What’s Next? Fights to make after UFC 241

The UFC returned to Anaheim this weekend for a night capped off with three outstanding fights and a changing of the heavyweight crown. UFC 241 had a delayed takeoff, with a streak of three lackluster decisions, but the night absolutely delivered. Diaz/Pettis and Romero/Costa will be analyzed to death in the coming days, but I wanted to get a word in on the main event and a few of the prelim performances that really stuck out.

Stipe Miocic

The belt returns to Cleveland after Stipe Miocic proved once again he is the greatest heavyweight of all time. He struggled early, but made champion-level adjustment in the 4th, working the body and eventually coming over the top with a right to wobble and finish DC. He’s the man, once again. The only discussion against calling Stipe the GOAT was the fact that Cain Velasquez was a 2-time champion, but now that field is leveled too. What to do now, with revenge sweetly wrapped around his waist? Go home, put a shift in at the fire station and fight Jon Jones by the end of the year. As much as Francis Ngannou has earned a title shot, the first fight with Stipe is still fresh in my brain, and I don’t believe Francis has suddenly learned to wrestle in 18 months. He had the chance to show wrestling defense in his fights against Blaydes and Velasquez, but he didn’t need to with the power in his hands. Had DC won the fight, there would be a better argument for Ngannou. I wouldn’t be upset if they gave Ngannou another shot, but I don’t love the idea of it. They teased us with Jones/Miocic earlier in the summer, but the fight ended up going to Thiago Santos. Bones gets the chance to be a double-champion, and Stipe gets the chance to beat two of the greatest fighters of all time back-to-back. They should book it for December.

Cory Sandhagen

Dana has long said that if you beat Rafael dos Anjos, you get a title shot. Recently, he said the same of beating Yoel Romero. I think the same logic can be applied to defeating Raphael Assuncao, who is a true veteran and has been one of the best 135’s in the world for a long time. Sandhagen was relentlessly offensive, applying a ridiculous amount of pressure and landing an assortment of strikes, particularly the lead body shot. When Assuncao landed a takedown, Sandhagen slipped right back to his feet. On the ground, where Assuncao is a BJJ black-belt, Sandhagen was able to avoid trouble as well. He is remarkable at forcing his opponents play his game. I’m really excited to see what’s next for this young man. Cejudo will more than likely defend at 125 next, and there are discussions of booking Aljamain Sterling against Frankie Edgar. There are events coming up in Sao Paulo and Moscow that need headliners, and I can see Sandhagen fighting Marlon Moraes, or preferably, Petr Yan in either of those roles. 135 is looking better than ever.

Drakkar Klose

What a hard-won fight for Drakkar Klose. I really believed Giagos would out-wrestle and out-work him, but Klose proved me wrong and got the better of the exchanges where Giagos was winning. Giagos gassed, Klose did not. No disrespect to Giagos, but I don’t think Klose gets a big fight off this win. He’s a solid fighter, and at 31 with 6 UFC fights, it’s hard to call him a prospect any longer. He’s won 5 of his last 6 and has a 3-fight win streak, and as much as I adore the callout of Gregor Gillespie, I don’t think that’s the fight. The fight is still Beneil Dariush, which was cancelled in Sacramento after Dariush injured himself. Klose was furious after the cancellation, and looking at the landscape at lightweight, I like this fight a lot. I don’t think Klose gets a ranked opponent yet, but after another win over someone with a name, he should.

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