The blood feud between Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal has culminated in calculated performance from Covington smothering and controlling Masvidal for the bulk of the 25 minutes they had to legally do serious harm to one another. In other words, there wasn’t a lot of the type of violence expected from two people who hated each other as much as Covington and Masvidal allegedly did heading into their hyped fight. Hell, the UFC thought enough of it to make a PPV headliner without a title on the line, something they’ve only done in recent years when some guy named McGregor is involved.
So, while the final result of the event may have been disappointing to many, there’s still work to be done figuring out where to go from here. One piece of serious matchmaking has already been done for us – thank you Mr. Covington – but there are countless directions to go with several of the other fights. I’ll do my best to point you all into the best path possible, but even I know it’s impossible to make everyone see the light. Here we go....
After spending several years pissing off everyone outside of ATT, Covington began pissing off everyone inside the vaunted gym. In terms of his bank account, it appears to be serving him well. No doubt he’ll be well compensated after disposing of Masvidal and he could bring home a larger chunk of change if he gets the Dustin Poirier fight he called for in his post-fight interview. It appears inevitable as it has been speculated for months as the two have trade words and Poirier has given no indication he’s opposed to the fight. Most importantly, neither Covington nor Poirier appear to have an immediate path to fighting for the title in their divisions. Why not take a detour for another potential PPV headliner? Especially given Poirier appears to match up with Covington for a more competitive fight than Masvidal did. Covington and Poirier it is.
Unlike Covington, it’s difficult to figure out where Masvidal goes next. Masvidal’s positive moments against Covington were few and far between, though most would acknowledge Covington was a bad stylistic matchup for him. However, Masvidal’s troubles stretch back his last three fights as there weren’t many bright moments in his fight with Kamaru Usman. At 37, is age catching up with Masvidal? A good way to find out is to measure him up against where he was a few years ago. Masvidal had his way with Nate Diaz when he captured the BMF title. Much like Masvidal, Diaz hasn’t won a fight since that time either. As usual, Diaz has given no indication what he really wants to do with the last fight on his contract, so a rematch with him could have us all barking up the wrong tree. Regardless, given Diaz has said he doesn’t want the Conor trilogy – though there’s a good chance that’s bluster on his part – the only other direction for him is Masvidal. With nothing else making sense, running back Masvidal and Diaz is the only way to go.
RAFAEL DOS ANJOS
Dos Anjos looked like his old self in disposing of Renato Moicano, but the manner in which he won won’t do him any favors in terms of moving up the ladder. Moicano taking the fight on short notice while being significantly underneath dos Anjos in the rankings made it a situation where dos Anjos either holds steady in his spot or falls. He holds steady, but time isn’t on the side of dos Anjos. I recognize it comes across as lazy on my part, but the best thing to do is to try rescheduling him with his original opponent for this card, Rafael Fiziev. Dos Anjos is in the same spot he was entering the card. So is Fiziev. Re-book dos Anjos and Fiziev.
I hope Moicano was compensated well because I don’t think we’ll see him step into the cage for quite a while. Taking a five-round fight with less than a week to prepare against someone the caliber of Rafael dos Anjos is as gutsy as it comes. Somewhat stupid to, but there’s usually a high level of stupidity to the gutsiest risks. Regardless, Moicano’s condition after the fight necessitated a trip to the hospital and he’ll need to recover. My colleague Zane Simon suggested last month that Moicano should faced Damir Ismagulov next. While that would still make perfect sense, I have leanings towards the Joe Silva style of matchmaking where winners face winners and losers face losers, with some exceptions. Thus, I tweeking it so Moicano faces someone else who, like him, is coming off a one-sided loss: Joel Alvarez.
I really want to say Mitchell is legit now. Only elite fighters have done to Edson Barboza what Mitchell did to him, but Barboza has also put an astronomical amount of mileage on his body at this point. So, while there may be some calls to throw him in there with the likes of Calvin Kattar or Yair Rodriguez, I don’t want to do that quite yet. The winner of Dan Ige and Movsar Evloev is the ideal fight, but that takes place in June. I doubt Mitchell wants to wait that long. Thus, here’s one of my exceptions to the Joe Silva style: Giga Chikadze. Chikadze had a similar winning streak to the six-fight win streak Mitchell is on before being brought down to earth by Kattar. Was it a learning experience for Chikadze or is he really just not on that level? As for Mitchell, we find out if he really is that good against a less shopworn opponent. Mitchell vs. Chikadze is the way to go.
Given Barboza has been putting on some of the more entertaining performances for over a decade, it kind of broke my heart to see him get brutalized in that manner. Unfortunately, at 36, he’s far closer to the end of the line than he is the beginning and these types of losses tend to begin happening. But is he really that close to the end of his career or was Mitchell just a bad matchup for him. While I agree with the commentary booth that I’d rather see Barboza at lightweight, I believe it’s appropriate to operate as though he’s staying at featherweight for now. Two consecutive losses indicate a notable step down is needed. Regardless, there’s no shortage of fun options in Hakeem Dawodu, Cub Swanson, Andre Fili, or the loser of Alex Caceres and Sodiq Yusuff. All are fine with me, but I’ll say book Barboza with Fili.
It was far from a flawless performance, but it was highly entertaining and ultimately a successful welterweight debut for enigmatic Holland over Alex Oliveira. Holland did call for Donald Cerrone immediately after his win, but Cerrone is already booked and Holland has already backed off that callout. Instead, Holland declared he wanted Daniel Rodriguez. While Rodriguez was originally in a group of fighters I considered for Holland – including the likes of Tim Means, Muslim Salikhov, and Niko Price – I had settled on Salikhov. However, if Holland wants Rodriguez, I’m more than happy to give him that. Holland and Rodriguez would be all sorts of fun.
After what many considered to be a joke of a UFC debut against Walt Harris, Spivak has subtly established himself as one of the better young talents in the land of dinosaurs. His destruction of Greg Hardy provided scores of adulation from MMA fans. However, he’s also proven he’s not fully ready to be facing the top ten of the division quite yet and the win over Hardy does nothing to disprove that. Plus, at 27, there’s no reason to rush him too quickly. There’s plenty of options to slow his role a bit: Andrei Arlovski, Alexander Romanov, the winner of Shamil Abdurakhimov/Sergei Pavlovich, or the winner of Blagoy Ivanov/Marcos Rogerio de Lima. Out of those, the winner of Abdurakhimov/Pavlovich makes the most sense.
At first glance, nobody did more to solidify a title shot at UFC 272 than Rodriguez did when she edged Yan Xiaonan, but it doesn’t look like she’ll be getting that next. After all, the last woman Rodriguez lost to, Carla Esparza, is still waiting for the UFC to book her with reigning champion Rose Namajunas. In other words, waiting for that to play out may not be in the cards for Rodriguez as she doesn’t have the cache to play that game and be guaranteed the title shot will be waiting for her on the other end. What Rodriguez really needs is a win over a former champion. The question is who will give her that fight. My top choice would be Joanna Jedrzejczyk, but Joanna is being especially prickly about who she fights. Rodriguez may not have the name value Joanna wants. My second choice is Weili Zhang, but I predict Zhang will end up facing Joanna in a rematch of their all-time classic. The only other former champion – aside from Esparza – is Jessica Andrade and she’s scheduled to face Amanda Lemos next month. Thus, waiting for the title shot if preferable, but the winner of Lemos/Andrade seems like the most realistic route.
One of the brighter moments of the night saw the Ukranian squash her beef with former teammate Mariya Agapova in dominant fashion. It extended her win streak to three in a flyweight division that has quietly emerged as the deepest women’s division on the roster. Thus, I’m not sure I’d give Moroz a ranked opponent just yet given the long layoff between fights. However, there are plenty of options. Melissa Gatto, the winner of JJ Aldrich/Gillian Robertson, and the winner of Molly McCann/Luana Carolina all crossed my mind. However, it was ultimately concluded Tracy Cortez should be next for Moroz.
There is some controversy around Elliott’s win given the scorecards and his grabbing of the gloves of Tagir Ulanbekov, but it would be nothing short of a miracle for the result to be overturned. Thus, Elliott returns to winning ways, giving him his third win in his last four appearances. Could Elliott be making a late career title run? Perhaps, but given Elliott’s history, I’d rather see him play gatekeeper one more time before giving him a major step up in competition. Thus, the winner of Su Mudaerji and Manel Kape is the most logical step.
OTHER FIGHTS: Alex Oliveira vs. Jason Witt, Greg Hardy vs. Philipe Lins, Jalin Turner vs. Grant Dawson, Jamie Mullarkey vs. Scott Holtzman, Yan Xiaonan vs. Nina Nunes, Nick Negumereanu vs. Marcin Prachnio, Kennedy Nzechukwu vs. Aleksa Camur, Mariya Agapova vs. Mandy Bohm, Umar Nurmagomedov vs. Victor Henry, Brian Kelleher vs. Davey Grant, Tagir Ulanbekov vs. Tyson Nam, L’udovit Klein vs. Bill Algeo, Devonte Smith vs. Joaquim Silva, Dustin Jacoby vs. loser of Paul Craig/Nikita Krylov, Michal Oleksiejczuk vs. Alonzo Menifield