Who should the UFC Vegas 23 winners on the main card fight next? Marvin Vettori got the job done, earning a unanimous decision victory Saturday that could put him in line for a title shot. Here are my thoughts on what the future may hold for the five fighters who won on the main card on Saturday.
UFC Vegas 23: Daniel Rodriguez vs Mike Perry
Credit to Mike Perry for showing off his incredible toughness, but Daniel Rodriguez earned a dominant decision win on Saturday. Rodriguez, who lost in November to Nicolas Dalby, is now 4-1 in the UFC and just outside the rankings. Rodriguez has an argument that he should get a ranked opponent next, particularly Robbie Lawler, who is ranked 15th and coming off a loss.
However, the pick that I’m going with for Rodriguez is Santiago Ponzinibbio. Ponzinibbio was riding a seven-fight winning streak from 2015 to 2018, making him look like a potential title contender. However, a series of injuries and bad luck set Ponzinibbio back as he was out of the cage for nearly two and a half years before getting knocked out by Li Jianliang in January. With both guys just outside the top 15, this fight between strikers should result in fireworks.
UFC Vegas 23: Mackenzie Dern vs Nina Nunes
Mackenzie Dern remains one of the hottest fighters in the women’s strawweight division as she earned a first-round win via armbar, pushing her winning streak to four. As Dern stated in her post-fight interview, a lot will change in the next few weeks to determine her next opponent. Top contender Rose Namajunas will fight champion Weili Zhang for the title on April 24th, while third and fourth-ranked fighters Yan Xiaonan and Carla Esparza fight on May 22nd.
However, with Dern likely earning a spot in the top five, the fight to be made should be against former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who is currently ranked second. Joanna has not fought since her split decision loss to Weili in one of the greatest fights of all time back in March of 2020. At age 33, she still has a lot left in the tank, but a fight against Dern would prove that she deserves another chance at the title. The only thing that could get in the way is the money, as Joanna has stated that she wants a raise to fight in the UFC again.
UFC Vegas 23: Sam Alvey vs Julian Marquez
In a battle that won fight of the night honors, Julian Marquez was able to outlast Sam Alvey, submitting him in round two. Marquez, who challenged several Kansas City Chiefs to a pickleball or badminton game after the win, is clearly a fan favorite. Now 3-1 in the UFC, 2-0 in 2021, Marquez will likely get a notable name on the main card for his next fight.
The first name that came to my head was Joaquin Buckley. Buckley had a ton of hype after his incredible spinning knockout of Impa Kasaganay that won knockout of the year in 2020. However, the fire around his name has cooled off after he got knocked out by Alessio Di Chirico in January. Another possible name for Marquez is Ian Heinisch. Heinisch had been ranked but lost his spot in the top 15 after losing to Kelvin Gastelum in February. Regardless, Marquez is likely one win away from getting to fight a ranked opponent.
UFC Vegas 23: Arnold Allen vs Sodiq Yusuff
While Sodiq Yusuff landed more strikes, Arnold Allen knocked his opponent down in each of the first two rounds as he won by unanimous decision. Arnold does not garner a ton of hype, but he should. As he pushed his winning streak to 8-0 in the Featherweight division, while also holding the second-longest winning streak at 145 pounds, only behind champion Alexander Volkanovski.
Allen will likely move up a few spots in the ranking on Tuesday, having come in as the tenth-ranked fighter on Saturday. Allen’s most reasonable opponent is Calvin Kattar, who is currently ranked sixth and coming off a loss. However, Kattar is still experiencing concussion-like symptoms after getting destroyed by Max Holloway, so he may be out for a while. The same goes for seventh-ranked Josh Emmett, who could be out all of 2021 with a knee injury. Unfortunately, it may be a long layoff for Allen unless he fights against someone ranked below him. His best bet is to wait for either Kattar or Emmett to get healthy.
UFC Vegas 23: Marvin Vettori vs Kevin Holland
Marvin Vettori got the job done against Kevin Holland, using his wrestling and earning a unanimous decision victory. Vettori now has a five-fight winning streak, the second-longest in the division, only behind champion Israel Adesanya. Vettori stated that he believes he should be next to fight The Last Style Bender, having narrowly lost a split decision to Izzy in April of 2018.
However, the reality here is that Vettori, who will likely crack the top five, is not going to get his rematch with Adesanya. At least not before he gets another win. In that division, top contender Robert Whittaker fights Kelvin Gastelum in the headliner next Saturday. If Whittaker wins, then he is next in line for a title shot. Jared Cannonier would make sense for Vettori, but I think he should fight Paulo Costa. Costa was supposed to fight Whittaker next weekend but had to pull out due to non-COVID-related illness. In a classic striker vs wrestler matchup, Vettori and Costa would be a great fight to watch.
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