The 12-fight card of UFC Fight Night 96 went down Saturday night in Portland, Oregon, the UFC’s second visit to the City of Roses. We saw everything from multiple groin strikes, upsets, taunting, and a restless crowd booing the most entertaining fight of the night: the headliner between flyweight’s John “Hands of Stone” Lineker and John “The Magician” Dodson. Our co-main event featured a battle between former Bellator lightweight champion “Ill” Will Brooks and usual-welterweight Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira, who missed weight for this lightweight contest.
Matchmaking for the UFC Fight Night 96 Winners
Below are some match-making suggestions for the winners of UFC Portland.
John Lineker (29-7)
Just beat: John Dodson
Should next fight: T.J. Dillashaw
This was a hard choice. I leaned towards Dillashaw with this pick, as there seems to be some animosity built up between Cruz and Garbrandt that could lead to their scheduling. I believe the most logical fight to schedule for John Lineker would be a title eliminator bout, and a dancing partner like TJ Dillashaw would be a good choice for it. Bryan Caraway, Raphael Assuncao, and Jimmie Rivera feel a slight step behind when discussing title eliminator talk. Lineker edged out John Dodson with consistent pressure and landed heavier strikes, moving his current win streak to six. He now sits at 4-0 since returning to the bantamweight division in September of 2015. TJ Dillashaw defeated Raphael Assuncao back at UFC 200 in their rematch showing effective striking and his always impressive movement. This could be Lineker’s toughest test to date and also the heaviest hitter Dillashaw has encountered in his professional career. The winner, I am 99.5% confident, would be guaranteed the next shot at the bantamweight title.
Alex Oliveira (15-3-1, 1 NC)
Just beat: Will Brooks
Should next fight: Santiago Ponzinibbio
Alex Oliveira showed some solid clinch work against the former Bellator champion Will Brooks, capitalizing on the rib injury Brooks suffered in the first to score a third round TKO. Aside from missing weight and the post-fight taunt, Oliveira mentioned he plans on moving from lightweight back to welterweight. Oliveira is definitely a solid contender in both divisions, and if he does return to 170 lbs. next, I’d love to see him face American Top Team’s Santiago Ponzinibbio (who happens to be a teammate of Will Brooks). Ponzinibbio currently rides a three fight win streak defeating the likes of Zak Cummings and Court McGee along with former UFC contender Andreas Stahl. His stand-up is the most efficient part of his game, with 13 of his 26 victories coming by knockout. This Muay Thai vs. kickboxing style fight would be an entertaining one for the fans and could push oneself into the Top 15.
Zak Ottow (13-3)
Just beat: Josh Burkman
Should next fight: Siyar Bahadurzada
I will be honest and say I wasn’t familiar with Zak Ottow when they announced he would be stepping into the cage short notice against Josh Burkman. I counted him out, and I was definitely wrong. The fight was slow-paced throughout the 15 minutes and was not the most entertaining we’ve ever seen, but he managed to win a decision over the UFC vet Burkman. Ottow was able to connect with more punches and avoid the offense of Burkman who just struggled pulling the trigger. The first opponent to pop into my head for Ottow was Siyar Bahadurzada, who last defeated Brandon Thatch by submission at UFC 196 in his return to the octagon. His knockout power and improved grappling skills could pose a threat to the UFC newcomer Ottow.
Brandon Moreno (11-3)
Just beat: Louis Smolka
Should next fight: Sergio Pettis
Louis Smolka was originally expected to face Sergio Pettis at the event until an injury forced Pettis off the card just under two weeks away from the event. In came 22 year old Brandon Moreno, a competitor and the 16th seed from this season’s “The Ultimate Fighter: Tournament of Champions.” Boy, did he leave an impression with his first round guillotine choke victory. As the biggest underdog of the night, Moreno took advantage of Smolka shooting in for a takedown by latching on to the neck and forcing the tap less than halfway into the round. The choke is the 9th submission victory of his professional career, and Moreno currently rides a 9-fight win streak. Sergio Pettis has only suffered two losses in his UFC career, the last one dating back to March of 2015. It would be unfortunate to see one of these two prospects fall; however, a loss could only make either at this stage stronger.
Other fight suggestions for those victorious from UFC Portland:
Luis Henrique da Silva vs. Steve Bosse
Andre Fili vs. Brian Ortega
Shamil Abdurakhimov vs. Alexey Oliynyk
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Court McGee
Nate Marquardt vs. Magnus Cedenblad
Ion Cutelaba vs. Sean O’Connell
Curtis Blaydes vs. Walt Harris
Ketlen Vieira vs. Elizabeth Phillips