UFC Fight Night 135 is in the books seeing one of the most entertaining events of 2018. All the action took place on Saturday, August 25th from the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska. In the featured bout of the evening, former WSOF lightweight champion Justin Gaethje made quick work with an exciting first-round knockout over James Vick. Both men had exchanged words on Twitter for months, eventually leading to this fight being scheduled.
Many fighters ended up with thrilling finishes: Eryk Anders with a head-kick over Tim Williams, Mickey Gall with a fast submission over George Sullivan, and Rani Yahya with a third-straight stoppage over Luke Sanders. What matchups could we see next for these competitors? All of the following suggestions below are provided with a card selection from a remaining scheduled event in 2017. As I have mentioned in prior top five articles, some of these fighters may want or need to wait until next year for a fight.
Here are the top five fights to make after UFC Fight Night 135.
5. Joanne Calderwood vs. Alexis Davis
A late arm-triangle in the first round got Joanne Calderwood back to her winning ways, handing Kalindra Faria her third straight loss in the UFC. The victory was her first by way of submission, adding a twelfth to her 15-fight professional mixed martial arts career. Calderwood had suffered two straight losses coming into Saturday night, having been finished by Jessica Andrade back in September of 2016 and falling a decision to Cynthia Calvillo after missing weight in July of 2017.
The UFC’s addition of flyweight has been very beneficial for Calderwood and has been a great asset for many others now competing at this weight class. Alexis Davis, a long time competitor in both the bantamweight and featherweight division, has now found a home at 125 pounds. She sits an even 1-1 in the division, with a recent loss to Katlyn Chookagian. Calderwood is in need of getting two straight wins, while Davis is looking to rebound off that prior defeat (currently without a fight scheduled). Let’s go for it.
Card Suggestion: Preliminary card portion at UFC 231 (December 8th from the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario)
4. Cory Sandhagen vs. Thomas Almeida
A fight and a comeback to remember. Cory Sandhagen was in all sorts of trouble in the opening 100 seconds to Iuri Alcantara, getting tagged with hard shots and trapped in a practically inescapable position to the BJJ black belt. Sandhagen would then escape, going on to dominantly pound out and eventually hand Alcantara his first TKO loss since 2007. The victory was his second in the UFC and his fourth straight win, each a finish with strikes.
Many questioned beforehand if Sandhagen was ready for the jump in competition, and he proved it with this performance. He may very well be given someone of lower caliber next, as the UFC may want to progress him to become a marketable newcomer. However, I am very interested to see a fight between he and Thomas Almeida. The styles are both entertaining, and we know Almeida is hungry for a win after dropping his last two straight to top ten ranked bantamweights.
Card Suggestion: Main event of the preliminary card portion or main card at UFC on Fox 31 (December 15th from the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
3. Eryk Anders vs. Elias Theodorou / Antonio Carlos Junior winner
A solid fight came to a halt with less than 20 seconds left on the clock, seeing Eryk Anders earn a “Knockout of the Night” bonus and a potential “Knockout of the Year” candidate over Tim Williams (watch the brutal finish here). The former Crimson Tide linebacker started his career in mixed martial arts only in August of 2015 and already holds an impressive 11-1 record, dropping a debatable split decision loss to veteran Lyoto Machida at the beginning of 2018.
In Eryk’s post-fight interview, he called out another fellow middleweight: Elias Theodorou, who has an upcoming fight scheduled with Antonio Carlos Junior. Theodorou mentioned how he is focused on this upcoming fight with “Shoeface,” and if he comes out victorious, they both are down to fight on December 8th. If ACJ does win, however, I think a pairing between he and Anders also works.
Card Suggestion: Main event of the preliminary card portion at UFC 231 (December 8th from the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario)
2. Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Dustin Ortiz
We have ourselves a new dangerous contender in the flyweight division. Deiveson Figueiredo earned an impressive second-round TKO over John Moraga, becoming the only man to stop him by strikes (without the doctor stepping in). The Brazilian remains undefeated, hosting 15 total victories with eight coming by knockout and five by submission. Figueiredo now has a 4-0 record in the UFC.
It has been a while since we have seen a 125-pounder with the imposing finishing ability of Figueiredo. Another flyweight who has been on a hot streak as of late is Dustin Ortiz, knocking out both Matheus Nicolau and Magomed Bibulatov in two of his last three fights. He is currently ranked in the #9 spot in the division, while Figueiredo sits a little further back ranked at #14. Most fighters ranked ahead either have a fight scheduled a few months ahead, or either have the last name Cejudo and Johnson. I think this would set us up for a war of a lighter-weight fight between two men hungry to keep making moves towards the title.
Card Suggestion: Main card at UFC Fight Night 140 (November 17th at Estadio Luna Park in Buenos Aires, Argentina)
1. Justin Gaethje vs. Kevin Lee
Justin Gaethje is the first fighter you need to introduce to your friends who have never seen this sport before. Violence, chaos, and finishes are what they will witness everytime “The Highlight” steps into the octagon. It only took 97 seconds for him to knockout James Vick who had rode a solid four-fight win streak himself before getting finished.
No matter a loss to Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, or a victory over Luis Palomino (2x) and Michael Johnson. You should never, ever miss a Gaethje fight. In just four UFC fights, he has racked up five post-fight bonuses. On top of that, he holds 16 of 19 wins coming by knockout and five title defenses as the former WSOF lightweight champion (being stripped, but never having lost the title in a fight). There is no better time for a pairing between #7 Gaethje and Kevin Lee, the man currently ranked #5 in the division. Need I say more? This one is a must to happen next.
Card Suggestion: Main event at UFC on Fox 31 (December 15th from the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Other fights to make after UFC Fight Night 135:
Michael Johnson vs. Ricardo Lamas
Cortney Casey vs. Tecia Torres
Bryan Barberena vs. Yancy Medeiros
James Krause vs. Max Griffin
Andrew Sanchez vs. Alessio Di Chirico
Mickey Gall vs. Sage “Corncutt” (Gall asked for it)
Drew Dober vs. Clay Guida
Rani Yahya vs. Aljamain Sterling / Cody Stamann loser
James Vick vs. Charles Oliveira
Andre Fili vs. Rick Glenn
Angela Hill vs. Mackenzie Dern
Jake Ellenberger: announced MMA retirement
John Moraga vs. Alexandre Pantoja
Tim Williams vs. Jonathan Wilson
Warlley Alves vs. Zak Ottow
Iuri Alcantara vs. Eddie Wineland
Markus Perez vs. Julian Marquez
George Sullivan: released
Kalindra Faria: released
Jon Tuck vs. Abel Trujillo
Luke Sanders vs. Matthew Lopez
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