UFC Vegas 60 was a wild whirlwind of a card. A couple boring slogs, a bunch of brutal cuts, and a couple of fantastic wars. In the main event, Cory Sandhagen stated his case for another chance at a piece of bantamweight gold against Song Yadong. Gregory Rodrigues and Chidi Njokuani absolutely went hammer & tongs in the co-main, and Joe Pyfer kept his hype train firmly on the rails.
So, is there any clear path to a title fight for Sandhagen right now? Is Gregory Rodrigues ready for the middleweight rankings? And who would want to face Anthony Hernandez off his absolute shellacking of Marc-Andre Barriault?
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!
There may have been a little rough going early on for Cory Sandhagen, but from the sound of things, that was always part of the plan. After his fight was over, Sandhagen spoke candidly about his plans to sap Song Yadong’s energy, get him thinking about takedowns, slow him down as the fight went on. Landing a huge counter elbow to split the man’s forehead wide open certainly didn’t hurt. Although the first two rounds were close—two judges actually had Song winning both of them—the end result was a fight ever increasingly tilting in the Elevation Fight Team athlete’s favor.
It wouldn’t be unreasonable to see Sandhagen fight for the bantamweight title after a victory like this. The only problem, of course, is that both men in the upcoming fight between Aljamain Sterling and TJ Dillashaw already have wins over Sandhagen (no matter how robbed some feel he was in that Dillashaw fight). In the unlikely event Sean O’Malley gets past Petr Yan, he’s likely going to be a higher priority for the champ and the UFC than a Sandhagen rematch. Of course, should Yan win and Sterling win, then all that math may change, especially given that Sterling’s teammate Dvalishvili is the other top contender. Sandhagen can wait if he wants, with the hope that Sterling beats Dillashaw and Sandhagen is the best fight remaining. But if he doesn’t want to take that chance, then a fight with Marlon Vera is obvious and awesome and a fight the UFC should book as soon as possible.
A tough outing for Song Yadong. Even though the fight didn’t go his way, however, I’d say it still showed a good step forward for the Team Alpha Male product. Before the cut shook up his vision and Sandhagen started gaining serious steam, Song showed great craft in his pressure and power and shot selection. He’s always had all the physical tools to be an amazing fighter, it seems as though he’s starting to find the tactical ones as well. I have every expectation that this loss will lead to more improvements down the line.
In the meantime, the ‘Kung Fu Monkey’ seems perfectly placed to hang out around the top ten of the division getting more big fights. Bookings against Rob Font, Dominick Cruz, or Pedro Munhoz would all be a ton of fun. From the look of things, Font doesn’t have a fight booked. Song vs. Font would be a perfect battle of ranked bantamweights coming off a loss.
As expected, Gregory Rodrigues and Chidi Njokuani went to war. Rodrigues got hurt almost immediately out of the gate, ducking into a huge knee that split him wide open across the bridge of his nose. But ‘RoboCop’ bit down on his mouthpiece and came back with heavy leather of his own, hurting Njokuani badly before the end of round 1. When round 2 started both men were ready to go right back into the fray. It was Rodrigues, however, who had more confidence and determination left in an all out firefight. A few shots later and Njokuani was down again and Rodrigues was on him landing brutal GnP to wrap up the fight.
That’s two straight wins for Rodrigues and he seems to be putting his losses well into the rear view mirror. Bouts against Nassourdine Imavov, Andre Muniz, or Roman Dolidze would all be decent options. Of those, I think the Imavov fight seems prefect. Imavov struggled hard late with a much smaller, but similarly dedicated brawler in Joaquin Buckley last time around. Rodrigues seems like he’d be a much more difficult version of the same kind of fight. Rodrigues vs. Imavov would be a top quality battle.
A desperately close fight for Andre Fili. After starting strong in round 1 behind a couple of big headkicks, Bill Algeo rallied back in the second to make it a close scrap. Everything seemed to be well in hand early in the third after Fili hit a clean double leg to wind up in half guard and then move to a quick back take with a body-triangle and a RNC seemingly moments away. However Algeo fought off the choke and landed a whole bunch of strikes over his own shoulder to make for a razor thin decision with the judges. Still, a win’s a win, and that one puts Fili back in line for another top quality featherweight bout. Damon Jackson got a big win earlier on the card, but I really like what Ricardo Ramos has been doing lately. His spinning back elbow KO he got against Danny Chavez was absolutely electric. Ramos vs. Fili would be a fantastic fight to push either man in to the rankings.
Kind of a must win for Joe Pyfer in his debut, honestly. Alen Amedovski hasn’t been competitive in the UFC at all to date, if Pyfer didn’t put him away fast here it would have felt like exactly the wrong kind of comment on his readiness to succeed in the Octagon. Instead, Pyfer came out measured and consistent, found his range, and bombed Amedovski straight out of the Octagon. That’s just the right introduction that Pyfer needed to get himself into the middleweight division with his hype intact. Denis Tiuliulin just picked up a hell of a fun win, how about Pyfer vs. Tiuliulin next to see if Pyfer can keep building off his early success?
An absolute landslide victory for Anthony Hernandez. He started fast and put the pace on Marc-Andre Barriault for every bit of 2 rounds before breaking the Canadian in the third. A consummate ass kicking from ‘Fluffy’ and the kind of win that may see him finally gain some real momentum in the middleweight division. Fights with Nassourdine Imavov, Chris Curtis, Phil Hawes, or Michal Oleksiejczuk would all be really fun options to go after for his next time out. Of all those, I especially like the idea of the Oleksiejczuk bout. Would the Pole be too big and strong for Hernandez to out-scramble on the mats, or would Hernandez’s non-stop pace and pressure overwhelm the former light heavyweight? Seems like a thrilling action bout for two men would could easily be fighting among the top 15 at 185 in 2023. Hernandez vs. Oleksiejczuk is all kinds of fun.
A remarkable win for Jackson. He had Sabatini hurt from the jump and never let his foot off the gas on his way to the first round TKO. He actually delivered such a brutal fight out of the gate that Sabatini had to submit to strikes. That’s four-straight wins for Jackson who is now knocking on the doors of the featherweight elite. Bouts against Alex Caceres, Edson Barboza, Ricardo Ramos, and Julian Erosa would all be quality. Among those, I really like the idea of Jackson vs. Barboza. Unfortunately, the UFC has Barboza in a fight I really don’t like, against Ilia Topuria. So forget that idea, and let’s go with Alex Caceres. Like Jackson, Caceres is a longtime, wily veteran of the sport who can compete everywhere. Can ‘Bruce Leroy’ keep up with the ‘Leech’’s relentless aggression? Can Jackson grab another big, notable win. Jackson vs. Caceres would be a solid chance to keep this momentum going into the top 15.
A tough outing for Robertson. She got in on takedowns early and often in her fight with Agapova, but found herself on the receiving end of a whole bunch of hard elbows and hammerfists once she got there. Out at distance against Agapova the fight was entirely against her. But, she kept pushing forward, kept pushing the pace, and eventually got onto a backtake off a scramble that got her on the RNC. Agapova tried to gut through it as long as she could, but eventually went to sleep.
A great bounce-back from her loss to JJ Aldrich and should put her right back in the hunt around the lower edges of the top 15. Bouts against Antonina Shevchenko, Tracy Cortez, Erin Blanchfield, or Maryna Moroz seem like suitable opportunities. Personally I’d love to see Robertson against Cortez, but Cortez is booked. So how about a fight with Antonina Shevchenko. Shevchenko is fresh off a win over Cortney Casey, and both women have struggled to find consistent form. If she wants to drop down to 155 instead, then maybe a fight with Lupita Godinez? A. Shevchenko vs. Robertson seems like an appropriate battle of unranked FLW vets.
Nikolas Motta may have struggled badly with Jim Miller in his UFC debut, but a bounce back against Cameron VanCamp was just what he needed. VanCamp tried to play a more tentative game and emphasize low kicks to follow in Miller’s path, but couldn’t mix up his combo’s enough, and once Motta started pushing forward with bigger hooks he found VanCamp’s chin repeatedly. A quality win for the Brazilian that sets him up nicely for another scrap in the lightweight division. Manuel Torres picked up a great win over Frank Camacho in his UFC debut. A fight between them would be a surefire brawl. Torres vs. Motta is a great scrap.
OTHER BOUTS: Chidi Njokuani vs. Abdul Razak Alhassan, Bill Algeo vs. Steven Peterson, Alen Amedovski vs. Dustin Stoltzfus, Rodrigo Nascimento vs. Hamdy Abdelwahab, Tanner Boser vs. Don’Tale Mayes, Marc-Andre Barriault vs. Ian Heinisch, Pat Sabatini vs. Sean Woodson, Trevin Giles vs. Danny Roberts, Louis Cosce vs. Blood Diamond, Loma lookboonmee vs. Demopoulos/Oliveira winner, Denise Gomes vs. Melissa Martinez, Trey Ogden vs. Maheshate, Daniel Zellhuber vs. Erick Gonzalez, Mariya Agapova vs. Jasmine Jasudavicius, Javid Basharat vs. Davey Grant, Tony Gravely vs. Raulian Paiva, Cameron VanCamp vs. Charlie Ontiveros