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UFC Vegas 13: Santos vs. Teixeira - Fights to make

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All the best, most interesting, and unquestionably coolest fights the UFC needs to book following their latest event, UFC Vegas 13, at the Apex Facility in Las Vegas, NV.

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Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

UFC VEGAS 13: ‘SANTOS VS TEIXEIRA’ ended up a pretty entertaining card when all was said and done. Andrei Arlovski & Tanner Boser may have laid an egg in the co-main, but that was buttressed nicely by a fantastic Fight of the Night effort from Raoni Barcelos & Khalid Taha as well as Glover Teixeira’s remarkable submission win over Thiago Santos in a bout where he was badly hurt twice but took advantage of ‘Marreta’’s porous takedown defense to secure dominant positions.

So, can Glover really argue his way into a title shot, with Adesanya vs. Blachowicz already in the works? Is anyone in the UFC front office hyped enough about Raoni Barcelos to get him a top 15 opponent? And how far off title contention is Yan Xiaonan after picking up a solid victory over Claudia Gadelha?

To answer those questions – and maybe one or two others – I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking methodology from the UFC of years past. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent up against one another. Hopefully, by following that model, a few of these bout ideas will actually make it off the page and into the Octagon. Now, let’s get to the fights.

GLOVER TEIXEIRA

After picking up yet another emphatic victory, the ageless Glover Teixeira called for his shot at the light heavyweight title. And, to Dana White’s credit (for the moment) it sounds like the UFC is at least considering it. A 41-year-old vet picking off two recent title contenders to put together a 5-0 run and snag the UFC’s no. 1 LHW ranking should be the kind of story the promotion is eager to eat up. But with money always rushing the narrative, they opted to go with an Adesanya vs. Blachowicz, champ vs. champ fight instead. Hopefully this win will see them reverse that course, because if I’m Teixeira, I don’t take any other fights until I’ve got one last shot at UFC gold. Glover Teixeira vs. Jan Blachowicz is the fight Glover deserves, anything less than that will be a disservice to the old man.

THIAGO SANTOS

Santos looked like he had Teixeira dead to rights straight out of the gate, but he couldn’t keep his composure when he had Glover hurt. In the first round, he let Glover get in on a bodylock to take him down. And in the third round he spent enough time grappling with Glover to let him find a way to a seated double leg, Demian Maia style, for the sweep and the quick submission. Still, it looked like his knees were holding up just fine—so there’s at least some good to come out of the whole thing. The loss puts Santos on a two-loss skid, but if he’s willing to wait until Volkan Oezdemir is recovered from his own knee injury that is the must make booking. If Santos doesn’t want to wait, then the loser of Dominick Reyes vs. Jiri Prochazka also would be a wild one. Still, I want to see that Oezdemir fight. Take some time to work on the takedown D, and get in there with ‘No Time’ early next year.

ANDREI ARLOVSKI

Not a pretty win, but at this point in Arlovski’s career he’s gonna take whatever he can get. The former heavyweight champ has now picked up two in a row and will probably get another borderline top-15 heavyweight looking to prove something next time out. That could be former WSOF champ Blagoi Ivanov, or former Fight Nights Global champ Sergei Pavlovich (whenever he’s healed up and ready to go again). Or even someone like former Cage Warriors standout Tom Aspinall, fresh off two dominant first round KOs. But there’s one other option I’d like to see as long as it’s floating out there: Alexander Gustafsson. Sure the ‘Mauler’’s heavyweight debut didn’t go the way he’d hoped, but that was against Fabricio Werdum’s ground game. Arlovski isn’t likely to give him those same challenges. And for a man with as many years in the game as the ‘Pitbull’ has, a fight with Gustafsson would be a great reward for all the work he’s put in, rather than just being some new kid’s stepping stone.

RAONI BARCELOS

Another underrated opponent for Barcelos, another strong win. Hopefully he can get a bigger fight next time out, because at 33 his time to make a title run is likely short. He could step in for Cody Stamann to face Merab Dvalishvili if he’s ready to go again soon. But I wouldn’t even mind seeing him get a bigger name than that. Fights against the likes of Jimmie Rivera or Raphael Assuncao would be really choice. The reality, though, is that that Dvalishvili fight would be totally awesome, and is likely much more attainable. Dvalishvili’s non-stop wrestling attack could meet a serious road block against a physical force like Barcelos, just as know for his takedown game as his power kick boxing. And for Barcelos, if he can’t keep this fight standing, he might find himself finally faced with someone who can actually dominate him in one area of the fight. Raoni Barcelos vs. Merab Dvalishvili is must-see stuff. If not that, throw him in with Jimmie Rivera. The man is ready for big fights.

GIGA CHIKADZE

Chikadze’s desire to stay active and grab another bout before the year was out meant he got a bit of a layup from UFC matchmakers. A short notice, inexperienced wrestler who just couldn’t hang with him standing and didn’t have the technique to put him on his back. The result? A first round KO from what was essentially the only clean set of strikes Chikadze landed in the fight. He deserved a bigger step up after his last win. After this one, it’s an absolute necessity. In the aftermath, Chikadze called out Jeremy Stephens, but also mentioned that the UFC had offered him Arnold Allen. I’m not really sure either fight actually happens. Stephens pulled out of that Allen fight with an injury, and if Chikadze is saying Allen wouldn’t fight him as a replacement, then the idea of him getting either in December might be a pipe dream. But Edson Barboza and Shane Burgos both need fights. How about Giga Chikadze vs. Shane Burgos? The more I think about it, the more I need it.

YAN XIAONAN

Exactly the win Xiaonan needed to have. Gadelha put her strength and wrestling to work early, but couldn’t turn a solid round of positional domination into serious momentum. And if an opponent can’t take momentum from Xiaonan fans can be sure that she’ll be putting out enough offense at all times to stay in the lead. That puts her in line for any of a few fights. Joanna Jedrzejczyk says she won’t come back for anything less than the belt, so that’s probably a no go, but a bout with Carla Esparza would be a rock solid way to see if Yan is ready to contend sometime in the next year. Otherwise, the winner of Amanda Ribas vs. Michelle Waterson will need an opponent and should line up for a real entertaining show of skill. But, Esparza is right there without anything to do in the strawweight division and still winning. Yan Xiaonan vs. Carla Esparza is the kind of fight that could turn Xiaonan into a real contender.

CLAUDIA GADELHA

Another rough loss for Claudia Gadelha and she seems to have a serious problem controlling the pace of a fight. Against Yan she tried to take the early lead with grappling, but the result of that work meant her output tanked for the rest of the bout. Not something she could afford against a striker as busy as ‘Nine’. Still, with her physicality and well rounded game, there are plenty of fights she can still win at 115. Bouts against Felice Herrig, Marina Rodriguez, or the loser of Waterson vs. Ribas would all be fine fights. Of those, that Marina Rodriguez matchup feels especially right. Rodriguez’s takedown defense has been porous in her UFC career so far. So much so that she entirely gave away her fight against Carla Esparza. It’s something that Gadelha should take advantage of, but would her cardio hold up? Marina Rodriguez vs. Claudia Gadelha is a great way for both women to prove the holes in their games have been fixed.

ALEXANDER ROMANOV

Not the easiest fight of Romanov’s career, but he fought off ‘Pezao’’s hammering strikes and scrambles early to eventually get a big takedown in the middle of the cage. One that de Lima couldn’t easily hip out of. From there, Romanov landed a few punches and then put a forearm in the Brazilian’s neck that unexpectedly choked him out cold. A second strong showing in as many fights from the Moldovan, with plenty of bouts for him to get next off that kind of performance. He called out Marcin Tybura and a bout with Greg Hardy wouldn’t be a terrible idea. But, I really like the idea of him taking on a strong grappling specialist—to really test his wrestling attack. How about a fight with recent TUF winner Juan Espino? Espino hasn’t just been tapping people, his takedown arsenal has looked every bit as determined as ‘King Kong’’s to date. Romanov vs. Espino would be a rare heavyweight grappling battle. Make it happen.

DARREN ELKINS

Given an opponent with especially bad takedown defense, Elkins showed up and did what he does best: he got a lot of takedowns. And eventually, along the way, he forced the kind of huge mistake out of Garagorri that the Brazilian-born Uruguayan just couldn’t afford. Give Elkins your hips and there’s still a whole hell of a lot he can get done. Given that, there are a few action-forward featherweight matchups I’d still love to see him take. Fights with the likes of Charles Rosa or Makwan Amrikhani could both be fun. But with those men coming off rough losses last time out, how about giving Elkins a winner. Jared Gordon picked up a badly needed victory over Chris Fishgold in his featherweight debut. A fight against Elkins seems like it’d be just the kind of step forward he needs to see if his busy boxing and grappling style can cut it at 145. Gordon vs. Elkins would be a surefire scrap.

OTHER BOUTS: Tanner Boser vs. Ilir Latifi, Khalid Taha vs. Heili Alateng, Jeremy Simmons vs. Aalon Cruz, Trevin Giles vs. Andrew Sanchez, Bevon Lewis vs. Maki Pitolo, Marcos Rogerio de Lima vs. Yorgan de Castro, Luiz Eduardo Garagorri vs. Seung Woo Choi, Max Griffin vs. Kenan Song, Ramiz Brahimaj vs. Gabriel Green, Gustavo Lopez vs. Hunter Azure, Anthony Birchak vs. Vince Morales