Fights to Make Next after UFC Wichita

By Cole Henry, MMATorch Contributor

UFC Wichita,

Junior Dos Santos def. Derrick Lewis (TKO/Punches)

Junior Dos Santos, the former heavyweight champion, just might be in the best place that he has been since losing the belt. He now sits near the top of the division with three straight wins and if this was a merit-based sport it’s possible that he could be the number one contender. He has voiced his frustration with the rumors of a potential Daniel Cormier/Brock Lesnar bout, but it’s an issue that is almost assuredly out of his hands. Francis Ngannou is another guy who has experienced a bit of a career resurgence. He went from being a seemingly unstoppable force to a shell and then back to a seemingly unstoppable force. But both guys do have relatively recent losses in championship fights, and with the Lesnar fight still an apparent possibility, each will probably need a win over the other to really make the push into another title shot until the Lesnar stuff passes.

Fight to make next: Junior Dos Santos vs. Francis Ngannou

It feels like we have seen the best of Derrick Lewis… He’s been an incredibly fun fighter to watch and seeing him drive around in limbo after once stating that his only goal in fighting was to pay off his house lets you know that he has managed to make a decent bit of money during his run. But the bottom line is that he doesn’t have the skills to defeat top tiered fighters and he has proven that time and again. Rumors have surfaced that he was dealing with a severe knee injury which could explain his poor performance, but it doesn’t necessarily excuse it. Seeing a man of his size using the strategy that he did against a much slicker, and quicker boxer seemed like a recipe for disaster from the start and that’s exactly what it ended up turning into. Lewis was dealt with and he is now looking at back to back losses for the first time in his career. He stated that his cardio was his main focus in this fight, but we really didn’t get much of a chance to see his improvements. But a fight with Blagoy Ivanov could make some sense here, and it could give Lewis a chance to prove he has improved his cardio. Ivanov earned his first UFC win on this same card, with a controversial decision win over Ben Rothwell. He is durable, and he moves a lot for a heavyweight. Lewis needs to defend his ranking, and Ivanov deserves a chance to prove the Rothwell win wasn’t the fluke that some people are claiming.

Fight to make next: Derrick Lewis vs. Blagoy Ivanov

Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos def. Curtis Millender (Submission/Rear Naked Choke)

Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos has won seven straight fights in a notoriously tough division and its perhaps about time that he gets a bit of respect. Curtis Millender looked very good through his first three UFC fights and was starting to talk as if he expected himself to become a contender soon… He mentioned how he felt himself to be a tough matchup for Stephan Thompson and Darren Till, he also mentioned that he felt very confident in his takedown defense, and overall, he seemed to carry a cloud of disregard for Zaleski dos Santos. That turned out to be a critical mistake. Dos Santos took Millender down with little effort and submitted him early in the very first round and with that made it seven straight victories. It’s always tough to book a guy like this because he has had a ton of success, but it’s mostly been against middle of the road competition. But he has to get a shot to prove that he belongs. Many people are calling for Ben Askren vs. Robbie Lawler II, but I am not sure if a referee’s poor call is always going to be enough to justify a rematch. So perhaps it’s time to consider the fact that he has lost three of his last four fights. Lawler is ranked much higher than dos Santos, but that doesn’t mean he’s better. A win for Lawler proves he is still a top welterweight in the world while a win for Dos Santos would introduce a serious new contender to the top of the rankings.

Fight to make next: Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Robbie Lawler

Curtis Millender talked a big game coming into this fight and he was doing that off the strength of three quality wins to start his UFC career. But he ran into a more advanced animal, one that was able to exploit his biggest weakness, and now Curtis Millender is left looking to pick up the pieces after his first UFC loss. There is no sense in letting a guy off the hook just because a weakness was exploited, he should be able to adjust and move forward. So, for that reason, Millender should face Belal Muhammad in his next fight. Muhammad isn’t ranked, but he is a tough and durable opponent with well-rounded skills. Curtis Millender needs to get past the middle of the pack before he starts calling out the big guns.

Fight to make next: Curtis Millender vs. Belal Muhammad

Niko Price def. Tim Means (KO/Punch)

Nico Price remains an enigma in the welterweight division. He has a kill or be killed sort of attitude which had led to several impressive stoppage wins sprinkled with the occasional stoppage loss. He looked to be in a rough spot early on against Tim Means and even appeared to be hurt by several punches just before he landed his fighting ending KO punch. The punch he landed was serious, knocking Means backwards to the mat and leaving little question about who the winner was. Niko Price will move forward now and at some point, he will probably be matched up with a ranked opponent. But before he gets that he should get past James Krause. Krause has been on fire since moving up to the welterweight division, he is a solid veteran, and he is difficult to finish. If Price can get past him then he should start looking at breaking into the top 10.

Fight to make next: Niko Price vs. James Krause

Tim Means is a solid member of the UFC roster. You know he will bring it in every fight, he always looks for a finish and he often finds one. He was well on his way to putting on a classic Tim Means performance against Niko Price when he was caught be a soul stopping punch that dropped him and caused him to break his leg. It isn’t often that a punch to the face leads to a broken leg, but it happened here… Tim Means will now obviously be on the shelf for some time. He posted about his injury following the fight and confirmed that he suffered a break. So, who knows how things will look when he is cleared to compete again, but we’ll go ahead and book him anyway. Ben Saunders is a guy that is similar to Means in the sense that he always brings it, and looks for a finish, though he is more of a grappler to Means who is more of a striker. This is a classic striker vs. grappler fight in some sense and it should be exciting as well.

Fight to make next: Tim Means vs. Ben Saunders

Blagoy Ivanov def. Ben Rothwell (Decision)

Blagoy Ivanov should have been considered one of the bigger heavyweight free agent signings in recent memory but up to this point, he has largely remained under the radar. The former WSOF champion and Bellator top contender is 1-1 through 2 UFC fights, though his victory over Ben Rothwell has been called into question. Regardless though the judges saw it how they did, and all both fighters can do now is move forward. Ivanov is short for the division, but he has an effective game plan in most of his fights. Considering he has faced Junior Dos Santos and Ben Rothwell in his first two UFC appearances, I doubt we see him get much of a break in his next matchup. The rankings positions for Ivanov and Derrick Lewis might mean this fight doesn’t make sense to some, but the heavyweight rankings are a mess and should even be looked at.

Fight to make next: Blagoy Ivanov vs. Derrick Lewis

Its been a rough few years for Ben Rothwell… He was enjoying the best run of his UFC career when he suffered a loss to JDS over two years ago. Then USADA hit, and now on top of all that he has to deal with a questionable decision loss in his first fight back. But Rothwell has seen adversity before, and he will be back. The question is will he be better? Tai Tuivasa had his hype train halted by Junior Dos Santos, who seems to have taken out every fighter I’ve written about today, but he should be looking to get back to action soon and Rothwell makes for a good opponent when he is ready.

Fight to make next: Ben Rothwell vs. Tai Tuivasa

Beneil Dariush def. Drew Dober (Submission/Triangle Armbar)

Beneil Dariush has done his best to right the ship after a rough patch that left many questioning his place in the division. But with his latest win over Drew Dober, he has now won two straight and he can now probably afford to breathe. Dariush was ranked as high as number 6 in the world just a few years ago and he certainly still has that talent, as well as the backing of a great gym at Kings MMA. Nik Lentz has had his ups and downs as well, but he has looked very good as of late. Both of these men are grapplers but they also possess the ability to end fights on the feet if put in the right situation. The winner moves one stepper closer back to relevance while the loser will have to rethink and regroup yet again.

Fight to make next: Beneil Dariush vs. Nik Lentz

Drew Dober had his first chance at a well known this past weekend, and while he looked great early on, he ultimately succumbed to a submission in the second round. He connected early and often with some powerful shots in the first round and seemed to put Dariush in trouble on several occasions. But when the fight hit the mat, he was outmaneuvered. Next up is Alan Patrick and with another win or two after that, he can perhaps expect another chance to move up the rankings.

Fight to make next: Drew Dober vs. Alan Patrick


Omari Akhmedov def. Tim Boetsch (Decision)

Omari Akhmedov has started to put together a decent run after a rough start to his UFC career. His victim this time was Tim Boetsch, a multiple time UFC veteran and a former ranked contender in the division. Despite this win though, Akhmedov needs to string together a few impressive victories before he can expect to make any real headway in what has been a tricky division as of late. Jordan Johnson is still listed on the UFC roster despite his expired contract so it’s likely only a matter of time before the undefeated prospect returns to the UFC. Akhmedov should be there waiting for him.

Fight to make next: Omari Akhmedov vs. Jordan Johnson

Tim Boetsch has been a long-time member of the UFC roster and he has put on numerous memorable fights over the years. But he has made it clear that he has a successful business outside of MMA and he doesn’t have to fight anymore. But considering he took this fight against Akhmedov I would say that shows he still has some desire to compete. So, while he could retire, I think he will stick around and if he does a fight with Darren Stewart could be fun. Both guys have a habit of throwing caution to the wind and when that happens the fans usually win.

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