Welcome to this edition of Fightful.com’s matchmaker series! This UFC fight card provided plenty of fantastic action, including four great knockouts. The main card featured another great Derrick Lewis interview moment after an impressive TKO victory, the return of Chris Weidman to the Middleweight division, and two other ranked contenders adding to their resumes. Now that we begin to look forward to the next week of action in the MMA world, it’s time to think about the next steps in the careers of fighters that just made the trip to the Octagon on Saturday. Let’s get right into it.
Heavyweight - #4 Derrick Lewis defeats #10 Aleksei Oleinik via TKO (Right Hook to Ground & Pound) at 0:22 of Round 2
Derrick Lewis - Curtis Blaydes This was a big win for Lewis, as he has now won three straight fights and six of his last eight. Although he played with fire a little bit with the submission ace, he was still able to secure the knockout. Lewis should remain at the top of the division and likely will fight someone ranked above him in the division. There are very few fighters in front of Lewis, but one of them is Curtis Blaydes. Blaydes is 14-2 with his only losses coming against Francis Ngannou. He is coming off of a decision win against Alexander Volkov earlier this year, his fourth consecutive win. This would be another striker pitted against a grappler, with the winner not far away from a title shot.
Aleksei Oleinik - Marcin Tybura Aleksei has struggled in his recent fights, dropping three of his last five bouts. Of these fights, only one of them was not against a ranked opponent, so he is probably due for another opponent outside of the top fifteen, and this is what he would receive against Tybura. Marcin has earned two straight decision nods with a step down in opposition after losing four of five against notable names and contenders. He should work his way towards these names again and Oleinik would be a good measure of whether or not he can work to win against contenders this time around. At the same time, this would serve as some sort of a rebound fight for the aging Oleinik.
Middleweight - Chris Weidman defeats #11 Omari Akhmedov via unanimous decision
Chris Weidman - Retirement Despite Weidman stating that he’s “back,” I believe it is still time for Chris to hang ‘em up. The 36 year-old’s skill level is a far cry from where it once was, as he was even out-wrestled by Akhmedov in the second round. His takedown defense has seemingly disappeared and his chin has been eroding since his first loss to Luke Rockhold. Dating back to the Rockhold fight back in 2015, Chris is a mere 2-5 with all five of his losses coming by the way of knockout. He has become extremely one dimensional, which is far from ideal at the top of the division. Retirement is a best case scenario, but that is highly unlikely with his mindset, so he could face Uriah Hall if he loses to Yoel Romero or another top contender coming off of a loss.
Omari Akhmedov - Gerald Meerschaert After winning five straight fights around a majority draw, this will slow the momentum that Akhmedov had in the division. This fight was somewhat of a high risk, low reward for Omari, and he paid the price, likely losing the number next to his name. He is likely to fight an unranked fighter in his next bout, which could get against Meerschaert. Gerald was slated to face Ed Herman at Light Heavyweight last week, but had to pull out after testing positive for COVID-19. Assuming he can make a full recovery quickly, the fighter that is 2-4 in his last six and 6-5 in the UFC will be fighting to remain relevant in the contendership conversation at 185 pounds.
Middleweight - Darren Stewart defeats Maki Pitolo via submission (Guillotine Choke) at 3:41 of Round 1
Darren Stewart - Loser of Krzysztof Jotko vs. Makhmud Muradov Stewart returned to Cage Warriors for a fight earlier this year and loss to Bartosz Fabinski, but he didn’t miss a beat in the Octagon, winning his third straight with the UFC. “The Dentist” is starting to make strides towards cracking the top fifteen and is probably two wins away from the rankings. His first chance to add to his compelling case for contendership could come against the loser of this bout. Jotko is coming off of a decision win against Eryk Anders, his third win in a row after losing three straight to David Branch, Uriah Hall, and Brad Tavares, while Muradov has won thirteen straight fights, including his first two inside of the Octagon. The winner of this fight could very well enter the rankings while the loser will try to get another win to restart a march towards contention.
Maki Pitolo - Roman Kopylov Any type of hype behind Pitolo should die down significantly after he has lost two of his first three UFC fights. He could very well need a win to stay in the promotion and he could need to face Kopylov in order to do so. Roman lost his UFC debut to Karl Roberson at the tail end of last year, dropping to 8-1 in his pro career. This was a tall task for the debuting Russian, so he should get a step back against Pitolo in his sophomore UFC effort. While Pitolo will be fighting to stay in the UFC, Kopylov will still be seeking his first UFC win.
Bantamweight - #8 Yana Kunitskaya defeats Julija Stoliarenko via unanimous decision
Yana Kunitskaya - Loser of Holly Holm vs. Irene Aldana Kunitskaya dominated this fight, as was expected. She moves to 3-2 in the UFC with her only losses coming to Cris Cyborg and Aspen Ladd. She easily maintained her standing in the Bantamweight division and is in a position to fight a name that is ranked above her. One of those fighters will be the loser of this fight. Holm, the former Bantamweight champion, hasn’t had the greatest of fortunes since she famously dethroned Ronda Rousey, going 3-5 since UFC 193 and alternating wins and losses since a three-fight skid that ended in February of 2017. Aldana has emerged as one of the most promising Mexican fighters in recent memory, going 5-3 in the UFC so far and winning five of her last six fights. This fight may prove to be a title eliminator bout with the loser dropping a few spots in the standings, putting them in a position to fight a mid-top fifteen name like Kunitsaya.
Julija Stoliarenko - Liana Jojua Stoliarenko has had a rough go of things in the UFC. She lost her debut at The Ultimate Fighter Season 28 Finale to Leah Letson, failing to earn a contract. After winning five straight fights, she returned to the promotion into a very tough fight on fairly short notice. She had very little success and will need to wait for her third UFC bout to earn a contract, which may come against Jojua. Liana earned her first UFC win last month in her second trip to the Octagon, climbing to 8-3 overall. This fight is highly likely to end with an armbar submission, as the two fighters combine for thirteen armbar finishes. This will be a much better stylistic matchup for Stoliarenko while Jojua will hope to get her first UFC win streak.
Lightweight - #14 Beneil Dariush defeats Scott Holtzman via TKO (Spinning Backfist) at 4:38 of Round 1
Beneil Dariush - Islam Makhachev It’s a shame that Dariush missed weight for this fight, because this was absolutely a bonus-worthy, highlight reel knockout. He has won five consecutive fights, storming his way back into the rankings after an 0-2-1 stretch a few years ago. He is likely to fight a higher caliber opponent in his next Octagon appearance, and that challenge could come against Makhachev. Islam, the eleventh ranked 155er, is 18-1 as a professional and is on an undefeated stretch of six fights. While this stretch is impressive, he has yet to fight anyone ranked in the top fifteen, so Dariush would be his most difficult test to this point in his MMA career. This would be a great matchup between ranked Lightweights.
Scott Holtzman - Rafael Fiziev Holtzman continues to remain on the fringe of contendership, winning enough to stay relevant while losing when presented the chance to enter the UFC rankings. He will hope to get a win in his next fight to get momentum to break this cycle, but he may need to knock off one the UFC’s more promising prospects. Fiziev is 3-1 in the UFC and is coming off of a Fight of the Night win against Marc Diakese on Fight Island. I initially slated for him to fight Bobby Green, but after further thinking, I’m changing my mind and pushing him a little bit more against a higher caliber fighter in Holtzman. This will be a great test for Fiziev’s creative striking.
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