In some ways, UFC 247 exceeded expectations. Jon Jones vs. Dominick Reyes was an absolute thriller, Valentina Shevchenko’s win over Katlyn Chookagian was nothing less than dominant, and even the heavyweight fights both ended up entertaining. And that’s not to mention the fantastic war that Dan Ige and Mirsad Bektic put on, or James Krause’s gutsy performance on the prelims.
So, is there any way that Jon Jones doesn’t fight Dominick Reyes again? And what about Valentina Shevchenko? Does she have even one reasonable challenger at flyweight? And which of the young crop of rising featherweight contenders should Dan Ige face next?
To answer all those questions – and maybe a couple more – I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby method of matchmaking from the UFC of years past. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent up against one another. That way, there’s at least a chance that a few of these fights I hope to see actually get made. Now, let’s get to the matchups!
Jones really should be fighting Dominick Reyes again as soon as possible. As much as there was an argument that Thiago Santos beat Jones, Reyes has a very strong case for walking out of this fight with 3 solid rounds. However, the post fight vibe definitely didn’t feel like the UFC was dying to play this whole thing back right now. Instead, I have a serious hunch that the promotion is going to lean hard into trying to book Jon Jones against Stipe Miocic. Or, if Adesanya beats Yoel Romero, then Adesanya vs. Jones.
Miocic’s camp has been talking about how he wants new challenges, instead of a DC trilogy. And there’s been an ever growing sense that Jones needs to test himself at heavyweight sometime soon. And Adesanya has clearly got himself under Jones’ skin and into the ‘superfight’ conversation. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jones ultimately balks at the heavyweight idea and we end up with Miocic vs. Cormier 3. But I think the UFC is going to kick the tires on MIocic vs. Jones or Adesanya vs. Jones. If those don’t work out, then please just give Reyes the instant rematch he deserves.
Dominick Reyes never should have let the mic pass in front of his mouth Saturday night without telling people that he was the legit champ and that Jon Jones was wearing his belt. The crowd was behind him, the action in the cage largely supported his claim. And if he made his case hard enough, he might be able to build up the kind of instant heat he’d need for the UFC to feel like a rematch is the biggest fight they could make for Jones right now. Instead, he kinda ‘good game’-ed his way out of the cage; an admirable display of good sportsmanship, but something that may ultimately cost him a quick second chance for UFC gold.
In his favor, Dana White seems to think Reyes had done enough to win, so maybe that’ll mean the rematch happens. But if the UFC decides to skip out on the idea? Then book Dominick Reyes against Thiago Santos, when Santos is healed up again, and give that winner another shot at Jon Jones. They both have an argument to get that fight back already. Reyes against the winner of Smith/Teixeira or Anderson/Blachowicz 2 would also be fine if Santos is gonna be gone for too much longer.
Do people really want to see Shevchenko vs. Amanda Nunes 3? Really!? I ask fans to look into their hearts, think about Nunes vs. Shevchenko 2. Aren’t we all happier for having moved on from that? I think so.
Still... Shevchenko really doesn’t have a meaningful next challenger right now. The most promising young athletes at 125 have been pushed too far too fast and been found wanting—and few of the more battle tested veterans have separated themselves from the pack. Joanne Calderwood could call for the shot, but it wasn’t that long ago that she was struggling with the very same challenger Shevchenko just dismantled. If Calvillo beats Antonina Shevchenko decisively, I could easily see her jumping the queue ahead of a lot of women. And I would love to see the champ pull an Anderson Silva and just take some random non-title fights at 135 (like Germaine de Randamie or Irene Aldana, or Raquel Pennington). But if she’s set to stay at 135, as she and Dana White both seem to want, then Shevchenko is just going to have to wait for some title contender bouts to get booked—because there isn’t a clear contender right now.
This was pretty much the fight everyone feared was coming for Katlyn Chookagian. She’s made some definite strides in her standup game lately, but stuck with an opponent who was just that much more athletic and skilled than she was, answers were few and far between. Eventually Chookagian resorted to just being ready to pull guard every time she stepped into the pocket—a move that cost her dearly in the end.
Still, she can easily be a highly competitive flyweight in the slowly developing UFC talent pool at 125 lbs, and there are a couple of clear options out there for her. Both Vivi Araujo and Maycee Barber were crowned as the next big thing before running into hard walls. Chookagian could provide either woman a quick chance to jump into contention again. However, with a fight between Cynthia Calvillo and Antonina Shevchenko upcoming, I think the loser of that bout would make a perfect next fight. Both women are too experienced to be raw prospects, and both could challenge Chookagian in key areas. Chookagian vs. the Shevchenko/Calvillo loser is a quality bounce-back opportunity.
A touch-and-go performance from Ige who, once again, started fast, only to falter over the middle of the fight. But he came on strong in the last round to get the win and to insert himself firmly in the top 15 of the featherweight division. That puts him in perfect line for fights against Shane Burgos, Arnold Allen, Sodiq Yusuff, or Ryan Hall. Since Burgos is in the midst of contract negotiations (and I really want to see Yusuff vs. Hall), I’ll say the UFC should book Dan Ige vs. Arnold Allen. Two well rounded fighters who seem to be finding their best form lately. And Allen should present a pretty similar style matchup to Bektic, but with a more comfortable boxing game and less dominating wrestling attack. Considering how much fun Ige/Bektic was, Ige/Allen should absolutely guarantee a thriller.
For all but the select few, wrestling just seems like a bad path to beating Derrick Lewis. The takedowns themselves aren’t hard to get, but turning them into meaningful offense – and keeping from getting tired – both seem to be nearly impossible tasks. Ilir Latifi became just the latest in a string of fighters to learn that the hard way. Otherwise, this win keeps Lewis right in the hunt at the top of the heavyweight division. And with the booking of Walt Harris vs. Alistair Overeem, there are very few good fights for him to take. If Jairzinho Rozenstruik beats Francis Ngannou, Lewis could ask for a fight with the fast rising contender. Same with Cyril Gane, if he beats Shamil Abdurahimov. But, a fight with Curtis Blaydes is right there. And given that dominant top control wrestling is the backbone of Blaydes’ game, it seems like a fascinating test to see if Lewis can once again ride out a fight on his back, only to turn the table late. Derrick Lewis vs. Curtis Blaydes is pretty much the only top heavyweight fight available.
I’m not terribly convinced by the scoring of this fight, but the truth is that it was also an intensely high volume, low defense battle, with both women landing clean constantly. If judges saw more of Murphy’s strikes hit the mark, then so be it. Murphy made a smart callout after the bout, asking for a fight against Roxanne Modafferi. It feels a bit like Modafferi could get a more high profile fight than that – like maybe Jessica Eye – but if she can’t, then Murphy vs. Modafferi makes a whole lot of sense for where both women are at in their careers right now. Fights with Jennifer Maia or Vivi Araujo would also be strong calls, but Modafferi vs. Murphy feels like it’s a fight that needs to happen for both women. So might as well make it now.
No lies, I was prepared to be totally shocked if Williams won this fight. His regional work painted a picture of a guy who was largely unready for this kind of step up in competition. Instead, I’m very very impressed. Morono went out and tried to treat Williams like he didn’t deserve to be there, just rushing him with wild strikes—and the hometown fighter took a bad loss for his trouble. Williams was composed and ready to meet Morono with absolute aggression. Turned out he could hit a little harder and cleaner.
Unfortunately for Williams, that’s exactly the kind of win that could just give him another big bump up in competition. But, I think there’s a happy midpoint out there that would make for a thrilling fight without pushing him into the welterweight deep end: Mickey Gall. Gall’s been performing on the UFC stage for a minute now, but at 6-2, he’s hardly a longtime veteran of the sport. Gall’s also got some major striking gaps in his game, and has struggled against fighters that can even just hang with him on the mat. If Williams can do that much, he could pick up another high profile win. Williams vs. Gall seems like a perfect way to capitalize on a big upset victory.
Early going in this fight was a bit rough for Bautista, who looked like he was a lot less willing to open up and let his strikes go than in previous fights. However, he threw several flying knees in the first round. And by the second, he had the strike perfectly timed. Beautiful finish, and one that throws Bautista into the mix of highlight driven prospects at the bottom of the bantamweight division. Fights against Said Nurmagomedov, Benito Lopez, or Luke Sanders could easily follow. Among those, I’d love to see Bautista take on Nurmagomedov. The Dagestani’s blend of range kicking, willingness to throw heat in the pocket, and some solid wrestling should make for a thriller. Mario Bautista vs. Said Nurmagomedov would be a scrap.
OTHER BOUTS: Justin Tafa vs. Juan Espino, Juan Adams vs. Daniel Spitz, Mirsad Bektic vs. Andre Fili, Ilir Latifi vs. Stefan Struve, Trevin Giles vs. Makhmud Muradov, James Krause vs. Gunnar Nelson, Andrea Lee vs. Justine Kish, Alex Morono vs. Bryan Barberena, Miles Johns vs. Vince Morales, Journey Newson vs. Heili Alateng, Domingo Pilarte vs. Carlos Huachini, Andre Ewell vs. Benito Lopez, Jonathan Martinez vs. Brad Katona, Youssef Zalal vs. Hunter Azure, Austin Lingo vs. Jacob Kilburn