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UFC Fight Night: Kattar vs. Ige & Figuredo vs. Benavidez 2 - Fights to make

All the best, most interesting, and unquestionably coolest fights the UFC can book following their latest set of events on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.

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It’s been a busy, busy week for UFC fans. After a fully stacked UFC 251 fight card, the promotion chased that shot with a couple pints of something milder. Calvin Kattar beat Dan Ige to cement himself as a threat at featherweight, atop an otherwise fairly unremarkable event. Deiveson Figueiredo absolutely annihilated Joe Benavidez to leave no doubt that he’s flyweight’s uncontested ruler. And Jack Hermansson announced that he was nowhere near done being a tough-out among the middleweight elite.

So, what can Kattar do to help clarify the featherweight title picture? Does Figueiredo have a clear contender off his championship claiming win? And how fast can we get Rafael Fiziev back in the cage against another lightweight striker?

To answer those questions – and one or two things more – 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.

UFC on ESPN: Kattar vs. Ige


There are definitely fights out there to keep Figueiredo busy if he really wants lean into his self-spoken identity as an active, fight-anyone kind of champion. But, for my money, Brandon Moreno, Askar Askarov, and Alex Perez could all use at least one more win before taking their shots at the champ. If he has to face someone right away, then Moreno is the best option, no question. But, I’d rather see Moreno take on Benavidez, and Askarov take on Perez. If Moreno wins a fight against Joe-B, he has to get the shot. Otherwise, the winner of Askarov and Perez would provide a totally reasonable next opponent. The only other thing fans really have to hope and clamor for would be that the UFC lures Cejudo back to try his hand at flyweight again. But, I seriously doubt that ever happens. Waiting, at least just for a little while, is probably Figueiredo’s best bet right now.


It’s not like Joe Benavidez has never lost before, even in devastating fashion. And at 35-years-old he still has something left to offer as an elite athletic talent. But, that said, this loss did feel like an especially crushing one. A final referrendum, of sorts, that winning a world championship may always be just out of grasp. Still, Benavidez sounds unbending in his desire to keep fighting. And as long as that’s the case, he’ll have fights worth watching. Moreno, Askarov, and Perez all have some claim to contender status, but none of them really seem like they’re “the guy” of the moment. Beating Joe Benavidez would cement anyone’s claim to a shot at UFC gold. And to that end, I think Brandon Moreno is the fighter best positioned to take the challenge ‘Joe-B-Wan’ has to offer. Moreno vs. Benavidez is a great way to see if Moreno can be the next flyweight title contender.


Hermansson very much called his own shot here. Darren Till and Robert Whittaker have a big fight coming up next week, and Hermansson’s looking for the winner. Till and Whittaker both have a somewhat higher profile in the division, but if Jared Cannonier really is just going to sit and wait for the winner of Adesanya vs. Costa, then Hermansson’s one of the only top ranked guys out there coming off a win. The other option the UFC could consider here would be to give Hermansson the winner of Derek Brunson vs. Edmen Shahbazyan. It wouldn’t be nearly the kind of high profile bout that Hermansson is looking for, but may be more the speed of where the promotion sees the Frontline Academy talent. Either way, Hermansson has his eyes firmly set on the Till/Whittaker winner, and it’s undoubtedly the most exciting bout he could hope to get.


I had this all planned out to feature my desire to see Kelvin Gastelum vs. Yoel Romero. Two great middleweights on fascinating three fight losing skids. But I just remembered that Romero is looking to fight Uriah Hall sometime in August. That being the case, however, a bout between the loser of that fight and Gastelum makes just as much sense after this loss as anything else. It’d be fascinating to see Gastelum vs. Hall 2, seven years after their first meeting. And Gastelum vs. Romero still remains a fight I feel like I have to see before Romero calls it quits on his MMA career. Kelvin Gastelum vs. the Romero/Hall loser.


A top quality performance from Fiziev, who proved once again that he can keep his takedown defense tight while also showing a lot more range offense than he has in past bouts. The counterpoint of that style came behind a brutal body kicking game that clearly had Diakiese doubting his tools right out of the gate. Just keep putting Fiziev out there against action heavy strikers, keep the scraps coming. That could be Khama Worthy or Omar Morales, or even Renato Moicano. But, if they haven’t spent too much time together at Tiger Muay Thai, then I absolutely have to see Rafael Fiziev take on Brad Riddell. Just the pure power kickboxing going back and forth between the two! Would be a world class striking bout in MMA gloves. Riddell vs. Fiziev has to happen sooner or later, so it might as well happen now.


Not a bad win for Askarov, even if it’s a fight where I feel like Pantoja did most of the damage—at least over the first two rounds. Still, it puts him on a solid run of success after picking up the draw in his UFC debut. He’s got a patient, controlling style, a good nose for takedowns, and some powerful single shots. Time to see how he can do against one of the rare flyweights who leans on a similar method of offense. Alex Perez has won 3 in a row after getting put away by Joe Benavidez and looks to be on the cusp of title contention himself. Moreno is the other man obviously in the hunt, but Perez should be a great chance for Askarov to show he can meet another bullying wrestler on their own terms in his hunt to become a title contender. Askarov vs. Perez should be a chance for both men to prove their mettle as hard-nosed, gritty talents.


Figuring out exactly what Grant Dawson will do next is somewhat of a difficult proposition, given that he told the UFC that he likely won’t be making his way back to 145 lbs until after the pandemic is over. Should he fight a bigger featherweight, someone like Arnold Allen or Mirsad Bektic at a 150 lb catchweight, or just ditch the in-between and take a few fights at lightweight? If he goes up to lightweight, bouts against Khama Worthy or Damir Ismagulov would both be reasonable fights. But, Sodiq Yusuff used to be a lightweight way back in the day. If he’s at all willing to take a catchweight bout, the UFC should go with that. If not maybe Grant can make the bounce up for a fight against Worthy. But Grant Dawson vs. Sodiq Yusuff seems like the bout that will do the most to move the division forward.


Johns’ first tastes of upper-level bantamweight competition didn’t go especially well for him. But, then again, going from Joe Soto to Aljamain Sterling was a hell of a jump. The Welshman clearly still has something to offer bantamweights who can’t fight off his constant pressure wrestle-grappling attack. He’s perfectly placed right now to be a real experience test against other borderline top 15 talents. A chance to see who has what it takes to be among the division’s elite. That means bouts against men like Ricky Simon, Casey Kenney, or Merab Dvalishvili. There’s one fighter out there that I’d love to see Johns take on though. A rock solid veteran who really needs to find his way into the division’s elite—Raoni Barcelos. Taking on Johns would be a great way to try and make that happen. And if Johns can win that fight, maybe give him another opponent with a number next to their name. Brett Johns vs. Raoni Barcelos is a quality bantamweight contest.

UFC Fight Night: Benavidez vs. Figueiredo 2


Kattar’s win may not have been the kind of performance to electrify fans, but it clearly puts him among the contenders in the featherweight division. Even his 2019 loss to Zabit Magomedsharipov was indicative of the kind of talent that could compete with (and possibly beat) some of the best fighters the division has to offer. Unfortunately exactly who and which of the contenders are currently booked is still a little unclear. There are reports of Zabit vs. Yair Rodriguez for August, and a bout between Chan Sung Jung and Brian Ortega had seemed like a near certainty (but looks less and less likely now). Last week I suggested seeing TKZ fight Max Holloway if the ‘Korean Zombie’ wasn’t going to be taking on Ortega. So, how about Brian Ortega vs. Calvin Kattar. Even with other potential top contender bouts in the works, it seems like a fight that could have either man facing Volkanovski in the near future—if scheduling and circumstances allow. Kattar vs. Ortega would be a great featherweight contenders’ bout.


Not quite a victory that suggests Elliott’s about to go on a new run to title contention in the flyweight division, but much more of a return to form and proof that he still has something to offer other talented opponents. Against a fairly low-output power puncher like Benoit, this was very much a proving moment for Elliott. Could he still be the aggressive, busy wrestler-boxer he came up as, without gassing out hard? Apparently so. Seems like a good time to pit him against another fighter who recently broke his losing streak and is still looking to prove that he can stay consistent against good grappling talents that can take his shots and get him down: Jordan Espinosa. Espinosa vs. Elliott should be an all action bout that leans heavily on both men’s scrambling ability. Time to book it.


Despite the short camp, Rivera proved that he’s just a solid step ahead of Stamann with a somewhat cautious, but decisive win. He had the cleaner striking technique, better defense, and stymied almost all Stamann’s wrestling attempts. With his stated willingness to fight again soon, pretty much any fighter around the edges of the top 15 that’s ready to go will do. The most likely cases at the moment seem like Song Yadong or Cory Sandhagen. The Yadong fight seems like a great test for the ‘Kung Fu Monkey,’ but the Cory Sandhagen bout is clearly a much bigger bout for Rivera. And with Sandhagen coming off a loss, a chance for the top ranked contender to bounce back against another elite opponent. Overall, I’m just more interested to see how Rivera can adjust to the challenge in front of him, rather than seeing how an opponent can handle Rivera. Can Rivera beat a striker like Sandhagen if he doesn’t knock him out? I’m ready to see him try. Jimmie Rivera vs. Cory Sandhagen is a top quality bantamweight fight.


Getting a fantastically violent TKO win over Ricardo Ramos is a blessing and a curse for Lerone Murphy, who appears to be taking the hardest route through the UFC featherweight division. A victory like this almost certainly won’t get him a step back in competition, but I’m kinda hoping it can see him take a step sideways, maybe? The UFC could stick him in with the likes of Herbert Burns or Giga Chikadze or even Bryce Mitchell, all of whom have been streaking in the division so far. Or a solid veteran test like Julian Erosa or Charles Rosa. All those seem reasonable without pushing Murphy too far too fast. Of those, Giga Chikadze is unquestionably the most interesting matchup. Should be a war—Giga Chikadze vs. Lerone Murphy.

OTHER BOUTS: Marc Diakiese vs. Alex Hernandez, Alexandre Pantoja vs. Kai Kara-France, Roman Dolidze vs. Jamahal Hill, Khadis Ibraghimov vs. Mike Rodriguez, Nad Narimani vs. Danny Henry, Joel Alvarez vs. Mark O. Madsen, Montel Jackson vs. Hunter Azure, Amir Albazi vs. Tagir Ulanbekov, Malcolm Gordon vs. Bruno Silva, Arman Tsarukyan vs. Renato Moicano, Davi Ramos vs. Christos Giagos, Sergey Spivak vs. Juan Espino, Carlos Felipe vs. Ike Villanueva

OTHER BOUTS: Dan Ige vs. Shane Burgos, Ryan Benoit vs. Raulian Paiva, Cody Stamann vs. Kyung Ho Kang, Taila Santos vs. Sabina Mazo, Molly McCann vs. Mara Romero Borella, Mounir Lazzez vs. Daniel Rodriguez, Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Emil Meek, Khamzat Chimaev vs. Rhys McKee!?!?, John Phillips vs. Saparbek Safarov, Ricardo Ramos vs. Julio Arce, Modestas Bukauskas vs. Aleksa Camur, Andreas Michailidis vs. Roman Kopylov, Jared Gordon vs. Charles Rosa, Chris Fishgold vs. Jordan Griffin, Liana Jojua vs. Priscila Cachoeira, Diana Belbita vs. Lara Procopio, Jack Shore vs. Heili Alateng, Aaron Phillips vs. Felipe Colares

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