With UFC 226 completely behind us, it is time to look at what could be next for the fighter on the card.
Daniel Cormier def. Stipe Miocic for UFC Heavyweight Championship
UFC 226 was a big night for Daniel Cormier. In a way he finally emerged from the shadow of Jon Jones. Nobody can question his heavyweight championship like they did his light heavyweight championship, and he in some ways has added more credence to his claims as being the best fighter ever.
Of course, he will never escape the losses that he suffered to Jones, but he has done a remarkable job of forging his own path despite the losses that hang over him. He is no longer just walking in footsteps already placed by Jones, and he is now creating his own path. Jones was always supposed to move up and win the heavyweight title, but Cormier achieved that dream and from here he will move towards a new goal.
Cormier made it clear before the fight, that with a win over Miocic, he would be interested in facing former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar. Lesnar of course is not officially on the UFC roster but that little problem can easily be fixed. When considering the post-fight antics between Lesnar and Cormier I think it is fairly obvious what direction the UFC wants things to go. If Brock Lesnar returns to the UFC it will be to face Daniel Cormier and I think that will indeed by Cormier’s first title defense.
Fight to make next: Brock Lesnar vs. Daniel Cormier for UFC heavyweight championship
Stipe Miocic took a hard loss to a highly skilled fighter, and while he shouldn’t feel too much shame, but I am sure he is devastated right now. He didn’t look great at any point in the fight and though he did have some good moments it was overall a poor performance by the former champion.
Miocic was clearly frustrated after the loss, but he is still young for the division, and as a former champion he will never be far from another shot at the belt.
His game plan was working early in the fight and he managed to take Cormier down and land some good punches. However, Cormier exploited a hole in his defense and now Miocic will have to figure things out all over again. He is the most decorated champion in the divisions history, but it will be interesting to see what his legacy is as champion.
Miocic had some good moments but ultimately lost the belt in fairly devastating fashion. He is a hardcore competitor and will likely want to get back to the belt as quickly as possible. A win over Curtis Blaydes could set him up for a shot sooner rather than later.
Fight to make next: Stipe Miocic vs. Curtis Blaydes
Derrick Lewis def. Francis Ngannou
Derrick Lewis picked up the biggest win of his career Saturday night but did so in very underwhelming fashion. Lewis did just enough in a fight that saw very little action between two guys who are prone to violence.
Lewis let his frustration with his performance show when he declined a post-fight interview with Joe Rogan.
Despite the lackluster performance Lewis has now won 8 of his last 10 fights and shouldn’t be that far from a title shot in what is usually a thin division.
Alexander Volkov put his name on the map with his KO victory over Fabrico Werdum a few months back, and he will likely want a fight on the upcoming Russia card. Derrick Lewis vs. Alexander Volkov would serve as a great co-main event and the winner could be in consideration for a title shot but with Lesnar back in the picture things are a bit murky.
Fight to make next: Derrick Lewis vs. Alexander Volkov
Francis Ngannou went from the top of the mountain to the bottom of the river very quickly. Unfortunately for him he continued to sink with his performance this past Saturday.
The former title challenger seemed afraid to engage with Derrick Lewis and landed almost zero meaningful strikes during the fight. Perhaps he feared the takedown, or perhaps he didn’t trust his own cardio but whatever the problem was its clear that it needs to be addressed.
Ngannou was on the brink of becoming a huge star and now he is going to have an uphill battle just proving that his previous victories weren’t just based on his mystic.
Has Ngannou been exposed? Absolutely! But can he address those issues and regain a solid footing in the division? Only time will tell.
In the meantime, he needs to take a step back and face an opponent a little further down the card. Adam Wieczorek had an impressive Omoplatta victory in his last fight over a highly touted wrestler and would probably love the chance to follow it up with a fight over one of the division’s top ranked fighters.
Fight to make next: Francis Ngannou vs. Adam Wieczorek
Mike Perry def. Paul Felder
Mike Perry came dangerously close to watching the fights from the seats when his originally scheduled opponent Yancy Medeiros was removed from the card with an injury. Paul Felder stepped up on short notice and came up a weight class to assure that Perry had a dance partner.
The fight went as you would expect considering the two fighters involved. It was a bloody slugfest that saw both guys land hard shots. Ultimately, Mike Perry escaped the fight with a split decision, (the first decision win of his career) and avoided a three-fight losing streak.
It was a bit strange seeing Perry in a feature main card fight when Max Griffin was fighting on the undercard. Griffin soundly defeated Perry a few months back, but Perry got the spot none the less.
Belal Muhammad is riding a 4-fight win streak and has proven himself to be a solid addition to the UFC roster. Mike Perry talks a big game, but he will need to streak a few wins together before he gets a shot at a top ten opponent.
Fight to make next: Mike Perry vs. Belal Muhammad
Paul Felder took on a challenge and took quite a beating for his efforts, but it was a fun and competitive fight. Felder usually competes as a lightweight so moving up a division on short notice was no small feat, but going forward he will likely return to his regular division.
Before moving up to face Perry, Felder was riding a three-fight win streak, all by stoppage. Joe Duffy came into the UFC with a good bit of hype because of his victory over Conor McGregor but he failed to capitalize and is now looking to right the ship after a KO loss to James Vick. Felder vs. Duffy just seems like a natural fit and it should be a good fight between two guys who are very talented strikers.
Fight to make next: Paul Felder vs. Joe Duffy
Anthony Pettis def. Michael Chiesa
Anthony Pettis is one of the strangest stories in the history of MMA. He is a guy that seemed primed to become the next big thing, he picked up a series of quality wins over solid veterans and seemed like a super hero at times with some of his lighting strikes and highlight reel kicks. But something changed, and Pettis went from being that next big thing to a guy that seemed to have lost his identity. A loss to Michael Chiesa would have put Pettis in a position that no fighter wants to be in, but he avoided disaster when he submitted Chiesa and picked up his second win in his last three fights.
In his post-fight interview, we heard Pettis state that he will change his focus back to what got him to the top. He also mentioned a title shot but it seems bit premature.
Dan Hooker picked up a quality win on the UFC Fight Pass prelims and is now riding a nice win streak since returning to the lightweight division. Both of these guys are great strikers with totally different styles.
Fight to make next: Anthony Pettis vs. Dan Hooker
Khalil Rountree def. Gokhan Saki
Khalil Rountree suffered an underwhelming loss in his last fight but saw the decision over turned when his opponent ran afoul of USADA. He did a good job of pushing that boring loss into the distant past with his performance last Saturday night.
Rountree went into the fight against a kickboxing legend and managed to win. While the win is impressive it is the way that he earned the victory that turned heads. Rountree knocked the former world champion kickboxer out with a vicious shot and finished him off with a few on the ground.
Rountree should see his stock soar following the PPV win but he still shouldn’t be facing anybody in the top 15 until he strings together a few impressive performances.
While the KO was very impressive it must be mentioned that Gokhan Saki now holds a 1-2 record in MMA and his entire reputation is from his kickboxing career.
Jake Collier is not very active very he has had a few notable performances in the UFC. If he in injury free he makes for a good opponent for Rountree.
Fight to make next: Khalil Rountree Jr. vs. Jake Collier
Gokhan Saki is a very dangerous man but he has a way to go before he can call himself a true MMA fighter. Rountree managed to knock Saki out on the feet and while most of that was certainly due to Rountree’s skills, some of it must also be attributed to the fact that Saki must be prepared for the takedown.
Does he have confidence on the ground? I suspect that he doesn’t because of his performance Saturday night. If he can get his take down defense to a certain level, as well as his submission defense it’s possible that he could really let loose on the feet. I’m not saying that Rountree wouldn’t beat Saki even under those circumstances, but it was just a thought.
Saparbek Safarov is an experienced grappler but he has struggled in the UFC so far. It isn’t clear if he will receive another fight in the UFC but if he does I like him as an opponent for Saki.
Fight to make next: Gokhan Saki vs. Saparbek Safarov
Paula Costa def. Uriah Hall
Fights to make next:
Paula Costa vs. Cezar Ferreira
Uriah Hall vs. Tim Boetsch
Raphael Assuncao def. Rob Font
Fights to make next:
Raphael Assuncao vs. Dominick Cruz
Rob Font vs. Brian Kelleher
Drakkar Klose def. Lando Vannata
Fights to make next:
Drakkar Klose vs. Desmond Green
Lando Vannata vs. Abel Trujillo
Curtis Millender def. Max Griffin
Fights to make next:
Curtis Millender vs. Muslim Salikov
Max Griffin vs. Sultan Aliev
Dan Hooker def. Gilbert Burns
Fights to make next:
Dan Hooker vs. Anthony Pettis
Gilbert Burns vs. Francisco Trinaldo
Emily Whitmire def. Jamie Moyle
Fights to make next:
Emily Whitemire vs. Aleksandra Albu
Jamie Moyle vs. Amanda Cooper