Saturday night brought some of the best action of the year with UFC 228, taking place from the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. In the night’s main event, Tyron Woodley defended his UFC welterweight championship with a dominant showing over Englishman Darren Till. This title fight was important for success, as the co-main event between UFC flyweight champion Nicco Montano and challenger Valentina Shevchenko was cancelled due to Montano being hospitalized the day prior (Friday).
Due to the cancellation, strawweights Jessica Andrade and Karolina Kowalkiewicz were bumped to the co-main slot. Andrade went on to make a huge statement, knocking out Kowalkiewicz in the first round.
Many other impressive performances stood out from the pay-per-view, FX, and UFC Fight Pass portions. Geoff Neal earned a potential “Knockout of the Year” with his second-round head-kick victory. Featherweight Zabit Magomedsharipov and bantamweight Aljamain Sterling both racked up kneebar finishes, this being the first card in UFC history with two by this submission. Lastly, long-time UFC veterans Jim Miller and Diego Sanchez managed to find their way back in the win column.
The questions we wonder after the completion of every UFC event: what could be next for these athletes? Let us take a look at the top five fights to make after UFC 228.
5. Jimmie Rivera vs. Aljamain Sterling
Two bantamweights both put on great showings: Jimmie Rivera with his decisive unanimous decision over John Dodson and Aljamain Sterling with his fantastic kneebar over Cody Stamann. Rivera had rode a 20-fight win streak with five UFC victories before suffering a knockout loss to Marlon Moraes in June. Sterling’s submission was the seventh of his career, moving his UFC record to 8-3.
At the moment, Rivera is currently ranked #5 while Sterling is ranked #8. Now could be a really fitting time for both to square off at an upcoming UFC event. Below are some matchmaking suggestions for the rest of our top UFC bantamweights.
- Dillashaw vs. Moraes/Assuncao
- Cruz vs. Assuncao/Moraes
- Garbrandt vs. Lineker
- Sandhagen vs. Almeida
- Rivera vs. Sterling (as just mentioned)
- Dodson vs. Perez (listed at the bottom of this article)
- Stamann vs. Andrade (listed at the bottom of this article)
- Munhoz vs. Caraway (official)
4. Tatiana Suarez vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
We have a new threat in the women’s strawweight division. Tatiana Suarez landed nine takedowns and 136 strikes (82 significant strikes) against Carla Esparza, finishing the fight by TKO late into the third round. This was the most impressive performance of her mixed martial arts career, extending her undefeated career to seven straight victories. The former World Wrestling Championship bronze medalist made a name for herself after dominating her competitors and winning The Ultimate Fighter 23 strawweight tournament.
After listening to some conversation, it seems as though some want Suarez to next face Jessica Andrade. However, I believe Andrade rightfully earned a title shot with her victory Saturday night (check out spot number two below). With that being said, I am for a pairing between Suarez and former queen of the strawweight division Joanna Jedrzejczyk. This would see Suarez face the best striker of her career, while Jedrzejczyk facing the best wrestler of hers.
3. Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Chad Mendes
Zabit Magomedsharipov is on his way to becoming a future star in the UFC. He did exactly as he was supposed to do, taking out Brandon Davis with an incredible kneebar in the second round. The victory was Magomedsharipov’s fourth inside the octagon, extending his current win streak to 12 in a row. He has been considered for a while now by coach Mark Henry as a true force to be reckoned with.
The former ACB featherweight champion of Magomedsharipov is potentially a few fights away from contending for a title shot. Following the conclusion of last month’s UFC 227, I pushed for a possible fight between Renato Moicano and Chad Mendes. However, I put out a Twitter poll asking who people would like to see Magomedsharipov fight next, and the majority want to see a fight against Mendes. Because of the mixed martial arts fans out there, I will now push for this as well. Boy, would it be a great one.
2. Jessica Andrade vs. Rose Namajunas
It is not too often we see a single-punch knockout in women’s MMA. However, Jessica Andrade made that happen in spectacular fashion with her first-round finish over Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Since moving to strawweight in June of 2016 after mixed success at bantamweight, Andrade has compiled an impressive 6-1 record with her only loss coming in a title fight against then-champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
As I mentioned earlier, I believe Andrade has rightfully earned her shot at contending for the belt next. Her last three performances have been commanding, and there is a new strawweight champion at the top in Rose Namajunas. The two have yet to face each other throughout their careers and with both host numerous stoppages to their resumes. I think a clash between Andrade and Namajunas could make for a fan-favorite bout between two of the baddest fighters at 115 pounds.
1. Tyron Woodley vs. Colby Covington
People have been overly critical of Tyron Woodley’s past fights due to his “lackluster style” and “failure to initiate.” In turn, he proved the doubters wrong with a one-side championship title defense over Darren Till. A knockdown in the second round lead to an eventual D’Arce choke victory for Woodley. Not only that, but Till only successfully landed two strikes during their 9 minute and 19 second fight. Woodley has now defended his UFC welterweight championship four times, including the retaining of the title in his draw with Stephen Thompson.
Till was ranked #2 in the welterweight division coming into. Stephen Thompson and Robbie Lawler, respectively ranked #4 and #5, have both suffered defeat to Woodley. The only fighter deserving of a chance for the title is Colby Covington, the former UFC interim welterweight champion who lastly defeated #3-ranked Rafael dos Anjos. His persona is either loved or hated by MMA fans, making him one of the most interesting characters the UFC has to offer. Woodley does not like Covington, and vice versa; this is what must happen next.
Other fights to make after UFC 228:
Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Max Griffin
Geoff Neal vs. Belal Muhammad / Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos loser
Darren Stewart vs. Oskar Piechota
Diego Sanchez vs. Yushin Okami
Jim Miller vs. John Makdessi
Irene Aldana vs. Marion Reneau
Jarred Brooks vs. Joseph Morales
Darren Till vs. Rafael dos Anjos
Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Tecia Torres
Brandon Davis vs. Jay Cucciniello
John Dodson vs. Alejandro Perez
Niko Price vs. Li Jingliang
Carla Esparza vs. Courtney Casey
Cody Stamann vs. Douglas Andrade
Frank Camacho vs. Luke Jumeau
Charles Byrd vs. Ryan Janes
Craig White: released
Alex White vs. Marc Diakiese
Lucie Pudilova vs. Gina Mazany
Roberto Sanchez vs. Naoki Inoue
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