With UFC 224 in the books, it is time to look ahead at what is next for every fighter on the card.
Amanda Nunes def. Raquel Pennington to defend the UFC women’s bantamweight championship
Amanda Nunes has become a truly dominant force in her division and in all of women’s MMA. She has wins over Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey, two over Valentina Schevchenko, and several other notable fighters. She can stop fights with her strikes and with grappling. She is safely the most well-rounded bantamweight in the world.
Her toughest potential competitor is not somebody in her division and for that reason it makes her next booking a tough one. It is not tough in terms of picking an opponent, because Cris Cyborg is the only one that makes sense. The fight could not take place at bantamweight due to Cyborg’s inability to cut that low. This means Nunes will be moving up to 145 pounds, or they will meet at a catchweight with no belts on the line. I personally like the idea of the fight being a 140 lbs catchweight, non-title bout but nothing like that has been presented as far as we know so it’s probably most likely that the bout takes place at 145 lbs. Nunes will have a chance to become the first woman to hold a championship in two different weight classes which would only add to her already impressive legacy.
Fight to make next: Amanda Nunes vs. Cris Cyborg for UFC Women’s featherweight championship
Raquel Pennington probably shouldn’t have been matched up with Amanda Nunes when you look back at the situation. She was coming off a long layoff and on top of that she has really been only a slightly above average fighter up to this point. I don’t mean any disrespect by saying that, I just mean that I think she could have benefited from a few more fights before she faced Nunes, especially considering the layoff.
She was never able to get anything going, and while she was game, and is as tough as they come, she took a lot of punishment and doesn’t have much to show for it. Controversy arose when she clearly told her corner in between the fourth and fifth rounds that she wanted out of the fight, but they sent her back in anyway. She has since come out and said that she doesn’t have a problem with her corners’ decision. That was a big moment for her, and her corner knows her better than anybody watching on TV, so I would like to think they were doing what they thought was best.
I’d like to see her return against Germaine de Randamie when de Randamie herself is able to return to action. She has been out for quite some time and hasn’t competed since defeating Holly Holm for the inaugural women’s featherweight championship, a title that she has since vacated for controversial reasons. This would be an interesting fight when the two are able to return to action.
Fight to make next: Raquel Pennington vs. Germaine de Randamie
Kelvin Gastelum def. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza
Kelvin Gastelum continues to defy the odds, at least in my mind. He is a small middleweight, and really doesn’t look like a great athlete but he continues to defeat larger, and seemingly sharper opponents. Gastelum’s cardio allows him to fight at the same level in the later rounds that he does in the earlier ones. He weathered the early grappling storm from Jacare and used his boxing to win the second and third rounds.
He is an interesting contender in the division and I personally get the vibe that he is beating these guys just as they start to decline, but I guess it’s about time I become a true believer. He has said that he wants to wait for the chance to fight the winner of the upcoming title fight, but he is just one fight removed from a loss to Chris Weidman, and the more that Gastelum wins, the better that win looks for Weidman.
I think he will have to fight at least one more time before he can expect a title shot and I think his next opponent can be found on this card. Lyoto Machida has scratched his way back into relevance after suffering a brutal KO loss to Derek Brunson in his first back from a PED suspension. He has won two straight, and his win over Vitor Belfort was made more impressive by the way that he earned it. Machida isn’t close to a title shot but Gastelum could get him there, and for Gastelum is could serve as the final piece of the puzzle needed to earn him a title shit.
Fight to make next: Kelvin Gastelum vs. Lyoto Machida
Jacare Souza looks like he will miss out on earning a shot at the middleweight championship and that’s a real shame. He has certainly deserved a shot at certain times in the past but was always passed over or was a victim of a stagnant division. Anything is possible of course, but this was his second loss in three fights and considering his age it will be tough to break through the barrier that has held him back up to this point. This was a tough loss, because he dominated the first round, but seemed to lack the cardio to keep up with that game plan and he was forced to stay on the feet with Gastelum where the fight was far more even.
Despite what he has going against him he does remain a top ranked fighter in the division and for that reason he will probably get a nice spot on a nice card sometime soon. Thiago Santos is a guy that has struggled to get over the hump and into the top 5. He is coming off a loss to David Branch, but he still seems like a good match up for Souza here.
Fight to make next: Jacare Souza vs. Thiago Santos
Mackenzie Dern def. Amanda Cooper
Mackenzie Dern has not made herself a fan favorite so far through her career, and her actions at the weigh-ins didn’t help things. She came in heavy, something she has done multiple times in her career, and received a brutal tongue lashing from her opponent. However, it’s hard to say that any of that matters now considering the outcome of the fight.
Dern dropped Cooper in the first round with a right hand and quickly took the back and sank in a fight ending rear-naked choke. It was a far more impressive performance that the one she gave in her debut UFC performance. I would say that her stock is trending up despite the bumps in the road. She is still young in her career and I doubt she gets a top contender for several reasons, one of them being that the UFC doesn’t make a habit of rewarding people for missing weight. Aleksandra Albu is also young in her career, and I think she makes sense for Dern at this point.
Fight to make next: Mackenzie Dern vs. Aleksandra Albu
Amanda Cooper has had a roller coaster of a UFC career, but this loss must be one of the lowest moments. She spoke highly of her own stand up, suggested she would have no problems on the feet with Dern, and then proceeded to take a hard shot on the feet that led to the finish. It was a tough moment, but it seems like the type of moment that a young fighter can learn from. Alex Chambers has had a rocky UFC run as well, but if she is brought back for another fight I’d say that she makes sense for Cooper.
Fight to make next: Amanda Cooper vs. Alex Chambers
John Lineker def. Brian Kelleher
John Lineker reminds me of a garden gnome that hits really, really hard. He suffered a decisive loss to TJ Dillashaw, so he is probably on the back burner in the title contender line. But if he continues winning in this sort of fashion, he eventually going to force the UFC to give him a rematch. He beat Kelleher from start to finish in a fun fight that really displayed his impressive power. Aljamain Sterling is another guy that is always hovering near the top of the division. A win over Sterling would be a huge step towards a title shot for Lineker.
Fight to make next: John Lineker vs. Aljamain Sterling
Brian Kelleher has made a name for himself with a few wins over some big-name opponents, but he was sent crashing back down to earth with his KO loss to John Lineker. He managed to stay in the fight until the 3rd round but when it ended, it ended violently, and he is now left with the task of picking up the pieces. Brett Johns suffered the first setback of his career in a fairly non-competitive fight against Aljamain Sterling but has otherwise looked fantastic in his UFC career. This is a cross roads fight for both guys but a win gears either man up for another crack at the low end of the top 10.
Fight to make next: Brian Kelleher vs. Brett Johns
Lyoto Machida def. Vitor Belfort
Lyoto Machida is the karate kid and has been for a while but he proved it again Saturday night with his front kick KO over Vitor Belfort. He is nearing 40, but still represents a challenge for most fighters in the division and his two-fight winning streak has him in line for a noteworthy fight.
Kelvin Gastelum has made a career out of beating up “legends” of the sport and I think he should get another crack at one in Lyoto Machida.
A win for Machida would be huge and either way this will be an interesting fight. Gastelum often relies on his opponent’s cardio issues, and fight IQ mistakes and Machida is not known for either of those issues.
Fight to make next: Lyoto Machida vs. Kelvin Gastelum
Vitor Belfort competed for the final time Saturday and unfortunately things did not end on a good note for the MMA legend. He suffered a violent KO loss and is probably making the right decision by calling it a career. He will get into the UFC hall of fame someday and he belongs there, so it will be a good thing when he does.
Cezar Mutante def. Karl Roberson
Cezar Mutante vs. Gerald Meerschaert
Karl Roberson vs. Tim Williams
Oleksiy Oliynyk def. Junior Albini
Oleksiy Oliynyk vs. Justin Willis
Junior Albini vs. Arjan Bhullar
Davi Ramos def. Nick Hein
Davis Ramos vs. Scott Holtzman
Nick Hein vs. Jon Tuck
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos def. Sean Strickland
Elizeu Zaleski vs. Siyar Bahadurzada
Sean Strickland vs. Carlos Condit
Warlley Alves def. Sultan Aliev
Warlley Alves vs. Sergio Moraes
Sultan Aliev vs. Jessin Ayari
Jack Hermanson def. Thales Leites
Jack Hermansson vs. CB Dolloway
Thales Leites vs. Hector Lombard
Ramazan Emeev def. Alberto Mina
Ramazan Emeev vs. Danny Roberts
Alberto Mina vs. Luan Chagas
Markus Perez def. James Bochnovic
Markus Perez vs. Abdul Razak Alhassan
James Bochnovic vs. Geoff Neal
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