This Fight Night could not have gone better, as we had everything from back-and-forth fights on the feet and the mat, as well as one of the greatest knockouts in MMA history.
Afterwards, we’re stuck asking ourselves… what’s next for the victors? Well I’m here to try to play matchmaker for our main card winners and see what fights could (and should) be on the horizon!
Cory Sandhagen vs. Frankie Edgar (BW)
Cory Sandhagen proved himself in the best possible way with a spinning wheel kick knockout over Marlon Moraes in the second round. Sandhagen’s pressure and versatile striking attack at range were already picking Moraes apart, and Sandhagen further proved his ability to close the show by putting a stamp on things with that brutal kick.
The first thing to be addressed when talking about Sandhagen’s next fight is the current status of the Bantamweight title picture. It is an understatement to say that Aljamain Sterling (who Sandhagen was submitted by in June) is deserving of the next title shot, but champion Petr Yan’s recent tweets and the UFC’s hesitance in booking the bout has left me doubtful that is the route the UFC is taking, especially when considering that former champion TJ Dillashaw’s suspension ends in January.
That’s not to say that I don’t think Sterling should get the shot, as no fight at Bantamweight would make me happier than that one right now. I just do not think that is the route the UFC will be taking. Sandhagen is likely the second-most deserving title challenger with this win and his defeat to Aljamain, so I think a bout with Frankie Edgar (one that was recently cancelled) is fitting. Edgar came through in his Bantamweight debut, scoring a split decision over Pedro Munhoz early last month.
Edson Barboza vs. Shane Burgos (FTW)
Edson Barboza scored a dominant decision win over Makwan Amirkhani, nearly finishing his Finnish opponent multiple times over the course of their fifteen-minute scrap. Barboza righted a three-fight losing skid and likely secured his position as a ranked Featherweight. A fantastic matchup for him would be high-octane striker Shane Burgos, who came out on the wrong side of a Fight of the Night showing against Josh Emmett in his last time out.
Marcin Tybura vs. Sergey Pavlovich (HW)
Marcin Tybura ground out Octagon veteran Ben Rothwell in a thoroughly competitive scrap, overcoming some early adversity from the American. Currently slotted just outside the top 15, Tybura could re-establish himself within the elite with a victory over an up-and-coming contender. Knockout artist Sergey Pavlovich has put together a 2-1 UFC record, including two fantastic finishes. He has not competed since securing a TKO over Maurice Greene last year.
Dricus du Plessis vs. Anthony Hernandez (MW)
Dricus du Plessis made good on his highly awaited debut by face planting Markus Perez in the first round, handing the Brazilian the first stoppage defeat of his career. Du Plessis proved that he is able to not just compete in the UFC, but dominate a relative veteran, showcasing his kickboxing skill and brutal leg kicks along with finishing all of his wins. I hope he can get back in there quickly and become another of these quickly rising fighters. “Fluffy” Hernandez has traded wins and losses since coming into the UFC through the Contender Series and needs to get back on the winning track to save his UFC spot.
Tom Aspinall vs. Sergey Spivak (HW)
Tom Aspinall got another first-round TKO in the UFC, this time over Alan Baudot. The boxing veteran and jiu-jitsu expert is one of my top prospects, regardless of division and I am super excited to see his growth as he competes. I would like to see his match against Sergey Spivak rebooked, who Baudot replaced on short notice. The grappling attack of Spivak presents a great test for the quickly rising Englishman.
Ilia Topuria vs. Sean Woodson (FTW)
Ilia Topuria dominated the surging Youssef Zalal en route to the first decision win of his career, though not for lack of effort. Zalal demonstrated an unbelievable submission defense, but was thoroughly outworked on the feet and the mat, though his gas tank left something to be desired. Now at 9-0 with a short-notice win over a top prospect, Topuria’s relentless ground assault presents a great new addition to the Featherweight division. For his next bout, I like a match up with Sean Woodson. Woodson got submitted in his last outing, losing his undefeated record and is desperately looking to get back on the winning track.
Of course, I would be remiss in not mentioning Joaquin Buckley’s spinning back kick KO over my hometown’s Impa Kasanganay. Buckley got into the UFC win column in the best of ways, securing a Performance of the Night bonus, as well as likely the ‘KO of the Year’ award. Click here to check it out!
We have our final Fight Night event in this batch of Fight Island cards, headlined with the tense rivalry bout between the fan-favorite Korean Zombie and jiu-jitsu ace Brian Ortega.
Until next time, Freaks!