clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

UFC 245: Usman vs. Covington - Fights to make

New, 33 comments

All the best, most interesting, and unquestionably coolest fights the UFC needs to book following their latest event in Las Vegas, NV.

UFC 245 may not have ended up as a series of high octane thrillers for the PPV card, but it was a great night of mixed martial arts at its highest level. Three title fights and two top contender bouts all going multiple rounds, and showing off some of the sports’ most skilled athletes. Kamaru Usman walked away with vindication, after months of trash talk from Colby Covington. Alexander Volkanovski once again showed off his rapid fight-to-fight improvement. And Jose Aldo proved that his bantamweight drop was, at the very least, a better idea than it looked.

So, is Kamaru Usman really gunning for a Leon Edwards rematch? Does anyone want to see Amanda Nunes fight Claressa Sheilds? And is the UFC actually going to credit Marlon Moraes with a loss?

I’ll be answering all those questions – and much, much more – using the classic Joe Silva time-tested methodology of years past. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent up against one another. Keep an eye peeled for the UFC Busan: Edgar vs. TKZ Fights to make article for your chance to do your own fantasy fight booking for UFC 246.

This week’s winner is BE reader, ‘I chop meat’:

Hi. I am I chop meat and I’m back. Kick that heavy bag for me and let’s go.

KAMARU USMAN

ICM - That was an incredible fight. And a really close one. I wouldn’t mind them having a rematch at some point. But, no matter who was gonna win that fight, I would name the same fighter as their next opponent: Jorge Masvidal. I know that there are other contenders pushing for a title shot, like Leon Edwards and Tyron Woodley, but Usman already fought and beat both of them. Masvidal, on the other hand, is a fresh face and he would make for an interesting match-up against Usman—given ‘Gamebred’’s underrated grappling and the ability to create fight-ending offense out of nowhere. So, as long as Masvidal doesn’t want to sit around and wait for a potential McGregor fight that may never come, he absolutely should be pushing for a title fight against Usman.

Zane - I’m not advocating in any way that the UFC should overlook Leon Edwards. He’s got the record, he has a history against the champ, and he’s done everything he needs to do to position himself as the welterweight division’s top contender. However, I am really surprised that this appears to be the direction that Usman is looking. Jorge Masvidal is clearly the ‘bigger’ fight of the moment. And Dana White is already talking about ‘Gamebred’ as the guy who will face off for the belt. But even Masvidal has talked about looking toward other options than Usman. That could mean that Edwards will get his chance at the belt next. However, with White also talking about Conor McGregor getting the next chance at Khabib with a win over Cerrone (and Masvidal’s other desired fight being Nick Diaz?) my guess is that Masvidal vs. Usman is the fight that gets made. Edwards is a deserving contender, but the UFC would be foolish to pass up Masvidal vs. Usman.

COLBY COVINGTON

ICM - Well, seems like we’re not gonna witness the welterweight division made great again after all. But, in all seriousness, Covington fought a good fight and he can still find himself fighting for the world title in the near future. A fight against the newly dethroned champ Tyron Woodley is the fastest way to get there for Covington, and it’s a fight that Tyron Woodley clearly wants himself—as he expressed his desire to fight Covington on countless occasions.

Zane - Covington may be claiming he was hard done by from the referee, but it seems incredibly unlikely that he’ll be getting any kind of quick rematch. And, if the UFC decides that he hasn’t been enough of a ‘needle mover’ for the promotion, he could also find himself on a long track back to title contention. All that said, though, there’s no reason that ‘Chaos’ should be taking a big step back here. He’s clearly one of the best welterweights in the world and still very much at the top of his game. That could mean taking on Leon Edwards to see if Covington can bounce right back to contention. But, if Usman beats Masvidal and Covington beat Edwards, the UFC could find itself with a fight they don’t want to make. Better options would likely be fights with Stephen Thompson, Vicente Luque, or Gilbert Burns. Of those, Thompson seems like the highest profile, most reasonable bout. Plus, it’d be super fun to watch Covington try and trash talk ‘Wonderboy.’ It’s a tough matchup for the kickboxer, but with Covington’s love of striking volume, it could make a much more difficult fight than expected. Covington vs. Thompson is the best next step for the two former title challengers.

ALEXANDER VOLKANOVSKI

ICM - Outstanding performance by Alex Volkanovski. He’s lived up to his nickname so far, beating yet another featherweight GOAT. And, since just 4 of his UFC fights came against ranked opposition, there’s still an array of contenders who could potentially fight him for the title. But there’s one problem here: none of those contenders is coming off the kind of a big win that screams ‘title shot’. If The Korean Zombie beats Frankie Edgar, he’ll probably get a title shot. But if he loses, well, the UFC will most likely try to book a rematch between Volkanovski and Holloway. I’m not a fan of immediate rematches, but if Edgar beats TKZ, Volkanovski vs Holloway II seems like the only legit option right now.

Zane - As the new king, Volkanovski is hitting a field filled with challengers. The bout between Chan Sung Jung and Brian Ortega would have been an ideal top contenders bout, if Ortega had stayed in it. And with Frankie Edgar now in the mix, the bout could still end up making something happen. But, Edgar would need a hell of a performance against the ‘Korean Zombie’ to build any fan enthusiasm for yet another title fight. The other primary options are Yair Rodriguez and Zabit Magomedsharipov. Ideally, Zabit and Yair would fight to crown a truly thrilling contender. However, if the UFC doesn’t want to book that fight – or if Volkanovski doesn’t want to wait that long – then go ahead and book Zabit. Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Alexander Volkanovski is the most compelling title fight available right now.

MAX HOLLOWAY

ICM - It wasn’t the result Max Holloway wanted, but it wasn’t a really bad loss either. Much like Robert Whittaker, Holloway is still very young and has all the time in the world to climb back. As I said, if Chan Sung Jung beats Frankie Edgar, then he’ll probably fight Volkanovski for the title. If that happens, Max can fight either Zabit Magomedsharipov or Yair Rodriguez. Both fights would be amazing. If Zombie loses, then it’s Volkanovski vs Holloway II for the lack of better options.

Zane - A somewhat surprising loss for the now-former featherweight champion—and his first at 145 since Conor McGregor in 2013. Volkanovski put out a well crafted and careful pace, comprised of combination striking to all levels—and Holloway couldn’t quite find the avenue to open up his combinations and catch up to the City Kickboxing fighter. Unfortunately for Holloway, over the course of his long rise, he’s already fought much of the potential competition out there for him. If Chan Sung Jung loses to Edgar (or if a win doesn’t get him an immediate title shot), then a fight between ‘TKZ’ and ‘Blessed’ would be an exceptionally good idea. Additionally, if the UFC wants to book Zabit vs. Volkanovski, then a bout with Yair Rodriguez would work pretty exceptionally well too. Still, I think the upcoming Edgar/Chan Sung fight provides the best next option. And to that end, the UFC should look to book Holloway vs. Chan Sung Jung, no matter if ‘Korean Zombie’ wins or loses to Edgar at UFC Busan.

AMANDA NUNES

ICM - At this point, Nunes has pretty much cleared out her division, and it’s only getting harder and harder to find a worthy challenger to her bantamweight title (let alone the featherweight one). Earlier on the card, we saw the #2 ranked Ketlen Vieira who was on an impressive win streak get knocked out senseless by the #10 ranked Irene Aldana in a fight that, at least from the rankings standpoint, didn’t make any sense. Had Vieira won that fight, she would be an easy choice as Nunes’ next opponent. But with things playing out the way they did, there’s simply no clear challenger to Nunes at this moment. So, let Juliana Pena and Aspen Ladd (oh boy) fight each other to determine who’s next in line, while Amanda Nunes can sit back and enjoy a drink.

Zane - Another contender dispatched, and the UFC is fast running out of reasonable challenges to throw at Nunes. She says she wants to defend her featherweight title next, but against who? The UFC has been teasing the idea of Claressa Shields as a potential next fight, but Shields has never even competed as low as 145 lbs as a pro boxer—never mind that she’s never even fought in MMA before. Is a sideshow fight really all the UFC has left for the ‘Lioness’? I mean... maybe. Irene Aldana, Aspen Ladd, and Julianna Pena all feel like they could use another win or two to build themselves into real challengers. If the UFC can get some combination of them booked for the near future, they’d at least have an option of a winner that would make more sense than ‘T-Rex.’ If they absolutely cannot figure anything else out, go ahead and book Irene Aldana vs. Amanda Nunes. But really, the UFC just needs to put more work into building one of their bantamweight women as a contender. And maybe actually build women’s featherweight, or just get rid of it.

GERMAINE DE RANDAMIE

ICM - Germaine De Randamie is yet another fighter to get into that Joseph Benavidez/Frankie Edgar/Alex Gustaffson position, where she has 2 losses to a dominant champion, who isn’t about to stop anytime soon. Her best option is to embrace that ‘second best in the world’ position and fight all comers, hoping that at one point Nunes either loses or retires. If she’s not one of those ‘title shot or retirement’ fighters, there’s a lot of interesting fights for her at bantamweight. As much as I don’t like matching up fighters who just fought at the same event, De Randamie vs Irene Aldana seems like an exceptionally good fight between two long, technical strikers—and a chance for Aldana to get a marquee win to further improve her winning streak.

Zane - She was already talking about retirement ahead of this bout, so I won’t be at all surprised if GDR just walks away on the loss. However, if Germaine de Randamie wants to keep fighting, she has an option or two. A move back to featherweight could be fun, for fights with Felicia Spencer or Megan Anderson. A bout against Ketlen Vieira would also be fine, or maybe the loser of McMann/Lansberg. End of the day, however, Megan Anderson really needs someone else to fight. She’s already lost to Spencer, and she’s under contract. If GDR is going to return to the cage, do it at 145 against Anderson. That’s the most sensible fight for one of the UFC’s few featherweight women.

MARLON MORAES

ICM - I didn’t agree with the decision, but a win’s a win—and Moraes is still one of the best bantamweights in the world. He’s not getting a title shot anytime soon though, giving his recent loss to Henry Cejudo, but this win over Aldo makes sure he’s still ‘in the mix’. There’s a lot of excitement surrounding the bantamweight division right now, all due to a stream of new contenders looking for big fights. One of those contenders is Cory Sandhagen, who was gearing up to welcome Frankie Edgar to bantamweight, but lost that fight due to Edgar stepping in against The Korean Zombie. It’s still not clear if Edgar will fight Sandhagen after the Zombie fight, but If he won’t (and if Marlon Moraes doesn’t mind taking a short-notice fight) then Moraes vs Sandhagen is an outstanding fight. If somehow Edgar does end up fighting Sandhagen, then, I guess, there’s always Rob Font.

Zane - It seems the UFC is pretty much fully on board with treating Moraes like he didn’t actually win this fight. And while I certainly felt like Aldo did enough to win it live, I’m not at all sure what makes this such an exception for White & Co. There are wild scorecards pretty regularly in this sport. Fighters often feel like they’ve won bouts the judges didn’t award them—often rightfully so. Aldo’s performance was good, but so much so that it should single him out for title contention in a crowded field of contenders? I dunno. At the very least, book Marlon Moraes like a winner too, it’s the minimum he deserves. I highly doubt that Frankie Edgar is actually gonna make that Cory Sandhagen bout in January. If that fight really does fall apart, then Sandhagen vs. Moraes makes a ton of sense. And it’s a fitting reward for a fighter who, technically, won his bout on Saturday night.

PETR YAN

ICM - Yan has beaten some decent competition in his last a couple of fights, and he looked nothing short of spectacular doing so. A win over Urijah Faber may not mean as much today as it would 10 years ago, but it’s exactly the kind of a big-name win that usually propells fighters into title shots in the UFC. And even though I would love to see a fight between Yan and Moraes, Moraes’ loss to Cejudo would only further stall the title picture he were to beat Yan. So, in order to keep the division healthy, I think Yan should fight Henry Cejudo for the title, once the champ is back.

Zane - A big name win for Yan’s resume, and one that should have him in line for for a shot at Cejudo – alongside Sandhagen and Sterling – but in this division it’s more likely than anything to just keep him treading water until the champ is healthy and has figured out what belt he wants to defend. With all the fighters gunning for top position and a champion that doesn’t seem interested in facing any of them in particular, some sorting is going to have to happen. I’d like to see Moraes take on Sandhagen, so that means a booking between ‘No Mercy’ and Aljo is a great counterpoint. It’s a fight that both men have already talked about before, and the winner would have that much better case to challenge for the belt—whenever that opportunity might present itself. Sterling vs. Yan is a banger, and could just maybe get the winner a chance to fight for a title.

GEOFF NEAL

ICM - Geoff Neal is one scary man. Going 5-0 with 4 finishes in the Octagon against some serious competition!? He is one of the most promising prospects in any division. With that kind of skillset and athletisism, he already looks like he can compete against any welterweight on the roster. As much as I would love to watch him continue take fun fights against unranked fighters, I think he deserves a step up in competition after putting away the ever-durable Mike Perry like that. Daniel Cormier suggested Santiago Ponzinibbio on the broadcast, and that’s a great fight, but I doubt Ponzinibbio is gonna be interested. Instead, I’d say book Neal against Gilbert Burns to see if Burns’ aggressive ground game can present new challenges for Neal, and if Burns can deal with a legit heavy hitter at welterweight.

Zane - ‘Handz of Steel’ is quickly carving his place out as a potential future welterweight contender. Mike Perry has taken his share of losses in the Octagon, but he’s always been defined by his absurd toughness. Neal walked through him with a quickness. That’s a kind of form and power that could see big things in his future. If Neal Magny is going to return to competition anytime soon, a bout between him and the Fortis MMA talent would be a good small bump up in competition. But, Magny hasn’t fought for more than a year for a whole variety of reasons. Instead, bouts against Vicente Luque or Gilbert Burns seem like more reliable bookings. I especially like the Burns idea, since Burns’ grappling and wrestling should be able to challenge the weakest parts of Neal’s skill set. If the UFC just wants to give Neal a dangerous fight without a lot of upside, then he could take on Claudio Silva, who’s also sitting at 5-0, or Li Jingliang. But, I like the idea of Burns vs. Neal a lot. It’s a great test of Neal’s potential to be a well rounded contender down the line.

MATT BROWN

ICM - ‘The Immortal’ still has it. For the first time in more than 5 years, he’s riding a win streak. A lot of people are urging him to retire, and It’s understandable, but he clearly has a lot of fight left in him. Even if only mentally. I wouldn’t want him anywhere near the guys like Geoff Neal though. There’s a ton of options for him outside of the top-15. The fight I personally want to see is Matt Brown vs Song Kenan. Why? I have no idea.

Zane - Brown may be looking toward the end of his career, but he’s clearly got some violence still left in him. So it’s on the UFC to find just the right scraps to take advantage of however long he wants to keep competing. A bout with Thiago Alves would be a fun option, in the unlikely event Alves returns to the Octagon. Likewise a fight with Carlos Condit would be great when/if Condit returns from injury. He’s already fought Tim Means and Donald Cerrone, but a fight with Alex Oliveira wouldn’t be a bad idea. While Oliveira is riding a string of losses, he has a strong case to make that he beat Dalby. It’s the kind of bout that Brown tends to be at his most thrilling in. But, I think there’s an even better option, that could lead to the most competitive potential contest: Erik Koch. Koch recently returned from his own long layoff to beat Kyle Stewart. A fight with Brown would give him a more high profile opponent, and Koch’s trouble with pressure should give Brown a strong avenue to pour on the aggression and see if he can pick up another fun win. Brown vs. Koch would be the perfect veteran battle.

Other Bouts: Jose Aldo vs. Henry Cejudo??? (Sterling would probably make more sense), Urijah Faber vs. Pedro Munhoz, Mike Perry vs. Warlley Alves, Ketlen Vieira vs. Yana Kunitskaya, Irene Aldana vs. Julianna Pena, Omari Akhmedov vs. Edmen Shahbazyan, Ian Heinisch vs. Andrew Sanchez, Chase Hooper vs. Sean Woodson, Daniel Teymur vs. Matt Sayles, Brandon Moreno vs. Jussier Formiga, Kai Kara-France vs. Elliott/Askarov winner, Jessica Eye vs. Joanne Calderwood, Viviane Araujo vs. Antonina Shevchenko, Punahele Soriano vs. Abu Azaitar, Oskar Piechota vs. Roman Kopylov