Welcome to this edition of Fightful.com’s Matchmaker series! Last Saturday’s action was thrilling, as a now Flyweight champion was crowned, a new name emerged in the Middleweight title conversation, and many great performances littered throughout the card. While fans begin to look forward to next week’s fifteen fight card on Fight Island, it’s time to think about what’s next for every key fighter on the fight card. Let’s get right into it.
Flyweight Championship - #1 Deivison Figueiredo defeats Joseph Benavidez 2 via submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 4:48 of Round 1
Deivison Figueiredo - Brandon Moreno The Flyweight division has a new king, and he could keep his throne for a long time. While watching the fight between the fourth and seventh ranked contenders battle earlier in the night was fun, but neither appeared to be on the level of Figueiredo or Benavidez. This said, Askarov made a compelling case for earning the next title shot, but I think it should go to Moreno first. He has won two straight and three of his last four, the odd fight out being a draw against Askarov that many believe he should have won. He has fallen twice to Alexandre Pantoja, once in the UFC and once on The Ultimate Fighter, but the four consecutive wins and third position in the divisional rankings should edge out Askarov for the next title shot.
Joseph Benavidez - Askar Askarov With all of the talk before the fight from Benavidez, saying that the first loss was a fluke, this confirmed the fact that Figueiredo deserved to win the first fight. Figueiredo is only the third fighter to best Joseph at Flyweight, joining the ranks of Sergio Pettis and Demetrious Johnson, who beat him twice. Joseph will likely keep his top contender status, but he will need to earn several wins in a row to make a case for a trilogy. His first opportunity to fight his way back towards the title may come against Askar Askarov. The Russian earned a decision win earlier on in the card against Alexandre Pantoja, moving to 12-0-1 as a professional and 2-0-1 in the UFC. He’s proved his ability to fight against the best 125 pounds has to offer, and he would receive his toughest test to date against Benavidez.
Middleweight - #6 Jack Hermansson defeats #7 Kelvin Gastelum via submission (Heel Hook) at 1:18 of Round 1
Jack Hermansson - Winner of Robert Whittaker vs. Darren Till Even though he was in the cage for less than two minutes, this was a very impressive performance. Hermansson has won five of his last six fights, the only loss came to the third ranked contender in Jared Cannonier. In his post-fight interview, he seemed to have the Middleweight division’s future thoroughly planned out, and it sounds like a great plan. He says that he should fight the winner of next Saturday’s main event, Cannonier should fight the winner of the UFC 253 main event of Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa. Then the winner of Hermansson vs. Whittaker/Till fights the winner of Adesanya/Costa vs. Cannonier. While that may be up to a year of forward thinking, Hermansson has a great claim for the winner Whittaker and Till. Whittaker is looking to recover after losing the title against Adesanya in his last appearance while Till is looking to move to 2-0 since moving up to Middleweight. The winner will reaffirm their position at the top of the division and will need to win another against Hermansson to put themselves into a title fight.
Kelvin Gastelum - Return to Welterweight vs. Stephen Thompson Gastelum has not had the best of luck since moving up to Middleweight. He has a 3-4 record in the division, but his three wins came against fighters aged 37, 38, and 38. He has now lost three fights in a row at 185 pounds, so it may be time for a return to Welterweight. He has historically struggled to make weight at 170 pounds, but he may have more success in that division. His return to the division could come against Stephen Thompson. Thompson is 2-2 since his loss against Tyron Woodley, one of which came against Jorge Masvidal. This would be a competitive fight for his return to Welterweight. If he chooses to remain at 185 pounds, he could fight a low-ranked Top 15 fighter like Brad Tavares.
Lightweight - Rafael Fiziev defeats Marc Diakiese via unanimous decision
Rafael Fiziev - Bobby Green Fiziev renewed his hype with a fantastic performance in this win. He had some considerable buzz around him when he was signed by the promotion, but it died down considerably after a TKO loss and a safe decision win in his first two fights. This big win will catapult him up the Lightweight ladder into a fight with Bobby Green. Green has struggled to find consistency in the UFC, posting a 6-5-1 record in the promotion. While he hasn’t beaten a top contender, he has fought against Dustin Poirier and Edson Barboza. He also had a Fight of the Night performance against Lando Vannata back in 2017. This would be a good test for Fiziev against a battle-tested UFC veteran with 36 pro fights to his name.
Marc Diakiese - Brad Riddell Diakiese’s two fight win streak came to a screeching halt in this fight, as he was plain outstruck by Fiziev. He now falls to 5-4 in the UFC, a far cry from what some were hoping to get out of the once heralded prospect. He’s settling into a role as a middle-to-low tier Lightweight after losing to Fiziev, but he may face another prospect in his next fight in Riddell. Riddell has an 8-1 pro record and has won both of his fights inside of the Octagon, including a split decision nod over Magomed Mustafaev in February. The Australian prospect will be looking for his first UFC finish in his next fight, but Diakiese won’t be an easy opponent to put away, as Dan Hooker was the only fighter to finish him, doing so with a Guillotine Choke. Marc will be a nice step up for one of the newest products from City Kickboxing.
Flyweight - Ariane Lipski defeats Luana Carolina via submission (Kneebar) at 1:28 of Round 1
Ariane Lipski - Ashlee Evans-Smith The Queen of Violence lived up to her nickname, pulling off a nasty kneebar for the victory. This win allowed her to pull even with a 2-2 record in the UFC. She’s been a betting favorite for each of her UFC fights, so that trend may continue into her next fight, which may come against Evans-Smith. Ashlee is 3-4 in the UFC, but has split her two fights since moving down to Flyweight. She was supposed to fight Molly McCann before the pandemic, but McCann was rescheduled and lost earlier this week. McCann will be out of action for a while while Lipski hardly took any damage. Lipski has more career fights, but Evans-Smith has been in the UFC since 2014, so it would be interesting to see who’s experience is more valuable.
Luana Carolina - Diana Belbita After winning her debut against Priscilla Cachoeira, this was a big bump in the road for Carolina. She will look to rebound in her next appearance against an opponent of lower caliber, which may come against Belbita. Diana has lost her first two fights in the Octagon, losing her second fight via armbar to Liana Jojua last week. She will likely need a win to stay with the UFC, and she will attempt to do so against Carolina.
Flyweight - #7 Askar Askarov defeats #4 Alexandre Pantoja via unanimous decision
Askar Askarov - See above
Alexandre Pantoja - Kai Kara-France After storming out of the gates to begin his UFC career, Pantoja has hit a speed bump, losing two of his last three fights. Of course, he is fighting elite competition now, as his other loss came via decision against Deiveson Figueiredo. Pantoja may flip-flop in the rankings with Askarov with this loss, so he will probably fight someone ranked around the seventh spot in the Flyweight division. One of these fighters is Kai Kara-France. The Aussie is 4-1 in the UFC, his only loss coming against Brandon Moreno. He earned a win over Tyson Nam in his last fight in February, so he should fight a ranked opponent, like Pantoja, in his next fight.
Bantamweight - Brett Johns defeats Montel Jackson via unanimous decision
Brett Johns - Song Yadong Johns has rebounded nicely from his two losses in 2018 with two wins this year. He was given some very tough fights with top contenders in the Bantamweight decision, dropping two decisions to Aljamain Sterling and Pedro Munhoz. He won two straight against some lesser competition and he appears ready to return to stiffer competition. His next fight may come against Yadong. Song is 5-0-1 in the UFC and he earned a win against Marlon Vera in his last appearance back in May. Johns deserves a return to ranked opposition, and he would receive this challenge against Yadong.
Montel Jackson - Said Nurmagomedov Jackson was bested in this fight for only the second time in his career and the first time since 2018. Johns was a considerable step up in competition for Jackson, but he was unable to overcome that obstacle. He should face another tough competitor his next time out, and he would get that test against Nurmagomedov. Said lost his step up in competition against Raoni Barcelos last December, causing his pro record to fall to 13-2. Jackson and Nurmagomedov would be a good fight between two fighters stuck in the middle between contender and prospect status.
Lightweight - Arman Tsarukyan defeats Davi Ramos via unanimous decision
Arman Tsarukyan - Loser of Beneil Dariush vs. Scott Holtzman Tsarukyan looked great in this fight. He’s been fantastic after his UFC baptism by fire, opening his account with a Fight of the Night loss to Islam Makhachev and now two wins against Aubin-Mercier and Ramos. He will look to continue his rapid rise in the division against the loser of this fight. Dariush is the fourteenth ranked Lightweight that has won four straight while Holtzman has won five of his last six fights. The loser would be looking to recover from a tough loss while Tsarukyan would hope to continue to surge towards contendership.
Davi Ramos - Stevie Ray Ramos has now dropped two in a row after previously winning four in a row. His past few fights have been against more highly touted opponents, so he should get a step down in competition. This could come against the Scottish stalwart Stevie Ray. Ray is 7-4 in the UFC and is 2-3 in his last five fights, but he won in his last fight against Michael Johnson. This fight would feature two fighters looking to get back on track.
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.