Welcome to this edition of Fightful.com’s Matchmaker Series! Another night at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas delivered yet another card full of entertaining fights, featuring a prime Fight of the Year contender and Curtis Blaydes solidifying his position as an elite Heavyweight contender. Now that the lights have shut off, it’s time to shift our focus to what’s next for each key fighter on the card. Let’s get right into it.
Heavyweight - #3 Curtis Blaydes defeats #7 Alexander Volkov via unanimous decision
Curtis Blaydes - Derrick Lewis (after fight vs. Aleksei Oleinik) After this decisive win, Blaydes finds himself in a very difficult spot at the top of the Heavyweight rankings. The third ranked contender cemented his position at the top of the rankings, but there isn’t any chance for him to improve his position. The champion, Stipe Miocic, and the top ranked contender, Daniel Cormier, are slated to close out their trilogy in August while the second ranked contender, Francis N’Gannou, seems destined to be next in line. It wouldn’t make sense for a third fight between N’Gannou and Blaydes, since both matchups were dominant wins for Francis. Meanwhile, he has also beat just about every ranked Heavyweight that is coming off of a win. The only fighter that doesn’t fit this profile is Derrick Lewis. While Lewis is scheduled to fight Aleksei Oleinik in early August, he should be next in line for Blaydes. While you could make the argument for Jairzinho Rozenstruik if he beats Dos Santos, the driving point for a Derrick Lewis fight is the fact that Lewis boasts a win over Francis N’Gannou, the only man that has been able to stop the 14-2 Blaydes.
Alexander Volkov - Loser of Junior Dos Santos vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik Volkov’s rise up the Heavyweight rankings will stalk as he has now lost two of his last three fights. A great weakness in his game was revealed, as he was no competition for the elite wrestling of Blaydes. Many of the top ranked Heavyweight contenders have fights scheduled in the upcoming weeks, so Volkov finds himself in a position where he will have to wait and see what opportunities are available after these fights pan out. The fight which will most likely contain his next opponent will be the Dos Santos and Rozenstruik fight. Dos Santos has dropped two straight fights to N’Gannou and Blaydes while Rozenstruik suffered his first professional loss in a quick KO against N’Gannou his last time out. The loser of this fight will be very hungry for a win, hopefully creating a war on the feet.
Featherweight - #8 Josh Emmett defeats #10 Shane Burgos via unanimous decision
Josh Emmett - Winner of Calvin Kattar vs. Dan Ige Emmett came out on top of this thrilling battle, finding himself on a nice three fight winning streak. He has positioned himself very nicely in the stacked UFC Featherweight division. Hopefully his leg injury isn’t as serious as it appears so we can see him back in the Octagon sooner rather than later.. He is due another tough test against a ranked opponent upon his return, and this test could very likely come up against the winner of this fight. Kattar and Ige are set to throw down on July 15th with the winner staking their claim as a legit 145 pound contender. Ige is likely to slot into the ten spot in the rankings after Burgos’ loss while Kattar sits in the sixth position. Emmett and Kattar will make for an exhilarating stand up battle while a fight featuring Ige and Emmett will be a classic striker vs. grappler rivalry. Either way, it’ll be a fight that cannot be missed.
Shane Burgos - Sodiq Yusuff This was only Burgos’ second setback in his career. However, he seemed more than able to stand toe-to-toe against the best in the Featherweight division. He will stay in the Top 15 and will face another ranked opponent in his next fight, and that opponent could be against Super Sodiq. Yusuff made his way into the rankings by winning his first four UFC fights, but he has yet to face a ranked opponent. He will get this test against Burgos. These fighters only have three losses in 27 combined pro fights, so something has to give in this matchup between Top 15 Featherweights.
Bantamweight - #6 Raquel Pennington defeats #10 Marion Reneau via unanimous decision
Raquel Pennington - Julianna Peña Pennington now moves to 8-5 in the UFC, rebounding from a stretch where she lost three of her last four fights. Pennington now finds herself in a situation similar to that of Blaydes, as she has fought just about every highly ranked fighter in her division. The two fighters that are ranked above her that she hasn’t fought are Aspen Ladd and Julianna Peña. Since Ladd suffered an injury while training for a bout against Sara McMann that was scheduled to be on this card, she’ll be out for a while, so let’s roll with a fight against Peña.
Marion Reneau - Bea Malecki Reneau had her struggles in this fight and now finds herself in the midst of three consecutive losses. The 43 year-old is reaching the end of her fighting days, but it appears that she might have at least one more UFC appearance left in her. If she makes another trip into the Octagon, it is unlikely to come against a ranked opponent. Malecki is 2-0 in her pro career with all of her pro fights coming inside of the UFC. This fight would feature a veteran looking for a statement win against a young fighter on the rise.
Welterweight - Belal Muhammad defeats Lyman Good via unanimous decision
Belal Muhammad - Santiago Ponzinibbio After a seemingly pedestrian beginning to his UFC career, Muhammad has caught fire, winning seven of eight fights dating back to 2017. He is in prime position to fight for a position in the Top 15 in his next fight, and he can do so in a matchup against Santiago Ponzinibbio. While he made a great callout in his post-fight interview, there was one flaw in his statement about Ponzinibbio. He claimed that the Argentine was still ranked despite his prolonged absence from the cage (he hasn’t fought since 2018), but this is not true, as he recently fell out of the Welterweight Top 15. However, the reasoning that a win in this fight would put Belal in the Top 15, and it will prove to be a great matchup.
Lyman Good - Winner of Sean Brady vs. Christian Aguilera Good continues to alternate wins and losses in the UFC, moving to an even 3-3 in the promotion. The 35 year-old has struggled to find momentum in the UFC, and this fight did not help matters. He will look to find some traction in his next fight, which could come against the winner of this fight. Brady is an undefeated prospect looking to continue his rise in the Welterweight division while Aguilera is a more experienced fighter trying to follow up his promotional debut by pulling off the upset. Either way, Good will have much more experience than the UFC upstart that will emerge victorious from this bout, proving a tough test for either Brady or Aguilera.
160 lb Catchweight - Jim Miller defeats Roosevelt Roberts via submission (Armbar) at 2:25 of Round 1
Jim Miller - Alexander Hernandez Miller continues to impress inside of the Octagon, earning a win while pulling even with Donald Cerrone for the most UFC fights. He did so in relatively easy fashion, locking in an armbar in the first round. The 36 year-old seems to be picking up steam, perhaps trying to make another push for contender status. One of the longest tenured fighters on the roster deserves a tough fight after this impressive win, and he will receive this against Alexander Hernandez. Hernandez was considered one of the division’s most promising prospects until he lost two of his last three fights. He will be looking to end his recent skid while Miller will be trying to put together another winning streak in the UFC.
Roosevelt Roberts - Mark O. Madsen The Contender Series grad suffered just his second professional loss, but this was a big one, preventing him from continuing his move up in the Lightweight division. However, there is no time to take an easy rebound fight for Roberts. He should face another stiff test in his next appearance, and that very well could come up against the former Olympian Mark O. Madsen. The silver medalist in Greco-Roman Wrestling holds a perfect 10-0 record, including two wins in the UFC. Roberts displayed some weaknesses on the mat in this fight, but if he can address those shortcomings and work on takedown defense in the leadup to a matchup against Madsen, he may have a chance to hand the Dane his first MMA loss.
Strawweight - #11 Tecia Torres defeats Brianna Van Buren via unanimous decision
Tecia Torres - Winner of Felice Herrig vs. Virna Jandiroba At long last, Torres snapped her four fight skid. In those four prior fights, Torres faced three past or future champions and an undefeated contender. She faced another tough test against the Invicta Phoenix Series winner, but looked dominant in her win. Torres reaffirmed her spot in the Top 15, but she will need another win to assert her position as a contender. She will do so if she is able to beat the winner of this fight. Felice Herrig has lost two straight against top ranked contenders, but still holds the last spot in the Strawweight rankings while Jandiroba, the former Invicta Strawweight Champion, is looking for her second UFC win, coming off of a win against Mallory Martin and a loss against Carla Esparza. Torres will be attempting to defend her fringe Top 10 spot from either one of these fighters.
Brianna Van Buren - Emily Whitmire Van Buren seemed outmatched in this fight, which is perfectly logical, since there was a big gap in experience between her and Torres. Experience will come for Van Buren, who is only 26, as she makes more trips to the Octagon. She will definitely see a step back in competition in her next fight, and this step back may come against Emily Whitmire. Whitmire only has seven pro fights and holds a 2-2 record in the UFC. This will be a difficult test for her, but she will have a notable six inch height advantage over the 5’0" Van Buren. It will be intriguing to see if she can use this to her advantage or if Van Buren can overcome this obstacle.
Flyweight - #7 Lauren Murphy defeats #6 Roxanne Modafferi via unanimous decision
Lauren Murphy - Winner of Jennifer Maia vs. Viviane Araujo After a 1-3 record in her first UFC stint at Bantamweight, Murphy now finds herself soaring towards the top of the Flyweight rankings with a 4-1 record in her second stint. She also now boasts three straight wins at 125 pounds. She will now also be the highest ranked graduate of Season 26 of The Ultimate Fighter. She will carry these accolades into her next fight, in which she will see her toughest test to date against one of these highly touted Brazilians. Maia is one of the most experienced fighters on the Flyweight roster, holding a 17-6-1 record. The former Invicta champ is going up against Araujo, an 8-2 fighter coming off of a loss against Jessica Eye. The Pancrase veteran is looking to rebound from that loss with a strong showing against Maia. The winner of this fight will either be slotted just above or just below Murphy, making them the logical next step for Lauren.
Roxanne Modafferi - Gillian Robertson The WMMA pioneer continues to alternate wins in her second stint the UFC, falling to 3-4 in the UFC’s Flyweight division and 3-5 overall in the promotion, including her sole Bantamweight fight after Season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter. Roxanne will hold onto her ranking, for now, but her next challenger will be vying to take that ranking away. Robertson earned a dominant win over Courtney Casey later on in the fight card, showing great resilience after her loss to Maycee Barber. Robertson has proven to be a serious presence on the mat, and this fight would be a great chance for her to bring her talents into the Top 15.
And that does it for this edition of Fightful.com’s Matchmaker Series. Whether you think I have some good ideas or if I’m crazy, sound off in the comments with your ideas. Only time will tell what truly awaits these fighters