What’s Next? Fights to Make After UFC 238

Henry Cejudo

The king of cringe reigned supreme in Chicago, surviving a vicious Round 1 kicking assault to work Moraes into retreating against the cage for the rest of the fight before threatening an anaconda choke, securing top position and TKO’ing the man into submission. I was so impressed with Cejudo tonight, and I’m hard pressed to find a man who threatens him like Moraes was supposed to threaten him. A longer, rangier fighter than Moraes may be the secret to beating the son of gold, and that fighter emerged tonight in Aljamain Sterling. Length and volume might present problems for Henry. However, Henry is the Champ Champ. If Dana is surely keeping the Flyweight division alive, I want Cejudo to defend there next against the winner of Joseph Benavidez and Jussier Formiga. That’s the fight to make.

Marlon Moraes

Riding 3 first-round finishes, “Magic” looked fantastic in Round 1, eating Cejudo alive with leg kicks and looked poised to land a big shot early, but something happened at the end of the round. It looked like Moraes wasn’t prepared for a fight that went past Round 1, his cardio gassing out and allowing Cejudo to pressure him against the cage and ultimately grind him into a TKO defeat. I’m honestly shocked cardio was the problem in Moraes’ defeat, but you can’t win them all. He looked great in Round 1 and if he can work on consistency he will remain a true threat at 135. What’s next? I would pay money to see Moraes fight a fellow fighter of UFC 238 in Pedro Munhoz or Petr Yan, but I’m more interested in a fight with Munhoz or, perhaps, a returning Dominick Cruz?

Valentina Shevchenko

Wow. What a performance by Valentina Shevchenko. I believed Shevchenko has always been a little overhyped, but I’m stunned by the excellency I saw tonight, lulling Eye into concerning about body shots and then taking her head off with a clean head kick. I’m convinced. Unless there’s a remarkable finish in the Carmouche/Modafferi fight that leapfrogs her, I want “Bullet” in the cage against Katlyn Chookagian sooner than later. Let’s keep the train moving.

Jessica Eye

Tough break for Jessica Eye, who really didn’t get a chance to implement any gameplay she had cooked up coming into tonight. She was fired up for the opportunity, but it was cut short tonight. Tonight marked the first time she was stopped with strikes. What a brutal way to lose. All of that said, however, don’t discuss retirement. Eye isn’t the retire-after-a-big-loss type. I can see her coming back in another grinding fight against the loser of Liz Carmouche and Roxanne Modafferi.

Tony Ferguson

El Cucuy is the best nickname in the sport for the most weirdly terrifying fighter in the sport. Once Tony starts getting weird and floating around the octagon like a ghost, the other guy needs to be on high alert. That’s what happened around the start of round 2 tonight, when Tony started jiving and moving smooth and landing elbows. Reminiscent of the Pettis finish (but somehow more obscene), Tony put Cowboy away but was severely disappointed in himself. I love Tony Ferguson for the weight he puts on fighting. He wants clean finishes, and he wants to be champion. This should be a victory for Ferguson, but it more than likely feels like a side-step. Book the rematch.

Donald Cerrone

Cowboy got pieced up a little tonight, and the late shot didn’t have anything to do with it. I’m not the biggest Cowboy fan, but it sucks for a fight to end the way it did tonight. He looked like Cowboy, starting slow and gaining speed. A 3-round affair was never the way to settle this fight. Book a 5-round main event rematch between these two and let them put on a show again. San Antonio?

Petr Yan

I wasn’t convinced by Petr Yan coming into tonight. I believed he looked good in his last fights, but he would hit a wall somewhere after Dodson. The wall hasn’t appeared yet, but I still don’t think Rivera was the best coming out party either. Yan looked sharp and powerful, but Rivera is not the man, as of late, who beat Uriah Faber. I’m still waiting for the big Yan performance, but I’m not feeding him someone who he can perform easily against. No, give me Petr Yan versus the winner of Assuncao and Cory Sandhagen.

Jimmie Rivera

Rivera hasn’t been the same since the Moraes KO, and Yan was able to land clean hands a the end of Rounds 1 and 2 to drop him into another decision loss. I really feel for the guy and the team at Tiger Schulmann. Can he make a comeback? Absolutely. He’s only 29 years old, with solid hands and an incredible gas tank. I think he needs to evaluate some things in the gym and get back in there after a break around October. He’s been calling for it, and with both men on losing streaks, a fight against Cody Garbrandt could be in the future.

Blagoy Ivanov

A solid, yet exhausting, effort by the Bulgarian. Ivanov dropped Tuivasa in Round 2, and attempted several guillotines, unable to put away Tuivasa but still looking solid. A little work on the gas tank and finishing ability and he’ll be looking more the threat in the Heavyweight division. Give me a fight between Ivanov and the winner of Marcin Tybura and Augusto Sakai.

Tai Tuivasa

Bursts of hilarious energy put Tuivasa in good positions throughout the fight, but he came up a bit short against the discipline and veteran ability of Ivanov. Tuivasa is simultaneously ridiculous fun to watch and frustrating as hell. He has some defensive holes to work on moving forward, and it’s too bad Justin Willis isn’t around for a fight in Australia. I am at a loss as what to do with him next. Sergei Palvovich? A debut heavyweight? I’m most comfortable with a fight against the loser of Tybura and Sakai, but who knows.

Prelim Picks:

Tatiana Suarez — see above

Nina Ansaroff — Michelle Waterson

Aljamain Sterling — see above

Pedro Munhoz — see above

Alexa Grasso — Carla Esparza

Karolina Kowalkiewicz — debut strawweight

Calvin Kattar — winner of Josh Emmett / Mirsad Bektic

Ricardo Lamas — Makwan Amirkhani

Yan Xiaonan — Felice Herrig

Angela Hill — Aleksandra Albu

Darren Stewart —  Omari Akhmedov

Bevon Lewis —  Charles Byrd

Eddie Wineland —  Luke Sanders

Grigory Popov — Andre Soukmathath

Katlyn Chookagian — (see above)

Joanne Calderwood — Jennifer Maia

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