity than Vick. He’s more entertaining, and certainly more popular so these opportunities aren’t surprising, but it’s about time that Vick gets one of his own.

Fight to make next: James Vick vs. Kevin Lee

Francisco Trinaldo has become one of my favorite fighters over the last few years, so it was cool seeing him compete in person. He seems to be somewhat of an ageless wonder, and still competes at a high level despite knocking on the door o f40. Trinaldo showed that he can still hang with a solid prospect like James Vick and hasn’t lost much shine despite losses in two of his last three. He has managed a 12-5 record in the UFC since 2012 and is in a solid spot as a gatekeeper for the always deep lightweight division.

Up next is Magomed Mustafaev. Mustafaev is 2-1 in the UFC with two stoppage victories and is also the only man that has claimed a victory over Khabib Nurmagomedov’s brother, Abubakar.

Fight to make next: Francisco Trinaldo vs. Magomed Mustafaev

Curtis Millender def. Thiago Alves via KO (Round 2)

Curtis Millender may have had the biggest impact out of anybody that competed on the Austin card. He dominated Thiago Alves from start to finish, landing big shots and nearly finding the finish several times before finally delivering the knee that ended the night for Alves. Millender has had stints in Bellator and Legacy Fighting but appears to have come into his own in the UFC. He took out a solid vet, and former title challenger in Thiago Alves and more impressive, is that he did it on the feet. Alves was once feared for his muay thai, but Millender managed to get it done with precision and speed and earned a performance of the night bonus for his efforts.

He didn’t take much damage, hardly any at all really and for that reason I think he would be a perfect fill in for Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos. Dos Santos was scheduled to face Jack Marshman at UFC Fight Night 127 but was forced to pull out with an injury. This is a chance for Millender to keep his hype train running.

Fight to make next: Curtis Millender vs. Jack Marshman

It’s been a long road for Thiago Alves. He is in his 12th year of UFC competition and is still only 34. Alves has never been the same since his UFC 100 title loss to Georges St. Pierre. He has suffered numerous injuries and hasn’t managed any notable wins in that time. His days as a top contender are long gone, but he is still a solid veteran, and showed a tremendous amount of heart and toughness despite his loss.

Perhaps if he can return to fighting on a consistent basis he can find some of his former magic. Lyman Good is another guy that has dealt with injuries and a suspension and has fought just twice since signing with the UFC in 2015. He will need to find some consistency if he ever wants to make a splash in the UFC. This fight makes sense for both guys and will give us a chance to see what Alves has left.

Fight to make next: Thiago Alves vs. Lyman Good

Brandon Davis def. Steven Peterson via Unanimous Decision

Brandon Davis filled in on short notice to face Steven Peterson and got the job done in a tough, competitive fight. Davis had several great moments in what was overall a great fight that earned both fighters the Fight of the Night bonus.

Up next for Davis is Enrique Barzola.

Fight to make next: Brandon Davis vs. Enrique Barzola

Steven Peterson showed that he can take a shot and earned Fight of the Night honors for his gutsy performance against Brandon Davis. It was a good fight, but one moment in particular stood out. I believe it was the third round when Peterson took a big shot on the jaw, and nearly lost his legs, only to regain his balance and return a few shots of his own. Gavin Tucker is another guy who has shown toughness and I think he makes a great opponent for Peterson.

Fight to make next: Steven Peterson vs. Gavin Tucker

Sage Northcutt def. Thibault Gouti via Unanimous Decision

Sage Northcutt picked up his second straight win and showed some modest improvements against Thibault Gouti. He scored some nice double leg takedowns and recovered nicely from some big shots landed by Gouti. Overall though, he struggled with defensive grappling and was held down by Gouti for several minutes throughout the fight. His striking looked good but was largely ineffective and he was dropped several times. His problems on the feet seem defensive, just as they do on the ground. His karate style does not seem to translate as well as some other karate fighters that have competed in the UFC recently and he doesn’t have much of an effective guard either.

The UFC is moving him along very slowly, but at some point, you must wonder if they will test him and I really wonder if he has improved enough to pass it. He is at a great camp, is certainly a great athlete, and seems to be very disciplined, but I do wonder when he will have the break out performance that people seem to expect each time he fights.

For now, I think they continue moving him along slowly and I think Scott Holtzman makes for a good fight. Holtzman has managed to win several fights in the UFC and will test Northcutt with his wrestling. On a side note the reaction that Northcutt got when he entered the arena was matched only by Derrick Lewis. He is certainly popular and has a very bright future if he continues to develop.

Fight to make next: Sage Northcutt vs. Scott Holtzman

Thibault Gouti lost a close fight to Sage Northcutt but can’t blame anybody but himself. He dropped Northcutt several times but allowed him to recover and failed to advance position or do damage when he was able to take him down. Northcutt did enough to get the win in the judge’s eyes and now Gouti is left picking up the pieces.

He has shown good power for the lightweight division and is one of the few French fighters on the card, so he is worth watching. To find his next opponent you only have to look a little further down the card. Jared Gordon suffered a disappointing loss to Carlos Diego Ferreira in the main fight of the FS1 prelims. He makes sense for Gouti.

Fight to make next: Thibault Gouti vs. Jared Gordon

Fox Sports 1 Prelims

Carlos Diego Ferreira def. Jared Gordon

Fights to make next:

Carlos Diego Ferreira vss. Gregor Gillespie

Jared Gordon vs. Thibault Gouti

Geoff Neal def. Brian Camozzi

Fights to make next:

Geoff Neal vs. Sultan Aliev

Brian Camozzi vs. Nathan Coy (At 0-3 Camozzi could be on the chopping block)

Roberto Sanchez def. Joby Sanchez

Fights to make next:

Roberto Sanchez vs. Ryan Benoit

Joby Sanchez vs. Ashkan Mokhtarian

Lucie Pudilova def. Sarah Moras

Fights to make next:

Lucie Pudilova vs. Aspen Ladd

Sarah Moras vs. Irene Aldana

UFC Fight Pass Prelims

Alex Morono def. Josh Burkman

Fights to make next:

Alex Morono vs. Jordan Mein

Josh Burkman is unlikely to return

Oskar Piechota def. Tim Williams

Fights to make next:

Oskar Piechota vs. Trevor Giles

Tim Williams vs. Markus Perez

NOW READ THIS: FIGHTS TO MAKE NEXT: Bellator 194 edition

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