Orlando was home to the happiest place on Earth for a few participants on last night’s UFC card (it had nothing to do with Disney World, for the record). Others? Not so much. A pair of finishes you may not have expected were an exclamation point to last night’s card, so let’s see what might happen for some of last night’s competitors as we head into 2016.
Charles Oliveira def. Myles Jury by first-round submission
Oliveira continued his impressive, winning ways by adding yet another submission finish to his resume. He took Jury’s back early and refused to let go and locked in a deep rear-naked choke for a fast victory. It’s a little bittersweet for Oliveira though, as he missed weight for the third time, which is not something you want to do if you’re trying to land a title shot.
Regardless, Oliveira’s rise up the featherweight ladder can’t be ignored. I think he merits a rematch with fellow contender Max Holloway, who defeated Oliveira earlier this year via a referee stoppage due to an unfortunate early injury by Oliveira. But both guys deserve to make their case to face the new featherweight champion, Conor McGregor.
For Jury, it was an ill-fated drop to featherweight. He would be better served not only returning to lightweight, but fine-tuning his game and eating a little humble pie.
Karolina Kowalkiewicz def. Randa Markos by unanimous decision
This was Kowalkiewicz’s UFC debut, and she hails from the same country as current women’s strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Kowalkiewicz wasted no time making a statement against the always tough Markos, using her striking to keep Markos at bay and weathering Markos’ takedowns. Kowalkiewicz landed some nice combinations and looks to follow Jedrzejczyk’s lead as a striker to be feared in their division.
Kowalkiewicz should enjoy a good jump into the women’s strawweight rankings and could find herself in title contention sooner rather than later. A fight with former title contender Valerie Letourneau would be a good test for Kowalkiewicz, or even the Muay Thai specialist Joanne Calderwood, who’s recovering from injury.
For Markos, she should only grow from this experience as she continues to train with famed coach Firas Zahabi. A grudge match with her old rival from The Ultimate Fighter, Felice Herrig, would be a good matchup for Markos.
Nate Diaz def. Michael Johnson by unanimous decision
Diaz put on one of his most impressive performances ever in systematically taking apart Johnson in the most “Diaz Brothers” way possible. He outstruck and battered Johnson and talked to trash to him the whole time he did it. Time off seemed to do wonders for Diaz, as he showed up to the fight in the best shape of his life and performed like it.
After the fight, Diaz wasted no time calling out McGregor himself, with a few well-placed expletives for good measure (you can find an unedited, NSFW version of it rather easily). While I highly doubt the UFC will give Diaz his wish, I think giving him a fight with Edson Barboza would be a treat not only for Diaz, but for UFC fans as well. That would be can’t-miss action.
For Johnson, it’s his second straight loss and another reason to doubt he will reach his potential. I think he can bid adieu to the lightweight top 10.
Alistair Overeem def. Junior Dos Santos by second-round TKO
These two finally faced off after circling each other for the better part of three years. After a first round spent mostly feeling each other out, Overeem and Dos Santos finally traded blows in the second round, with Overeem catching Dos Santos with a brutal left hook for the finish.
That finish should be enough for Overeem to receive a title shot against the winner of Fabricio Werdum vs. Cain Velasquez 2 at UFC 196 in February. However, Andrei Arlovski and Stipe Miocic square off at UFC 195 next month, and the winner of that could receive consideration as well. If that fight fails to live up to expectations, I could see Overeem getting a title shot. However, if Arlovski or Miocic nail a quick knockout or submission, I think a no. 1 contender fight between that winner and Overeem makes sense.
Dos Santos finds himself in a tough spot. He suffered a tremendous amount of punishment in his last few fights. The top 10 in UFC’s heavyweight division is filled with guys already scheduled to fight, and can Dos Santos break through that logjam? Perhaps a fight with Travis Browne could get Dos Santos back in the title picture sooner rather than later.
Rafael dos Anjos def. Donald Cerrone by first-round TKO (Lightweight Title)
This was probably the most shocking result of Saturday night’s card. The champion dos Anjos finished Cerrone in just over a minute – almost inconceivable, if you’re familiar at all with Cerrone’s career. More than 80 percent of UFC fans picked Cerrone to win his first title, as did I. But dos Anjos proved all of us wrong and showed he is a champion we need to take seriously as one of the very best fighters in the world.
The champion also called out Conor McGregor after the fight, saying he would be more than happy to welcome the featherweight champion to the lightweight division. I think that’s the fight UFC should make. Both are champions and both enjoyed first-round finishes in their most recent fights. A pair of dominant champions, squaring off in their prime. Why not?
I’m sure Cerrone would like to fight again sooner rather than later to wash the taste of this loss out of his mouth. Serving as the first true test for fellow top 10 lightweight Beneil Dariush would be a good way to do that.