For a card that looked really fun on paper, UFC Boise was a lot more uneven than hoped. However, it still provided a lot of meaningful results. A card stacked with interesting prospects, returning veterans, and even a couple top of the division match-ups had to shake things up a bit, and UFC Fight Night: Dos Santos vs. Ivanov definitely did that if nothing else. So, now what?
Well, we know the answer to that last one – it’s Volkanovski – but to answer the rest of those questions, and more, I’ll be employing the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking style of years past. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent against one another. If you’d like to take your own shot at some matchmaking glory, leave a comment below starting out with, “Obviously me and Amanda Nunes got something to talk about.” I’ll pick a winner from the responses to join me for next week’s card.
This week’s winner is BE reader ‘James512’:
Hello everyone, James512 here – long time reader, very recent contributor. I considered myself a casual fan until the day I saw UFC 81 – I originally found myself just wanting to see Brock Lesnar wreck shop, but after watching the countdown special just before the event I found myself cheering on Frank Mir instead – I’ve been hocked on the sport (greatest sport ever by the way) ever since. My day job is a middle school history teacher here in Austin, Texas, but by nightfall I morph into a super-obsessed MMA fan, especially in promotions that are on the way up. I love exposing the sport to friends, family and acquaintances and I’m proud to say 90% of those exposed have become at least casual fans. I’m hoping to write enough to get myself a part-time position writing on the sport….so feel free to comment and view my fan-posts! (Just try to be constructive if you do so)
JUNIOR DOS SANTOS
James - Is he back? Is this the return to form we’ve been looking for? It’s too early to tell, but JDS looked great here. He looked far more confident and aggressive than he had in the past few years, and he looked like he put on some extra muscle to boot. He mentioned to media before the fight that he’d love a third go-round with Stipe Miocic, but I think it’s a little too early for the trilogy bout. If he wants to get himself back to title contention, how about a fight with Alexander Volkov instead, in a bout with two former world champions?
Zane - Junior dos Santos won the fight he couldn’t afford to lose. After getting tied up by USADA for the past year, he was matched with an unranked newcomer in Ivanov, himself a well regarded vet at this point in his career. Lose here and JDS would still have fights, but he’d be miles from contention. As it is he may still not be that close, but the belt being off Stipe Miocic’s hips has to give him some hope – especially if Brock Lesnar and Daniel Cormier fight in early 2019 and then Cormier vacates. So what’s the best ‘big’ fight ‘Cigano’ can get right now? He asked for Stipe Miocic, and I could see him getting it, but assuming that doesn’t happen, I’d be down to see him fight Blaydes or Volkov. Between them I’ll lean Volkov since I think it’d be the more fun matchup. Junior Dos Santos vs. Alexander Volkov.
James - Ivanov was put in a tough spot here, and it seemed apparent that he had a bad case of the Octagon-jitters, as he didn’t appear to fight as aggressively as he usually does. If nothing else, he came in on a nice win streak and he didn’t have much to lose here – I think he’ll do just fine once he gets his feet underneath him. Next time out, how about a slightly more reasonable challenge in the form of a fight with loser of the upcoming Andrei Arlovski vs Shamil Abdurakhimov bout?
Zane - Ivanov got a chance to make a big, quick splash in the UFC. It didn’t work out, but there are a lot of fights he could be really competitive in. He could take on someone like Tai Tuivasa or Justin Willis if the UFC wants to keep him in against ranked opposition and give one of their promising young fighters a real veteran test, but I’m not sure that would serve either prospect well. Ivanov isn’t an especially known quantity, but is a dangerous, savvy vet. Instead, I’ll say the UFC should go with Walt Harris. Harris has been clearly improving and his recent losses aren’t don’t speak to the clear improvements he’s made. The winner of that fight deserves another crack at a ranked opponent and it would give Ivanov a much better chance to introduce himself to fans as a more dangerous talent than he looked against JDS. Blagoy Ivanov vs. Walt Harris is my fight.
James - I’ll admit, I was actually kinda of worried about Northcutt here (feel free to read my prediction analysis - my only shameless plug, I promise) but I was very impressed with not just in the brutal finish of the fight, but how Northcutt bounced back from early adversity. Still let’s pump the breaks on expectations – Northcutt still needs some seasoning. If he stays at welterweight, how about a fight with a former prospect in Alex Garcia? Or, if the UFC wants to challenge him (with very little possibility of him being finished) maybe Ryan LaFlare?
Zane - What to do with ‘Super’ Sage? Does the UFC just keep a steady diet of limited opponents coming his way. Fighters who can do one or two things well, but can’t challenge him athletically, or compete with him standing? I mean... yeah probably if they want to see him continue developing as a marketable talent and not just ‘that good looking kid I’ve seen lose a few times.’ A fight with Ben Saunders would be a fun test against a proven dangerous striker, and a fight with Ryan LaFlare would pit him against a quality wrestler, where Sage clearly needs to work. Or there’s someone like Warrley Alves, who can compete with him athletically, and out-grapple him, but is still a somewhat limited striker. I like the Warrley Alves fight a lot, but I’m going to take a bit of a left turn instead and say Muslim Salikhov. The ‘King of Kung Fu’ is a dangerous KO artist with fantastic timing, but low output. And his wrestling and grappling are just decent enough to need minding. Alves is a fine choice, but give me Northcutt vs. Salikov for a Kung Fu vs. Karate showdown.
James - Crap decision aside, a win is a win I guess. It’s not like Glenn didn’t try and he made a fight of it but man I hope he works on his takedown defense before his next fight. Considering the controversial victory, I’m predicting the UFC goes with a lateral move here – a fight with Andre Fili could be fun, and frantic to boot.
Zane - Beating Bermudez may not mean as much as it would have two or three years ago, but it’s still a heck of an accomplishment for Rick Glenn and suggests that he can hang with fighters closer to the upper athletic end of the division. It’s too bad Calvin Kattar is coming off a loss, because fight between he and Glenn just feels right. Instead, how about Glenn against Gabriel Benitez. ‘Moggly’ has quietly turned himself into a killer striker in the UFC’s featherweight division, with improved takedown defense and an eye for powerful kicks. If Glenn can walk him down and make the bout a dogfight, it’s his for the taking. If not, he likely gets chewed up at range. Either way the winner makes a real claim at a top 15 opponent next time. Glenn vs. Benitez is my fight to book. Fights against Enrique Barzola, Arnold Allen, or Makwan Amirkhani would all also work.
James - Well that was fun! Price winning isn’t as surprising as how he won – I’ve watched a million fights (I think) and I don’t remember anyone knocking someone out with hammer-fists from the bottom! Great stuff. I think the UFC has a potential star on their hands, as Price is never in a boring fight and is a potent finisher on top of it. Let’s do it – Mike Perry vs Niko Price. Who can’t get excited about the violence-potential of that one?
Zane - In a division as deep as welterweight, I kinda feel like beating Paul Felder – even on late notice – should get Perry a bigger fight than Niko Price. But, at the same time, Perry has had a lot of trouble winning due to the lack of diversity in his game, and Price wouldn’t be any kind of gimme fight. What about Curtis Millender. Millender has made a couple of big statements, picking off high profile vet Thiago Alves and action prospect Max Griffin, that puts him in a pretty similar lane as both Perry and Price. Plus I don’t see any other super clear next bout for Millender that really intrigues me, whereas I feel like Perry has a ton of options. Niko Price vs. Curtis Millender is the all action war I want to see.
James - Is he back? This is similar to JDS’s story earlier – it’s a start in the right direction, but let’s not get carried away just yet. Still Mendes has power and he’s ready to get right back to ranked competition – what is Chan Sung Jung up to? In case the UFC have bigger plans in mind for the “Korean Zombie”, then how about Mirsad Bektic on deck?
Zane - Welp, Chad Mendes is a top 10-ish featherweight again. And he’s got a challenger waiting for him in Alex Volkanovski. Only... Mendes called for someone in the top 5, and that’s not the Aussie. After a couple years away for a failed drug test, I’m tempted to say that Mendes should chill and take on the rising contender, but my guess is he just won’t be interested. If that’s the case, then the winner of Cub Swanson vs. Renato Moicano would likely be his fight. Similarly, the winner of Jose Aldo vs. Jeremy Stephens or Frankie Edgar vs. Chan Sung Jung would be equally good fights. But considering Mendes has already lost to Edgar and Aldo, it seems like the Swanson/Moicano winner is the safest bet (after all, Mendes’ Swanson win is 8 years old now).
James - I was sure Zingano was going to lose. Coming off three devastating defeats and fighting an opponent that was treading upward, the stars look aligned that Zingano was in big trouble. But, she gutted out a gritty decision over a tough opponent. I’m glad she proved me wrong because Zingano has had to deal with an agonizing amount of adversity both in and out of the cage for the better part of four years and she deserves better. Things are looking up for her – especially in one of the most paper-thin divisions of the UFC, where now she is probably in title contention. Put her in against Raquel Pennington and if Zingano wins then she gets another shot at the brass ring.
Zane - None of the logical fights for Zingano are likely all that easy to book right now. Nunes is apparently fighting Cyborg in December, so she can forget the title shot for the moment. Germaine De Randamie’s hand still hasn’t properly healed and who knows when it will. And Raquel Pennington just took a hellacious beating from the champ and I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s not back anytime soon. It may be the Vieira is better lined up for Pennington than Zingano anyway. Does that mean Zingano takes on Aspen Ladd? Because that fight just seems weird. I’ll say Zingano vs. Pennington in the hopes that the UFC can book Vieira vs. GDR in a top contender’s fight. But, man does this division need more fighters.
James - I consider Volkanovski to be the featherweight equivalent of Gregor Gillespie – an uber-prospect who seriously needs a challenge. It’s time for ranked competition – Ricardo Lamas, come on down.
Zane - He wants Chad Mendes, but the right fight is so much more obvious than that: Mirsad Bektic. Volkanovski already has the mental edge of having passed a test where Bektic failed against Darren Elkins, but putting two hard hitting, power wrestling, rapidly climbing featherweight talents in the cage together just feels like a fight too good to pass up on. I’d give Volkanovski the edge for his chin and striking fluidity, but Bektic seems like he’s faster and more dynamic. It should make for a great bout and set the winner on track to be a title contender in the near future. Alex Volkanovski vs. Mirsad Bektic is must see stuff.
James - Andrea Lee
Zane - Carmouche just threw a wrench in the works for anyone hoping that Maia would immediately assert herself as one of flyweight’s top talents. Instead, we got ‘Girl-Rilla’ putting on her most composed, controlled performance in years. If Carmouche can keep it up, she can make serious waves in this division. But that’s a serious “if”. Part of me says she should Sijara Eubanks, but that may be a bout better saved for the Davis/Chookagian winner. Eye and Modafferi would both work as well, even if I’d like to see them fight each other. She could take a step back and fight Ashlee Evans-Smith, but that doesn’t seem like a fight she’d want. In the end I’ll say match her with Eye. It’s a fight I think Modafferi would be well suited for too, but I think there are a lot more compelling fights out there to make with the ‘Happy Warrior’ and it’s a bout it feels like we already should have seen at 135. Liz Carmouche vs. Jessica Eye.
OTHER BOUTS: Ottow vs. Marshman, Bermudez vs. Knight, Brown vs. ‘Ace’ Lim, Jury vs. Kattar, Reneau vs. Ladd, Perez vs. Silva de Andrade, Wineland vs. Kelleher, Elkins vs. Lamas, Nurmagomedov vs. Sasaki, Scoggins vs. Beltran, Barcelos vs. Henry, Holobaugh vs. Burnell, Maia vs. Honchak, De La Rosa vs. R. Sanchez, Garcia vs. Mokhtarian, Aguilar vs. Lima, Esquibel vs. Yoder