Let’s play matchmaker! The Post-Fight Matchmaker is hard at work after UFC 256 and is bringing you his predictions for what comes next. For a thorough breakdown of this week’s events and more, check out our weekly column Fight Morning in America.
In the aftermath of UFC 256, let’s get straight to the fights we want to see happen in 2021.
Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno II.
There are two options for the reigning, defending, undisputed UFC flyweight champion of the world Deiveson Figueiredo – a rematch of the potential Fight of the Year with Brandon Moreno or a fight against former UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt. Several storylines dominated this matchup – a record-setting 21 days turnover between title defenses, an illness keeping “Deus de Guerra” Figueiredo in the hospital until 2am the night before the fight, and several illegal strikes (eyepokes, groin) that clearly affected the “The Assassin Baby” Moreno leading to a point deduction. So the question remains – run it back or give Garbrandt, who was originally slated to face the champ at UFC 255 in November, a shot at the belt?
Charles Oliveira vs. winner of Dustin Poirier/Conor McGregor for the UFC lightweight championship.
This is the fight that the impressive Charles Oliveira deserves. His domination of Tony Ferguson, a guy as tough as they come, who has a tremendous skillset and when he fights the lights get brighter, certainly warrants a massive push. The UFC lightweight division is a slugfest at the moment and clarity is hard to find. Ferguson has been eliminated from the title picture and when Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor fight next month, it will eliminate yet another contender. McGregor winning probably sees him push for a rematch with Khabib Nurmagomedov for the title, while Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler still jockey for position back at the top. If was Oliveira, I’d want Poirier/McGregor winner first, then either Chandler or Gaethje second, then settle for a payday with Rafael dos Anjos third. It will be a difficult wait and nervy month for the Brazilian.
Tony Ferguson vs. The Couch
Massive “El Cucuy” fans here. Tony Ferguson at this point needs to take a step back and reassess his situation. In this week’s Fight Morning in America, Phillip Harbor wrote at length about his need to address his strategy, standing and banging with Justin Gaethje and engaging on the ground with Charles Oliveira (pre-armbar). A rejuvenated Ferguson has many options due to his drawing power – Paul Felder, Michael Chandler, anyone who drops from the top tier of the lightweight division, and a win there springboards him back up the list.
Mackenzie Dern vs. any top Women’s strawweight once her nose is fixed. It would make sense to throw her back into the Octagon against fellow winner and impressive 115-er Tecia Torres, however Torres will be looking to fight rather quickly (try to make the Angela Hill fight again) and it will take Dern several months to recover from her smashed nose. By that time, a matchup with the Amanda Ribas/Marina Rodriguez winner, Michelle Waterson or even Claudia Gadelha could be a possibility.
Kevin Holland vs. Khamzat Chimaev
OK this is the fight we want and we want it next weekend. Kevin Holland has blazed a trail 5-0 in 2020 alone and his 7-month run in the UFC since he was promoted from Dana White’s Contender Series might be the most impressive we’ve ever seen. Realistically, next week sees UFC-ranked #8 and #14 go at it, Kevin Gastelum and Ian Heinisch. The winner of that would give Holland a top-10 scalp, or he could opt for a staple of the division like Derek Brunson. That would be a tough matchup for both fighters and a fun proposition for fans.
Ciryl Gane vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik
The UFC heavyweight division is booked up with Alistair Overeem vs. Alexander Volkov, Curtis Blaydes vs. Derrick Lewis and Stipe Miocic slated to face Francis Ngannou. The fight that makes the most sense at this point for the young Frenchman Gane is “Bigi Boy.” Both fighters are coming off of wins against future UFC Hall-of-Famer Junior dos Santos and both stand to gain more experience and momentum as they climb the rankings.
Rafael Fiziev vs. a top 15 lightweight. In 4 minutes, Fiziev threw 21 total strikes, each of which was counted as a significant strike. Of those strikes, 7 were to the head of Renato Moicano, 7 to the body and a further 7 to the legs. The perfectly-balanced Kyrgyzstani kickboxer called out Al Iaquinta on Twitter and we think there are 6 guys ranked in the UFC lightweight division that he could beat right now.
Post-Fight Matchmaker: UFC 256