Welcome to this edition of Fightful.com’s Matchmaker series!
UFC 252 was a fantastic fight card that featured Stipe Miocic establishing himself as the greatest UFC Heavyweight of all time, Daniel Cormier stepping out of the cage one last time, Marlon Vera putting a stop to the hype train of Sean O’Malley, and much, much more. Now that the fights have ended, it’s time to look ahead and determine what’s the next step for each key fighter on the fight card. Let’s get right into it.
Heavyweight Championship - (C) Stipe Miocic defeats #1 Daniel Cormier via unanimous decision
Stipe Miocic - Francis Ngannou Miocic has successfully staked his claim as the greatest Heavyweight fighter in UFC history. He boasts the most consecutive UFC Heavyweight title defenses, three, and just added another win by successfully closing out his trilogy with Cormier. There are two true fights for Stipe, and those are Francis Ngannou and Jon Jones. Ngannou has renewed himself as a terror on the Heavyweight elite, tallying four KO wins in a row in a combined 168 seconds. He lost the initial matchup against Miocic, appearing overwhelmed and tired, but it’s time to see if he can change his approach to earn a win. Meanwhile, Jon Jones likely owes Dominick Reyes a rematch after a very controversial decision win back in February.
Daniel Cormier - Retirement Daniel said that this was his last fight in the lead-up and he stuck to his word after the decision was announced. He also mentioned, a while after the fight, that his cornea was torn due to the eye poke that he sustained before the end of Round 3. He is destined to be enshrined in the UFC Hall of Fame, and with another child on the way, the 41-year-old wants to spend more time with his family, which is completely understandable. Fightful.com wishes him a healthy and enjoyable retirement.
Bantamweight - Marlon Vera defeats #14 Sean O’Malley via TKO (Foot Injury to Ground and Pound) at 4:40 of Round 1
Marlon Vera - Cody Stamann Vera set out to cancel the Sugar Show, and he did exactly that. This extends Chito’s win streak at Bantamweight to six fights. The only flaw on his record since mid-2018 was a decision loss to Song Yadong in May, one which many consider a robbery. He should steal O’Malley’s ranking and will be in a position to fight another ranked opponent in his next fight. This challenge could come against Cody Stamann. Stamann dropped his last fight against Jimmie Rivera, falling to 2-2-1 in his last five fights. His UFC record stands at 5-2-1, though, with his only losses coming to Aljamain Sterling and the aforementioned Rivera, good enough for the ninth ranking in the Bantamweight division. This will be Vera’s toughest test in the Octagon since battling John Lineker in 2017 while this will be a slight step back for Stamann after a tough loss.
Sean O’Malley - Nathaniel Wood Sean had some good moments on the feet before he re-injured the same foot that he hurt at UFC 222 against Andre Soukhamthath. He seemed to be ready to face a higher caliber fighter, like Vera, but that nagging foot injury hindered his progress and directly led to the TKO loss. It will probably be a while before we see O’Malley back in the cage, likely needing surgery to permanently repair his foot. When he returns, he may fight another fighter on a similar position in the pecking order as Vera before this fight, like Wood. Nathaniel is 4-1 in the UFC with three submission wins, but struggled in his first test against ranked competition, losing via TKO to John Dodson in February. He rebounded nicely with a win over John Castaneda, however, so the UFC may decide to pit him against their touted prospect against “The Prospect” in the future.
Heavyweight - #6 Jairzinho Rozenstruik defeats #5 Junior Dos Santos via TKO (Right Hook to Ground & Pound) at 3:47 of Round 2
Jairzinho Rozenstruik - Winner of Alexander Volkov vs. Walt Harris Rozenstruik stated that he wanted to return to action as soon as possible after his 20-second TKO loss against Francis Ngannou in May, and he did so in dramatic fashion. He improves to 10-1 overall and will put himself back in the Heavyweight top five. With a bout between Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis likely in the works, this creates a log jam of sorts in the division. A little further down the ladder, Volkov and Harris are battling to recover from losses. The winner will be in a position to recover their form and perhaps challenge for a spot in the top ten. If Jairzinho chooses to stay active, he could fight the winner of this bout with an opportunity to pad his resume for a title run.
Junior Dos Santos - Loser of Alexander Volkov vs. Walt Harris With that loss, Dos Santos now finds himself in a three-fight skid, each coming by KO/TKO. Junior is overdue for a step back, and he would receive that in the loser of this bout. While the winner is back in a position to contend, the loser is on a two-fight losing streak of their own. They will be desperate for a win, as will Junior, which creates a very compelling storyline for this fight.
Bantamweight - #15 Merab Dvalishvili defeats #12 John Dodson via unanimous decision
Merab Dvalishvili - Rob Font This was another dominant win for Merab, as he stretched his current run to five straight wins. He will definitely improve his position in the rankings and he could possibly move into the top ten at Bantamweight. There are very few Bantamweights near the tenth position that is coming off of a win, and one of them is Rob Font. Font has won two straight against Sergio Pettis and Ricky Simon and he holds a 7-3 record in the UFC. He is the 10th-ranked Bantamweight in the promotion, but that status could change with recent losses of those ranked above him. This will be an excellent test for Merab, the Serra-Longo product, while Font will have another tough test against another ranked fighter.
John Dodson - Alejandro Perez Dodson has now lost three of his last four fights, his only win coming against Nathaniel Wood. The veteran is likely to drop out of the rankings as he is only 4-5 in this second stint at Bantamweight. If he chooses to do so, he could attempt to move back to Flyweight, a division in which he challenged for the title twice, but I’d expect him to give 135 pounds one more try. This fight could come against Perez. Alejandro has lost his last two fights against ranked opponents Cody Stamann and Song Yadong, but is 7-3-1 in the UFC. The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America Season 1 winner has been out of action for over a year as his loss against Yadong came last July at UFC 239. He is due for a fight soon and Dodson has been fairly active this year, so both fighters will be hungry for a win.
Strawweight - Virna Jandiroba defeats #15 Felice Herrig via submission (Armbar) at 1:44 of Round 1
Virna Jandiroba - Winner of Michelle Waterson vs. Angela Hill The former Invicta Strawweight has been impressive in her first three UFC bouts, posting a 2-1 record with both wins coming with a submission. She is likely to climb into the rankings with this win and could possibly fight someone in the top ten. The winner of this fight between Waterson and Hill will probably be in the top ten, so they could be Virna’s next opponent. Hill is coming off of a close split decision loss to Claudia Gadelha after three straight wins while Waterson is hoping to rebound from two straight decision losses against Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Carla Esparza. The winner will re-establish themselves as one of the best fighters at 115 pounds and will hope to continue the momentum they gained while Jandiroba will hope to prove herself in the toughest test of her career.
Felice Herrig - Loser of Mackenzie Dern vs. Randa Markos This is now the third loss in a row for Herrig, sinking her promotional record to 5-4. It is highly likely that she needs a win in her next fight to stay in the promotion and she probably will need to beat the loser of this fight. Dern is 3-1 in the UFC and still has a lot of potential at only 27 years old. Markos, meanwhile, refuses to put any sort of streak together, as her last streak of any kind came before she entered the UFC back in 2013. The loser of this fight will be hoping to recover from a tough loss, just like Herrig. In fact, a fight between Markos and Herrig might be a battle stay in the UFC.
That concludes this edition of Fightful.com’s Matchmaker Series. Whether you think I 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.
UFC 252 took place from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday, August 15. Miocic defeated Cormier by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 48-47) to cap off their trilogy.