Thiago Santos def. Jan Blachowicz (TKO/Punches)
Thiago Santos is experiencing quite the career turn around. The former middleweight has won 8 of his last 9 fights, including 3 straight since moving up to the light-heavyweight division. He has earned stoppage victories in each of his fights since moving up, and he now sits at number 4 in the rankings. Is this a case of Santos finally reaching his true potential, or is this a case of the light-heavyweight division simply having very little depth? Santos probably isn’t really concerned as long as he is able to keep producing wins. In this writer’s opinion, Santos is still at least one win away from a title shot.
Despite his streak, he is still lacking what I would call a signature win. The perfect opponent here would be Alexander Gustaffson, but he has shown very little motivation to compete on a regular basis as of late and considering this it seems unlikely that he would be willing to fight Santos anytime soon. So next up is Corey Anderson. Anderson may not be quite the “name” that Gus is, but he represents yet another quality top ten opponent, and eventually, those victories will add up and Santos will get his shot. Maybe he’s done enough already, and he’s stated he will be in attendance for the upcoming 235 title fight, but the division is murky as long as Jones is champion and Daniel Cormier is still active.
Fight to make next: Thiago Santos vs. Corey Anderson
Jan Blachowicz was enjoying the best streak of his career. He’d managed to get on track after a rough start to his UFC career and had fought his way all the way into the top five before suffering this latest setback. He is a guy that doesn’t possess any one elite skill and instead relies on a well-rounded game to get him through fights. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to get him through the Santos fight.
He benefits from fighting in a very thin division so this loss won’t hurt him as much as it could, but its obviously still a setback and he will need to rebuild a bit. He can start by settling the score with Jimi Manuwa. The two have competed on two previous occasions and split those bouts one apiece. Manuwa is floundering, but still remains a top 10 ranked fighter in the division. He might be fighting for his career, while Blachowicz will be fighting to remain relevant.
Fight to make next: Jan Blachowicz vs. Jimi Manuwa III
Stefan Struve def. Marcos Rogerio de Lima (Submission/Arm-Triangle Choke)
Stefan Struve picked up his 13th UFC victory on Saturday and then promptly walked off into the sunset, no doubt casting an absolutely massive shadow along the way. He weathered a rough first round to come back and score an easy second-round submission win. Post-fight, he stated his intentions to retire and mentioned that he’d been considering that option since first experiencing heart problems prior to a bout with Matt Mitrione some years ago. Its been a long ride for Struve, and he will walk away with notable career victories over former World Champions Stipe Miocic, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira as well as victories over former World title challengers Paul Buentello, and Antonio Bigfoot Silva.
He earned 13 wins in 22 career fights with the UFC, and 8 performance bonuses as well. He was always exciting, and worth watching if not only for his enormous size. But he had skills as well and he will no doubt be remembered as a very solid heavyweight in his era.
Fight to make next: Retired
Marcos Rogerio de Lima made good on his UFC heavyweight debut, but his streak ended there. After a strong first round against Struve, de Lima stumbled in the second and eventually submitted to an arm triangle choke. Still though despite this loss I do think that heavyweight is the right division for him. Tai Tuivasa is seemingly turning in a star, especially in his homeland. He suffered a set back to Junior Dos Santos but remains a very interesting prospect/contender in a division that doesn’t have many. Both of these guys are big boys, with heavy hands. What more of an explanation does anybody need?
Fight to make next: Marcos Rogerio de Lima vs. Tai Tuivasa
Michal Oleksiejczuk def. Gian Villante (TKO/Punch to the body)
Michal Oleksiejczuk debuted in the UFC with an impressive victory over Khalil Rountree, but it was shrouded by the fact that he failed a USADA test post fight. In his follow up appearance, he impressed again, though this time it was with a first-round blink of an eye finish over Gian Villante. For such a small country, Poland sure does produce a lot of quality MMA fighters. Going forward, assuming he gets past all his post-fight PED tests, he could be in a good position to make a lot of noise very quickly.
Just this time last year, Anthony Smith was a couple of weeks removed from a TKO loss to Thiago Santos at middleweight, and now a year later he is about to face Jon Jones for the Light-heavyweight Championship. My point is that you can do a lot of damage very quickly in the division. If he can get past Aleksandar Rakic, he could be looking at a top ten opponent in his next bout.
Fight to make next: Michal Oleksiejczuk vs. Aleksandar Rakic
Gian Villante is tough but as we’ve learned sometimes being tough just isn’t enough. Villante, often known for his habit of brawling until somebody falls, just never really got the chance to get going against Oleksiejczuk. He took a good shot to the solar plex early in the first round and crumbled after a bit of a delayed reaction. He’s had an up and down career in the UFC but he’s entertaining and because of that, he is likely safe from the chopping block. Marcin Prachnio has had a rough run in the UFC so far and will likely need to earn a win in his next fight if he wants to stick around. These are the types of fights Villante should expect until he’s able to string together a few wins.
Fight to make next: Gian Villante vs. Marcin Prachnio
Liz Carmouche def. Lucie Pudilova (Unanimous Decision)
Liz Carmouche is likely closer to a title shot now that she has been since facing Ronda Rousey in the first women’s fight in UFC history. She has won two straight fights and benefits from being in a thin division so she could be as close as one win away. You know what you get with Carmouche, it’s simple but effective, and if you can’t stop her grind then you probably won’t win the fight. Joanne Calderwood is in a similar position, with several wins in a row in the same weak division. Mostly known for her Muay Thai, Calderwood looked very good in her last fight and actually win with a nice armbar. She’s improving, and Carmouche seems to be as solid if not better than ever. The winner could be next in line for a shot at the title.
Fight to make next: Liz Carmouche vs. Joanne Calderwood
Lucie Pudilova was matched up with a tough opponent in her home country, a daunting task, and one that proved to be a bit much for the young fighter. She went with a quantity over quality approach to the fight, and while her output was high, the fact that few of the shots landed and many of them were big misses likely didn’t look good in the eye of the judges. She still seems to be a bit of a work in progress, but she has shown skills. A fight with Ji Yeon Kim should give her a chance to regroup and potentially get back on track.
Fight to make next: Lucie Pudilova vs. Ji Yeon Kim
Petr Yan def. John Dodson (Unanimous Decision)
Petr Yan has gone from interesting prospect to potential title challenger in a very quick manner. So far, he has shown that he possesses some very technical and effective boxing and he used it to render John Dodson essentially defenseless. He hit him hard and he hit him often and seemed to have no problems with Dodson’s daunting speed. A fight with TJ Dillashaw sounds exciting, but he needs another victory or two, especially considering the fact that the division isn’t short on contenders. Aljamain Sterling is coming off a big win, but he’s in the same position and probably needs at least one more win before he gets his shot. He might not like the idea of facing a lower ranked opponent but most of the other top ranked fighters are already booked.
Fight to make next: Petr Yan vs. Aljamain Sterling
Should John Dodson move back to flyweight? Sure, the division is in a bit of a grey area right now but perhaps with Demetrious Johnson gone, flyweight is something he would consider again. If he stays at bantamweight it is hard to say where he goes from here. He hasn’t been very successful in the division, and aside from the occasional win, he has dealt with several decision losses over the last few years. Rani Yahya is a step down for Dodson, but he isn’t performing well against ranked opponents so maybe scaling it back a bit could help and give him a chance to rethink things without his back against the wall.
Fight to make next: John Dodson vs. Rani Yahya
Magomed Ankalaev def. Klidson Abreu (Unanimous Decision)
Magomed Ankalaev has now won two straight fights following his unfortunate, last-second UFC debut loss. He fought Klidson Abreu on short notice and picked up a victory despite his opponent missing weight. Up next a fight with Darko Stosic could make some sense. Like I mentioned above, you’re never far away from relevance in this division so with a couple more wins perhaps we could be talking about him in a bigger spot.
Fight to make next: Magomed Ankalaev vs. Darko Stosic
Klidson Abreu took a fight on short notice, and that might be enough to make up for the fact that he missed weight. Despite missing weight, he has stated that his future will be at light-heavyweight. Hopefully, he will get a full camp for his next fight and we get a better idea of what he is capable of.
Fight to make next: Klidson Abreu vs. Vinicius Moreira