The UFC is deep into their post-hiatus event grind at this point, but their latest UFC Vegas 11: Covington vs. Woodley fight night was one of their more meaningful offerings. The main event may not have thrilled, but it did put a stamp on Woodley’s vocal rivalry with Covington and keep Covington in the welterweight title hunt. Niko Price didn’t get a win in the co-main, but he made it clear that he’s nipping at the heels of the elite as an action fighter—and that Donald Cerrone probably isn’t anymore. Oh, and Khamzat Chimaev absolutely backed up the UFC’s plan to double-book him with a flash KO of Gerald Meerschaert.
So, will Covington take another fight before he gets a welterweight title shot again? Can Dana White really, successfully talk anyone into a happy retirement? And do we absolutely have to see Maia vs. Chimaev right now?
To answer those questions – and a whole lot 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.
Covington got exactly the win he needed and he did everything he needed to do to get it. But I can’t help feeling that this was very much a ‘just doing enough’ kind of performance. Covington intimated before the bout that he still had a lot of respect for the danger Woodley could pose as an opponent, and maybe that made him over cautious. Whatever the reason, the result was a massive drop in significant striking output from his previous fights (the last time he landed fewer sig. strikes was against Dong Hyun Kim in 2017, over just 3 rounds).
Still, he’s kept himself at the cusp of title contention. That could mean waiting for the winner of Usman/Burns, but that might mean not fighting for 6-8 months. Or he could wait and see if that Diaz/Masvidal 2 fight self destructs and jump in to face ‘Gamebred’ for the obvious high-drama match. Assuming neither of those things are forthcoming, however, then the UFC should book Covington vs. Leon Edwards. Edwards has to fight someone, and Covington is right there with nothing to do. It might even be an interesting style clash. Covington vs. Edwards is the only fight out there for Covington, unless he wants to just wait and hope better opportunities come along.
Dana White says he’s going to have a conversation with Tyron Woodley. But I don’t know how far that will really go. White has pulled Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes, Joe Lauzon, and Rashad Evans into his office for the ‘Hey, maybe you should retire,’ talk at various points over the last couple decades and most of them seem to have regretted taking his advice (even to their own detriment). So where and how exactly Woodley will end up, I can’t begin to guess. Likely he’s feeling that he’s only losing to world class competition, even if it’s been two years since he won a round. The impractical side of me would love to see Woodley take on Pettis, but they’ve been training partners for a long time now, so that almost certainly won’t happen. I guess that makes this the time to do Woodley vs. Lawler 2, for whatever action that fight might bring.
Were it not for a couple of bad eye-pokes, Niko Price would be walking out of this fight with a high profile win (depending on how much credit anyone wants to give those pokes for changing the fight, of course). The ‘Hybrid’ had Cerrone hurt bad in round 1, but just didn’t quite have the necessary consistency of form to put him away. However, his counter punching and combination work have both improved. And with that, Price is finally solidifying himself as a reliable high-level action fighter in the welterweight division. Give him a good opponent who likes to scrap, and he will go out there and scrap. You know who loves to scrap? Alex Oliveira. From one cowboy to another. Niko Price vs. Alex Oliveira is a surefire wild striking battle.
Cerrone picked up the last round, and thus kept a loss off his record, but this felt like a pretty rough outing for ‘Cowboy.’ Price’s busy, wild-man kickboxing had him off balanced from the jump and it took a long time for Cerrone to find his way back into the fray. Still, fighters who can’t get the jump on him are going to find the longtime action-fighter there for a tough bout over the duration. That means there are still some veterans out there for him to face. That could mean a rematch with Robbie Lawler or James Krause, or a fight against Tim Means. Maybe a trip back down to lightweight to take on Jim Miller again or Joe Lauzon for the first time? Right now it sounds like he’s going to take some time off. When he comes back though, how about Tim Means vs. Donald Cerrone?
Welp. He absolutely annihilated Gerald Meerschaert with one punch. People are starting to demand that Chimaev ‘be tested’ with some better competition, but this was a test and he’s clearly proving that he’s a big level above the MMA’s rank and file. Whether or not he’s going to buzz through the elite like he has these first few UFC fights, who knows? But we’re probably going to find out soon. The UFC is planning on booking Chimaev against Demian Maia and, that’s fine... I guess. But if Chimaev goes out and KO’s Maia in the first couple minutes, I don’t know that we’ll have learned anything new. I’d love to see Chimaev against someone like Vicente Luque or Geoff Neal. In the meantime, Chimaev vs. Maia is what we’re most likely gonna see.
Walker’s game still remains the same. Wild, chancy, and incredibly dangerous. Spann had him hurt and almost out twice in there, but still ended up on his knees eating heavy leather as the ref stepped in. Walker has the things a light heavyweight needs most, dynamic speed and power. And honestly, right this minute, there’s just one fight I want to see him take. A true litmus test for the top 15; the eternal light heavyweight proving ground that separates contenders from pretenders—Ovince St. Preux. OSP has been a borderline elite fighter for what feels like a decade. He’s always powerful, always tough, and just dangerous enough everywhere that fighters who make mistakes tend to fall hard against him. Walker makes a lot of mistakes. But amid all that, he’s a monumentally thrilling finisher. OSP vs. Walker would be a great chance for Walker to jump back up the division.
Dern’s striking may continue to be something of a complete mess, but it simply doesn’t matter if people aren’t going to force her to stand up. She slipped for a second and Randa Markos dove on her to get that submission loss like a mouse into a mousetrap. At 4-1 in the UFC, Dern is proving that she’s a world class threat every time she gets an opportunity. So, how about a matchup with Virna Jandiroba. The former Invicta champ is a top quality grappler herself, and coming off her own quick armbar win. Even if Jandiroba isn’t more likely to keep this fight standing and test Dern’s hands, she’s likely more capable than anyone of competing once the fight gets to the mat. And if she’s not, then there’s no reason the UFC can’ keep throwing Dern into bigger and bigger fights. Mackenzie Dern vs. Virna Jandiroba, for a top quality MMA grappling battle.
A hard fought win for Holland. Stewart put on a fantastic performance, landing with power and getting a big late takedown to work Holland over for the final couple minutes, but Holland took the early rounds to keep his win streak alive. As always with Holland, he seems to be willing to fight just about anyone, anywhere, anytime. He made a round-a-bout callout of Khamzat Chimaev, and who knows, the UFC just might book that for after the Maia fight. But, more realistically, fights against Andre Muniz, Edmen Shahbazyan, Andrew Sanchez, or Marvin Vettori all seem like quality opportunities. Of those, Sanchez seems like the most likely guy coming off a win to want the bout. Andrew Sanchez vs. Kevin Holland would be yet another weird, fun fight for one of middleweight’s most entertaining talents.
Not the most thrilling win of the prelims, but among the most meaningful. Dvorak picking off Espinosa behind a careful range striking game shows exactly the kind of consistency and deftness of approach he’ll need to be a top 10 flyweight. And given that he hasn’t lost a fight since 2012, the UFC just might want to fast track him. Tyson Nam didn’t sound too interested in getting re-booked against Matt Schnell after his win earlier on the prelims, so how about giving that fight to Dvorak instead. Schnell is a proven finisher with a live-by-the-sword, die-by-the-sword style. Another opportunity for Dvorak to see if he can find his shots while keeping his opponent’s offense at bay. Dvorak vs. Schnell should be a quality next step to see if the relative newcomer can become a future contender.
A dominating win for Clark when all was said and done. She fought off Alpar’s pressure and turned it into some brutal ground and pound. Weird reffing decisions aside, this is exactly the kind of win Clark needed to remind fans that she has the potential to be a consistent action fighter in the women’s bantamweight division. Given her wealth of experience, I don’t see much reason to have her try and work her way up in the division too slowly. Throw her in against some ranked opponents, let her show whether she’s ready to sink or swim. Bouts against Lina Lansberg, Sara McMann, or Yana Kunitskaya would all be good ways to make that happen. Of all those, I think the Kunitskaya fight offers the most fun. Kunitskaya loves to pressure and clinch up, should be a great inside battle of Thai-styled strikers. Clark vs. Kunitskaya is a quality top-10 action bout.
OTHER BOUTS: Gerald Meerschaert vs. Bartosz Fabinski, Ryan Spann vs. Khalil Rountree, Randa Markos vs. Felice Herrig 2, Darren Stewart vs. Eryk Anders, Jordan Espinosa vs. Ryan Benoit, Damon Jackson vs. Alex Caceres, Mirsad Bektic vs. Dooho Choi, Mayra Bueno Silva vs. Shana Dobson, Mara Romero Borella vs. Ji Yeon Kim, Sarah Alpar vs. Julija Stoliarenko, Darrick Minner vs. Jamall Emmers, TJ Laramie vs. Peter Barrett, Journey Newson vs. Cole Smith, Randy Costa vs. Benito Lopez, Andre Ewell vs. Davey Grant, Irwin Rivera vs. Domingo Pilarte, Tyson Nam vs. Tim Elliott, Jerome Rivera vs. Adashev/Molina loser