Sunday Morning Matchmaker: Bellator 263 & UFC Vegas 33

Welcome back to Fightful's Sunday Morning Matchmaker, this time after a double dose of fights on Saturday night in Bellator 263 and UFC Vegas 33. The night saw A.J. McKee become the face of the Bellator promotion by dethroning long-reigning featherweight champion Patricio "Pitbull" Freire in just under two minutes via a first submission due to a standing guillotine choke. While inside the Octagon, Sean Strickland battered Uriah Hall to a unanimous decision to cement himself in the top ten of the UFC's middleweight division.

So let's look ahead to what's next for MMA's newest superstar, the UFC's newest middleweight title contender, and some of the other fighters who competed on both events.

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A.J. McKee vs. Patricio Freire II At 155

A.J. McKee finished off his impeccable run in the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix by finishing Freire in a way no opponent has to date. It was a defining moment for the 26-year old Long Beach, California native, and son of longtime MMA veteran Antonio McKee. He was the first fighter to defeat Freire cleanly since November 2015 and the way in which McKee did it, created a moment reminiscent of when Conor McGregor dethroned Jose Aldo to become the new UFC featherweight champion at UFC 194 in December 2015. The entire buildup of the fight was eerily similar to the then rivalry between the Irishman and Brazilian legend, adding to what turned out to be the biggest night in Bellator history.

So what's next for McKee and Freire after such an empathic finish to their rivalry? how about running it back for a second time except at 155 pounds and for Pitbull's Bellator lightweight championship. It gives the promotion a chance to cash in on what was a huge moment and fight for them while giving McKee the opportunity to become a two-division champion and Freire the chance to prove this first outing maybe was an outlier. Given the other options that are out there for McKee's potential first title defense as featherweight champion and Freire's next defense as lightweight champion, an immediate rematch between the two seems like the best best for everyone involved.

Sean Strickland vs. Jack Hermansson

Strickland continued his surge up the UFC's ladder of middleweight contenders by defeating Uriah Hall via a one-sided unanimous decision on Saturday night. He bludgeoned his former training partner behind a frantic jab and even hurt Hall badly with an overhand right in the third round, proceeding to get to mount and taking his back in the frame as well. It was Strickland's fifth victory in a row inside of the Octagon and he should now move into the top ten of the division with the win over Hall.

I think a matchup with Swedish contender Jack Hermansson next would be the right move to progress him closer to an eventual title shot. Both are grinders in their own way and the styles clash I think would lead to a high stake, fan-friendly fight worthy of headlining a future fight night event.

Mads Burnell vs. Adam Borics-Jay Jay Wilson Winner

Burnell got the biggest win of his Bellator career so far by defeating former title challenger Emmanuel Sanchez via a unanimous decision in a hectic fight that was fought at a blistering pace. The former Cage Warriors featherweight champion utilized takedowns that were set up by constant straight-line pressure to edge out a decision over Sanchez who countered with consistent combinations, body shots, and work in the scrambles.

The Danish featherweight contender moved his record inside of the promotion to 3-0 with the victory and extended his current overall winning streak to seven. Given the circumstances of McKee probably facing Freire again in an immediate rematch for the Bellator lightweight championship, Burnell will likely have to wait to get a shot at the promotion's featherweight title. So in the meantime, I think he should face the winner of the upcoming bout between Adam Borics and Jay Jay Wilson at Bellator 265 on August 20. The timeline makes sense and a matchup against the winner would be a perfect number one contender fight for Burnell to slide into while McKee handles his business with Pitbull.

Cheyanne Buys vs. Polyana Viana

Buys bounced back from a disappointing loss in her Octagon debut by finishing Gloria de Paula in a minute via a highlight reel TKO set up by a perfectly timed head kick. The win secured Buys a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus, she detailed in the post-fight press conference what the bonus money meant to her given the financial difficulties she's dealt with in preparing for this fight.

With the fight being so quick and Buys taking no real damage, I'd expect her to have a quick turnaround in returning to the Octagon. I think the victory is one she can build some momentum off of and continue her growth as a prospect in the shark tank that is the UFC women's strawweight division. I'd like to see Buys face Polyana Viana next, the Brazilian is 3-3 in her six promotional appearances and won her last two outings. Viana defeated Mallory Martin via a first-round submission due to an armbar back at UFC 258 in her most recent fight.

Goiti Yamauchi vs. Sidney Outlaw

Yamauchi remained a staple in the Bellator lightweight division by making quick work of Chris Gonzalez in the opening fight on the night's main card. The renowned grappling ace utilized boxing fundamentals to put Gonzalez away, finishing him via a first-round TKO after landing a precise 1-2 combination right down the pipe to close the show.

As I mentioned earlier with Mads Burnell, I think Yamauchi unfortunately is going to have to wait for any title opportunity given the expected immediate rematch between A.J. McKee and Patricio Freire for the promotion's lightweight title. I think a potential number one contender matchup with Sidney Outlaw makes the most sense next for Yamauchi. Outlaw is coming off of the most impressive win of his Bellator career defeating Myles Jury via a third-round submission due to a rear-naked choke back at Bellator 261.

Melsik Baghdasaryan vs. Tucker Lutz

Baghdasaryan was arguably the most impressive winner on the entire UFC Vegas 33 card, winning his Octagon debut in devastating fashion over Colin Anglin via a second-round TKO. The former kickboxing champion displayed why he is yet another promising prospect to watch in the ever-crowded featherweight division. I think the hype is more than real for Baghdasaryan and he has championship potential, but his maturation process should be treated appropriately. I think a fight with Tucker Lutz is a good test and next step for Baghdasaryan to take in his UFC career. Lutz is also coming off a victorious UFC debut where he beat Kevin Aguilar via a unanimous decision at UFC 262.

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