Welcome to this edition of Fightful.com’s Matchmaker series! Saturday’s fight card served as a fitting farewell for the UFC Apex, at least for the time being. We were treated to some fantastic promotional debuts, electrifying finishes, and a legitimate Fight of the Year contender. As the UFC will move from Las Vegas to Fight Island in Abu Dhabi in two weeks time, it’s time to shift our focus to what is next for every important fighter that stepped into the Octagon on this card. Let’s get right into it.

Lightweight - #3 Dustin Poirier defeats #5 Dan Hooker via unanimous decision

Dustin Poirier - Winner of Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gaethje Poirier has earned another shot at the title after this impressive win. Dating back to 2017, Poirier is 6-1 with one no contest, his only loss coming in a title unification bout against Nurmagomedov. After this contender for Fight of the Year, Poirier will hope to ride some momentum into his next fight with the victor of the fight between Nurmagomedov and Gaethje. Nurmagomedov retained his title against Poirier in his last fight in typical dominant fashion, while Poirier defeated Gaethje via TKO in one of the best fights of 2018. Either rematch will be an exciting one, but a second fight against Gaethje is sure to be an absolute barnburner.

Dan Hooker - Charles Oliveira Hooker is developing a solid resume as a brawler with no regard for his career longevity. This is his second bloody battle in two fights, earning a split decision nod against Paul Felder in his prior fight, along with a gutsy loss after enduring nearly two and a half rounds of punishment against Edson Barboza. Hooker held his own in this fight, winning the first two rounds before fatigue began to set in. Hooker shouldn’t fall too far in the rankings after this loss and his next fight should be against another top contender. He will receive a tough test against Charles Oliveira. Oliveira has earned seven wins in a row, moving into the seventh position in the rankings. After his slick submission win over Kevin Lee, Oliveira will be looking to make a run towards title contention, while Hooker will be trying to avoid going on a losing streak for the first time since 2010.

Welterweight - Mike Perry defeats Mickey Gall via unanimous decision

Mike Perry - Robbie Lawler Perry successfully rebounded after two losses to currently ranked contenders. He dominated this fight and showed that he deserves to be among the Welterweight division’s best. Perry will fight another Top 15 fighter in an attempt to make his way back into the UFC’s ranking system. This fight is likely to come against Robbie Lawler. Lawler, a fan favorite and former champion, has struggled since losing the title, dropping three of his last four fights. These fights were still against elite fighters, so he will see a step back in competition. This fight will measure how much Lawler has left in the tank after a Hall of Fame career.

Mickey Gall - Loser of Christian Aguilera vs. Sean Brady While this fight served as a launching point for Perry’s career, it will have a polar opposite effect for Gall. His skills seemed to regress in this fight, as he was schooled in the grappling exchanges, the area in which he was expected to take the fight and find success. Regardless, this poor performance from Gall against a contender could be expected from a fighter whose signature performance came against Sage Northcutt and CM Punk. He will see a step down after this loss, and he could fight the loser between Christian Aguilera and Sean Brady. Brady is a 12-0 prospect that would be looking to rebound from his first pro loss while Aguilera would be looking to regain momentum after losing a three fight win streak. Either way, they will provide a tough fight against Gall.

Heavyweight - Maurice Greene defeats Gian Villante via submission (Arm Triangle) at 3:44 of Round 3

Maurice Greene - Tanner Boser Greene was able to rescue this win from the threat of defeat. He was arguably heading into the third round knotted at 19-19 when Villante scored a knockdown in the third. Greene was somehow able to secure the arm triangle from the bottom, making Villante tap. This puts an end to a two fight skid for Greene, getting finished by Sergey Pavlovich and Aleksei Oleinik. This win certainly wasn’t a very impressive one, so Greene is unlikely to move very far up the totem pole in the Heavyweight division. The next fight on the docket for him should be against Tanner Boser. Tanner scored a knockout win over former PFL champion Philipe Lins earlier on the fight card, moving to 2-1 in the UFC. Both fighters called out the other in their post-fight interviews, so there isn’t any reason not to schedule this fight.

Gian Villante - Allen Crowder The New Yorker’s Heavyweight debut was going well for him right until it wasn’t. The former Light Heavyweight contender appears to want to stay at heavyweight if he is to remain in the promotion. He will likely get one more fight in an effort to stay in the UFC, as this fight caused his promotional record to sink to 7-9. His next fight would come against another fighter that has struggled in the UFC. That fighter could very well be Allen Crowder. Crowder has only one UFC win in three fights, and that came after he lucked out after Greg Hardy had a mental lapse, delivering a knee while Crowder was grounded. Both fighters are at risk of getting cut, and the loser is highly likely to get shown the door.

Middleweight - Brendan Allen defeats Kyle Daukaus via unanimous decision

Brendan Allen - Ian Heinisch Allen got the job done in this fight, beating the previously undefeated Daukaus. With this win, he extended his win streak to seven in a row. After the fight, he called out Heinisch. These two were initially scheduled to throw down on this card, but Ian pulled out. After this resounding win, it’s a no-brainer to assign Allen his toughest fight to date against the thirteenth ranked Heinisch.

Kyle Daukaus - Loser of Eric Spicely vs. Markus Perez Daukaus’ future is a little bit harder to forecast. He admirably stepped in to take this fight, but it came in a losing effort. This was his first professional loss. This definitely was a tough fight for his promotional debut, so he will have a much easier fight for his sophomore effort. His next opponent may be the loser of this fight. Perez is seeking revenge against alumni from season 23 of The Ultimate Fighter, as he lost to Andrew Sanchez earlier in his career. He is also trying to put a win streak together, as he is 2-3 in the UFC. Spicely is looking to improve his status in the UFC, as he lost in his return fight against Deron Winn. Spicely made his return to the UFC after consecutive wins in CES, bouncing back from losing four of his six fights in his first UFC stint. The loser will be desperate for a win, and the up-and-comer Daukaus will prove to be a stiff test for either fighter.

Welterweight - Takashi Sato defeats Jason Witt via TKO (Punches) at 0:48 of Round 1

Takashi Sato - Alex Morono Sato made quick work of the debuting Witt, putting him away in under a minute. Sato moves to 2-1 in three UFC fights and 16-3 in his professional career. He is ready for a step up in competition, and this could come against Alex Morono. Morono is one of the more active fighters in the Welterweight division since he entered the promotion in 2016. He boasts a 6-3 record in the promotion, but his progress has been halted after a quick knockout loss at the hands of Khaos Williams. Morono will look to rebound from that devastating loss in this fight.

Jason Witt - Loser of Ramazan Emeev vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov Witt stepped into this bout on extremely short notice, causing it to be moved to the main card in order for him to pass the required health tests. The lack of preparation time proved to be greatly detrimental for Witt. He will get a full training camp for his next appearance, which could come against the loser of this fight. Emeev won his first three UFC fights before losing to Anthony Rocco Martin. A second loss in a row would result in a reduction in competition for Emeev. Rakhmonov is debuting in the UFC as an undefeated fighter. If he is unable to beat Emeev, Witt may be a more accurate gauge of his skill level.

150 lb Catchweight - Julian Erosa defeats Sean Woodson via submission (D’Arce Choke) at 2:44 of Round 3

Julian Erosa - Loser of Ricardo Ramos vs. Lerone Murphy Erosa marked his return to the UFC with an exclamation point in this win. The Contender Series graduate was released from the promotion after following up his impressive win to earn a contract with three losses, two by KO/TKO. He finally earned his first UFC win after taking this fight on less than a week’s notice and can now gain a foothold in the Featherweight division. His next fight should come with a full fight camp, and it may be against the loser of this fight. Ramos is the more experienced of these two fighters, holding a 5-1 record in the UFC and a pro record of 14-2. Meanwhile, Murphy is an undefeated prospect that is still looking for his first UFC win, fighting to a draw with Zubaira Tukhugov in his debut. The loser in this bout will be looking to regain the momentum that they gained in previous fights, while Erosa is looking to maintain his.

Sean Woodson - Youssef Zalal Woodson struggled in his second UFC appearance. He came into this fight as a significant favorite, but was forced to tap in the third round. This was his first professional loss, which will be a tough pill to swallow for Woodson. He will be extra hungry for a win in his next fight, which may come against Youssef Zalal. Zalal opened this card with a resounding decision win over Jordan Griffin, improving his professional record to 9-2. This fight will involve two prospects headed in opposite directions, with Woodson looking to rebound from his first loss and Zalal seeking to move to 3-0 in the UFC

Lightweight - Khama Worthy defeats Luis Pena via submission (Guillotine) at 2:53 of Round 3

Khama Worthy - Matt Frevola Worthy keeps his win streak alive by cashing in as an underdog in this fight, extending his run to seven wins in a row. He will look to extend this streak to eight in his next trip to the Octagon, which could come against Matt Frevola. Both fighters are coming off of wins against Luis Pena. Frevola was slated to fight earlier this month, but was forced to pull out when one of his cornermen tested positive for COVID-19. He will look to return to action soon, and the opportunity presents itself in Worthy. This bout would feature two up-and-comers, but only one can be deemed “worthy” to maintain their win streak.

Luis Pena - Michael Johnson Pena continues to struggle to find consistency in the UFC. He has split his last four fights and falls to 4-3 in the UFC. He found some success in this fight, but not nearly enough to earn the win. He has been the betting favorite in each of his UFC fights, so even though he lost this fight, he still might see some more experienced competition in his next time out in the form of Michael Johnson. Johnson, a 22 fight UFC veteran with a 10-12 record, was slated to face Worthy, but roles now switched as Worthy won his fight and Johnson was submitted by Thiago Moises. Johnson has lost three in a row and needs a win to stay in the promotion. He can get the chance to do so against Pena as he looks to put his struggles behind him.

That concludes this edition of Fightful’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.

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