UFC 229 is now in the books following one of the most entertaining and wild cards of the year. All the action took place on Saturday, October 6th from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. In the night’s main event, Khabib Nurmagomedov came out victorious with a dominant fourth-round submission over Conor McGregor, defending his UFC lightweight title for the very first time. However, the finish was quickly overlooked when Nurmagomedov ran out of the cage and went after McGregor’s training partner Dillon Danis. This led to a huge brawl in the crowd and also inside the cage, as two of Nurmagomedov’s training partners entered and attacked McGregor following him throwing punches at Abubakar Nurmagomedov. You can recap the full detail of events that took place following the fight here.
The card did provide a lot of great action, including an exciting “Fight of the Year” candidate between lightweights Tony Ferguson and Anthony Pettis. Ferguson would come out victorious following a doctor stoppage, as a massive forehead cut on Pettis had worsened through their battle.
Dominick Reyes, Derrick Lewis, and Michelle Waterson all came out on top during the night’s main card. Vicente Luque and Aspen Ladd both racked up first round knockouts over their respected opponents, while Tony Martin and Nik Lentz opened up the night with back-to-back head-kick victories on the UFC Fight Pass prelims.
What potential matchups could we see next for these competitors? Here are the top five fights to make after UFC 229.
5. Jussier Formiga — wait for title shot
It was not the most entertaining fight in the world, but Jussier Formiga put up a dominant unanimous decision over Sergio Pettis. This is Formiga’s third-straight victory, also having defeated Ben Nguyen and Ulka Sasaki on this run by submission. The win was the Brazilian’s eighth victory in the UFC flyweight division, tied for the third most at 125 pounds.
The reason I did not list a fighter’s name is due to the fact we are unsure what will happen in terms of title fights. That is why I listed Formiga at number five; he is definitely worth mentioning, but the opponent is what I am struggling to determine. Demetrious Johnson wants to get his long-time championship status back from Henry Cejudo, while Cejudo wants to set up a champion-versus-champion fight with bantamweight king TJ Dillashaw. I would like to see someone new get their chance at the flyweight belt, especially a veteran of the game like Formiga. In this case, he should sit back and let things play out for a little.
4. Dominick Reyes vs. Jimi Manuwa / Thiago Santos winner
Dominick Reyes is a true star on the rise at light heavyweight. His unanimous decision victory over Ovince Saint Preux, including an almost-ending knockout to close the third round, showed the finishing machine can look solid throughout a full fight. At the beginning of 2017, he was fairly unknown despite impressive performances in both LFA and KOTC. Reyes would then make his octagon debut in June of last year, finishing three straight opponents in the first round before this fight with Saint Preux.
A couple more wins for Reyes could see him contending for the 205-pound belt someday in the near future. A lot of fights are currently booked in this weight class, and one that has my eye is the rescheduling between Jimi Manuwa and Thiago Santos. Their fight will take place on December 8th at UFC 231, and the winner could definitely be in line to face off against Reyes. This is a little distant, and Reyes may want to return a little quicker to the octagon. If that is true, we could shoot for the winner of Anthony Smith and Volkan Oezdemir; a sooner bout, scheduled for October 27th. Either fight would be of interest.
3. Derrick Lewis vs. Stipe Miocic
There have been a lot of fantastic comeback victories in UFC, but this one may rank as one of the all-time greatest. Derrick Lewis was on his way to a “30-27” unanimous decision loss to Alexander Volkov until he dropped a massive right hand with less than 30 seconds left in the fight, followed up with devastating ground-and-pound that knocked Volkov out cold. Lewis backed up his thrilling finish with one of the greatest post-fight interviews in recent memory. He now rides a three-fight win streak in 2018 with other victories over Francis Ngannou and Marcin Tybura.
There is some uncertainty as to Daniel Cormier, the current UFC heavyweight (and light heavyweight) champion, will defend his title against next. Assuming that he will be fighting either Brock Lesnar, Jon Jones, or Alexander Gustafsson next, I think Lewis should and will next be paired against Stipe Miocic in a title eliminator bout. It makes the most sense out of all our potential options, and the two have yet to compete against each other.
2. Conor McGregor vs. Anderson Silva
Not often do I put someone defeated in our top five list; however, I felt it was a must for Conor McGregor. I even considered putting him in the number one position. However, I wanted to save the obvious for the top (aside from the controversy).
Any fighter could be put here against the Irishman. You can do a rematch with Khabib Nurmagomedov, finish off the trilogy between he and Nate Diaz, set up the rematch between he and Jose Aldo, or give McGregor someone like Georges St. Pierre. The fact of the matter involving McGregor is that he will fight whoever he wants, no matter how much or how little sense it makes in the world. Because of that, I am suggesting he fight Anderson Silva. Why? The two recently expressed interest in fighting each other. The fight would be something new, a super fight people would watch, and entertaining from a stylistic perspective. Neither man has to prove what abilities they have, as they have accomplished almost everything possible. Let’s go with it.
1. Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson
I do not want to discuss the aftermath of what occurred following Khabib Nurmagomedov’s victory over Conor McGregor. If you are interested in knowing what happened, read this article done by friend and fellow writer Connor Deitrich.
The Eagle’s performance was tremendous, showcasing an evolved striking game with a knockdown in the second round over McGregor and finishing the bout with a submission in the fourth round. He remains undefeated with 27 straight victories throughout his professional MMA career. There is no other fight, in my mind, to make next for Nurmagomedov besides a pairing with Tony Ferguson. This would be the fifth attempted fight between both men, as every scheduling prior failed to develop. Ferguson now rides an 11-fight win streak in the UFC having defeated Anthony Pettis Saturday night in a “Fight of the Year” contender. Both men do not like each other, and even though it will not sell as many pay-per-view buys as this weekend’s event, the numbers should do alright. Hopefully attempt number five will happen this time around.
Other fights to make after UFC 229:
Michelle Waterson vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
Vicente Luque vs. Curtis Millender
Aspen Ladd vs. Cat Zingano
Scott Holtzman vs. Nik Lentz
Yana Kunitskaya vs. Bethe Correia
Tony Martin vs. Gunnar Nelson
Anthony Pettis vs. Dan Hooker
Ovince Saint Preux vs. Gadzhimurad Antigulov
Alexander Volkov vs. Junior dos Santos/Tai Tuivasa winner
Felice Herrig vs. Randa Markos
Sergio Pettis vs. Dustin Ortiz
Jalin Turner vs. Allan Zuniga (lightweight)
Tonya Evinger vs. Sarah Moras/Talita Bernardo winner
Alan Patrick vs. Davi Ramos/John Gunther winner
Lina Lansberg vs. Irene Aldana
Gray Maynard: retirement
Ryan LaFlare vs. Jordan Mein
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