A Look Ahead
Who should the UFC Vegas 44 winners on the main card fight next? In a vintage performance, Jose Aldo proved he’s still got a ton left in the tank, using his power to defeat Rob Font by unanimous decision. Here are my thoughts on what the future may hold for the five fighters who won on the main card on Saturday.
One of the most overlooked welterweights on the roster, Alex Morono, looked fantastic on Saturday, earning a unanimous decision win over Mickey Gall. After losing to Anthony Pettis at the end of 2020, Morono has had a big 2021 that now includes wins over Donald Cerrone, David Zawada, and Gall. 7-2 in his last nine, Morono has earned the right to fight a top 15 opponent next.
The name that makes the most sense for Morono to fight next is Li Jianliang. Jianliang was unranked at the start of 2021 but earned himself a spot in the ranking after knocking out Santiago Ponzinibbio at the beginning of the year. However, he fell victim to the Khamzat Chimaev train as he was ruthlessly dominated at UFC 267. With Jianliang ranked 13th at 170, this fight would make a ton of sense.
Brendan Allen was arguably the best non-ranked Middleweight heading into Saturday, and Chris Curtis took him out on short notice, earning a second-round TKO. With two short notice wins in the last month, Chris Curtis has suddenly become one of the hottest prospects in the UFC. What’s even crazier is that his natural weight class is at 170, but in playing matchmaker, let’s assume he stays at 185.
One potential name for Curtis is Brad Taveres. Tavares is 2-0 in 2021 and was initially supposed to face Allen on Saturday but withdrew and was replaced by Curtis. However, the name that makes the most sense for Curtis is Edmen Shahbazyan. Once one of the top prospects in the UFC, Shahbazyan has fallen on hard times, losing three straight. Both guys throw with a ton of power, and that would be a great fight to watch.
Just when it looked like the fight should have been stopped, Clay Guida was able to survive a vicious attack from Leonardo Santos before earning a second-round win by rear-naked choke. At age 39, Clay Guida is still fully committed to the fight game and earned two wins in 2021, the first time he has won two fights in a calendar year since 2017.
One potential name for Clay Guida is Grant Dawson. Dawson has called out Guida in the past and was on the cusp of cracking the top 15 before earning a draw against Ricky Glenn in October. However, the name that makes the most sense for Guida to fight is Jeremy Stephens. Like Guida, Stephens has fought nearly everyone on the roster and has always been a fan favorite for his aggressive style. Having moved up to 155, this fight would be a ton of fun to watch.
After losing to Paul Craig at UFC 263, Jamahal Hill lost a ton of hype around his name as he was an underdog against Jimmy Crute. However, it’s clear that Sweet Dreams is still a force to be reckoned with as he knocked out Crute 48 seconds into their bout. Coming into Saturday as the 14th-ranked Light Heavyweight, Hill is set for a bigger fight in his next matchup.
One potential name for Hill is Ryan Spann. Spann had a chance to crack the top five back in September but was dominated in a fight with Anthony Smith. However, the name that makes the most sense for Hill is Johnny Walker. Walker was once one of the most significant prospects in the game but is out of the title picture after a lackluster showing against Thiago Santos. In what could serve as the co-main event on a fight night, Jamahal Hill and Johnny Walker would bring the heat.
Rafael Fiziev has been one of the hottest prospects at 155 since last year, and his stock will continue to rise after knocking out Brad Riddell with a spinning wheel kick on Saturday. Fiziev’s explosiveness is incredible, and his gas tank held up much better than it has in the past. He’s definitely in line for a top-ten opponent next.
One potential matchup for Fiziev is Rafael Dos Anjos. RDA was set to fight Islam Makhachev at UFC 267 but pulled out due to a knee injury. However, the name that makes the most sense for Fiziev is Gregor Gillespie. One of the most overlooked guys in the division, Gillespie’s wrestling and cardio are fantastic and would easily be the toughest test of Fiziev’s career to date if they fought.
After a slow start in round one, Jose Aldo’s power became too much for Rob Font as the King of Rio dominated the fight to earn a unanimous decision win. At age 34, Aldo is out to prove that he still has another run at the title left in him. However, with Petr Yan set to rematch Aljamain Sterling in a unification bout, Aldo will have to wait in line.
The next opponent for Aldo should be TJ Dillashaw. In July, Dillashaw looked great in his return against Cory Sandhagen but missed out on the chance to fight for the interim title as he recovered from injury. With Yan and Sterling set to fight for the title, Dillashaw will likely have to take another fight before battling for the title if he wants to remain active. The winner of Aldo and Dillashaw would fight the winner of Yan and Sterling at 135.
Follow me on Twitter @PodolskyDanny for more sports news and discussions. Also, make sure to follow @OT_Heroics for all of your sporting needs. Come discuss this and much more at the Overtime Heroics forums!
Featured Image Credits To Embed from Getty Images