With the 5th annual International Fight Weekend officially in the books, it’s time to take a look at what could potentially be next for some of the biggest winners and losers from Friday and Saturday night in Vegas. Here’s what we do know. The women’s bantamweight championship bout between Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko that was canceled due to Nunes’ bout with sinusitis will be rescheduled for UFC 215 in Edmonton on September 9th.
We also know that Robert Whittaker will unify the middleweight titles with Michael Bisping sometime later this year if both men stay healthy and if the Georges St. Pierre “ship” has truly sailed back down to the welterweight division. Other than that, let’s have some fun and see what else could potentially be next.
Justin Gaethje vs. Kevin Lee
“The Motown Phenom” has made it clear that he’s looking for a fight in Detroit later this year at UFC 218. The names Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagodmeov have come up but it looks like the UFC is still fixated on those two fighting one another. After Lee defeated Michael Chiesa last month in Oklahoma City, Gaethje was unranked in the UFC lightweight division. As of today, with the official UFC rankings just being updated, he debuts at the #6 after TKO’ing Michael Johnson inside of 2 rounds. Lee versus Gaethje is a fight that has PPV co-main event written all over it. Let’s bring it to Detroit and give the true working class Motor City fight fans something to get excited about.
Anthony Pettis vs. Michael Johnson
Pettis looked more comfortable than we’ve seen him in a while this past Saturday night in his victory over the extremely tough Jim Miller. It was his first fight at lightweight in over 2 years and if you saw this fight and you’ve seen the way he’s looked before his fights at featherweight, it’s pretty clear what weight class he belongs in. Will he ever recapture the magic of his “Showtime” days? Well, it’s pretty difficult to reach that pinnacle in this sport once, let alone three times. One mistake that we do see is former champions getting rushed into title fights after one impressive victory. With McGregor currently away for a little bit and Nurmagomedov and Ferguson battling for that #1 contendership (one day), it’s a good time for Pettis to get reacquainted with the sharks at 155 lbs. While I’d love to see him take on Nate Diaz (wouldn’t we all) it doesn’t look like Nate is interested in anything outside of a McGregor trilogy bout. So let’s set him up with Michael Johnson. Like Pettis, Johnson, even though he put on an admirable effort in defeat against Gaethje, has had a rough go of late losing four of his last five. This is an exciting match up that gives both men a chance to reestablish themselves as a legit contender.
Alistair Overeem vs. Francis Ngannou
Fracis Ngannou still has Junior dos Santos to get past in Edmonton on September 9th. If he can do that, a fight with Overeem would be the logical next step. It’s too soon for Overeem to get another rematch against Miocic. Outside of that there’s really no ranked fighters in the division that he hasn’t already fought other than Ngannou. There’s always Derrick Lewis, but the following match up makes more sense.
Fabrico Werdum vs. Derrick Lewis
This fight is absolutely insane. Lewis was given the chance to take that next step against Mark Hunt but he failed and subsequently retired. Now that he’s back, it’s time to get the Fight of the Night machine right back in there with a big gun. I like this fight because both men have exciting personalities and I think it’ll be interesting to see how Lewis does against a fighter in Werdum who has become a legit stand up threat over the years. This fight could stay competitive — as long as it doesn’t the ground where Werdum wins 10 times out of 10 — but for how long?
Rob Font vs. Marlon Moraes
Rob Font is one of those guys that’s starting to make a name for himself at bantamweight. Marlon Moraes is a guy who came into the UFC with a name but was unable to secure a victory in his promotional debut. Like Gaethje, Moares came from World Series of Fighting where he defended his title multiple times. Unfortunately, he’d come up short in what was a very controversial split decision loss to Raphael Assuncao in his promtional debut. This fight would be a great contest to help build a new legit contender inside of the UFC 135 lbs division.
Alksei Oleinik vs. Mark Hunt
Oleinik jumps up three spots to #11 at heavyweight after earning the biggest victory of his career over Travis Browne. The 40-year-old, 63 fight veteran has won 13 of his last 14 and outside of Fabricio Werdum he may be the most legit submission threat in the division. With the UFC coming back to Brisbane in November, Hunt versus Oleinik could be the perfect main event.
Chad Laprise vs. Sergio Moraes
Laprise called out Mickey Gall after his impressive TKO victory over Brian Camozzi. That’d be a bad fight, for Gall. Putting the TUF Nations winner against the surging Sergio Moraes would be a little more competitive.
Jesse Taylor vs. Kamaru Usman
There’s no better story of redemption in mixed martial arts this year than Jesse Taylor winning the TUF 25 tournament. Let’s see if he can keep the story going against TUF’s last welterweight winner, season 21’s Kamaru Usman.
Tecia Torres vs. Jessica Andrade
Not only did Tecia record the first finish of her career this past Friday night, she also left Vegas $50K richer with her first performance of the night bonus. A victory over Andrade would put her name into the Joanna Jedrzejczyk sweepstakes. Which would mean more money and bigger hospital bills.