UFC 218: What's Next?
UFC218 was a bloodbath, and a fun one at that. Dana says it takes time to evaluate a card like this and decide what’s next, whereas I’d compiled a whole new fight card containing all these fighters before Rogan and Anik had even wrapped up the post-fight show. Here I’ll break down each of the match-ups from the main card and give my take on what I think should follow on from this tremendous night of action.
Tecia Torres v Michelle Waterson
An interesting bit of trivia from Saturday night was that every fighter on the main card was featured inside the top 6 of the most up to date rankings. In a division blown wide open at UFC217, this was an opportunity for either fighter to place a marker in the ground and put themselves in title contention; Tecia Torres did exactly that when she put on a commanding display against the ‘Karate Hottie’ and almost got a finish in the final round.
As for what’s next, I have a slightly different take to most – I think that the ‘Tiny Tornado’ Tecia Torres SHOULD get the next shot at the title, and now I’ll explain why. Joanna was such a dominant champion that her next title shot is going to be absolutely huge for both her career, and for where the division moves from here.
It makes sense to play out the rubber-match between Torres and new Champ Namajunas, while Joanna faces another fighter from the card, Felice Herrig. Herrig has amassed an impressive four fight win streak and is now a well-established name in the division, unfortunately for her though, she is not on the same level as the former champion; You may complain that this is a huge mismatch, but it gives Herrig a deserved opportunity to prove her stature, and it gives Jędrzejczyk the chance to erase the memory of her tapping to strikes and reminding the world just how violent she can be (much like her performances against Penne and Esparza).
Eddie Alvarez v Justin Gaethje
Eddie Alvarez v Justin Gaethje was everything we could have hoped for, and more. The pair fought for the title of ‘UFC’s most violent man’ and as I’m sure you’re aware, ‘The Underground King’ came out on top. The first thing to take into account here is that both men are likely going to be out for quite a while, and so a fair amount of prophesising is required when plotting the next paths for both men.
Alvarez was ranked fourth in the division before the first bell sounded and so a rise for him seems inevitable. The obvious choice would be a rematch with Dustin Poirier from UFC211 that ended in a no contest after a back and forth tussle, but ‘The Diamond’ has just landed the biggest win of his career against Antony Pettis, and so it would seem a waste of momentum if he was to sit on the side-lines for the foreseeable future. I think the play to make here is to matchup Dustin Poirier with Kevin Lee, and hopefully Eddie is ready to face the loser of Khabib Nurmagomedov v Edson Barboza. This would be another step-up for Eddie and the winner of Khabib v Barboza is likely to be in title contention (whether that be the Interim or Full title).
For Justin, at 29 years old he should still have a fairly long career ahead of him, but not with the way he fights. If you look at the list of contenders in the lightweight division, it’s unlikely that Gaethje is ever going to make it to the top; his style simply won’t allow that to happen. The good thing for Gaethje is that his style means that he’s unlikely to ever lose much ground with a loss, as he’s such a fan favourite. A dream matchup for Gaethje would be Nate Diaz, but if he won’t come back for a title shot, he won’t be coming back to have his leg chopped off by ‘The Highlight’. Elsewhere on Saturday’s card, ‘The Irish Dragon’ Paul Felder recorded a very impressive win against Brazilian Charles Oliveira as he reigned down ‘Hellbows’ from the top and forced his opponent to submit. Felder could be a perfect opponent for Gaethje as he’d be guaranteed another fantastic, fun, winnable fight against another opponent that leaves it all in the octagon every time.
Henry Cejudo v Sergio Pettis
It was not a good night to be Henry Cejudo or Sergio Pettis. Although Henry got the job done in impressive fashion and left no doubt when it came to the judges’ decision, they were placed in between a potential ‘Fight of the Year’ and a potential ‘Knockout of the Year’.
I believe there is now no doubt that Henry Cejudo is the best Flyweight in the world, not named Demetrious Johnson. There is clearly still a very bitter taste left in the mouth of the Olympic Gold Medallist as to how his first fight with DJ ended, and he’s desperate for another shot at the consensus GOAT pick. Ray Borg v Brandon Moreno is taking place on February 18th in Austin, Texas and it makes a lot of sense for Cejudo to face the winner of that bout, while this DJ v TJ situation plays out.
For Sergio Pettis, a loss really isn’t the end of the world – he’s still only 24 and has a long career ahead of him. A fight against Wilson Reis could be a perfect one to get his teeth into and prove that is really is on the same level as the elite of the division.
Alistair Overeem v Francis Ngannou
I wouldn’t be surprised if all evidence of this fight ever happening was confiscated in the near future; Clips of the knockout are now borderline snuff films and the thought of Alistair’s head flying back is still making me shudder.
There’s not too much matchmaking to do here. Dana has already confirmed that Francis Ngannou will fight Heavyweight Champ Stipe Miocic next in what will undoubtedly be one of the biggest fights of 2018. Hopefully this one gets added to UFC220 in Boston and we won’t have to wait too long.
As for Overeem, he’ll need to take some time to sit down and talk all of this over with his family and ask if it’s really worth it anymore. He’s still being paid big money and was one of the highest paid on Saturdays card, but as the saying goes ‘health is wealth’ and he’s now been knocked out 14 times across his career. He’s now a long way away from a title shot and seems to just be a KO waiting to happen whenever anything remotely grazes his chin.
Max Holloway v Jose Aldo
Max Holloway reaffirmed himself as ‘The Man’ of the Featherweight division on Saturday night when he defeated Jose Aldo in near identical fashion to their original bout. If Frankie Edgar is going to be out for a while then I think Cub Swanson is the clear next contender and probably should have been the one in the octagon in Detroit. I still believe that Frankie is the most legitimate threat to the ‘Blessed’ crown, but Cub has earned his shot and providing he gets past Brian Ortega this weekend, he has to be next.
As for Jose, I think it’s about time that he hangs the gloves up. We saw the struggle on the scales for this fight and I’m not sure he can make that cut many more times without seriously damaging his body. There was a time when I would have welcomed a move up to lightweight, but the division is now full of 10-15 savages that would be ready to add his reputable name to their records and I don’t want to see a legend of the sport go out like that.