UFC Fight Night Columbus had a lot of great battles with implications for multiple divisions moving forward. Here are the matchups we’d like to see.
During the post-fight press conference, Blaydes talked about how he was mentored by former UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic. He stated that during their sparring sessions, Miocic would take him to task every single time. However, he now feels that he’s at or above that level. A matchup with Stipe would be an excellent opportunity for both fighters; for Miocic, it would be a chance to prove that he can still hang in the top of the division with the next wave of fighters. For Blaydes, he could back up his claim that he’s now at that level. A win would cement his case for a title shot.
However, Stipe Miocic has made it clear that the only fights he has in mind are a rematch with Francis Ngannou or a “welcome to heavyweight” bout against Jon Jones. While the matchup makes sense, Stipe might think that a fight with Blaydes is a step backwards. In that case, with Tom Aspinall and Tai Tuivasa being the next heavyweight bout everyone is talking about, a fight between Curtis Blaydes and Ciryl Gane becomes extremely interesting.
It’s theoretically a great matchup for Blaydes, who is considered the best wrestler in the division, after Francis Ngannou demonstrated Gane’s weaknesses in the grappling department.
Chris Daukaus is entering the most difficult phase of his relatively young MMA career, suffering back-to-back knockout losses against 2 of the best competitors in the division. Not only will he need time to properly heal, he also needs a way to bounce back and regain his confidence. He was thrust into fights with some of the toughest competition at heavyweight, so a step back would be a good move.
Augusto Sakai is a matchup that makes sense. Like Daukaus, Sakai is on a losing streak that has all ended by knockout or TKO. It’s a winnable fight for either competitor, but would be a steep difference in competition for Daukaus. Both men are in need of a win and to prove that they can still be the guy who delivers knockouts instead of getting knocked out.
Alexa Grasso was able to make quick work of Joanne Wood, marking her third consecutive victory. She’s positioned herself well moving forward towards championship aspirations, with another win or two likely getting her there.
A matchup with Lauren Murphy would be a good test for her. Murphy is coming off a TKO loss against Valentina Schevchenko, and the veteran will likely be especially motivated to get back on the horse. For Grasso, a win against Murphy might propel her into the top 5.
Joanne Wood has now lost 3 consecutive bouts and finds herself in desperate need of a victory. Another fighter in the same boat is Cynthia Calvillo, who has also lost her last 3 fights. A matchup could represent a “win or get cut from the roster” scenario for both flyweights.
There’s a period after every Matt Brown fight where talks of retirement begin circulating. However, “The Immortal” gave no indication of being ready to hang them up after his epic war with Bryan Barberena. Despite dropping the bout in a split-decision, Brown proved that he still has plenty of entertaining gas left in his tank.
A matchup that makes sense for him is Alex Oliveira. Oliveira is a fellow UFC veteran who has been with the promotion for a long time, but whose run in the promotion seems to be coming to a close. The Brazilian striker has lost 4 in a row, albeit to tough young competitors. Both Brown and Oliveira are older guys who can put on a show, and watching them throw down in the Octagon is guaranteed to be fun to watch.
As for Barberena, his journey in the UFC has been interesting. Although he could be considered a journeyman, the fact of the matter is that he’s faced extremely tough competition throughout his career. His losses include former interim champion Colby Covington, considered the 2nd best welterweight in the world, and Vincente Luque, who is a top contender set to face Belal Muhammed later this year, and Leon Edwards, who is currently scheduled to challenge Kamaru Usman for the welterweight title. Regardless of performance, Barberena has had a challenging path.
A matchup with Niko Price would be electric. Both men are warriors who leave it all in the cage and are always entertaining, even if the skill level isn’t the cream of the crop. A win for either fighter would build positive momentum in their quest to establish themselves as real threats at 170.
The flyweight division is caught in a bit of inertia, with the championship being contested once again between Deiveson Figuieredo and Brandon Moreno. The two will confront each other for the fourth time at UFC 276 in July. That left top contenders Kara-France and Askarov no other choice but to fight each other to see who would be next in line.
With Kai Kara-France winning the bout via unanimous decision, it’s likely the Kiwi will get the winner of Figgy vs Moreno 4. Kara-France has made a great effort to increase his entertainment value. If the Columbus crowd is any indication, he has all the potential to become a fan favorite. The UFC loves that kind of marketability, so it’s safe to say that a championship fight is in his future.
As for Askarov, who was ranked 2nd in the division before dropping the fight to Kara-France, he should get the loser of Figeuiredo vs. Moreno 4. He has nothing to be ashamed about for his performance, nearly securing another submission victory. He still has all the makings of a future champion, and a win over either Figgy or Moreno would greatly ease the setback of losing to Kara-France.
Neil Magny was able to secure a split decision victory of Max Griffin, calling for a showdown with Khamzat Chimaev during his Octagon interview. It’s a fight he’s been campaigning for, being one of the very few fighters volunteering to take on the surging Chimaev. However, Khamzat is currently slated to face Gilbert Burns in two weeks at UFC 273. It’s by far the biggest challenge of Chimaev’s career, jumping from his first ranked victory over Li Jingliang into the top five.
If Gilbert Burns successfully derails the Chimaev hype train, then a fight with Neil Magny would make perfect sense. However, Chimaev is likely destined for a showdown with the winner of Usman vs Edwards 2 if he’s able to defeat Burns. In that case, a matchup with Stephen Thompson would be interesting. Magny and Thompson are two men who are perennially in the top 10 at welterweight, but haven’t quite eclipsed the championship bar.
As for Griffin, a fight with Kevin Holland is very fun on paper. Holland is looking to build himself in his new division at welterweight, while Griffin has the opportunity to build off Holland’s popularity if he’s able to beat him.
Marc Diakiese was able to stop his losing skid with a dominant display of grappling against Viacheslav Borshchev, controlling the Russian striker for the entirety of the fight. The UFC’s lightweight division is the hardest to make progress in, as the talent runs deeper than any other weight class. However, Diakiese can make massive strides if he can win his next bout.
An interesting matchup is Terrance McKinney. McKinney is coming off a loss against Drew Dober in a fight that looked like he was destined to win early, before gassing out and succumbing to Dober’s pressure. McKinney is a surging prospect with a lot of hype building around him. Diakiese doesn’t have the same kind of popularity, but it would be a great test for both fighters.
As for the Team Alpha Male prospect Borschchev, Devonte Smith is a fight that makes sense. Smith is currently on a 2 fight losing streak, needing a win to get the momentum shifted back in his favor. It’s an exciting fight on paper, as both men are known as strikers. An explosive fight on the feet is always a hit with the fans, and a win would get both guys back on the right track.