After a UFC Vegas 37 card that saw non-stop action, we can’t help but think ahead to what might be next for some of the fighters. Some let their intentions be known, others left more to the imagination. Either way, we try to do Mick Maynard’s job for him and tell you what is up next for some of the biggest names on this past card.
On deck: Aleksandar Rakic
Just about everybody out there had written Anthony Smith off. After losing a couple in a row, he had bounced back with a pair of wins, but each of them was even overlooked by the average audience. Some said Devin Clark wasn’t on his level (they are right). Others said that the Jimmy Crute stoppage was a fluke (they were also right). However, whatever doubts existed, Smith erased them with a quick dismantling of Ryan Spann this past weekend. The win was not only dominant, but resulted in his 3rd straight first-round stoppage. Whether you believe in him or not, it’s time to put him back against the elites of the division.
I want to start by saying I hate pointless rematches. If neither guy is champion and nothing of note happened in the fight (controversy, bad blood, etc), then I see no reason to do it again. We have Smith calling for a rematch with Aleksandar Rakic and Rakic said on Twitter that he’s keen on a rematch as well. While I’m usually against such nonsense, there really aren’t any other top options for either of them. Most fighters near the top are either booked or coming off some losses. Plus, Smith has faced nearly everybody up there already anyways. So why not? Let’s go with the rematch.
On deck: Dustin Jacoby
Despite the loss, Ryan Spann is still very much a prospect. He has all the physical tools to take him into the top 5 or 10 in the light heavyweight division. He’s simply tripped up a couple of times and looked kind of rough against a pair of tough opponents. He needs to iron out a few things in his game before he’s ready for that level of opponent again. Most notably, for me, is his striking defense. Especially in a division where everyone can take your head off, he needs to make sure he’s not getting hit as much as Smith hit him.
It may seem like I’m asking for a trial by fire, but the above reasons are why I’d like to see Spann against a striker. Before I’m ready for him to fight more top 10/15 guys, I need to know he can avoid the hands of someone who loves to throw. Dustin Jacoby is precisely that. He loves to throw and would certainly test what Spann can do. Plus, Jacoby has earned such a bout with his 4-fight undefeated streak in the UFC.
On deck: Tafon Nchukwi
Ion Cutelaba seemed like a new man in there this week against Devin Clark at UFC Vegas 37. A lot of people had questioned his cardio after falling apart for rounds 2 and 3 against Dustin Jacoby. Not only did his cardio look great late against Clark, but he arguably looked like he was gaining steam as the fight went on. Although this will cause people to get hyped on Cutelaba, it is worth noting that this is his first win in almost 2 years. So while he has some nice tools and physical gifts, I think he probably still needs a fight with an up-and-comer rather than anyone close to being ranked.
A lot of parallels can be drawn between Cutelaba and Tafon Nchukwi, who fought earlier on the card. Both were said to have questionable cardio and erased those doubts. They are both specimens at 205lbs and are downright scary. Both put beatdowns on their opponents over a 15 minute period. And both probably walked away unscathed and need a quick booking to get back in there. Let’s make it happen.
On deck: Molly McCann
If I had to empty my bank account on the stock of one fighter from UFC Vegas 37, it would be Erin Blanchfield. She not only beat the tar out of Sarah Alpar, but she did so using all facets of her game. She showed off her ever-improving striking, but also went to the well with her world-class grappling. Some people are naturally going to start talking about just who she can beat in the top 10 or even the top 5. To be honest, I think she could give some of those women a hell of a run. Still, I’d like to see her brought on a tad more slowly and try to focus on style matchups.
Molly McCann is someone who pushes a pace and excels on the feet. She’s never in a dull fight, but may also have enough holes in her defensive grappling that Blanchfield would have an opening to bring it into her world. Not to mention, McCann is a well-known name in the sport that could help build the profile of Blanchfield were she to win.
On deck: Gregor Gillespie
After beating Christos Giagos and scoring his first finish since he’s come to the UFC, Arman Tsarkuryan is going to continue to have a tough time getting people to fight him. Nobody has ever really wanted that smoke, and who could blame them. He has suffocating wrestling and now has shown he can handle his business anywhere. Somebody needs to let this guy fight someone ahead of him in the rankings because he could really test a lot of those guys right now.
One guy who I think would not only be a good matchup for Tsarkuryan, but also might be crazy enough to take it, is Gregor Gillespie. He’s supremely confident in his wrestling, and is for good reason. Neither has fought someone else who can test their wrestling quite like this matchup would. Plus, a win in this fight, no matter who it was for, would put these guys on the map for a huge matchup.
On deck: Song Yadong
There are a lot of people out there talking about Adrian Yanez as the next big contender at bantamweight. However, a win this past weekend for Nate Maness puts him with an identical record to his division-mate. In addition, he also has stoppages in his last two and performance bonuses for each of them. I also think the way this recent fight with Tony Gravely went at UFC Vegas 37, did a lot for the public perception of Maness. He seemingly came back from the dead to stop his opponent and did so in convincing fashion.
With this many wins in a row, I think it’s time for a ranked opponent or close to it. Song Yadong has just 2 wins in his last 4 fights. One of those is over Casey Kenney though, which holds a lot of weight. Still, I think Maness would be a good fight for him. He may be able to stuff the takedowns of Yadong. The striking would certainly be interesting. And it would obviously answer the question of what kind of prospect he is.