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UFC Long Island: Ortega vs. Rodriguez - Fights to make

All the best, most interesting, and unquestionably coolest fights the UFC needs to book following their latest event in Long Island, NY.

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It may not have ended on a bang, but there’s no question that UFC Long Island was an absolutely fantastic card. Amanda Lemos cemeted her status as a top-10 strawweight, Matt Schnell picked up the ‘Comeback of the Year’ so far, and Lauren Murphy put the brakes on Miesha Tate’s flyweight title hopes.

So, does Rodriguez deserve a shot at gold over Josh Emmett? Is it time to get Li Jingliang another ranked opponent? And can Murphy get her wish to keep playing spoiler at 125?

To answer those questions—and everything 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!

YAIR RODRIGUEZ

It may not have been the way he wanted it, it may not have been the way anyone expected it, but Yair Rodriguez picked up a legit win over Brian Ortega. His striking felt like it pushed Ortega into the grappling attack, and his grappling caused the injury to Ortega’s shoulder. Was it exactly what he intended? No. But it was a legit application of technique that got him the win. The only question now is, what’s the deal with the featherweight title picture. Both Rodriguez and Emmett are similarly deserving contenders. Emmett coming off a less than decisive win over Kattar and Rodriguez coming off of this. If it were purely my choice, I’d say book Rodriguez vs. Volkanovski, because that’s the fight I want to see more. However, Dana White did let slip at the presser—that given Volkanovski’s hand injury—the UFC could go ahead with an interim title. That seems ideal to me. Yair Rodriguez vs. Josh Emmett for the interim featherweight belt. Considering that the champ has talked about wanting to make a trip up to 155 as well, it may just be quite a while before we see the ‘Great’ back in the cage at 145.

BRIAN ORTEGA

All things considered, this fight couldn’t have gone much worse for Brian Ortega. He started the bout out well on the front foot, pressing Rodriguez with hard strikes, but it’s clear that ‘El Pantera’’s speed started to trouble Ortega as the round went on. By the time Ortega initiated the grappling exchange that ended the fight, it almost felt like he’d been reduced purely to trying to wrestle on the feet. The fact that he was able to get Rodriguez to the ground, with his back to the mat, where he then got his shoulder dislocated fighting off an armbar attempt? It all spells disaster for the multiple-time title contender. Especially considering that Ortega reminded fans after the loss, that he’d already been through two shoulder surgeries in the past. Coming out of this fight it could be a while before we see Ortega in the cage again. Whenever that does happen, there are a couple potential bouts for ‘T-City’ out there. The most obvious would be a possible rematch with Max Holloway. The other big fight to make would be a match up with Calvin Kattar. Both would be great, but the Kattar fight is more intriguing right now. Calvin Kattar vs. Brian Ortega would be a thriller whenever Ortega’s ready.

AMANDA LEMOS

Michelle Waterson tried to play a cautious gameplan, working behind low kicks and takedowns to keep Amanda Lemos from marching her down and landing big bombs. It’s a credit to Lemos then, that she was able to turn one of those takedown attempts into a powerful submission win. That should line Lemos up for fights with Virna Jandiroba, Tecia Torres, or Luana Pinheiro. Being real, only one of those fights really makes any good sense right now; Lemos vs. Torres is the only sensible fight to make for the Brazilian off her latest victory.

LI JINGLIANG

Often it feels like it takes getting hurt for Li Jingliang to really turn up the pressure on his opponent, but the ‘Leech’ had no trouble finding his groove in round 2 against Muslim Salikhov without any big scares along the way. As dangerous as Salikhov can be, once Li started connect with his jab and putting strikes behind it, he landed at will. The barrage of right hands that felled the ‘King of Kung Fu’ were absolutely crushing. That should mean a return to top 15 competition for the China Top Team star. Bouts with Michel Pereira, or Shavkat Rakhmonov would both be a lot of fun. Or fights with Kevin Holland, Gunnar Nelson, Daniel Rodriguez, or Randy Brown, if he can’t get a ranked bout. I’ll go ahead and say the UFC should go with Pereira vs. Li, but that Holland fight looks pretty damn tasty too.

MATT SCHNELL

What an amazing war from Matt Schnell. He found great success on the mat, grappling with Sumudaerji in round 1, but consistently had trouble with the ‘Tibetan Eagle’’s counters off the back foot. Once Sumudaerji started mixing hard elbows into the exchanges, it looked like Schnell was all but finished. But ‘Danger’ dug deep, found a second, third, and fourth wind, and landed his own clubbing shots and takedowns to bring Sumudaerji down to the mat and into the submission win.

An epic performance from Schnell. And afterward he had a callout all ready to go. Schnell called for a bout against Matheus Nicolau in November at UFC 281. If Schnell can be cleared to compete by then and Nicolau is willing to wait, then that’s a great fight. If not, fights with David Dvorak or Manel Kape would also be strong options. Schnell vs. Nicolau sounds perfect if the UFC can make it happen.

SHANE BURGOS

It was a very fun performance from Burgos, and ‘Hurricane’ always shows up, so I’m not going to hate too hard on him winning this fight. But I will say that I absolutely hate seeing a performance like the one Jourdain put up here not get rewarded. Want to give Burgos the first round for his sub attempt and control time and some well landed kicks? Okay, I can see it. He definitely won the second round as well. But Jourdain crushed him in the third round. If that’s not a 10-8, I don’t know what is. Instead Burgos walks away with the victory, and likely a new UFC contract for his troubles. As such, bouts against Dan Ige, Ricardo Ramos, Hakeem Dawodu, or the Chikadze/Yusuff loser would all make sense. Feels like the Ige bout is one that already should have happened, and would be a hell of a lot of fun for every last second of it. Shane Burgos vs. Dan Ige is a rock solid top 15 featherweight booking.

LAUREN MURPHY

A strong performance from start to finish for Lauren Murphy. She was able to regularly stifle Miesha Tate’s wrestling game, and while both women worked hard behind their jabs standing, Murphy landed the better shots all throughout and left Tate bloodied up by the final bell. The win keeps Murphy circling right around the edges of the top contender’s circle.

After the bout she had a solid callout ready, looking for the winner of Jessica Andrade vs. Manon Fiorot. Unfortunately for Tate, Andrade apparently has had to pull out of that fight. But, if the UFC does go with re-booking Katlyn Chookagian against Fiorot, there’s no reason Murphy still couldn’t be in the running for the winner of that. Either way, however, I think there’s one really solid option out of all this and it’s a rematch between Murphy and Chookagian. The two women fought way back in 2016, with Chookagian taking the win. They’ve both taken long paths to the same relative place in the flyweight division today. Whether or not Chookagian fights Fiorot or wins or loses that bout, Chookagian vs. Murphy 2 is the best booking for both women.

RICKY SIMON

A perfect performance from Ricky Simon. He talked about Jack Shore’s jab after the fight, and how much he’d prepped for it, and that showed perfectly in the cage. Simon started the bout with heavy low kicks, keeping Shore uncertain about stepping into range. He met Shore every time he did step in with counter takedowns, and eventually got Shore over thinking to the point he caught him with a huge counter hook that he turned into an instant submission win. After the bout, Simon called out Sean O’Malley. And if O’Malley isn’t going to rematch Pedro Munhoz, that’s a great fight. Assuming that Munhoz vs. O’Malley does get re-made, then a bout with Adrian Yanez, or a rematch with Rob Font would both be excellent. I do think the UFC should re-book O’Malley/Munhoz, so I’ll say make Simon vs. Font 2. Give Simon a chance to get a key loss back.

DUSTIN JACOBY

Dustin Jacoby’s second UFC run could hardly be going any better. Other than a split draw to Ion Cutelaba last year, he’s won every trip to the Octagon he’s taken since getting re-signed to the promotion in 2020. This latest win over Da Un Jung places him firmly among the light heavyweight elite and should mean that ranked opposition awaits. Unfortunately, both Jim Crute and Johnny Walker are coming off multiple losses, so while Jacoby vs. Walker would be a fantastic booking, it’d be great to see Walker on a win first. But hey, Ryan Spann is fresh off a victory in his own battle against Cutelaba and would provide a great well, rounded test for Jacoby with his combination of striking and wrestling. Spann vs. Jacoby seems like the kind of step up Jacoby needs right now.

OTHER BOUTS: Michelle Waterson vs. Jessica Penne 2, Muslim Salikhov vs. Khaos Williams, Su Mudaerji vs. Tyson Nam, Charles Jourdain vs. Hakeem Dawodu, Miesha Tate vs. Amanda Ribas, Punahele Soriano vs. Phil Hawes, Dalcha Lungiambula vs. Jordan Wright, Jack Shore vs. Casey Kenney, Bill Algeo vs. Chase Hooper, Herbert Burns vs. Danny Henry, Da Un Jung vs. Jim Crute, Dustin Stoltzfus vs. Joseph Holmes, Dwight Grant vs. Kyle Daukaus, Emily Ducote vs. Luana Pinheiro