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UFC Norfolk: Benavidez vs. Figueiredo - 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 in Norfolk, VA.

Ultimately it’s hard to see UFC Norfolk as anything other than a bittersweet experience. Despite being short on top tier fights, the card was loaded with finishes. A new title challenger should be announced from the night’s action, and the fight at the top between Deiveson Figueiredo and Joseph Benavidez was genuinely thrilling. But it can’t be denied that it all feels a bit hollow with Figueiredo’s weight miss stripping him of a chance to win gold. And, of course, all the weirdness that was Ion Cutelaba vs. Magomed Ankalaev.

So, what in the heck does the UFC do with Deiveson Figueiredo, the uncrowned king of flyweight? Will Felicia Spencer or Megan Anderson get the next crack at Amanda Nunes? Does it really make a difference? And is it worth the UFC’s time to re-book Ankalaev vs. Cutelaba?

I’ll be answering all those questions – but not much else – using the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking methods from years past. That means I’ll be pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent up against one another. That way, hopefully, the resulting potential match-ups might even be something we end up seeing in the not-too-distant future. On that note, let’s get to the fights!

DEIVESON FIGUEIREDO

Let’s assume (hope) that the UFC doesn’t just slam the door on flyweight altogether just yet. If not, then they need to get Deiveson Figueiredo a meaningful bout. And unfortunately, that doesn’t really exist in the division right now. There’s the winner of Jussier Formiga vs. Brandon Moreno... I guess? If Formiga wins that fight, he’s got the only real claim to a title shot—having already beat the champ. But it’s not a fight any fans are going to clamor for. If Moreno wins? It’d probably be the first title fight in UFC history to end up on the prelims.

The obvious answer here is that the UFC has to hope that Henry Cejudo loses to Jose Aldo. That seems pretty unlikely. But, if it did happen, it’d leave Cejudo in a perfect place to jump back down to 125 and fight for the belt he never really lost. Truthfully, even if Cejudo wins, that’s the fight Figueiredo should be pushing for nonstop. It would suck for bantamweight, but maybe they could finally make an interim title fight for Aljo and Yan that both men have been calling for. Cejudo vs. Figueiredo is literally the only interesting flyweight title fight right now, whether Cejudo wins or loses to Aldo.

JOSEPH BENAVIDEZ

Maaaaaaaaaaaan... that could not have gone much worse for Joe-B. Not only did he lose out on UFC gold, but given all the extenuating circumstances, it doesn’t really even feel like the win got to be a big deal for Figueiredo. Benavidez deserves the position of being a guy that you beat to become a champion, at the very least. And he didn’t even walk away with that scrap of honor. Forntunately, the recent turnover at flyweight has still left him with one or two faces he hasn’t seen before. One of those is Kai Kara-France, another is Alexandre Pantoja. Between them, I’d be a little more hyped for the Pantoja fight. But the Kara-France bout may be something the UFC is more interested in selling on their upcoming Australia return. I’ll take the more fun scrap, even if it might be a bit less likely. Joseph Benavidez vs. Alexandre Pantoja would be a barn burner.

FELICIA SPENCER

Tough luck for Megan Anderson, she got a big KO that would normally have left her primed for the title shot on offer against Amanda Nunes. Unfortunately for her, the woman that handed Anderson her last loss also took care of business with ease in the co-main event. It’s not a fight that makes a whole lot of sense for Nunes, it’s not a fight that makes a whole lot of sense for Spencer (at least not at this point in her career), but it appears to be the fight that the UFC is intent on making. Felicia Spencer vs. Amanda Nunes seems like the fight the UFC is gonna make.

MAGOMED ANKALAEV

There are all sorts of places that Ankalaev could go off this fight. He’s a great prospect with some serious momentum behind him. But, it doesn’t feel like we got to see this fight. And frankly, whether you think Cutelaba was faking it or hurt bad, the stoppage was terrible. There was enough raw emotion going into it to make the buildup thrilling. There’s enough coming out to make it feel like running this back is a necessity. Book it for next month. Hell, book it for next week. Magomed Ankalaev vs. Ion Cutelaba 2.

GRANT DAWSON

Minner started like a house on fire, and had Dawson stuck deep in a couple subs early. But Dawson’s combination of size and pressure proved too much for the short notice newcomer. And with that, Dawson has pushed out to a 3-0 start in his Octagon career. That means it’s time to fight another strong prospect on the rise. This is the point to really test Dawson’s mettle against a fighter also on the cusp of making his name in the division. The man to make that bout against? Well, it was going to be Bryce Mitchell. A bout between Mitchell and Dawson would have been fantastic. But Mitchell is now booked against Charles Rosa for UFC Oklahoma City. So, instead of Mitchell, let’s go with Ricardo Ramos. Either that or Movsar Evloev whenever he returns from what pulled him off of UFC 248.

KYLER PHILLIPS

An absolutely exceptional performance from Phillips in his debut. In fact, it’s kind of a tragedy he only picked up 30-27s over Gabriel Silva, considering he out-struck Silva 2-to-1 all the way through. Phillips looked fast and powerful standing, and really consistent on the counter. He did a great job fighting through tough grappling exchanges, and even showed some nice wrestling late. In a division full of well-rounded, powerful prospects, he’ll have some work to do to really stand out—but this was a great start. All that said, fights with Hunter Azure, Journey Newson, and Heili Alateng would all be reasonable next steps. But, I’m willing to push Phillips just a little further than that. A fight agianst Benito Lopez would be a great way to test all the skills Phillips displayed here. Lopez has some lax takedown defense but is a fun scrambler and loves to get in striking wars. Kyler Phillips vs. Benito Lopez would be all action.

BRENDAN ALLEN

That’s two very strong, and seemingly unlikely wins for Brendan Allen to start his UFC career. He’s a bit of wildman at 185, but to date it isn’t costing him in the Octagon. As long as he’s willing to keep bringing the fight to his opposition, there’s no reason not to keep kicking him into tougher bouts. Unfortunately, almost all of 185 is booked right now. He could fight the winner of Jotko/Anders or maybe Sanchez/Cummings. Heck, even a fight against Ian Heinisch seems like it wouldn’t be too far coming off the wins Allen has had. But, there’s one bout upcoming that would provide the perfect battle for the Louisiana native, no matter how it goes. That fight between Makhmud Muradov and Karl Roberson is an absolute banger. Either man wins, and a fight against Brendan Allen would be too much fun to pass up. Brendan Allen vs. the Muradov/Roberson winner.

LUIS PENA

Not the performance that Garcia might have wanted, but he controlled the entire bout on the way to a win over a short notice opponent. With his crazy combination of height and dexterity, he’s still one of lightweight’s more fascinating prospects. And as one of the sport’s deepest, it’s a division packed with interesting potential fights for him. A fight against Don Madge would keep him treading water, or a bout against Lando Vannata would be a thriller. But, I think there’s a fight that should show just the right amount of potential progression for Pena before throwing him into deeper water: Jalin Turner. Turner is coming off a dominant win over Joshua Culibao and is one of the few LWs that won’t give up an inch of height or range to Pena. Turner vs. Pena to see which stretched out 155er can start stepping into deeper waters.

SEAN BRADY

Strong win for Brady in his second UFC bout. He started a bit slow, but as the fight progressed really took over with a pressure wrestling game. Along with his willingness to let his hands go and a solid lead hook, his ability to take the fight anywhere should make him a pretty fascinating prospect in the welterweight division. That could lead to bouts against Dwight Grant, Mickey Gall, or Daniel Rodriguez. But, I think there’s a pretty strong next step for him against a big, powerful experienced welterweight that’s had a lot of success in the UFC already: Song Kenan. Kenan just dusted Callan Potter to take his UFC record to 4-1. He doesn’t have Brady’s combination work, but he’s a hulk that can make a physical fight difficult. A good next step for Brady, and a step up for Kenan from his recent opponents. Sean Brady vs. Song Kenan is a good chance for both men to build momentum.

OTHER BOUTS: Zarah Fairn vs. Norma Dumont, Megan Anderson vs. Germaine de Randamie, Darrick Minner vs. Jacob Kilburn, Gabriel Silva vs. Domingo Pilarte, Tom Breese vs. Oskar Piechota, Marcin Tybura vs. Sergey Pavlovich, Serghei Spivac vs. Ben Sosoli, Steve Garcia Jr. vs. Nate Landwehr, Jordan Griffin vs. Kyle Nelson, TJ Brown vs. Suman Mokhtarian, Spike Carlyle vs. Sean Woodson, Aalon Cruz vs. Austin Lingo, Ismail Naurdiev vs. Abubakar Nurmagomedov