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UFC St. Petersburg: Overeem vs. Oleinik - Fights to Make

All the best, most interesting, and unquestionably coolest fights the UFC needs to book, following their latest event in St. Petersburg, Russia.

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Saturday’s UFC card in Saint Petersburg, Russia, was just about the perfect low-stakes UFC event. Fun fights, fast pace, and at an early enough hour that hardcore fans who couldn’t bear missing the card had plenty of time left in their day once it was over. Oh, and Roxanne Modafferi defied the odds to pick up a big win. It’s more than a Bloody Elbow writer could hope to ask for.

So, is Overeem back in the title hunt at heavyweight? What does Islam Makhachev have to do to get a step up in opponent? And the UFC should clearly be paying Modafferi all the bonuses, right?

To answer these questions - but not much else - I’ll be pulling from the old Silva/Shelby playbook of years past. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent against one another. Normally, I’d be giving fans their shot to join me for the next article as well... but since I don’t think I’ll be in town that weekend, the guest contest will take a short hiatus. It also just so happens that there was no winner this week, so readers will just have to hang with me as I forge ahead, alone to pick out the best future fights I can. Now, let’s get down to some fantasy matchmaking.


A classic performance from the ‘Reem.’ Oliynyk had some strong success backing him to the cage, but those clinch knees were nasty and there were only more coming as Oliynyk started to slow. Unfortunately, even with a solid win in his pocket, the top of the heavyweight division is a bit backed up, waiting for DC to defend his belt—probably against Lesnar in late summer, with JDS & Ngannou battling to be next in line. If JDS beats Ngannou, however, a rematch between the two would be a great idea. And I wouldn’t be at all averse to seeing Stipe vs. Overeem 2 as well. Derrick Lewis and Cain Velasquez are both on rough losses, but both are match-ups I’d love to see. And of course there’s also Volkov, if rumors of a USADA test failure are indeed just rumors. Assuming Volkov comes back quickly, that’s probably still the fight to make, otherwise try and get those Stipe or JDS rematches made.


That loss put some serious brakes on Oliynyk’s late career run up the heavyweight division. Credit to him, he went down swinging, but it was also a definitive loss. A fight with Justin Willis wouldn’t be a bad idea, if he hopes to make a quick bounceback against a ranked opponent, neither would a fight against Ben Rothwell. Between those two, I think the Rothwell fight has the highest potential to just be some weird heavyweight mess, so make that happen and give one of these men a chance to jump back in the win column. Ben Rothwell vs. Oleksiy Oliynyk is too much fun to pass up.


With a 6-1 UFC record to his name, it’s time for Makhachev to get a shot at some more notable opposition. His wrestling is too technical and aggressive to spend the prime of his career taking random lightweight fights. A bout against Gregor Gillespie would be a hell of a test for the rising American prospect and as pure a wrestling showdown as you can get. A fight against Paul Felder wouldn’t be a bad idea either, although it’d probably be a rough matchup for the ‘Irish Dragon.’ The UFC could even go winner/loser and pit him against James Vick. Eventually, that Gillespie fight feels like it’d give both men a real sense of something to prove on the way in, and be a real legitimizing fight for either of their claims to a bout against a top ten opponent. Islam Makhachev vs. Gregor Gillespie is quality wrestle-on-wrestle action.


If the debut loss to Overeem dimmed his hype somewhat, this was exactly the kind of one-way ass kicking that Pavlovich needed to regain it. He met Golm early in the first round, looking to trade, and just out-powered the Brazilian for a quick KO. With most of the lower end of the division totally booked, however, it seems like Sergei will have to wait for another fight to get a reasonable next bout. The winner of Andrei Arlovski vs. Augusto Sakai, or Walt Harris vs. Sergey Spivak, or Junior Albini vs. Maurice Greene would all be reasonable options. Of all those, I think the Arlovski/Sakai winner offers the best match-up no matter who takes it. Sergei Pavlovich vs. the Arlovski/Sakai winner is a good next step.


A big win for Modafferi goes a long way toward solidifying her position as a top ranked fighter in the division. Shevchenko was a talented striker with a lot of hype and Modafferi showed up with just the right fight to beat her. Fights against Mara Romero Borella, Alexis Davis, or even a rematch against Jennifer Maia all make decent sense. But a bout against Liz Carmouche seems like the best and most meaningful option. Carmouche is on a two fight win streak, but didn’t exactly look electric last time out. She’d have the physical advantage over Modafferi, but could easily get caught out by Modafferi’s constant pace. A win there and the ‘Happy Warrior’ could be primed for a top contenders’ bout, especially in a division still trying to find its footing. Roxanne Modafferi vs. Liz Carmouche just makes good sense.


Jotko got a win he was expected to get in a fight he absolutely had to have in order to save his UFC career. And, assuming the UFC re-ups his contract, it should prime him for another run of hard opponents. A fight against Omari Akhmedov, coming off his victory over Tim Boetsch wouldn’t be a bad idea, or maybe the loser of Antonio Carlos Jr. vs. Ian Heinisch or Elias Thedorou vs. Derek Brunson. But it feels more likely that those fighters will want more meaningful match-ups after getting ranked wins. So, let’s stick to Krzysztof Jotko vs. Omari Akhmedov, see if Jotko can build some consistency again, and then get him someone in the top 15. If they’re too close of training partners to fight one another (who doesn’t train at ATT these days?) then go with the loser of Carlos Jr. vs. Heinisch.


Maybe the best performance of Abdurakhimov’s career. He looked more fluid, persistent, and powerful against a better level of competition than I’ve ever seen from him before. He’d probably be best served asking for a fight with Alistair Overeem of the win, a high ranked opponent without a clear immediate next fight. But, matching fighters from the same card just doesn’t feel right somehow. So instead I’ll say pit Abdurakhimov against Justin Willis. Yes it’s winner vs. loser, and I know Tai Tuivasa wants that bout, but it’s also an interesting style matchup, given Willis’ counter-heavy game. A chance to for Abdurakhimov to show this win is something he can build off of, and a chance for Willis to show that he still has the potential to be an elite heavyweight when not up against a wrestling game like Curtis Blaydes’. Abdurakhimov vs. Willis looks like a tough heavyweight scrap.


Suddenly at 3-0 (failed drug test aside) Oleksiejczuk is very much a fighter to watch at 205 lbs. Much like he did to Gian Villante, he absolutely smoked Gadzhimurad Antigulov. The only question now is, does the UFC rush him into a ranked opponent? Or do they match him up against another hot prospect? The only ranked fighters right now without a bout are Shogun Rua, Corey Anderson, Nikita Krylov, Misha Cirkunov, and Johnny Walker. Fights with Krylov or walker would both be reasonable as much as I want to see them fight one another. Or Oleksiejczuk could take on someone like Magomed Ankalaev or Jim Crute. Of all these options I think the Jim Crute fight probably feels the most right, especially after Crute blew through Alvey. But I also wouldn’t mind seeing Oleksiejczuk take on the winner of Manuwa/Rakic as a big step up. Crute vs. Oleksiejczuk is my prospect test fight.


What a way to crash back into the UFC for Magomed Mustafaev. After two-and-a-half years on the sidelines, he blew the doors off of one of MMA’s hotter prospects in Rafael Fiziev. He’s a powerhouse athlete with an all-action dynamic style that’s dangerous everywhere. A fight with Alexander Hernandez would be a hell of a lot of fun to watch, and a great way to see if Hernandez’s first two UFC wins were more flash than substance. Fights with Joaquim Silva, Drakkar Klose, or Marc Diakiese would all also be fun fights. Of all these, a bout with Joaquim Silva feels like the most right. ‘Netto BJJ’ has built a similar reputation as a powerful, violent fighter, and one who is more experienced than his 11-1 record would imply (having been fighting since 2010). A fight with Mustafaev would be a chance for one of these violent lightweights to put their division seriously on notice. Magomed Mustafaev vs. Joaquim Silva for all the violence at 155.

OTHER BOUTS: Arman Tsarukyan vs. Scott Holtzman, Marcelo Golm vs. Jeff Hughes, Antonina Shevchenko vs. Lucie Pudilova, Alen Amedovski vs. Julian Marquez, Movsar Evloev vs. Bryce Mitchell, Choi Seung-Woo vs. Anderson dos Santos, Keita Nakamura vs. Bartosz Fabinski, Alexander Yakovlev vs. John Makdessi, Alex da Silva vs. Luigi Vendramini, Marcin Tybura vs. Ivanov/Tuivasa loser, Gadzhimurad Antigulov vs. Klidson Abreu, Rafael Fiziev vs. Marcos Mariano

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