UFC Boston Aftermath: Rise of the Contenders

UFC Boston is behind us. With all the wild stuff that went down, from inhaler-gate to Dominick Reyes killing Chris Weidman, it is time for our Aftermath piece and to see what’s next, including some of our favorite matchups going forward from UFC Boston.

Everyone is talking about Maycee Barber. Should we be, though?

Next opponents for Maycee Barber: Paige Van Zant, Roxanne Modafferi

Maycee Barber came into UFC Boston as the hottest prospect on the card. In her three UFC fights with Hannah Cifers, JJ Aldrich and now Gillian Robertson, Barber has recorded three straight finishes in the UFC, all TKOs, four if you count her Contender Series bout. Barber ran through Robertson, thwarting her takedowns and getting out when Robertson pulled guard on her.

Then, Maycee Barber showed that killer instinct that everyone wants to see from a future champion. Barber had Robinson hurt and backpedaling. Barber continued her onslaught, throwing shots with bad intent to Robertson’s skull. The referee had seen enough. It was time to call the fight off.

Barber looked good and she took a step closer to her goal of becoming the youngest champion in UFC history. She’s not ready to test Valentina Shevchenko yet, in my opinion. Barber is very skilled and has tons of potential though.

One obvious choice for Barber to fight next is Paige VanZant. The fight makes sense from a marketing standpoint from the UFC’s point of view. Paige VanZant is a monster star. With over 2.3 million followers on Instagram, VanZant may not have the pulling power of Conor McGregor’s 32 million, and that may be because of why people follow her. But, VanZant is is a well recognized name. With a win over VanZant, it would make Maycee Barber an even better well known name to the casual fan which, in turn, increases awareness for an eventual matchup with Valentina Shevchenko.

Another option would be pitting Barber against a more experienced opponent. Her most experienced pro fight has been against Cifers and Robertson who have ten fights under their belt. Her opponents in her eight professional fights have had a combined 41 fights. Roxanne Modafferi, with a record of 23-16, has 39 career fights. Barber fighting the veteran grappler would be a great test of her ground game and experience.

Joe Lauzon Wows Hometown Crowd

Next opponent for Joe Lauzon: Retirement

Joe Lauzon has had a rough go of it. Since 2015, he’s gone 4-7. But his last win was the perfect swan song. See, Joe Lauzon didn’t just beat Jonathan Pierce at UFC Boston, he ran straight through him like a Mack truck. A first round finish in front of the Boston crowd had the home team going absolutely wild. It was the perfect swan song for the long time UFC staple.

Lauzon said he is still mulling over retirement, and after a performance like he had, one can understand why. But ultimately, Lauzon needs to hang up the gloves while he can. Putting his body through any more stress is not a good thing and is what the UFC needs to take a stand on.

Lauzon first appeared on The Ultimate Fighter 9. His career includes wins over Jeremy Stephens, Melvin Guillard, Michael Chiesa, and Diego Sanchez. He has earned seven Fight of the Night awards, a Knockout of the Night award, an amazing six Submissions of the Night awards (most in company history) a Performance of the Night award, most finishes in UFC lightweight history and Fight of the Year with Jim Miller in 2012. It sure has been a career Joe Lauzon, thanks for the wars.

Greg Hardy Marred By Controversy Again

Next opponent for Greg Hardy: Junior Albini, Chase Sherman

I preface all Aftermath pieces I’ve done about Greg Hardy with the following. This is a technical breakdown of Greg Hardy. His controversial past is not taken into account when I break down his fight and speculate on his future.

Greg Hardy showed a lot of improvement at UFC Boston. He didn’t go in and bum rush and empty his gas tank like he has done in the past. He went a full three rounds and made it to the end of a fight. He was slick, countering Ben Sosoli all night. The third round he took to running more than he had the first two rounds. Over all, though, it was a showcase of what Hardy had been working on with Din Thomas, his patience.

Unfortunately for Hardy, the athletic commissioner made a mistake in between rounds two and three, allowing Hardy to use an inhaler for exercise induced asthma. It is against the rules but Greg Hardy did the right thing at UFC Boston and actually asked if he could use it, to which the athletic commissioner said yes. That is why the fight was turned to a no contest and not a disqualification for Hardy.

As for his future, while Hardy is continually improving, he’s not real UFC material just yet. That’s not saying he won’t be in the future, he’s a pro bowl athlete. But don’t expect the UFC to throw a contender at him just yet. Hardy needs two or three more wins before he starts his climb up the ladder. Even though he beat Juan Adams, which I thought was the start of that climb, the UFC continues to take it slow with Hardy.

One matchup that could have hardy fight someone with experience would be to match him up with Junior Albini. Albini is a 20-fight-vet and has the experience to give Hardy a different kind of test hes not faced before. A second option, as I’ve called for before, is to call UFC vet, Chase Sherman, back to the promotion from Island Fights. Sherman has won three straight mixed martial arts bouts straight in Island Fights. He’s also won the Bare Knuckle FC heavyweight belt, going 2-0-1 in that promotion as well. Sherman is extremely active to say the least, and he’s called for Hardy multiple times. Both Albini and Sherman have way more experience than Hardy and would provide that test against a veteran as a skill check to see if he’s ready to climb the heavyweight ladder just yet.

Yair Rodriguez and Jeremy Stephens Bury the Hatchet

Next opponent for Jeremy Stephens: Yair Rodriguez, Calvin Kattar

After UFC Mexico City and the 15 second fight due to an eye poke, fans only wanted one thing, to see Jeremy Stephens and Yair Rodriguez actually fight. While they were not a main event and thus, only a three round fight, this was a good consolation prize for fight fans. The decision paid off. Jeremy Stephens and Yair Rodriguez went to war. With Stephens having a hard time with Rodriguez’ kicks in the first, he made the adjustment later in the fight to switch stances and take away the body kick that had him almost finished in the second round. Stephens implored a gameplan that was too little, too late in the fight. While he ground and pound out Rodriguez in the third round, it wasn’t enough; Rodriguez was declared the winner.

Fret not, Jeremy Stephens isn’t going anywhere. The author of some of the most brutal knockouts we’ve ever seen, Stephens will live to fight another day. One option would be to have Rodriguez and Stephens to fight a “third” time, but this time in a main event, to give Stephens a fair shake in this fight. The trilogy would bring in instant viewers as a main event for a ESPN+ card.

It’s likely that Stephens wants the Rodriguez fight back. But, if Rodriguez decides to move on to greener pastures, Stephens can always take on Calvin Kattar win or lose against Zabit Magomedsharipov. I say only Kattar because Stephens and Magomedsharipov have already fought. Kattar has a different kind of striking, more boxing, that would present Stephens with more unique challenges and give the fans something to salivate over.

Next opponent for Yair Rodriguez: Zabit Magomedsharipov, José Aldo

Yair Rodriguez looked incredibly good for the first round and a half of his fight with Stephens. He kept Stephens at bay and almost had him finished in the second round. The main concern is Rodriguez’ decision making in that moment. He let his emotions get the best of him and completely blew his gas tank and paid for it the rest of the fight. Stephens took Rodriguez down with ease in the third. Had it been a five rounder like originally planned, Rodriguez might not have won that fight. But he did, and he can move on now.

While I suggested that Rodriguez and Stephens should run it back in the Stephens section, I do not think that’s the best action moving forward for Rodriguez. Rodriguez has beaten Stephens and Chan Sung Jung in his last two fights. He’s taken too much time off and at the age of 27, needs to climb the ladder now. If fans want a full on strike fest, match him up with Zabit Magomedsharipov, win or lose. He and Zabit would be a perfect matchup for a contender shot.

I personally want to see Rodriguez fight Max Holloway as soon as possible. I want to match him up against José Aldo to fast track him to the title. A win over Aldo would guarantee him a title shot, unless Volkanovski and Holloway go to war and need an immediate rematch. Aldo’s skills on the feet would also be a skill check to see if Rodriguez is ready for the top of the division or not.

Dominick Reyes Sparks Chris Weidman

Next opponent for Chris Weidman: Retirement

I don’t take telling a fighter to retire lightly. There’s more to it than just that, it’s the rush, their sense of self and more. And if a fighter hasn’t thought those things through and have a purpose after fighting, they end up like Chuck Liddell fighting at 50 or BJ Penn losing nine straight. Chris Weidman is on the cusp of that. The former middleweight champ who dethroned Anderson Silva has gone 1-5 since December 2015. He’s been marred with injuries and surgeries since losing his belt to Luke Rockhold.

Weidman got sparked. Plain and simple. He has technically sound wrestling, as we saw a glimpse of when he took Reyes down. But when they got up, Reyes fired a straight off his back foot straight down the pipe. It was enough to put him down and with a little ground and pound, enough to win the fight for Reyes.

As one of my old favorites, I don’t want to see Chris Weidman sustain any more brain damage. Please, hang them up, Chris.

Next opponent for Dominick Reyes: Jon Jones, Anthony Smith

Dominick Reyes looked pretty good against Weidman. The win gave him that notable win that can push him to the top of the division to challenge Jon Jones. After Reyes was out grappled by Volkan Oezdemir, I was mum on his potential. But, he surprised me by getting up with ease on Chris Weidman who is an actual wrestler.

We know Reyes has good hands. His grappling has always been a concern coming up. If Jon Jones decides to fight to his opponents weakness instead of their strength, Reyes could be in trouble. But Jones hasn’t done that as of late. Reyes may have a chance to upset the most dominant light heavyweight champion of all time. I think Reyes is the next to fight Jon Jones if Jones allows it.

Reyes future really relies on Jon Jones’ ambition. If Jones decides he wants to do something more challenging than Reyes, he might finally take that jump up to heavyweight if the UFC likes Miocic-Jones better than Miocic-DC 3, which would be a slight to Cormier. If, Jones makes that jump, Anthony Smith has a fight with Jones and it Reyes beats Smith, it makes him the clear cut number one contender for Jones.

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