I didn’t anticipate there being a lot of matchmaking buzz following UFC 275. Jan Blachowicz appeared to be waiting in the wings for the winner of Glover Teixeira and Jiri Prochazka. Whoever can put together a decent winning streak together would be the next victim opposite Valentina Shevchenko. And we already knew Weili Zhang and Joanna Jedrzejczyk were vying to challenge Carla Esparza for the strawweight title. While there wasn’t any deviance in the expected destination for the strawweight contest, the outcomes of the title fights created quite a stir. Is Blachowicz still the primary option? Or did Teixeira do enough in a losing effort to warrant a rematch? Did Taila Santos put up enough of a fight to warrant an immediate rematch? Keep reading to find out what the best options would be going forward.
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There is a strong sentiment given the exceptional fight between Prochazka and Teixeira that an immediate rematch needs to be made. It’s not like the fight between them was your typical FOTN contest; this was a FOTY frontrunner that appears destined to end up in the UFC Hall of Fame. Given Teixeira is already 42, we probably won’t ever get the chance to run it back if it doesn’t happen right away.
I won’t put up a fight if the UFC runs it back right away. But I don’t believe that’s the correct way to go for this situation. Title fights should be merit based with the next challenger in line being the correct methodology to follow. The occasional exception can be made, like with a long reigning champion who loses the belt. But Prochazka took the title from Teixeira before the Brazilian could successfully complete a title defense. Besides, does anyone actually believe we would get anything close to what the first contest delivered? Let’s not taint it with a sequel that is sure to fall far short of what the original delivered unless there aren’t any other options available.
So, am I going with Blachowicz to challenge Prochazka? Nope. The UFC tends to have the same names running in circles at the top of the division. It isn’t that Blachowicz isn’t worthy of an opportunity to regain his title, but there are others who have proven deserving of a crack at gold themselves that would provide fresher faces. Thus, I prefer the winner of Magomed Ankalaev and Anthony Smith. While Smith has fought for the title before, it has been several years since he fell to Jon Jones. Plus, each of them are riding extended win streaks in comparison to Blachowicz. That should be worth something, right? Thus, Prochazka’s first title defense should come against the Ankalaev-Smith winner.
Though Teixeira told Daniel Cormier that he’ll continue fighting and called for a rematch a bit later, I wouldn’t be surprised if he changes his mind after he’s separated himself from the high of the moment. However, I’m here to state where he should go should he continue fighting and the current impression is that’s what he’s going to do.
While we’ve already seen Teixeira and Blachowicz do the damn thing, the way things have fallen into place makes it hard to not pit them against one another. That’s especially the case if Prochazka defends his title the first time in the manner that I hope. Some were unconvinced Blachowicz would have beat Aleksandar Rakic had Rakic not suffered his knee injury, which was part of the reason I opted not to pit Blachowicz against Prochazka. But if he could avenge his loss to Teixeira? You better believe Blachowicz would be deserving of another crack at the title. Plus, it also keeps the road relatively short for Teixeira to somehow defy the odds again and regain his title. Thus, Teixeira-Blachowicz II on the undercard of Prochazka’s first title defense, allowing one of them to fill in as an injury substitute if necessary.
Like everyone else, I was fully expecting a successful title defense from Shevchenko. What wasn’t expected was the need to hold our breaths as the scorecards were announced as Shevchenko barely skated by Santos. There were some who declared Shevchenko’s victory a robbery, but that’s taking things way too far. Regardless, those types of cries also led to calls from some for an immediate rematch. I might have been fine with that a year or two ago when there was a dearth of contenders for Shevchenko, but the division has been building up some credible depth. In fact, there are two upcoming contests that could very well produce a worthy top contender. Alexa Grasso fights Viviane Araujo in August and Manon Fiorot looks to get past former title challenger Katlyn Chookagian in September. I get the feeling the UFC will wait for both of those contests have played out and pick whoever appears to have the most box office appeal between the two winners. Since my role requires me to break it down between those, I’ll go with whom I believe would be most deserving, which would be the winner of Fiorot-Chookagian, though I fully acknowledge the UFC is unlikely to give Chookagian another crack at Shevchenko if she wins despite what would be five consecutive wins, all against ranked opponents. If Chookagian wins, expect the winner of Grasso and Araujo to get the next crack.
There was a good swath of fans who hadn’t heard of Santos heading into her contest with Shevchenko. They have now. The talented Brazilian really came into her own in the fight with Shevchenko, giving the long-reigning champion all that she could handle. Ultimately, she came up short, but she shouldn’t be considered far removed from the title picture in the least. A good option for Santos would be to line her opposite of the Grasso-Araujo winner, perhaps even the loser of Fiorot-Chookagian. However, I’m looking at a different direction for Santos. Lauren Murphy and Miesha Tate are set to square off next month. Perhaps Santos will need some extra time to heal from her broken orbital, which could mean the Grasso Araujo winner ends up working best. I can’t know that for sure – especially given we don’t know what injuries anyone in a future fight will suffer – so I’ll say Santos looks to bounce back against the Murphy-Tate winner.
I don’t need to go into much detail here. Uncle Dana already let it be known the winner of Zhang and Jedrzejczyk would get a title shot and there was nothing in Zhang’s performance to indicate she is undeserving in any way. The only question now is when Esparza vs. Zhang will take place. The more interesting question is what happens with Rose Namajunas, Marina Rodriguez, and Jessica Andrade….
There was a lot new about Jake Matthews in the 15 months since we last saw him. New ink. New haircut. New confidence on the feet. The performance indicated the Aussie may finally be ready to break out after eight years on the UFC roster. Then again, debuting at 19 does create a strong likelihood of a delayed breakout. Nobody really had Matthews on the radar of the rankings entering the event, but the way he tore through Andre Fialho rightfully turned heads. However, I’m not ready to throw him in there with a ranked opponent just yet. That doesn’t mean he can’t find someone with some name value. For instance, Randy Brown is coming off a PPV main card win himself and isn’t populating the official rankings. However, there’s a different name that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention in recent years that has more name value than even Brown. Thus, I think Matthews would be perfectly happy facing Gunnar Nelson next. I know I’d be happy seeing that fight.
JACK DELLA MADDALENA
The other Aussie welterweight on the roster may have more hype than Matthews, though he is further behind in his development than the mainstay. Regardless, Della Maddalena secured his second first round KO in as many fights in the UFC. Performances like that lead to fans wanting to rush him up the ladder, but it’s easy to forget Della Maddalena is still just 25. Thus, while a step up in competition is necessary, it should just be a step, not a leap. There’s one name that seems to fit that description perfectly: Matt Semelsberger. Semelsberger has a pair of signature finishes, but he has yet to secure a signature name, despite his 4-1 UFC record. Thus, I think he’d love a crack at Della Maddalena given the love the UFC brass has shown him. Thus, Della Maddalena vs. Semelsberger is the way to go.
It was far closer than what anyone expected it to be, but Allen did just enough to eek by a game Jacob Malkoun. However, given the close nature of the contest, Allen appears to have lost some luster as he was expected to have few problems with Malkoun. Before people get too alarmed, it is necessary to remember Allen is still just 26. Besides, pumping the brakes a bit doesn’t necessarily mean Allen is a bust. It just means he’s not as far along in his development as we all thought. Hell, it simply could have been an off-night as well. Regardless, there are a lot of names out there that would make sense, including Andre Petroski, Jun Yong Park, and Marc-Andre Barriault. However, I’m going to go with another fighter who – like Allen – hung an L on Sam Alvey recently. After all, we do need to figure out a pecking order for all those who have contributed to Alvey’s ridiculous losing streak, right?. Thus, Allen vs. Wellington Turman is the right fight to make.
OTHER FIGHTS: Andre Fialho vs. Danny Roberts, Ramazan Emeev vs. Takashi Sato, Josh Culibao vs. Nate Landwehr, Seung Woo Choi vs. Steven Peterson, Maheshate vs. Natan Levy, Steve Garcia vs. Genaro Valdez, Jacob Malkoun vs. Nick Maximov, Kyung Ho Kang vs. John Castaneda, Danaa Batgerel vs. Trevin Jones, Silvana Gomez Juarez vs. Piera Rodriguez, Na Liang vs. Elise Reed, Joselyne Edwards vs. Lina Lansberg, Ramona Pascual vs. Wu Yanan