UFC on ESPN 15 is done and dusted. And while much of the action was wild and sloppy, it all ended up capped off by a top tier battle of wills between elite talents. The kind of card that really does end up having a little bit of something for everyone. Frankie Edgar picked up a controversial debut victory at bantamweight, one he feels should silence any critics who think may have lost a step. And Amanda Lemos put the brakes on Mizuki Inoue’s UFC strawweight debut, announcing herself as a talent on the rise in the process.
So, is Edgar really about to go on a run at 135? Are some of these Brazilian 115ers going to start picking each other off as they climb into the rankings? And could Joe Solecki have fought a better fight? (no, no he could not have)
To answer those questions – and absolutely nothing else – 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.
While I didn’t score this fight for Edgar, I don’t have as big a problem with him getting the nod from the judges as some do. I thought he clearly won the second, edged out the fifth and that the first & fourth were up for some (mild) debate. Over the course of five rounds, Munhoz did more damage. But going round by round in a high volume striking bout, where neither man gets dropped or badly rocked? There’s a lot of wiggle room for what judges are going to feel they saw.
All that said, I don’t really need to see Edgar go out and fight for the belt at 135. Even fights with top contenders like Aljamain Sterling, Cory Sandhagen, or Marlon Moraes seem a little out of place. And while the UFC could do Edgar vs. Aldo 3 just for the sheer weirdness of it, I don’t think many fans are clamoring for that bout.
Instead, this is a moment where the UFC could book a different, and altogether more fascinating fight. A fight that has made zero sense at all, until right here and right now. Sure, Dominick Cruz is coming off a loss. But it’s a loss to Henry Cejudo, for the title. I can’t imagine he would say no to fighting Edgar right now. The former lightweight champ against the former bantamweight champ. Two men known for their busy footwork and wrestling. Two former kings now on the outside looking in? Make the fight. Book Frankie Edgar vs. Dominick Cruz.
There’s no really good reason the UFC should be treating Munhoz like a loser after this performance. He’s clearly among the bantamweight elite. A top-tier action fighter who always brings thrills to his bouts. Stats say this fight should have been his, as did many people watching live. But, two out of three judges didn’t agree and that’s just the way these things sometimes go. And while he could fight Raphael Assuncao or Cody Stamann or the loser of Sandhagen vs. Moraes, it seems to me like this is the perfect time for a fight against a power punching former champion, and newly minted bantamweight: Jose Aldo.
Aldo vs. Munhoz would be an absolute thriller. And, if anything, Munhoz’s consistent, high-output performance against Edgar only proved he could absolutely be a huge problem for Aldo even only over the course of only three rounds. Aldo vs. Munhoz would be a killer of a fight.
After dropping his last two bouts, this was an absolutely must-win situation for Rodriguez. And while Prachnio’s low kicks out of the gate looked like they might cause him trouble, he worked the Polish karateka over in the clinch for the quick KO victory. That could set him up with someone Jamahal Hill or Aleksa Camur. But how about a fight with Roman Dolidze? Dolidze was penciled in for a bout against John Allan later this year, but Allan’s been re-booked to an earlier event. If Dolidze’s gonna need a new opponent, then Rodriguez should be pretty fresh off this quick victory. Dolidze’s power and creativity would make him a real test. And with a few rough outings under his belt in the UFC already, Rodriguez could use a few more chances to take on relative newcomers in the division. Rodriguez vs. Dolidze should be violent.
A perfect performance from Joe Solecki. He just looked 3 steps ahead of Austin Hubbard for every second of their fight. That puts him at 2-0 in his young UFC career, and in a division as deep as lightweight that should mean any of about 40 opponents could reasonably come next. Bouts against similarly 2-0 Omar Morales, Mark O. Madsen, or Don Madge would be solid options. Or there’s beasts like Arman Tsarukyan and Rafael Fiziev waiting for him too. But Joel Alvarez just picked up a very complete victory over Joe Duffy, and has a long history of being a venomous submission grappler. A battle between he and Solecki seems like it’d absolutely end up on the mats. Solecki vs. Alavarez for some top-notch lightweight scrambles.
Hell of a wild fight from Rodriguez. He went after Grant early and paid the price for it, eating a huge counter shot that sent him crashing to the canvas. But he fought through it, kept his head and, as Grant started to burn out his gas tank, Rodriguez was right there to make him pay. Great comeback win that pushes Rodriguez to an impressive 3-0 in just seven months wit the UFC. Bouts against Miguel Baeza, Muslim Salikhov, or Claudio Silva are all reasonable next bookings. But, I think there’s an even better thriller out there waiting for Rodriguez. A fight against the ‘Sniper’ Mounir Lazzez. Lazzez is fresh off a 3-round war against power punching Abdul Razak Alhassan. Can Rodriguez find the shots that Alhassan couldn’t, or will he be the next man picked off by the sharper technician. Should be fantastic either way. Rodriguez vs. Lazzez would be a surefire ‘don’t blink’ fight.
Mizuki may not have made a big mark in the UFC to date, but she’s a battle-tested, strong contender in the women’s strawweight division. In beating her, Lemos made it clear that she absolutely has the athletic tools to compete at the highest level. She still needs to round out her overall game, especially her wrestling depth. But, there aren’t a lot of 115 lb women who can crack like her. Fights against Virna Jandiroba or Amanda Ribas would both be decent battles between Brazilian prospects. And a battle against the winner of Livinha Souza and newly signed RIZIN champ Kanako Murata also has a lot of curb appeal. Still, that Virna Jandiroba fight is right there, and so easy to make. The UFC might as well get it done. Either woman wins and she deserves to get a look at some top-10 competition. Jandrioba vs. Lemos would test of both women’s ability to compete everywhere.
OTHER BOUTS: Marcin Prachnio vs. Khadis Ibragimov, Austin Hubbard vs. Devonte Smith, Shana Dobson vs. Liana Jojua, Mariya Agapova vs. Yanan Wu, Dwight Grant vs. Laureano Staropoli, Mizuki Inoue vs. Brianna Van Buren, Jordan Wright vs. Jun Yong Park, Ike Villanueva vs. Nick Negumereanu, Matthew Semelsberger vs. Khaos Williams, Carlton Minus vs. Cole Williams, Trevin Jones vs. Nathan Maness, Timur Valiev vs. Gustavo Lopez