The UFC calendar is not for the faint-hearted.
The summer schedule always appears to be more ramped-up. Over the next month or so, we’ll see the UFC finish a grueling 9 week schedule where there’s been a fight card every week.
A lot of what we consume on a weekly basis is watered down, thinned out cards with names that most of us haven’t heard of. A card like UFC 239 brings back a level of security in that regard.
We had a number of top-level fighters compete at UFC 239, so let’s look at 5 fights to make after the event.
Jon Jones vs. Thiago Santos 2
If you’re no stranger to my articles this week, you’ll know why I believed Thiago Santos was unlucky to not get the decision win at the weekend. Santos was visibly hurt throughout the fight. Despite this he rallied through to be the much more dangerous, explosive and aggressive than Jones. It was a very close fight by all means, but this one needs to be ran back.
I spoke in that article about how good Jon Jones is in rematches, and at 35, I feel like Santos may have had his best opportunity wasted. However the fight plays out, he fought through an injury and did more than enough to earn an opportunity at a rematch. Reports suggest Santos could be out for the rest of the year due to his knee recovery. Look for this on the New Years Eve special, or a big card in January perhaps.
Amanda Nunes vs. Aspen Ladd/Germaine de Randamie winner
Who can’t Amanda Nunes beat? There comes a time for some of the elite of the elite to go back to the drawing board. Does Nunes want to keep destroying Bantamweight contenders, or do something big. Unfortunately for Nunes, the opportunity to do something big already happened. Nunes became champion of the women’s 145 pound division at the expense of Cris Cyborg last year.
The path ahead will likely involve a title defense or two, and then maybe hang up the gloves. There’s very few fighters out there on Nunes’ level. She has very little left to prove. The fight this weekend may provide her the next contender she needs. Aspen Ladd is an undefeated prospect, while De Randamie is a former champ (albeit a highly underwhelming one). It seems like the best fit.
Jorge Masvidal vs. Kamaru Usman
It’s unfortunate we may have to wait until next year to see Jorge Masvidal fight again. But if he’s offered the opportunity to fight for a title, I’m sure he won’t mind waiting. The welterweight title picture is as up in the air as a Tyron Woodley title defence now, but all signs pointed towards Colby Covington with the next shot. Usman and Convington have serious beef, and Covington had been deprived of title aspirations for too long.
Unfortunately for Covington, he felt like he waited too long, and took a fight with Robbie Lawler at UFC Newark in August. If he wins impressively there, he could be next in line. But chances are it will go to the judges scorecards. Masvidal will have the more impressive resume in that case. Usman hopes to be back before 2019 is over. A highlight reel, fastest knockout in UFC History, should be worth a title shot here.
Jan Blachowicz vs. Dominick Reyes
I raved about the new and improved Jan Blachowicz on the podcast this week. His knockout of Luke Rockhold was ultra impressive – and furthers his case as a rejuvenated version of himself. The 205 pound division is now becoming more and more interesting with wins like this. Just last year I wondered what the future held for the division due to a lack of contenders. The same can’t be said right now.
Anthony ‘Lionheart’ Smith has put himself back in the win column after falling to hands of Jon Jones. Blachowicz is on a tear, and he needs opposition on a similar trajectory. Dominick Reyes took a closely fought decision over Volkan Oezdemir recently, and he seems like the best fit for Blachowicz. Two fighters on win streaks, angling towards the top of the division. This would make a decent European card headliner.
Michael Chiesa vs. Demian Maia
This is a fans fans fight. Two of the most highly skilled grapplers in the UFC right now – Maia and Chiesa may be on different paths. But crossing those paths at this moment in time makes a lot of sense. Chiesa solidified his position in the welterweight division with a win over vet Diego Sanchez this past weekend, and it was a grappling masterclass. There’s no doubt his resume at 155 deserves an advanced run towards a top contender.
Maia did what he does best against Anthony ‘Rocco’ Martin two weeks ago. He’s very much here to stay, for now. But how can he be tested? Pitting him against outside contenders will more or less only end in one way. Chiesa can offer a modern grappling skillset to make fans drool over the exchanges. Or, it could be another showcase for Maia’s grappling. It’s an intriguing matchup by all means.