UFC Tampa is in the books. With so many close fights, many fighters stocks rose, win or lose. In this week’s Aftermath, we take a look at what’s next after Luis Peña’s tough loss, Cub Swanson’s rebound, Kron Gracie’s head scratching game plan, and the triumphant return of Joanna Jędrzejczyk.
Eryk Anders Eeks Out the Win
Next opponent for Eryk Anders: Luke Rockhold or Allen/Holland winner
Eryk Anders has had it rough as of late. He lost three fights straight last year and the beginning of this year. To be fair, he lost a six day notice fight to Thiago Santos in an absolute banger. Anders shouldn’t be penalized for that. But then, a loss to Elias Theodorou is a major blow to Anders, seeing as Theodorou isn’t even with the UFC anymore. Then he took a shellacking from the new and improved Khalil Rountree Jr.. Now Anders has some momentum. With his split decision win over Gerald Meerschaert at UFC Tampa, Anders has won two straight. After starting his career 10-0 before getting handed his first loss by Lyoto Machida in February 2018, Anders has a win streak going again.
Anders looked good at UFC Tamp, but not great. He exercised patience but didn’t choose the best shots all the time, leaving himself open to counters from Meerschaert. But it was enough to get him a win. Now Anders looks to what’s ahead. Previously on our podcast, Anders said he doesn’t care if he fights at middleweight or light heavyweight. He just wants to fight. If Anders wants to go big and really wow the UFC brass, Luke Rockhold is a fantastic name to add to his resume. He’s already tried to add a big name by taking on Machida. A win over former champion, Luke Rockhold, even if he is a shell of his former self, would be monstrous for Anders. That’s a bout that should take place at light heavyweight as well.
If Anders is keen on middleweight, the winner of Brendan Allen and Kevin Holland could be a suitable option. Allen, if victorious, would be on a five fight streak and would be a good skills test for “Ya Boy.” Kevin Holland is another great fight and a bit more of a step up in competition that could get him closer back to the top 15 in middleweight.
Violent Bob Ross Struggles Against Matt Frevola
Next opponent for Luis Peña: Thiago Moisés, Yancy Medeiros
Luis Peña May have lost a razor thin decision to Matt Frevola, but he showed even more improvement in his ground game. Coming into the UFC, “Violent Bob Ross” was predominantly a wrestler turned striker. Since appearing on The Ultimate Fighter and joining Daniel Cormer at the American Kickboxing Academy, his ground game has improved leaps and bounds. He even attempted a buggy choke against Frevola.
Peña didn’t agree with the decision and stormed out of the cage having a fit. Then he took to Twitter to say the fight was essentially rigged.
He went on later to congratulate Frevola on his toughness. While emotions are high in a fight, and being upset for a close decision you thought you should have won, claiming the other person’s loss is not legitimate is the exact opposite of what martial arts is about. Peña seems to have missed the good sportsmanship lesson here.
As for his future at 155, he still showed improvement in this fight. His ground game continues to get better. Peña needs to make sure he still works his striking and not neglect his biggest advantage, his length. I really want to see Violent Bob Ross put on a striking clinic so I’d like for him to go against someone who will be a big threat on the ground. Thiago Moisês is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt that Peña will likely not want to tangle with on the ground.
A second option would be to pay Yancy Medeiros good money to return to lightweight to take on the young prospect. Medeiros may not be a black belt in Jiu Jitsu but he is still dangerous and his size presents different problems for Peña.
Mackenzie Dern Makes A Statement in Loss to Amanda Ribas
Next opponent for Mackenzie Dern: Virna Jandiroba, Hannah Cifers
Mackenzie Dern is one of the prospects the UFC brass was high on. Being one of the premier Brazilian Jiu Jitsu players in the world, Dern’s crossover to MMA was exciting. Dern went undefeated through LFA and a fight in Invicta. She then made her debut in the UFC and beat Ashley Yoder and Amanda Cooper. She missed the 115 pound limit by a whopping seven pounds in her last fight. Dern then got pregnant and took some time away from the sport. And just four months after giving birth, not only does Mackenzie Dern go through a fight camp, she made the 115 pound limit as well, hushing any doubters.
Unfortunately for Dern, it was not her night. Amanda Ribas worked Dern over on the feet the entire fight, not allowing Dern to get on the ground in a comfortable position. While Dern still has a spot in the UFC, the women’s strawweight division is the toughest of the women’s division. Being a one trick pony will not get you among the elite.
Dern deserves a fight in her league. While Virna Jandiroba has a fight scheduled, it would be fun to see the two go at it in a match that’d likely go to the ground and put both in their element. Jandiroba should be the next win or lose. Hannah Cifers is on the other end of the spectrum. Cifers is a very good striker. The matchup between the two would be a classic stylistic matchup.
James Vick Has Some Really Bad Luck
Next opponent for James Vick: Chad Laprise, Luke Jumeau
James Vick is cursed. After losing three straight at lightweight, the 6’3” Vick made the decision not to drain himself anymore and move to welterweight. What happens in his first fight? An up-kick from Niko Price that completely knocks him out. Now having lost four in a row it’s not looking good for Vick with the UFC. But, I am not ready to give up on his career in the promotion yet. He’s won nine fights in the UFC not counting his Ultimate Fighter performances. He’s just had a rough skid and tough luck.
James Vick really needs to give his body time to recover fully. It’s clear that his chin isn’t all there and his brain has taken some damage. Taking a year off with no hard contact will do him some good. Get in some Vick Jiu Jitsu tournaments and compete and grow his ground game there. With his long and lanky arms, he could benefit greatly from it. It will not only help his ground game, but also scratch that desire to compete as well.
The hard part about a year lay-off is knowing where potential matchups will be in a years time. Upon his return, welterweight is still in the future for James Vick. Chad Laprise is one good option for Vick. Laprise is experienced and could be a good fight to take simply on skill levels for Vick. Luke Jumeau is another fighter with those same qualifications.
Cub Swanson Beats Kron Gracie Up All Around The World
Next opponent for Kron Gracie: Doo Ho Choi, Chris Fishgold
I don’t know, I couldn’t come up with a better Flat Earther pun. Cub Swanson just beat up Kron Gracie, plain and simple. Now Kron Gracie is saying he didn’t agree with the judges decision. Hey Kron, read the Peña section over again. Good sportsmanship.
Gracie’s game plan was puzzling. You are likely the best grappler in the UFC. You get Cub Swanson on the ground and it’s a wrap. Instead, Gracie plodded forward trying to strike with Swanson, who fired shots off the back foot. Swanson, who is clearly the better striker, was content with this and kept doing what was winning him the fight. Gracie’s corner did not make any adjustments whatsoever and it was three rounds of the same thing. Gracie’s inexperience is what ultimately cost him the fight.
Kron Gracie still has tons of potential in the UFC. Having fought over seas in RIZIN, Gracie brings an international audience the UFC is salivating over. Doo Ho Choi would be another matchup with a striker to see if Gracie grows and evolves as a mixed martial artist, and that should be Gracie and his team’s goal here. To evolve. If they want something more manageable, Chris Fishgold is a similar challenge. He will likely want to keep the fight standing, like most people who will fight Gracie.
Next opponent for Cub Swanson: Ricardo Lamas Rematch, Doo Ho Choi Rematch
Cub Swanson was on the worst losing streak of his career coming into UFC Tampa. After losing four straight, his future with the UFC was in question. Swanson didn’t lose to no slouches though. Brian Ortega, Frankie Edgar, Renato Moicano and Shane Burgos are all tough matchups. Swanson deserves a layup from the UFC brass, and that’s what he got.
Cub Swanson did exactly what he should have done to win that fight. He didn’t come to bang as fans have become accustomed to him doing. He sat on the back foot firing off the shots that would keep Gracie at bay all night. When Gracie did try to pull guard, Swanson would have none of it and would get out of that sticky situation quick. Now that he’s back in the winners column, he can start to build some steam again and get the exciting fights fans deserve from him.
Getting back in the win column isn’t enough though. Swanson needs to put together a three or four fight streak. Swanson lost to Ricardo Lamas in 2011. Now it would be a good time for these two bangers to throw down again. Another good fight for Swanson would be against Doo Ho Choi (mentioned in the Gracie section as well). The two went to war at UFC 206, becoming one of the best fights of the entire year. It’s well time to run that one back to see if we get something similar.
Also, Swanson threw some major shade at Gracie on Twitter:
Joanna to Waterson: There’s Levels to This
Next opponent for Michelle Waterson: Carla Esparza, Marina Rodriguez
It’s not that Michelle Waterson fought bad at UFC Tampa. She did all the things she normally does. It’s just that Joanna Jędrzejczyk is better than Waterson. Aside from the short moment Waterson had Jędrzejczyk’s back and had a rear naked choke sinched up, Waterson had Joanna in no real trouble. She didn’t have an off night, she didn’t fight dumb. Waterson just lost, plain and simple.
Women’s strawweight is the best women’s division. After the loss to Jędrzejczyk, Waterson will have a long climb to get a shot at the title. With a log jam at the top with contenders, Waterson is at the back of the line now. Nina Ansaroff is my top choice but she is taking off a whole year to have a child with Amanda Nunes. Carla Esparza is a former champion that would look good on Waterson’s resume. If she wants to stay in the top ten, Marina Rodriguez is another option. Unfortunately for Waterson, she’s kind of stuck in no man’s (woman’s) land.
Next opponent for Joanna Jędrzejczyk: Jessica Andrade, Tatiana Suarez
Joanna Jędrzejczyk has controversy surrounding her weight cut going into UFC Tampa. Many, including myself, doubted Jędrzejczyk thinking the weight cut would hurt her performance. No dice. People slept on Joanna. Her only three losses were to Rose Namajunas twice and Valentina Shevchenko, a much larger fighter not even in her division. Jędrzejczyk looked great against Waterson. She negated the clinch work and even mounted some of her own. She showed that she is still very much a threat in the division. Now she needs to make way to the title again.
Jessica Andrade likely won’t get a title rematch after being starched by Weili Zhang in the first round. Jędrzejczyk and Andrade fought during Joanna’s title reign. Andrade even had Jędrzejczyk hurt at one point. A rematch and win over Andrade would put her back in spot for a title shot. Or, if you’re looking for a true title eliminator, Jędrzejczyk would be good to take on Tatiana Suarez. The two women are ready for the big time, Joanna already being there, and assuming Zhang fights Namajunas or waits it out, the winner of Jędrzejczyk and Suarez would be next in line without a doubt.