Fortunately, after a fairly lackluster batch of undercard bouts, the top two fights on UFC Vegas 28 delivered exactly as hoped. Marcin Tybura kept his momentum going as a dark horse elite heavyweight talent in the co-main event. And Jairzinho Rozenstruik proved that his poor showing last time out had more to do with Gane’s quality than his own limitations. Throw a ‘fight of the year’ caliber welterweight bout between Santiago Ponzinibbio and Miguel Baeza in there and the night largely ended on a strong note.
So, what’s out there for Rozenstruik and Tybura with the heavyweight contender’s picture seemingly stalled out once again? And is Ponzinibbio primed for another top 10 welterweight action fight?
To answer those questions – and several other things – 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 to make out of UFC Vegas 28.
Exactly the bounce-back that Rozenstruik needed after a brutally bad outing against Cyril Gane. Credit to Sakai, he tried to follow the Overeem/Gane gameplan of staying outside and keeping exchanges with Rozenstruik to an absolute minimum. But, he didn’t offer nearly enough offense in that range to dissuade the former kickboxer from finding his groove and picking his spots to crash forward. A big TKO victory puts ‘Bigi Boy’ back on track for another high profile battle among the heavyweight elite. If Alexander Volkov beats Ciryl Gane, Volkov vs. Rozenstruik would be an idea top flight heavyweight striking battle. But, there’s no guarantee that comes to fruition. Otherwise there’s fights with Miocic, Blaydes, and Lewis out there depending on what happens to the heavyweight title picture. And while I could see the sense of a Rozenstruik/Blaydes matchup, I think I’d rather just see Rozenstruik vs. Volkov no matter whether the Russian wins or loses next time out.
Even after a brutal loss to Alistair Overeem last September, Sakai got another shot at the heavyweight elite, against breakout star Jairzinho Rozenstruik. Unfortunately, the results were no better this time around. Even more so, in fact, Sakai looked entirely uncomfortable against the threat of Rozenstruik’s power, letting the Surinamese fighter dictate the pace and range of the bout entirely. Unfortunately, any opponent that lets Rozenstruik dictate all the action is going to find themselves on the wrong end of some seriously heavy leather sooner or later. For Sakai, that moment came right in the closing seconds of round 1. Time for another step back, off two straight losses. That could mean fights with Walt Harris, Alexander Gustafsson, or maybe a winner/loser matchup with Ilir Latifi. My first choice here really would have been Shamil Abdurakhimov, but the Dagestani is currently set to face Chris Daukaus in July. Given all that, I’ll make the rare move and suggest two losing fighters from the same card face off. Walt Harris vs. Augusto Sakai is the best fight both men could get right now.
Tybura was very nearly on the wrong end of a quick KO. But he stayed collected, waited for Harris to make a mistake, and took the fight to the mat where he very quickly dominated. A decent performance all things considered, and one that keeps him on a nice win streak. Unfortunately just what should follow that victory isn’t so clear. I’d have been more than happy to see a bout against Chris Daukaus, but he’s currently booked to take on Shamil Abdurakhimov. Of course, coming off five straight wins, there’s also an argument to be made for Tybura vs. Rozenstruik, but I’ll freely admit that that’s not a fight that particularly gets me going. Instead I think I’ll say Tybura should take on the Abdurakhimov/Daukaus winner. A chance to get back a brutal loss, or to play spoiler to another prospect looking to make a run. If he wins that bout, then stick the man in a top contender fight and see what happens. Tybura vs. the Abdurakhimov/Daukaus winner seems like a good way to reinforce Tybura’s rising status an elite talent.
A remarkable performance from Ponzinibbio. Baeza had him dead to rights in round 1, chipping away at his leg with brutal calf kicks that had the Argentinian struggling to put weight on his foot or keep balance. But, Ponzinibbio fought through the pain, doubled up on his jab, and started to really out-work Baeza down the stretch. A wild, back and forth bout that had real ‘Fight of the Year’ vibes to it. That victory will almost definitely put the ‘Dagger’ straight back into the top 15, with a chance to once again climb toward the welterweight title. That could mean a rematch against Neil Magny, or a battle against Brazilian slugger Vicente Luque, or maybe even a battle against Geoff Neal. Of those, Luque feels like the ‘must see’ bout. A pressure counter puncher with great power in both hands, and one who will absolutely keep pace with Ponzinibbio every step of the way. Luque vs. Ponzinibbio would be an absolute war. No reason not to put those two men in the cage.
MONTANA DE LA ROSA
Every second this fight was standing De La Rosa was in trouble. But, fortunately for her, Ariane Lipski had no defense for any of the Team Elevation fighter’s takedown entries. And once this fight was on the mat, it was a grappling clinic for De La Rosa. That victory provides a nice return to form after a couple of rough outings, and should push her into another fight with a mid-card flyweight talent. That could be someone like Manon Fiorot, who won earlier on the card, Tracy Cortez, or JJ Aldrich. I’ve always been a fan of Aldrich’s very nuts & bolts style of fighting. She’s got a fundamentals-first boxing game, can hit some decent takedowns, and generally has a very decent, busy top game. Seems like a good matchup for De La Rosa, who is similarly well rounded, but – like Aldrich – struggles with better athletes. Which of these women can find the technical edge? Seems worthwhile to find out. Montana De La Rosa vs. JJ Aldrich should be a scrappy fight anywhere it goes.
A pretty ugly win for Latifi, but when a guy hasn’t had his hand raised since 2018, he’ll take whatever he can get. Latifi was able to capitalize on a body kick for a takedown in round 1 and hit an easy single leg in the third and put up enough control time between them to get the nod. Considering his lengthy resume already under his belt, any win puts him in solid position for a much more notable fight. And, with Ben Rothwell coming off a recent win, that seems like a great chance to capitalize off two seasoned heavyweights that have even a tiny bit of momentum right now. Ben Rothwell vs. Ilir Latifi feels like the big, bald, bold heavyweight fight we need right now.
Aside from a brutal eye poke early in the third round, this was a decent quality win for Salikhov. Trinaldo looked in better form than his last time out against Jai Herbert, but Salikhov did a great job slipping and countering all night, along with his trademark rangy creativity. The task now is just to get Salikhov in as many more high level action fights as possible as fast as possible. At 37-years-old, time is not on the side of the ‘King of Kung-Fu’. Fights with the likes of Nicolas Dalby, Daniel Rodriguez, or James Krause would all be solid options. A fight with Tim Means would also be great. Of all those, I gotta go with Krause vs. Salikhov. It’s two salty vets with a whole lot of technical ability and a guarantee that they’ll create something cool in the cage. Make it happen UFC.
A dominating landslide victory for Fiorot, which is exactly what she needed to have against a fighter who would be a bit on the small side even a division below her. She kept the distance well behind long kicks, slowly turned up the pressure with punching combos, and just ran Ricci over in round 2—as her opponent started to tire and get frustrated. That should set her up for a more difficult test next time around. I’d definitely advocate for re-booking the Moroz fight, but the Ukrainian seems to have a lot of trouble making it to fight night. So it may be worth while to just move on to something else. Fights with Taila Santos, Tracy Cortez or Mayra Bueno Silva would all be solid options. Given Silva’s trouble with striking defense and her own size and power (along with some sharp grappling skills), it feels like she’d make an excellent next test for Fiorot. Someone that can compete with her physical gifts, but still give room for Fiorot’s technical skills to shine—or expose potential problems in her ground game. Mayra Bueno Silva vs. Manon Fiorot is a great test for the Frenchwoman.
OTHER BOUTS: Roman Dolidze vs. Julian Marquez, Laureano Staropoli vs. Abdul Razak Alhassan, Miguel Baeza vs. Jake Matthews, Gregory Rodrigues vs. Andreas Michailidis, Dusko Todorovic vs. Kyle Daukaus, Tom Breese vs. Antonio Arroyo, Ariane Lipski vs. Liana Jojua, Tanner Boser vs. Juan Espino, Francisco Trinaldo vs. Lyman Good, Kamuela Kirk vs. Mike Trizano, Makwan Amirkhani vs. Nate Landwehr, Mason Jones vs. Jamie Mullarkey, Alan Patrick vs. Roosevelt Roberts, Tabatha Ricci vs. Sam Hughes, Sean Woodson vs. TJ Brown, Youssef Zalal vs. Danny Henry, Claudio Puelles vs. Kazula Vargas, Jordan Leavitt vs. Ignacio Bahamondes