Armchair Matchmaker

UFC on ESPN 11 Post-Fight Matchmaker

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UFC on ESPN 11 was the UFC’s fourth consecutive event at the UFC APEX in as many weeks, and the next to the last before the organization moves on to the highly-anticipated Fight Island. This event featured a lot of decisions, with some fights being exciting while others were not quite so. Nonetheless, the winners from each fight will now move on to bigger and better things. This UFC on ESPN 11 Post-Fight Matchmaker determines what those bigger and better things are for the winners of the main card.

UFC on ESPN 11 Post-Fight Matchmaker

Jim Miller vs. Bobby Green

In his record 35th UFC appearance, Jim Miller quickly got Roosevelt Roberts to the ground and locked up an armbar submission early into the first round. Miller has been up and down over the past few years but is always a guarantee for an exciting fight. Another veteran that won on Saturday night is Bobby Green, who picked up a decision win over Clay Guida in the headliner of the prelims. Miller himself picked up a submission win over Guida last year. Both Green and Miller are veterans that are unlikely to get a chance to fight towards title contention but can always put on a show for fans. Put the two of them together for an excellent main card fight on a Fight Night card.

Belal Muhammad vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio

After surviving a late surge from Lyman Good, Belal Muhammad was able to hold on to win a unanimous decision. This win is Muhammad’s third in a row, and seventh of his last eight. After the fight, Muhammad called out Santiago Ponzinibbio, who has not fought since November 2018. Before this long layoff, Ponzinibbio was surging, winning his last seven. This matchup would be a step up in competition for Muhammad and a chance for Ponzinibbio to return to his winning ways and regain his momentum. The winner would then earn a step up in competition and work towards contention.

Raquel Pennington vs. Julianna Peña

Raquel Pennington rebounded from a lacklustre loss to Holly Holm by taking a unanimous decision victory over Marion Reneau. After winning four in a row to earn a title shot in May 2018, Pennington moved to 2-3 in his last five with Saturday night’s win. Of the other fighters ranked around Pennington, the one that makes the most sense is Julianna Peña. Most of the fighters ranked around Pennington are either currently booked for a fight, injured, or former Pennington opponents. Peña fits none of those bills and is unlikely to fight for a title soon. She has been fighting on an inconsistent basis over the past few years, and has only won one fight since her only UFC loss to Valentina Shevchenko in January 2018. Pairing the former TUF 18 teammates together would give the winner a chance to build momentum in a division currently thin on title contenders.

Josh Emmett vs. Calvin Kattar/Dan Ige winner

Even through a torn ACL, the big punching power of Josh Emmett was able to stymie the offence of Shane Burgos en route to a decision victory. The win is his third in a row and moved to 7-2 in the UFC overall. Emmett has proven time and again that he is one punch away from ending the night of anyone in the featherweight division. This threat, combined with his wrestling prowess, makes him a tough out for anyone on any night. An upcoming fight that Emmett should watch closely is the main event on July 15. It features what is expected to be a great striking battle between hot prospects Calvin Kattar and Dan Ige. Both fighters are surging into contention, and the winner should face Emmett to determine who can take the next step towards facing the elite of the division.

Curtis Blaydes vs. Derrick Lewis/Aleksei Oleinik winner

Curtis Blaydes utilized his world-class wrestling to the tune of fourteen takedowns to defeat Alexander Volkov by unanimous decision. Blaydes has only lost twice in the Octagon, both times by knockout to Francis Ngannou. Ngannou is undoubtedly next in line for a title shot following the trilogy match between Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier. This puts Blaydes in a precarious position because he has beaten the vast majority of the division’s contenders. If not for Ngannou, Blaydes would be the clear-cut top contender.

One opponent near the top of the division that Blaydes has not faced is Derrick Lewis. Lewis has fought for a title and faced many similar opponents, and is currently set to face Aleksei Oleinik on August 8. Blaydes faced Oleinik in November 2017 at UFC 217. While Blaydes won that fight by TKO, the finish was somewhat controversial. If Oleinik wins, it would be an opportunity for Blaydes and Oleinik to end the controversy once and for all. If Lewis wins, however, it sets up a fight between two of the division’s elite that could have serious title implications.

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Nate Freeman is from Birmingham, AL, and has been an MMA fan since 2013 after buying UFC Undisputed 2009 for $2 from a second-hand electronics store.

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