UFC 228 was one of the best top-to-bottom PPV cards the promotion has put on in a long time. While other, single fights may have been better this year, or other title challenges more notable, few PPV cards in recent memory have delivered consistent action fights at the kind of pace that this weekend’s Dallas fight card provided. Two rare submissions, a much-needed stoppage for Tyron Woodley, and four brutal KOs all mean that there’s plenty of fighters riding a hot hand at the moment.
So, where do they go from here? Who does Tyron Woodely take on next? Is Jessica Andrade the next strawweight title challenger? And what about T-Wood’s new single, is it any good?
To answer all these questions, and more, I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking style from years past. That means matching winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent against one another. If you’d like to take your own chance at making some future fight magic, leave a comment below starting with, “Niko pays the price tonight!” I’ll pick one winner from the responses to join me for the next fight card.
This week’s winner is BE reader ‘DaBucketGetter’:
What’s up guys? I’m DaBucketGetter and I’m a college student at Indiana University. My first MMA fight I’ve ever seen was Yoel Romero’s destruction of Lyoto Machida and ever since then I was hooked. I attended my first UFC event this summer at UFC 225 as well. First time picking fights for Bloody Elbow and I can’t wait! Now onto the picks!
Bucket - Tyron Woodley is a bad man ladies and gentleman. People may have forgotten that since he hasn’t finished anyone in a while. He fight IQ and jiu-jitsu were both outstanding in his finish of Till. There’s only one man for him next: Colby Covington. Let’s hope the UFC doesn’t overthink this and lines this one up for MSG.
Zane - I know Covington is supposed to get this fight and I know it would actually be a pretty entertaining bout, but I can’t help feeling like the real first name on the tip of my tongue is GSP. More likely than not, Georges is headed for lightweight and looking for a shot at McGregor, no matter how McGregor’s upcoming fight with Khabib goes, but I could honestly stand to see Covington and Usman battle it out for the top contender while Woodley takes on the kind of ‘big’ fun fight he’s been asking for for years. Back in the real world, where neither GSP nor the UFC is interested in lining Woodley up, the obvious next bout that gets made is Tyron Woodley vs. Colby Covington... but a man can dream.
Bucket - Darren Till looked huge compared to Woodley but couldn’t control the range in the fight and got caught coming in. He hung tough on the ground, which was surprising. It’ll be interesting to see if he’ll stay at 170 or move to 185. For his health, I say a move to 185 should be what’s next. We know he can strike but let’s see if his ground game continues to improve. Give Till the winner of Jacare-Branch in a fight early next year.
Zane - That was one hell of a reality check the ‘Chosen One’ just put on Till. Undefeated through 18 bouts, the always fairly low-output Scouser was reduced to watching as his title hopes were drubbed out of him. Officially he wasn’t credited with even one significant strike through the nine minutes and change the bout lasted. That could mean a swift exit up to the middleweight division. Or possibly the serious desire for redemption at 170 before he can do anything else. If it’s the latter, I’d be interested in seeing Till take on RDA or Usman. But, since I’d prefer to see the former, I’ll say that the next fight to make is Till against Brad Tavares. Give him a chance to work his way through the top ten of the middleweight division just like he wanted, starting at number 10.
Bucket - That rivaled the Holly Holm headkick KO of Rousey in terms of best female knockouts that I have ever seen. Andrade has an absolute cannon in her right hand. After the loss to Joanna at UFC 211, Andrade has continued to get better and show off her game. Give her Thug Rose at UFC 232 and see if she can deliver on her second title shot.
Zane - Honestly this fight shouldn’t have been made. Andrade really didn’t need to prove that she was the no. 1 contender against Kowalkiewicz. But she did, and in the kind of undeniable fashion that gives no other option. Andrade vs. Namajunas promises to be a great fight. A huge challenge for the newly crowned champion and a chance for Andrade to gain gold without Joanna on the throne to thwart her. There’s no other bout at 115 I’d rather see, and a win for Jessica would set up another path for Joanna to try for the title, as well as providing a fascinating future test for Tatiana Suarez if she can continue her run of dominance. Book Andrade vs. Namajunas, just as soon as ‘Thug’ Rose can be lured back into training.
Bucket - She was pressed virtually the entire fight and then got her lights put out. Hopefully Kowalkiewicz is alright and isn’t seriously hurt. Knockouts like that don’t often happen in the women’s strawweight division, so you have to wonder what that does for Kowalkiewicz mindset. She should take some time off and then come back to fight someone in the lower half of the top 10. Courtney Casey had a big win a couple weeks ago and would be a nice bounce back fight for Kowalkiewicz.
Zane - On the downside, Kowalkiewicz’s push forward, throw constantly, and keep your chin up in the air style was always lined up for a hard loss like this one. On the upside, there just aren’t that many other strawweights that can crack like Jessica Andrade. A bout with Tecia Torres is unquestionably the top fight to make for the Polish Princess now. Two women known for their volume, consistency, and lack of fight finishing power. Should make for a fun, high level scrap. If that fight can’t happen, then there’s always Carla Esparza or Angela Hill, but Kowalkiewicz vs. Torres is a top priority.
Bucket - The hype is for real! “ZaBeast” was winning the striking battle and then came out of nowhere with one of the nastiest submission of all time. How Brandon Davis didn’t immediately tap is beyond me. Zabit called out Chad Mendes but I’m not sure if he’ll get that fight. A fight that fans will see eventually is Zabit vs Renato Moicano. Two of the most dangerous strikers in the featherweight division is matchup that has to be next for both men.
Zane - He called out Chad Mendes, and I wouldn’t mind that fight at all. But much like Alex Volkanovski’s call-out of ‘Money’, Mendes is likely not interested. The longtime Team Alpha Male talent doesn’t seem like he wants to be a stepping stone for the new generation. Depending on how far out from recovery Yair Rodriguez is, I’d still be interested in seeing that bout. But, assuming it’s not about to get re-booked, then why not Magomedsharipov vs. Mirsad Bektic. It would be a serious test of Magomedsharipov’s wrestling chops and a striker fast enough to put him in real danger with the kind of game plan Kyle Bochniak tried. Zabit vs. Mirsad feels like just the right fight right now.
Bucket - Coming right back after a brutal knockout isn’t easy but Jimmie Rivera did enough to beat John Dodson. Rivera lead the dance most of the fight and deserves to be in the bantamweight elite. He isn’t close to title contention due to the mess that is at the top of the division right now but neither is Cody Garbrandt. A fight between these men would see who is still a contender at 135 and who is a gatekeeper.
Zane - Not a thrilling win for Jimmie Rivera, but when the goal is staying in title contention, sometimes every fight can’t be a barn burner. He’s a little too prone to matching his opponents for pace, but that just means he needs a higher paced opponent. I’m sure John Lineker would be happy to oblige him, or possibly Raphael Assuncao, maybe even Aljamain Sterling... There are almost too many options at 135. Instead of any of those top-ranked winners, however, I’m going with a man coming off a loss. Why not book Rivera against Cody Garbrandt. Two heavy-handed sluggers should make for a tense matchup. And Garbrandt’s speed could be a big problem if Rivera wants to wait on the counter. Jimmie Rivera vs. Cody Garbrandt would be ‘don’t blink’ action.
Bucket - I was throughly impressed with the strength of Suraez and the way she dominated on the ground. It was a Khabib like mauling and one that shows she’s ready for the divisions elite. If Joana Champion doesn’t move up to flyweight, she has to be next for Suraez. It would test both ladies in different ways and promote the winner into a title shot.
Zane - A lot of noise was made about pitting Tatiana Suarez against Joanna Jedrzejczyk but... I don’t really think it makes much sense. Not that it wouldn’t be a fantastic fight, but lose that and Joanna’s still not a title contender to Rose, so Suarez gets set back for nothing. A win would be huge, but there should be other big fights to take. If Suarez doesn’t mind waiting, the winner of Gadelha vs. Ansaroff would be an ideal next opponent. The winner of Herrig vs. Waterson wouldn’t be bad either. I wouldn’t even mind seeing her take on Cortney Casey fresh off Casey’s recent win over Angela Hill. If Suarez simply must fight soon and Joanna can’t be convinced to start a run at 125, then Suarez vs. Joanna will be a good fight in the moment, but I’ll say have Suarez wait for the Gadelha/Ansaroff winner and book that instead.
Bucket - If Sterling was on any other card, then he would have won a post fight bonus for his wild submission. That was absolutely savage how he pulled the leg right out from underneath Cody. Sterling has proved he’s ready to be in title contention. The title pictured is muddled right now but I know a guy whose always ready for a fight. “Hands of Stone” John Lineker would test Sterling’s chin and see which bantamweight gets into a title eliminator in their next fight.
Zane - Much like Rivera, there are too many fights for Al-Jo out there. He called out Dominick Cruz, and I’d be fine with that if Cruz won’t face Assuncao for some unforeseen reason. I’d also be happy to see Sterling against Lineker, or Rivera. Eventually though, I’ll throw a bit of a curve ball and say, why not Aljamain Sterling vs. Rani Yahya. Yahya isn’t as high profile as the other names on this list, but he’s the most seasoned veteran in the division and he’s looking for a way to climb the ranks. A fight with Sterling would provide a great grappling test and an opportunity for Sterling to prove that he can be a more dominant striker than he has been to date. Sterling can wait on Cruz all he wants, but Yahya is right there and would be a fascinating challenge.
Bucket - What an absolutely stunning headkick. UFC 228 had two submission of the year candidates and a Knockout of the year candidate. Neal proved that he was worthy of a UFC contract with that KO. Give him Alan Jouban next to see if he can do it again and keep moving up the ladder.
Zane - There’s definitely an argument to be made that Neal should be bounced way up the division to see if he can add to his hype quickly. Bouts against guys like Jouban, Jingliang, or Mein would all be immediate tests to let Neal charge into the rankings in a hurry off a win. But, in the case of still developing talent, I feel like slow and steady is a better idea. The UFC is full of exciting prospects with 2 or 3 losses already on their records just from throwing them into the deep end too soon to see how well they swim. To that end, I’ll say match Geoff Neal up with Kenan Song. The massive Chinese welterweight would provide a better physical test than Neal’s last couple opponents, and has shown some surprising power and composure of his own, while still being unlikely to match Neal for speed. Should make for a good soft step forward.
OTHER BOUTS: Davis vs. Bessette, Dodson vs. Almeida, Alhassan vs. Bahadurzada, Price vs. Griffin, Esparza vs. Hill, Stamann vs. Font, Camacho vs. Chagas, Stewart vs. Janes, Byrd vs. Williams, Sanchez vs. Nakamura, C. White vs. Rencountre, Miller vs. Dober, A. White vs. Tuck, Aldana vs. Lansberg/Kunitskaya winner, Pudilova vs. Mazany, Brooks vs. Schnell, Sanchez vs. Inoue