Fights to Make After UFC 281

Fights to Make After UFC 281

Pereira (C) vs Adesanya 2

We officially have a new Middleweight king, and his name is Alex Pereira. In a fight that was reminiscent to both kickboxing bouts between the two, Adesanya looked to be one round away from reclaiming his belt, however after a checked leg kick appeared to really effect Adesanya’s movement, the Brazilian kickboxing master Pereira pounced and showcased some ‘Rocky’ type resilience to come away the new champ.

As for what is next for Pereira, this win gives the UFC a few options. He could take on the backup for this fight in Swedish mauler Khamzat Chimaev in what would be a classic striker vs grappler affair. The UFC could give Whittaker another shot at gold in the Perth UFC 284 card next February, but Whittaker is already scheduled to fight Paulo Costa on the same card, so there would have to be some reshuffling.

The fight I think should happen however is a rematch of tonight’s bout. Before this fight, Israel Adesanya had dominated everyone in the Middleweight division, and he had defended his belt multiple times against the best of the best in the division like Robert Whittaker, Paulo Costa, Jared Cannonier, Marvin Vettori and Yoel Romero. If the fight had lasted to the end we would still be calling ‘The Last Stylebender’ the King of the Middleweights, but as we have seen many times in the octagon, crazy things can happen and tonight was no different.

As an Aussie, I would love to see this rematch added to the February Perth UFC 284 card, however let’s give Izzy time to recover.

 Weili Zhang (C) vs Amanda Lemos

Weili Zhang is back, and as many predicted, in devastating fashion. The Chinese superstar outfought and overpowered former champ Carla Esparza in every facet of the fight and came out with a dominating submission victory to reclaim her Strawweight Women’s crown.

Watching this fight, it just seemed like Zhang was coming into her own and has finally reached her prime. I think it is going to be extremely hard for any woman in this division to take the belt off her whilst she is in this form.

My pick for what is next for Zhang, I like a fight against recent victor Amanda Lemos. The Brazilian had a very impressive KO victory recently against a tough opponent in Marina Rodriguez, so I think it that would be a good matchup for Zhang for her first title defence.

As for the former champ Esparza, all is not lost. She is still one of the best in this division. I think a rematch with former champ Rose Namajunas would be a good for both ladies. Rose is not booked yet, and will want to erase her last disappointing performance against Esparza.

 Dustin Poirier vs Beneil Dariush

It was always going to be a barnburner between Poirier and Chandler, and boy did it deliver. In what could be described as nothing short of an absolute war, former interim Lightweight champ Dustin Poirier showed everyone (especially current champ Islam Makachev) that he is no slouch in the grappling/jiu jitsu game. He looked down and out after some hard shots from Chandler, however Poirier showed his grit with the final round submission of the exhausted and bloodied Chandler.

The Lightweight Champion Islam Makachev has just been announced to fight P4P king Alexander Volkanovski in Perth next February at UFC 284. Poirier could wait until mid 2023 to fight the winner which is a possibility, however I like him matching up against #4 ranked Beneil Dariush in what would be an intriguing matchup to determine the #1 contender. Dariush is coming off an impressive victory against Polish young gun Mateusz Gamrot, and is riding an eight-fight win streak. I think Poirier will wait for the first option, but I would be booking this fight with the winner facing the winner of Makachev-Volkanovski.

 Michael Chandler vs Conor McGregor

Michael Chandler is a rabid dog. I believe he was winning that fight against Poirier until he got submitted. His nose was broken, his face was bloodied, he was exhausted, and Poirier just showed his class in the end. Chandler should hold his head high, and he is still a fan favourite after multiple Fight of the Night performances. But he is now 2-3 in the UFC and in a tough position.

The fight he wants and the fight I think he should get is the Irish megastar Conor McGregor. Both fighters are in similar positions with their recent records, but both are fan favourites and this is the type of matchup that could see either propelled to a title fight. The former Lightweight king is still not on the USADA testing pool, but some cryptic tweets from McGregor have pegged his comeback to be sometime next year.

This is a fight that would have every fan tune into. It is all up to McGregor, but with Nate Diaz not with the UFC, this seems like the best option he has for his return.

 Chris Gutierrez vs Adrian Yanez

It was a bittersweet night for Gutierrez. He battled through some personal issues in the biggest fight of his career to date, and he got to fight one of his idols in the retiring future hall of famer Frankie Edgar. Gutierrez just seemed graceful in the cage against the older Edgar, and quickly caught him with a flying knee that sent Edgar into retirement. Gutierrez looked the goods and will definitely be in the rankings by the next update.

I think a good matchup for Gutierrez next would be fellow rising star Adrian Yanez. Both fighters are young and seem to be coming into their own, so why not slot them against one another to see who the next star is in the stacked Bantamweight division.

 Dan Hooker vs Jalin Turner

Finally, ‘The Hangman’ is back. In what was a strange matchup against Claudio Puelles, Hooker outclassed the Peruvian grappler on the feet and body kicked himself to his first win in his last three fights. Hooker still did not look at his best, however I think we can give him a pass against a dangerous grappler in Puelles which saw him battle several takedown and leg lock attempts.

As for his next fight, Hooker called to be on the already stacked UFC 284 Perth card. As for his opponent, I think #10 ranked young gun Jalin Turner would be a good test for the Kiwi. Turner recently beat Hooker’s teammate and fellow Kiwi Brad Riddell with an impressive submission victory earlier this year, so that could add a bit to this matchup.

 Renato Moicano vs Tony Ferguson

Brazilian Renato Moicano showcased his immense grappling and made tough opponent Brad Riddell look like he did not belong. He was extremely excited in the post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, and so he should be, he put on a great performance.

Moicano has fought heavier as well, but I think Lightweight is the right division for him where he usually looks massive against his opponents. I think a matchup against former Lightweight interim champ Tony Ferguson would be a good matchup for both men. Ferguson is coming off a weird loss to Nate Diaz in which he had a day’s notice due to Khamzat Chimaev’s failed weight cut. I still have faith in Ferguson making one last run in the Lightweight division, and I think a matchup with a rising Moicano would be fun to watch.

 Ryan Spann vs Jamahal Hill

Ryan Spann just put the rest of the Light Heavyweight division on notice. He flatlined the former title contender Dominick Reyes to put himself in real contention for a shot at the belt with another few wins.

I like a fight between fellow rising star Jamahal Hill in what would be a slobber knocker. Hill just came off an impressive KO victory against veteran Thiago Santos in a fight that saw him tested on the feet against the powerful Brazilian. Make this a headliner for a Fight Night to see who the next LHW contender is.

 Erin Blanchfield vs Casey O’Neill

Young gun Erin Blanchfield is a real contender in the Women’s Flyweight division. British fan favourite Molly McCann seemed like a very tough fight for Blanchfield, however the youngster made McCann look like she did not belong.

Blanchfield has a real shot at fighting for gold in the coming years if she keeps pulling out performances like that, and in a division that has been dominated by Flyweight Queen Valentina Shevchenko for years, some new faces are needed and Blanchfield definitely fits the bill. 

Blanchfield called out Aussie rising star Casey O’Neill after the fight in what would be a great matchup against two up-and-comers. But O’Neill tore her ACL in April this year which could delay this matchup till the first half of next year. It is a bit optimistic, but if O’Neill is ready by February, why not add this to the Perth UFC 284 card as well, we can only dream.


Sports writer from Sydney, Australia

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