UFC on ESPN 3 took place over the weekend, June 29, from the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The third event featuring a main card on ESPN saw heavyweights Francis Ngannou and Junior dos Santos set for collision in what was to be a thrilling striking affair to cap off the night. The two delivered, Ngannou stopping the former champion dos Santos in round one by knockout. In the night’s co-main event, former two-time flyweight title challenger Joseph Benavidez re-matched Brazilian Jussier Formiga. Benavidez would come out victorious by knockout in the second over Formiga, his second win of the 2019 year.
The event saw many other incredible fights and finishes from top to bottom. Demian Maia edged out a majority decision over Anthony Rocco Martin on the main card. Light heavyweights Alonzo Menifield and Eryk Anders earned vicious first-round stoppages over their respected opponents, and heavyweight Maurice Greene won his third career fight in the UFC. Following a two-year suspension, Amanda Ribas impressed in her UFC debut submitting former TUF competitor Emily Whitmire.
What could potentially be next for these fighters? Let’s take a look at the top five fights to make after UFC on ESPN 3, as well as some matchmaking for the rest of those who came out victorious and defeated from Saturday night’s event.
5. Vinc Pichel vs. David Teymur
Vinc Pichel rode a four-fight win streak with victories over notables Damien Brown and Joaquim Silva before suffering a second-round submission loss to Gregor Gillespie the second half of 2018. A successful rebound would come over the weekend, seeing him hand Roosevelt Roberts the first loss of his professional MMA march by decision. Pichel’s UFC career began in 2012 following an attempt at competing on The Ultimate Fighter 15 where he would be eliminated in the semi-finals to now-top lightweight Al Iaquinta.
His eight career knockouts stems from a solid stand-up game, so a fight pairing with another fellow striker like David Teymur could make for a potential “Fight of the Night.” Teymur, who also competed on a season of TUF, faced defeat by submission to veteran Charles Oliveira in February. His expertise in Muay Thai and kickboxing would pair well with a power-puncher in Pichel, both trying to more forward to soon crack the UFC’s top fifteen rankings.
Card Suggestion: First half of 2020, ESPN+ or televised main card, Sweden
4. Demian Maia vs. Claudio Silva / Ramazan Emeev winner
Long-time veteran Demian Maia snapped the impressive four-fight win streak of Anthony Rocco Martin, getting a slight edge on the judge’s scorecards by majority decision. This victory was Maia’s second of 2019, these wins coming after a spell of three-straight decision losses to the likes of Tyron Woodley, Colby Covington, and Kamaru Usman. The win was his 21st inside the UFC moving him to second in promotional history through all divisions.
A fight I have been craving for has been one between 41-year-old Maia and 36-year-old Claudio “Hannibal” Silva, another Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. Silva was sidelined from late 2014 to early 2018 due to various injuries, but since making his return last year he has won his last two fights by submission over Danny Roberts and Nordine Taleb. His single professional loss in MMA came in his debut, currently riding a 13-fight win streak dating back to 2007. Former two-time M-1 Global middleweight champion Ramazan Emeev will face off against Silva next month, and I believe the winner of this deserves the rightful step-up in competition.
Card Suggestion: First quarter of 2020, televised main card or co-main event, Brazil
3. Alonzo Menifield vs. Ion Cutelaba
Alonzo Menifield capitalized on Paul Craig’s failed spinning wheel-kick with a single knockout blow and four extra right-hands to the unconscious fighter. The victory was his ninth professional win keeping him undefeated thus far in his run to the top. Menifield caught the eyes of many with his two victories in 2017 and 2018 on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series including an eight-second knockout over Dashawn Boatwright.
Moldova’s Ion Cutelaba is coming off the fourth loss of his MMA career to Glover Teixeira by submission in the second round. This defeat comes after two back-to-back first round knockouts, Cutelaba finishing off Henrique da Silva in 2017 and Gadzhimurad Antigulov last year. As soon as the thought of he and Menifield scrapping it out popped in my head, I thought it would be the definite fight to make. A victory for Cutelaba would lend him props for stopping a top-rising prospect, while a victory for Menifield would show his undefeated run is no fluke.
Card Suggestion: Opening main card fight of UFC 245 on December 14 (TBD location)
2. Joseph Benavidez vs. Henry Cejudo
What a sensational performance over the weekend from Joseph Benavidez. He managed to put away Brazil’s Jussier Formiga for the second time by technical knockout, their first fight taking place in September of 2013. In Benavidez’s last ten bouts inside the octagon, he has only faced a single defeat in a close and debatable decision loss to Sergio Pettis last year.
A few weeks ago following Henry Cejudo’s bantamweight title defense over Marlon Moraes, I suggested his next opponent should come at 135-pounds against Aljamain Sterling. But after the performance we saw from Benavidez, I think he has the strongest argument now for a shot at the belt. This would require Cejudo to move back and defend his flyweight belt, which he rightfully should after numerous promises to save the 125-pound division. Though if the flyweight division were to dissolve, we would have to see if Benavidez is willing to move up face Cejudo at bantamweight.
Card Suggestion: Co-main event of UFC 244 on November 2 in New York City
1. Francis Ngannou vs. Daniel Cormier / Stipe Miocic winner
Francis Ngannou has done it again. His knockout over Junior dos Santos came just 71 seconds into the first round, the longest fight of his now three-fight knockout streak with other finishes over Curtis Blaydes and Cain Velasquez. Ngannou’s nine UFC victories have come by stoppage with his first two promotional fights the only going past round one.
This incredible momentum has now propelled Ngannou to a second shot at the heavyweight title. Current title holder Daniel Cormier will rematch the man he took the title from in August, Stipe Miocic. There is a possibility Cormier retires from fighting following another successful title defense. If not, taking on Ngannou would be the front-running option (unless Jon Jones moves up for a trilogy with Cormier). But if Miocic gets past Cormier, it would set him up for a rematch with Ngannou. The two previously fought in January of 2018 with then-champ Miocic taking the unanimous decision victory. We shall wait and see what happens next.
Card Suggestion: First quarter of 2020, pay-per-view main event, Las Vegas
Other fights to make after UFC on ESPN 3:
Drew Dober vs. James Vick / Dan Hooker winner
Ricardo Ramos vs. Montel Jackson
Eryk Anders vs. Shogun Rua
Jared Gordon vs. Kajan Johnson
Dalcha Lungiambula vs. Saparbek Safarov
Amanda Ribas vs. Ashley Yoder
Maurice Greene vs. Sergey Pavlovich
Junior dos Santos vs. Curtis Blaydes / Shamil Abdurakhimov winner
Jussier Formiga vs. Kai Kara-France
Anthony Rocco Martin vs. James Krause
Roosevelt Roberts vs. Alex White
Marco Polo Reyes vs. Darrell Horcher
Paul Craig vs. Marcin Prachnio
Journey Newson vs. Su Mudaerji
Vinicius Moreira vs. Dequan Townsend
Dan Moret: released
Emily Whitmire vs. Polyana Viana
Junior Albini: released
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