Armchair Matchmaker: Early 2018 Featherweight Title Picture

Featherweight Title Picture
ST. LOUIS, MO - JANUARY 14: Jeremy Stephens celebrates his TKO victory over Dooho Choi of South Korea in their featherweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event inside the Scottrade Center on January 14, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

The last week has showcased some exciting MMA fights. Plenty of knockouts, submissions and tightly contested decisions have caught the attention of the MMA world. While those who won celebrate and those who lost go back to the drawing board, fans want to know: what’s next? Armchair Matchmaker takes a look at some potential match-ups that should be made in various promotions.

Jeremy Stephens and Darren Elkins both won at UFC Fight Night 124 in impressive fashion. Armchair Matchmaker takes a look at the featherweight title picture in a wide open division, as well as other potential match-ups to be made after this weekend’s UFC and Invicta events.

Main Card

Main Event: Jeremy Stephens vs. Brian Ortega (UFC)

Stephens won in spectacular fashion on Sunday night, earning a TKO over Doo Ho Choi. He then called for a bout against undefeated No. 3-ranked featherweight Ortega. Stephens entered the bout as the No. 9-ranked man, but he should move up to at least No. 7. Featherweight is wide open right now with the recent shake-up. A fight between Ortega and Stephens would make sense from a rankings-perspective, and the winner could very well fight the winner of Max Holloway vs. Frankie Edgar. 

Co-Main Event: Darren Elkins vs. Josh Emmett (UFC)

Another potential title eliminator. If one fighter wins in spectacular fashion and a bout between Stephens and Ortega is underwhelming, the winner could easily leapfrog them for a featherweight title shot. Elkins continues to pull off comeback wins, submitting Michael Johnson on Sunday. That was the sixth win in a row for “The Damage.” Emmett burst onto the featherweight scene with a stunning knockout of longtime contender Ricardo Lamas. Both men are extremely prevalent in the featherweight title picture.

Sarah Kaufman vs. Kelly Faszholz (Invicta vacant bantamweight championship)

Kaufman made good on her return to Invicta this past weekend with a clear decision win over Pannie Kianzad. Faszholz, another former UFC fighter, won her Invicta debut against Elizabeth Phillips. With the UFC signing Inivicta bantamweight champion Yana Kunitskaya, there’s no more deserving candidate to fight for a title than Kaufman. Faszholz is the best opponent for her under the promotion’s banner.

Jessica-Rose Clark vs. Lauren Murphy (UFC)

Clark surprised some with a clear decision win over Paige VanZant. What makes it even more impressive is what Clark went through the prior week. She is now 2-0 in the UFC and its new flyweight division, which is wide open. Clark should fight Murphy next, who has a win over former Invicta flyweight queen Barb Honchak. The winner of that bout could very well earn a title shot.

Doo Ho Choi vs. Yair Rodriguez

Choi came up short against Stephens, and Rodriguez came up short against Frankie Edgar in his last bout. While both prospects are coming off of losses, it would be a potential Fight of the Year candidate. No fan would complain about this.

Preliminary Card

Kamaru Usman vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio (UFC)

It’s time to give Usman a test in the top-10 of the welterweight division. Usman has been dominant so far, and continued that last night. He swept Emil Weber Meek on the scorecards with a wrestling-heavy performance. Ponzinibbio could serve as a proper step up for “The Nigerian Nightmare.” A win would likely propel either man into a top-5 showdown.

Vanessa Porto vs. Sarah D’Alelio (Invicta)

Porto extended her winning streak to two with a first round submission over Mariana Morais on Saturday. D’Alelio is coming off a TKO loss to Roxanne Modafferi. However, D’Alelio holds a 2012 win over Porto. A rematch would give Porto a chance for vengeance while it would give D’Alelio a shot to beat a high level opponent under the Invicta banner.

James Krause vs. David Teymur (UFC)

Krause toughed it out against Alex White in his return to lightweight. White hit Krause with some hard shots, but Krause was able to secure enough rounds with his grappling. A fight with Teymur would make sense for both men. It would give Krause a win that would earn him a rightful top-15 fight. A win for Teymur would net him a victory against his toughest opponent to date in-line with his development.

Ashley Cummins vs. Catherine Costigan (Invicta)

Cummins earned a dominant unanimous decision over Stephanie Alba in their Invicta bout on Saturday. She is now 2-1 since dropping to atomweight. Cummins has expressed interest in a meeting with Costigan next. She hopes a win over her will be enough to set up a rematch with Jinh Yu Frey for the title.

Early Prelims

Paige VanZant vs. Gillian Robertson (UFC)

VanZant struggled in her flyweight debut, losing via unanimous decision to Jessica-Rose Clark. VanZant suffered a broken arm in the first round of the fight, but was handily out-grappled. Assuming VanZant stays at flyweight, Robertson would be a good opportunity for her to get back in the win column. On the other hand, Robertson would have a chance to earn a massive victory for her young career.

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