What’s Next? Fights to Make After UFC 237
The octagon travelled to Brazil this past weekend for a night less-than-spectacular for the home crowd. 4 of the 5 main-card Brazilian fighters came away with a loss, but some excellent prelims and a violent main-event almost made up for the disappointing performances from heroes Silva, Aldo and Little Nog. Here are my thoughts on how the future could play out for the winners and losers of last night’s card:
- The Brazilian crowd finally got to explode in the main event, after a bad night for their native fighters. “Bate Estaca” lived up to her nickname, surviving the piston of Namajunas’ jab and scary submission attempts to literally slam her way into a TKO win to become the 4th UFC Strawweight Champion. I was impressed by Andrade’s toughness, and always have been, but there was something particularly physical about her last two finishes that make her a completely unique animal in the UFC Strawweight division. Her first attempt at the title wasn’t successful, but she got the job done last night, and now the Brazilians have another champion. What’s next for the new Strawweight queen? As I mention soon, we need to see where Rose is following the fight, and if she decides to hang up the gloves or not. If she does, I want to see Andrade defend against the winner of Tatiana Suarez and Nina Ansaroff, particularly Suarez if she can get past the surprisingly gritty Ansaroff. I’m very excited about the future with Andrade at the top of one of my favourite divisions in the UFC.
- The champ looked sharp and composed during fight week and throughout the fight on Saturday, piecing apart Jessica Andrade’s face with a bullet-jab and combinations, and threatening submissions. The kimura-grip and following slam proved her undoing. I’m happy the finish wasn’t more violent than it was. Coming into her second defence, Thug Rose said two things that impressed me. First, she was happy she had the opportunity to “grow as a person” by travelling to Brazil and defending against a hostile home crowd. Second, there was a large possibility that this was “the last time I ever do this.” I love a self-aware fighter, and I don’t believe there exists one stronger than Rose Namajunas. After the loss, I saw Rose smiling, and applauding Andrade, saying honestly a “weight was off her shoulders”. Rose is a composed spirit, and fighting is primarily her way of reconciling her character and proving to herself that she can conquer challenges. If she believes her fighting days are behind her and violence has given her all it can, I completely support that. If this is where her mind is, I almost prefer retirement to an immediate title rematch or a rematch against Michelle Waterson. Best of luck to Thug Rose, regardless of her decision.
- I love Jared Cannonier. The man came into an incredibly hostile environment and took care of business last night against one of the staples of the sport. Although it wasn’t the best-case scenario, Cannonier is pragmatic and considers it a solid win, as do I. What’s next for “The Killa Gorilla?” He’s now on a quality 2-fight win streak against veteran contenders and positions himself comfortably in the top-10 of the Middleweight division. With the title rumoured to be unified this October and contenders Romero and Costa booked against one another, I like Cannonier’s chances against Derek Brunson. Brunson is coming off a win against the tricky Elias Theodorou and looked patient doing it. I like the new Brunson we saw, and I think their combined punching power could make a great addition to a card in the late summer or early autumn.
- In the oddly matched co-main event, the former Middleweight king Anderson Silva took on the rising Jared Cannonier and, reminiscent of his rematch with Chris Weidman at UFC 168, suffered a TKO loss due to a leg strike. It was a gut-punch to the home crowd, and the deafening roar of boos made Cannonier and the whole production stop to listen. I haven’t seen a reaction like that for a long time. Silva mentioned before the fight that he and his team were working out a new deal with the UFC. I don’t want to see the 44-year-old fighting for too much longer, but I will always watch Anderson Silva. He will always be The Spider, the devil of the Middleweight division, but time is cruel. I don’t see Silva retiring, yet. A Fight Night in Sao Paulo this November may be the place we see Silva (and Aldo) again. When this happens, I have one fight in mind that has always eluded us and may finally get a chance of happening; Uriah Hall. This fight has been rumoured and discussed for years now, and nearly materialized at UFC 198, but never happened. I think now is the time, but if this fight once again, and perhaps finally, dies, I can also see him against fellow veteran David Branch in the co-main event of a future Brazil card.
- Volkanovski came into Brazil and completely shut down the former champion Jose Aldo with cage-cutting and strong clinch work. It was dirty and ugly, but that has to be the gameplay against one of the greatest fighters of all time. You can’t gamble with Aldo’s boxing. If he smells blood, you’re a dead man. The gritty, blue-collar approach worked, and Volkanovski now finds himself in a prime position in the Featherweight division. With a clinical performance like this one, I believe he has leapfrogged Frankie Edgar in a title shot against Max Holloway. If “Blessed” decides to stick at Lightweight for another fight, however, I could also see an interim title fight being booked with Volkanovski and Edgar. Either way, a gold belt is next for the Australian.
- The King of Rio just couldn’t get out of first gear tonight. It happens. I don’t blame Aldo; Volkanovski played a perfect game and stalled him into a 3-round decision loss. He is still a force to be rekindled within either Featherweight or perhaps, Lightweight. Aldo had mentioned he wanted all of his fights to be in Brazil this year, and this is the second of three scheduled events in his home country. I want to see Aldo move to 155 pounds against Anthony Pettis in Sao Paulo. I am unsure if the Pettis/Diaz fight will come to fruition, but even if it does, I believe the August-November break will be enough for an animal like Pettis make 155 and do battle with Jose Aldo in Brazil.
- I don’t have too much to say regarding Staropoli’s performance against Alves. He looked the best we’ve seen him so far in the Octagon, changing stances frequently and utilizing flashy, unpredictable striking. He showed a great gas tank as well, keeping up a high pace throughout the fight. At 9-1 and 26 years old, he has a lot of room to sharpen and consolidate his skills inside the Octagon. I think fights against Alex Morono or Nordine Taleb are the way to go for this young man.
- In the second-best main-card performance by the Brazilians this weekend, Welterweight staple Thiago Alves used his veteran toughness and fundamentals to survive a flashy onslaught by Staropoli. Pitbull’s right jab/right kick combination is still as effective as it has ever been, and a tough test for anyone he steps into the cage with. He dropped the decision this weekend, but at 35, I believe he still has a lot more to show us. Let’s throw the old dog someone like Jake Matthews or Emil Meek sooner than later.
- There was no question whether Aldana would take the fight against a 141 pound Correia. It isn’t in her character, and it showed when the Octagon closed on Saturday night. Aldana’s striking looked clean and her footwork was smooth. As the commentary team mentioned during the fight, Aldana looked more physically comfortable than she had in the past. After a FOTN performance in her last outing against Lucie Pudilova, Aldana followed up with an armbar finish in the 3rd round against Correia, her first submission since 2015 and her first in the Octagon. Moving forward, Aldana is (and has been) poised for a top-10 fight. I like her chances against someone like Raquel Pennington, but for now, I’d love to see her in there against Yana Kunitskaya. Both are clean strikers, and both are coming off wins. With champ Amanda Nunes defending the belt against Holly Holm this summer, and the top of the division seemingly unbooked, let’s see these two build their resumes a bit more before taking on top-5 fights.
- After a big miss on the scales, Bethe Correia didn’t look awful in this fight, landing some solid pressure boxing on the elusive Aldana. She fell to an armbar in Round 3 but looked completely competent leading up to the finish. Where does that leave the personable Correia moving forward? Priority number one is the scale. She had been away from the cage for nearly two years and hadn’t missed weight recently, but a 5-pound miss is a big miss. If she gets her weight back in check, I can see her being a problem for the lower 10-15 ranked Bantamweights, but I believe her skills peak here. A veteran of the division, let’s see her dog it out with the loser of Lina Lansberg and Tonya Evinger, or Talita Bernardo, who also took an L tonight.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira / Gian Villante
Ryan Spann / Tyson Pedro
Thiago Moises / Arman Tsarukyan
Kurt Holobaugh / Jalin Turner
Clay Guida / Alex White
BJ Penn / Olivier Aubin-Mercier
Pricilla Cachoeira (cut from the roster)
Luana Carolina / Lauren Mueller
Sergio Moraes / Court McGee
Warlley Alves / Curtis Millender
Raoni Barcelos / Merab Dvalishvili
Carlos Huachin / Brandon Davis
Talita Bernardo / Bethe Correia
Viviane Araujo / Alexandra Albu
Author: Lance Carpenter