Photo from: Valentina Shevchenko/ Facebook

What’s Next? Some thoughts after UFC Uruguay

The UFC made its first stop in Uruguay this weekend and delivered a solid night of debuts, cuts, blood and a dominant championship performance. The highlight performances, personally, are detailed here, but I especially loved the fights between Gutierrez/de Freitas, Barzola/Moffett, Garagorri/Bandenay and, of course, Luque/Perry. Here’s some thoughts on what makes sense for a few of last nights fighters looking forward.

Valentina Shevchenko

A lot of unearned criticism followed the champ’s impressive 25-minute skirmish with Liz Carmouche. New fans of “Bullet” coming off her head-kick KO of Jessica Eye may have expected something more violent than what they received last night, but to long-time fans, this was a classic Shevchenko dismantling her opponent. She managed to reverse or nullify every takedown attempt from Carmouche (her only path to victory), and land some clean Thai boxing strikes in the exchanges. Shevchenko, despite what appears to be the popular opinion, is not the most aggressive fighter. She is a cold-blooded tactician who capitalizes off her opponent’s mistakes, and Carmouche offered next to nothing for the champion to work with. An expectedly impressive performance. Where does this leave her? A trilogy fight with Amanda Nunes is on a lot of people’s minds, but I don’t see that fight going any differently than the last two outings. Jessica Andrade has expressed interest in a superfight, but she has a fight lined up for the end of the month that she shouldn’t be looking past. Even if Andrade gets through Zhang in China, there are several contenders at 115 that need to be dealt with. I believe Valentina should defend again at 125, perhaps by the end of the year if she’s up to it. She has earned a break, but a fight with Kaitlyn Chookagian or the winner of Andrea Lee and Joanne Calderwood makes the most sense to me.

Volkan Oezdemir

This was the most complete Oezdemir we’ve seen inside the Octagon. From the diverse striking we’ve known he’s capable of, to competent takedown defense against a legitimate wrestler, “No Time” got back on track en-route to a lethal 2nd round KO. I firmly believe Oezdemir was robbed cold in his last fight against Dominick Reyes, and unfortunately the chances of a rematch are slim, especially if Reyes finishes Chris Weidman in Boston later this year, which is very likely. I really liked Oezdemir’s callout of Jan Blachowicz following the fight, and I think that might be the best option for both men, provided Jan doesn’t get a title shot against Jon Jones. I could also get behind a scrap with the winner of Krylov / Teixeira.

Ciryl Gane

Wow, talk about unexpected. All the footage and hype coming into Gane’s debut was about his striking, aligning him and his  technique and power with Francis N’Gannou. Everyone expected a knockout. But no. He goes out and submits a BJJ blackbelt in the first round. I can’t help but think this fight was hand-picked to showcase Gane’s striking, but I am even more impressed with him after seeing this performance. Expectations be damned. He is still young on MMA experience, but his boxing pedigree can carry him far in the Octagon. I would still like to build him slowly. The heavyweight division can be unforgiving. I like a fight against someone coming off a loss, like Juan Adams or Marcelo Golm, to build this guy into more of a championship-caliber fighter than he is currently.

Marina Rodriguez

An excellent performance by Rodriguez, showcasing a diverse striking arsenal against the veteran, Tecia Torres. I have been high on Rodriguez since her Contender Series debut, and I haven’t fallen off that train. Her clinch work is excellent, and she has cardio for hours. She’s 32, battle-proven, and I don’t see any reason to feed her anything but quality matchups from here on forward. I love fights with Nina Ansaroff or the winner of Esparza / Grasso next.


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