Minus any extenuating context, UFC 283 was a pretty good time. Fans got lots of finishes, some big highlight KOs, upsets, dramatic narrative shifts, and the crowning of a new champion along with the changing of the guard (again) for the flyweight belt. Despite all that, though, the vibes were clearly off. Leading into the PPV with Shogun getting put out to pasture set a sour mood. Then both the co-main and main events saw hometown favorites lose hard in fights where they just weren’t terribly competitive. Fans got nasty, the building looked only about 2⁄3 full. A strange night for the UFC all told.
So, is there an immediate title challenger that Jamahal Hill would be clearly favored to beat? Does Brandon Moreno finally get to do something other than rehash old fights? And does the UFC have any options other than Jessica Andrade for the strawweight title?
To answer those questions—and a few other thigns—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!
All things considered, this was a hell of a crowning performance from Hill. Teixeira had all the single moments of success he might have hoped to have, given five rounds to work with. He got takedowns, he got back takes, he got mount; the 43-year-old even landed his share of big bombs standing, despite getting out-struck more than 2-to-1. For a man who has made his success in recent years coming back from seemingly fight ending damage to demolish much younger opponents, his performance against Hill wasn’t a remarkable departure. What was remarkable was Hill’s output, his durability, and his ability to stay strong in the face of major momentum shifts. The fact that Hill got taken down and mounted in round 5, and still fought his way back up and won the round is a great testament to that.
As a result of his win, there are three clear contenders awaiting Hill for his first defense: Magomed Ankalaev, Jan Blachowicz, & Jiri Prochazka. If it weren’t for the unknown length of his injury recovery, Prochazka would have to be first in line—but I can’t imagine the UFC wanting to bet on him for a main event in the next six months right now. Instead, I’ll say Hill vs. Ankalaev is the fight to make. Both he and Blachowicz deserve it, but it feels like it makes more sense to go with the younger, fresher challenger.
If there’s a big winner out of Brandon Moreno finally slamming the door on his four fight series against Deiveson Figueiredo, it’s Alexandre Pantoja. ‘The Cannibal’ has been on ice since July of last year when he took a quick submission win over Alex Perez. Really though, from the moment that Moreno laid any claim to some piece of the title, Pantoja has been an obvious challenger. He beat that champ once during Moreno’s first UFC run, and even way back before that, when the two men were both on TUF together. I’m sure Moreno’s not thrilled at the idea of yet another rematch, but he’s got unfinished business right there waiting for him still. Hopefully after that, some new challengers can start to truly separate themselves from the competition. Alexandre Pantoja vs. Brandon Moreno is the clear next title fight.
Kind of a brutally bad fight for the now-former champion. He got caught walking in regularly with overhands. While he was able to initiate plenty of scrambles and hit some solid sweeps, he had no ability at all to control Moreno on the mat. The knuckle that scratched and closed his eye to end the fight felt a bit like a mercy, with Figueiredo pretty likely down three rounds already (unless judges really have a thing for strikes off a fighter’s back from guard), and seemingly unable to find any way to steer momentum in his favor.
After the bout, ‘Deus da Guerra’ announced that he was leaving flyweight for bantamweight moving forward. So where does that leave him? Does he walk into title contention? The top 5? The top 10? Seems like it’d be foolish to throw him lower down the line than that. If he’s gonna be top 10, Dominick Cruz isn’t much older than Figueiredo; two former champs feels like a great intro to 135 to me. Cruz vs. Figueiredo seems like just the welcome to a new division that the former champ needs.
It’s hard to think of many worse matchups for Neil Magny in the top 10 at welterweight than someone like Gilbert Burns, who can hit hard enough to give pause standing, wrestle well enough to take Magny off his feet, and then grapple technically enough to just suck all the life out of him on the mat. That’s pretty much what Burns did, tapping Magny with an arm triangle with less than a minute left in round 1.
After the bout, Burns called out Colby Covington. That fight, or a fight against Jorge Masvidal are exactly the kind of bouts he should be getting, but he may just have to settle for Muhammad or Rakhmonov instead. If Colby Covington is coming back any time soon, then Burns vs. Covington is a great fight. If he’s not, then Burns vs. Muhammad would be a great title eliminator.
This was always going to be an uphill battle for Lauren Murphy. She’s often struggled to keep pace and confidence against top-tier athletes. When Andrade stormed out of the gate with a bevvy of low kicks, it seemed she immediately got deep in Murphy’s head. ‘Lucky’ never did find a way to defend the kicks, and having to think about them opened up more and more combinations up top for ‘Bate Estaca’ as the fight went on. By the time the final bell rang, all anyone seemed to be thinking was “this really should have been stopped a whole lot sooner.” After the bout, Andrade called out Weili Zhang for a strawweight title fight. Will the UFC really give her that coming off a flyweight win? Considering she’s beat Amanda Lemos and we’ve seen Namajunas against Zhang plenty now, an Andrade rematch makes a lot of sense. Not sure if it’s the fight the UFC will book, but Andrade vs. Weili 2 is the best strawweight title fight the UFC can make right now.
This fight seemed destined for shenanigans. Whether it was going to be Johnny Walker diving into Paul Craig’s guard and getting insta-tapped, or Walker landing the kind of detonating shots that would put Craig away in a hurry, the idea that this could make it three full rounds of tidy MMA seemed impossible—which it was. No sooner did Craig catch a kick for a single leg, then he started getting dinged up so badly that he had to turtle up. A quick TKO for Walker, who is once again on some kind of roll. I could argue for a booking against Azamat Murzakanov, but Walker hasn’t fought Volkan Oezdemir yet and that seems like a tragedy if we never get to see it. Walker vs. Oezdemir would be a good time.
Perhaps no fighter improved their stock so dramatically as Brunno Ferreira at UFC 283. The Brazilian came in as a relative complete unknown despite his shiny 9-0 record and quick Contender Series KO win. Matched up against a borderline top-15 talent like Gregory Rodrigues on short notice, it was pretty safely assumed that he was headed for a rough loss in his Octagon debut—from which he could learn from moving forward. Instead (and despite getting pieced up for about 4 minutes) he walked away with a spectacular first round knockout win, and the potential that the UFC will throw him another serious challenge next time out.
Personally, I’d rather see Ferreira get someone around the speed of Denis Tiuliulin or Armen Petrosyan than an Anthony Hernandez or Roman Dolidze, but it’s anyone’s guess what the UFC will do with a win like that. I’ll split the difference and say the UFC should book Brunno Ferreira vs. Abdul Razak Alhassan. Another dangerous, big puncher with noted defensive flaws to keep testing the newcomer’s mettle.
The question with a short-notice opponent like Melquizael Costa wasn’t so much whether this was a fight Moises could win, as much as it was, how well prepared would he be for Costa’s aggression and scrambling. The answer was: very prepared. Moises got in on his takedowns early, and started working over Costa from top control as the 26 year old’s cardio started to fade. lots of heavy GnP, and an aggressive guard passing game did well to force Costa to keep moving and burn energy. The result was a second round submission for the former LFA champ.
That could lead to fights with Drakkar Klose, Nasrat Haqparast, Drew Dober, or Mark O. Madsen. I know it’s winner-loser, but given Madsen’s hopes to make a charge up the division, and his wrestling credentials, that feels like the most interesting matchup here. Madsen vs. Moises would be a great chance for the former Olympian to see if he can bounce back into top competition.
Jailton Almeida’s introduction to the top 15 at heavyweight couldn’t have been easier. He breezed by Shamil Abdourakhimov, who had nothing ready for Almeida’s wrestling attack. The win should set the Brazilian up for a real, high profile heavyweight contest. Fights with the Ivanov/Tybura winner, Alexandr Romanov, or Jairzinho Rozenstruik all seem like reasonable next steps. The obvious answer for me of that bunch is Romanov. The fridge-like Moldovan has built a strong reputation for physical dominance in the cage and seems like he’d be a huge challenge for a smaller heavyweight like Almeida. Given, as well, how much Romanov struggled with someone who could fight off his grappling in Tybura last time around, Almeida could ask questions he needs to answer. Almeida vs. Romanov is a great step up at heavyweight.
For so many fighters, the best thing they can do for their long term success is to take their time getting to the UFC. Ismael Bonfim is another great example of what that kind of longer journey can do for a fighter, hitting the world’s largest MMA promotion with an 18-3 record, accumulated over more than 10 years of fighting on the regionals. Standing a heavy underdog against Terrance McKinney, Bonfim outclassed ‘T-Wrecks’ pretty much everywhere from the opening bell all the way to an electric jump-knee second round KO. Hopefully that kind of win rockets him up into bigger fight conversations. At the very least, action bouts against Matt Frevola, Mike Davis, or Nasrat Haqparast should be on offer. If ‘Beast Boy’ is going to be back in action anytime soon, I’d love to see Bonfim vs. Davis asap.
OTHER BOUTS: Lauren Murphy vs. O’Neil/Maia loser, Paul Craig vs. Dominick Reyes, Ihor Potieria vs. Tafon Nchukwi, Gregory Rodrigues vs. Phil Hawes, Melquizael Costa vs. Michal Figlak, Garbriel Bonfim vs. Rinat Fakhretdinov, Mounir Lazzez vs. Gabriel Green, Shamil Abdourakhimov vs. Tanner Boser, Terrance McKinney vs. Ottman Azaitar, Nicolas Dalby vs. Alex Morono, Warlley Alves vs. Jake Matthews, Josiane Nunes vs. Julia Avila, Zarah Fairn vs. Danyelle Wolf, Daniel Marcos vs. Mana Martinez, Saimon Oliveira vs. Liudvik Sholinian