Donald Cerrone def. Al Iaquinta (Unanimous Decision)
Donald Cerrone is 36 years old and he just might be coming off the best performance of his career to date… If you’ve followed Cerrone’s career up to this point you might understand why that is such an incredible feat. As I mentioned above, he is on the wrong side of 35, he has competed in nearly 50 MMA bouts (over 70 if you count his Muay Thai record), and he isn’t exactly known for avoiding engagement. Yet here he is, seemingly better than ever. On Saturday we saw Cerrone weather an early storm against Iaquinta, arguably down two rounds going into the third, he found his rhythm in the third and proceeded to seemingly land at will for the remainder of the fight. He hurt Iaquinta with several big shots, and while he didn’t earn a finish, he has likely earned a top 5 ranking and he could be as close as one fight away from a title shot. But that’s where things get a bit tricky.
What’s next for Cowboy? Will he get the McGregor fight that he seemingly desires, or will he be matched up with the human buzzsaw, Justin Gaethje? Perhaps even a fight with longtime division stalwart, Tony Ferguson, could be in the cards. I could try parsing through all of this but instead, I’ll refer you to the latest episode of MMATorch Today where the lightweight division is discussed in great detail. For me, the matchups to make are McGregor-Cerrone, and Gaethje-Ferguson, but if McGregor continues his hiatus then Cerrone should get the Gaethje fight and we’ll figure something out for Ferguson.
Fight to make next: Donald Cerrone vs. Conor McGregor (If he can be bothered) or Justin Gaethje
A lot of people think very highly of Al Iaquinta and this loss to Donald Cerrone won’t change that. But it will certainly hurt his bid for a rematch with the lightweight king, Khabib. Iaquinta looked fantastic at points against Cerrone, but ultimately, he fell into his opponent’s rhythm and from there he was dealt with. With this loss, he is now on the outside looking in when it comes to top contenders in the division, but that can change with a quality win or two.
Edson Barboza is a guy that has taken a hit as of late, but he remains a challenge in the division, and his name still carries value. I think of this fight as a sort of recharge in the sense that the winner will gain some steam in a division that requires quite a bit to earn a title shot, while the loser will risk falling even further away.
Fight to make next: Al Iaquinta vs. Edson Barboza
Derek Brunson def. Elias Theodorou (Unanimous Decision)
Well… what can I say here? Derek Brunson is probably past the point of being a true contender at middleweight. He “won” this fight due to his opponent’s unwillingness to engage in any sort of reasonable manner, but he hasn’t looked great since his 2017 win over Lyoto Machida, and considering his age its reasonable to wonder what he actually has left in the tank. He will need to string several wins together before he has any real chance of getting another foothold in the division, and for that reason, his next opponent should be Krzysztof Jotko.
Jotko is in a similar position, he’s a guy that made a great initial impression in the UFC but a three-fight losing streak left him near the chopping block. He’s since rectified himself a bit with a recent win over Alen Amedovski, but the fact remains that both of these athletes are trying to get back to the loftier spots in the division that they once occupied.
Fight to make next: Derek Brunson vs. Krzysztof Jotko
I sincerely don’t know where to begin here. Is Elias Theodorou good? I really think that’s a much harder question to answer than it may seem on the surface. He usually gets his desired result, but is that enough? Believe it or not, Theodorou holds an 8-3 record in the UFC, but he has really never had an impressive performance, at least not against quality competition. He hasn’t earned a stoppage since 2015, and since then most of his performances have consisted of a style based on evasiveness and seemingly as little physical contact as possible.
He relies on his cardio for this, but never endangers his opponents, and truly opens himself up to ridicule when his style fails him. Theodorou hardly looked like a top 15 middleweight on Saturday, yet he is ranked as such. He really needs to put on a good showing in his next fight or he could risk losing his roster spots sooner than later. As for his next opponent, I like David Branch. Branch is no longer ranked after his loss to Jack Hermansson, but he remains a well-rounded fighter, and he should have the skills required that will force Theodorou to perform well or risk defeat.
Fight to make next: Elias Theodorou vs. David Branch
Shane Burgos def. Cub Swanson (Split Decision)
Shane Burgos now has a signature win and a number next to his name. I would argue that he still needs to have a signature performance but that will come with time if he continues to develop. He was effective against Cub Swanson, he avoided the ground and landed enough on the feet to sway all but one judge in his favor. One of my main takeaways from the fight was that Burgos seemed to be high on caffeine in his post-fight interview which is somewhat funny considering he’d just been through a three-round fight. Ricardo Lamas is ranked a few spots ahead of Burgos but holds value due to his status as a former title challenger. He’s 1-2 in his last three but he is a good wrestler with good boxing and we haven’t seen Burgos against a fighter like that as of yet.
Fight to make next: Shane Burgos vs. Ricardo Lamas
Cub Swanson is in the midst of the worst losing streak of his career. Some folks are already writing him off but I’m not quite ready to do that yet. He is losing to only the best for the most part, and he usually performs well even in defeat. It’s a shame we never saw him challenge for the Featherweight Championship, but if you ask him it’s still in the cards. If he actually intends on reaching that goal, he will have to win an uphill battle. He can start with Darren Elkins. Elkins is violent, as is Swanson, and this fight should be as entertaining as it is important for Cub Swanson.
Fight to make next: Cub Swanson vs. Darren Elkins
Merab Dvalishvili def. Brad Katona (Unanimous Decision)
I’m officially ready to proclaim Merab Dvalishvili as a sleeper in the bantamweight division. He started his UFC career with a few bumps but he’s since righted the ship and he’s arguably picked up his biggest win yet on Saturday. Brad Katona, a former Ultimate Fighter winner, was highly touted coming into this fight, but he ran into a wall against Dvalishvili. Despite his recent success though, the Georgian native is still probably a good way away from becoming a contender. Up next I would like to see him matched up with Montel Jackson. Jackson has looked very good in his last few fights and he’s also on his way in the right direction.
Fight to make next: Merab Dvalishvili vs. Montel Jackson
Brad Katona remains a good prospect, in my opinion, but he clearly needs work. He ran into a better specialist, a guy that was just simply a better wrestler, and Katona couldn’t contend with it. He trains at SBG Ireland so you have to wonder how much his wrestling will improve if he stays there, but assuming it does he still could make for a solid fighter in this division.
Fight to make next: Brad Katona vs. Benito Lopez
Walt Harris def. Sergey Spivak (KO/Round 1)
Has Walt Harris finally reached his potential? Harris bullied Spivak on Saturday… it reminded me of a schoolyard brawl between a high school senior and a 6th grader (I am not taking size into account) Harris rushed right into Spivak’s range and knocked him out with a flurry of punches. In his post-fight interview, he called out Justin Willis, which is a logical fight for him if he can get it. Willis is ranked and it’s a winnable fight for Harris, so the callout makes sense.
Fight to make next: Walt Harris vs. Justin Willis
It’s hard to say if Sergey Spivak will get another shot in the UFC. He looked bad, very bad. The joke has been made that he is likely the next opponent for Greg Hardy, which would be hilarious but hopefully Hardy is matched up with a higher-level opponent in his next bout. Spivak will need to figure a lot of things out if he wants to avoid a similar situation in his next fight. As for his next opponent, maybe Michel Batista? Batista is an Ultimate Fighter vet and an accomplished wrestler, but his UFC career has not been much more successful than Spivak’s.
Fight to make next: Sergey Spivak vs. Michel Batista
Andrew Sanchez def. Marc Andre Barriault (Unanimous Decision)
Andrew Sanchez is a grinder, and that’s what he will need to continue doing if he wants to ever make any headway in the UFC. He is an Ultimate Fighter winner, but he hasn’t done much since winning the show, nor has he been very active. He did look good against Barriault though and showed himself capable of taking quite a shot on the chin in the process. Up next I would like to see him matched up with Gerald Meerschaert. He doesn’t have the most exciting style, so he will probably need to have man good performances in a row before he gets a notable match up.
Fight to make next: Andrew Sanchez vs. Marc Andre Barriault
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Marc Andre Barriault proved himself to be a very powerful puncher, but he wasn’t able to weather the storm presented by Andrew Sanchez. It’s hard to say what’s next for a guy like this but a guy like Charles Byrd makes some sense. Byrd is the team captain of Fortis MMA and a longtime veteran of the sport. Both of these guys will probably be competing for a roster spot but sometimes fights like that can be exciting.
Fight to make next: Marc Andre Barriault vs. Charles Byrd