We finally have a completion in the BMF saga with the conclusion of UFC 244. Jorge Masvidal becomes even more of a superstar, Darren Till arrives at 185, and holy hell, Kevin Lee. All that and more on this episode of Aftermath.
Jairzinho Rozenstruik Adds 29 More Seconds to His UFC Career
Next opponent for Jairzinho Rozenstruik: Alexey Oleynik, Sergey Pavlovich
Jairzinho Rozenstruik added 29 seconds to his UFC cage time, bring his total up to one minute and 32 seconds. In his first two fights in the UFC, he knocked out Júnior Albini and Allen Crowder. These two wins weren’t bad but they were obviously prospect wins. But at UFC 244, Rozenstruik made a giant statement by knocking out former heavyweight champion, Andrei Arlovski.
The knockout of Arlovski is a giant deal for Rozenstruik. While Arlovski is a shell of his former self, his long lasting experience has allowed him to not be knocked out by knockout artists (I use that term loosely) such as Tai Tuivasa, Walt Harris and Augusto Sakai. But the power and speed of Rozenstruik is on another level and could be a problem at heavyweight.
The last heavyweight with this sort of power was Francis N’Gannou, who also had a first round knockout of Arlovski early in his career. Rozenstruik and N’Gannou are on a collision course to throw down in the future, but not next.
Rozenstruik proved he’s ready for the top of the division, that’s why I think he deserves a shot at someone in the top 15. I don’t want him to fight someone with little experience, though. Alexey Oleynik is about as experienced as they come in the UFC. And with a ridiculous ground game, it would be a good idea to actually test Rozenstruik before he takes on the top five of the division.
Staying with experience, but leans more standup, is Sergey Pavlovich. He’s only 14-1, but compared to Rozenstruik’s 9-0 record, he’s more of a veteran. Seeing these two guys stand and trade might extend Rozenstruik’s cage time by a full round.
EDIT: Rozenstruik has accepted a fight against Alistair Overeem at UFC Washington DC.
Corey Anderson Runs Through Johnny Walker
Next opponent for Johnny Walker: Volkan Oezdemir, Ilir Latifi
People are clamoring that Johnny Walker’s hype train has been derailed. But at only 27 years old and in the weakest division on the male side of the UFC, his career is far from a bust. Walker is still a freak of nature with God-given size and power to match. Walker was light on his feet and moved well until the shot from Anderson. That said, this can be a humbling experience for Walker.
Corey Anderson stated that he saw Walker get beat by the exact right hand that he beat Walker with himself. Now, Walker has no excuse to not knowing about it after being publicly called out on it. He made a mistake and now it’s time for him to learn from it and improve.
Volkan Oezdemir is a monster with some power that could test Walker’s improvement after his fight with Anderson. Seeing these two go at it would be a quick fight and would be a Fight of the Night or Performance of the Night contender for either fighter. I would make this fight for Oezdemir regardless of a win or not against Alexander Rakić coming up.
On the other hand, Ilir Latifi is a monster wrestler that’s very durable. He could be the one to drag Walker into deep waters and test him there, something we haven’t seen inside the UFC. Getting Walker to that deep water could give him the experience he needs to start his rise back towards the top of the division.
Next opponent for Corey Anderson: Wait for Jon Jones, Błachowicz/Jacare winner
What bad can you say about Corey Anderson? He had won three fights coming into the Walker fights against tough fighters. Many people counted Anderson out and saw him as a stepping stone for Walker to the top of the division. For that, Corey Anderson had a giant chip on his shoulder coming into UFC 244.
Anderson showed the aggressiveness that many thought he lacked. But, when he had Walker hurt, he pounced like a lion on would’ve prey. It’s time for Anderson to eat.
Now Anderson is prime for a title shot. But, unfortunately for him, there’s others that deserve a shot too. Jon Jones is likely defending his belt against Dominick Reyes early 2020. Anderson might opt to wait on Jones to fight Reyes and he stand in line. In any other division, that wouldn’t fly, but Jones has already beat everyone ahead of him fairly easy. So waiting is possible, but a gamble. If Jon does win, but Jan Błachowicz defeats Jacare Souza in their upcoming fight with emphatic fashion, the UFC could opt for Błachowicz over Anderson.
If Anderson is not so keen on waiting, he can take the winner of Błachowicz and Jacare in a “number one contender spot.” A fight with Błachowicz would be a good rematch from their 2015 fight which Anderson won via decision. Putting the new and improved version of each fighter against each other would be a great fight for fans as well. Should Jacare emerge victorious, he and Anderson would be a classic wrestling versus Jiu Jitsu matchup with vicious striking on both sides; in other words, a barn burner.
Kevin Lee Returns In A Big Fashion
Next opponent for Kevin Lee: Islam Makhachev, Anthony Lee
Kevin Lee came into UFC 244 with a record 1-3 in his last four. Granted, he fought the toughest fighters not named Khabib Nurmagomedov. Losses to Tony Ferguson, Al Iaquinta, and Rafael Dos Anjos set his career back big time. It had Lee convinced to change camps. Now with Firas Zahabi, Georges St-Pierre’s coach, Kevin Lee is the fighter that gained the most after UFC 244.
Lee came out with a low, wide stance, much like GSP. He and Gregor Gillespie threw jabs at each other’s faces. Lee was very patient and it paid off. Lee landed a giant overhand right and a head kick that had Gillespie stiff laying against the cage. Post fight, Lee showed great humility and emotion for such a great performance. His future certainly looks bright.
Looking ahead, Kevin Lee still has proving to do in the UFC’s deepest division. Lee expressed interest in fighting Islam Makhachev in Russia, and we are on board completely. That fight would be another test of Lee’s improved skills, and also gives him another camp of learning under Zahabi before he makes a climb up the division ladder.
Should the UFC go deaf and not make a fight both fighters want, Anthony Pettis would be a great test to see where Lee is in the stand up game. The Duke Roufus former champ is always exciting in the cage and would be main event worthy for a fight night on ESPN+
Nobody Can Knock Out Blagoy Ivanov, Not Even Derrick Lewis
Next opponent does Derrick Lewis: Curtis Blaydes, Alistair Overeem
UFC 244 marked the return of everyone’s favorite post fight interviewee, Derrick Lewis. Lewis took on the unexplainably durable Blagoy Ivanov. Ivanov managed to get Lewis down a couple times and even had him in a kimura for a short while, to which Lewis simply gave the referee a thumbs up. Then Lewis became bored of having Ivanov lay on top of him and simply stood up, like he does with everyone not named Daniel Cormier. Lewis landed his best shots on Ivanov, some wobbled him, but ultimately couldn’t put him away. Regardless, Lewis got the split decision victory and actually showed improved cardio this fight.
Lewis still has some of the best power in the UFC’s heavyweight division. While he lost his first shot at the title, it’s not far fetched to see him getting another shot down the road by simply offing his opponents. Curtis Blaydes is my prime pick for Derrick Lewis. Blaydes has incredible wrestling and would be a good test to see if Lewis can continue to just get up.
A second option would be to have Lewis fight Alistair Overeem. Reem is currently looking for an opponent for December due to Walt Harris having to pull out of the fight to search for his missing daughter. While Lewis may not have time to make that date, he can take on Overeem later on, possibly January or February, if the UFC is open to rebooking Overeem.
Stephen Thompson Heading Back In the Right Direction
Next opponent for Stephen Thompson: Santiago Ponzinibbio, Leon Edwards
Stephen Thompson was the victim of unfortunate circumstances. After fighting to a majority draw with Tyron Woodley, then dropping the rematch, Thompson lost a fight that could go either way to Darren Till. He did beat Jorge Masvidal, which looks phenomenal on paper now. After the Till loss, Thompson lost to Anthony Pettis, a fight he was dominating before getting beat by a classic Showtime moment. He seemingly became passive and not the karate master we saw running up to his title shot.
Vicente Luque brought it out of him. Thompson was aggressive and kept the pace up the entire fight. He was efficient, and collected under pressure. Luque had Thompson backpedaling a few times in the fight. Thompson would simply get out of danger, reset, and get back to his game plan.
Now I want to see more of this old Stephen Thompson. I want to see him in a striking exhibition. So let’s match him with Santiago Ponzinibbio and see what happens. It will be a fight that is sure to wow people and also a win for either gets both fighters closer to a title shot.
If Ponzinibbio doesn’t want the fight, let’s give Thompson something worth his time. Masvidal is obviously getting the winner of Usman and Covington next month. Leon Edwards is without a fight and looking to go. While he may be looking for a fight a little sooner, he and Thompson can meet in the middle. A win for Edwards would add “former title challenger” to his resume. Should Thompson win, he’s back in the top five. A win-win for the UFC.
Darren Till Now on Middleweight Fast Track
Next opponent for Kelvin Gastelum: Yoel Romero, Derek Brunson
After Israel Adesanya defeated Kelvin Gastelum, I said Adesanya benefitted from the war and improved as a fighter. I was curious to see Gastelum’s growth after that fight as well. Darren Till was a good test for that.
Unfortunately, Gastelum did not look like the same fighter against Till as he did against Adesanya. He didn’t look bad, per say, but he didn’t show much improvement. He did produce more clinch time than he did with Adesanya, but Till was much too strong.
Now, Gastelum is way off on his goals for a title. He’s in desperate need of a bounce back fight. It’s time to let Gastelum free. Give him the wild fight he excels in. What I’m saying is Kelvin Gastelum and Yoel Romero. No other explanation is needed, you know it’s a good fight. Just make it.
If you’re not satisfied with that matchup, let’s get Gastelum matched up with Derek Brunson. Brunson isn’t a banger like the Yoel fight is, but it’s super logical. Brunson is a borderline contender with a two fight win streak who deserves a bone from the UFC. Gastelum beating Brunson would be a confidence boost for Gastelum to get him on track again.
Next opponent does Darren Till: Jared Cannonier, Jacare Souza
The Kelvin Gastelum fight was a brilliant move for Darren Till. With Gastelum ranked at four in the middleweight rankings, beating Gastelum vaulted Till into the top five of the division.
While Till did look trigger shy at times at UFC 244, he certainly looked to be much healthier and less compromised than he was at 170. Middleweight is truly his home. His hands were fast and he was technically sound in the Gastelum fight. This win was something Till sorely needed.
Looking ahead, there’s a slight chance Till faces Adesanya. With Costa hurt, Romero 1-3, and having beat Gastelum, Till is right there. But being 1-2, I don’t think that fight will happen. I would like to see Till face Jared Cannonier, someone much bigger than what he’s faced before. I want to see Till fight when his size advantage is gone.
Another good fight to make, should get lose his fight with Błachowicz, is Jacare. He would likely return to middleweight and I want to see the aggressiveness of Souza and Till’s sniperesque fighting go at it.
Jorge Masvidal: The True BMF
Next opponent for Nate Diaz: Rafael Dos Anjos, Tyron Woodley
Nate Diaz was completely outclassed in the BMF title fight at UFC 244. To be fair, I don’t think that was the real fight to make, hindsight 20-20. Nate Diaz is a good fighter but he’s not a true top five, especially at welterweight. But I feel like Diaz wants to, and will, stay at 170.
His performance was wasn’t bad. It was very Nate Diaz-like: get punched and punch back. Unfortunately for Diaz, Masvidal punches hard. Real hard. Now the UFC has a superstar in a weird spot. Diaz isn’t good enough to be a top five welterweight but he won’t fight at 155.
Assuming he fights again (knowing he very well might not because that’s what Nate Diaz does), it will likely be a 170 bout. The UFC can always use Diaz’s star power to build other stars around the division. A win over Diaz would provide massive exposure to the more casual fans.
Rafael Dos Anjos was mentioned earlier in the article, but I feel as if he fits into the picture here as well. Dos Anjos beat him in the first fight but that was in 2014 and Nate’s rise to fame didn’t come until the McGregor fights. Having Dos Anjos Fight Diaz and boost his star power slightly.
Another that could use the boost in popularity is none other than Tyron Woodley. There’s no way Woodley is getting a rematch with Kamaru Usman any time soon. While I feel like Woodley would smash Diaz into next week, fans would lap that up, helping Woodley build some sorely needed star power.
Next opponent for Jorge Masvidal: Usman/Covington winner, Conor McGregor
What else can you say about Jorge Masvidal’s UFC 244 performance aside from flawless? He seized the moment when he was in the biggest stage of his career for the second strait fight and wowed fans with an amazing performance. He was fast, powerful and smart in every exchange he was involved with against Diaz.
Now he has two giant options. One option: he can fight the winner of UFC 245’s main event between Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington. He more than deserves the shot. While the Usman fight is exciting in it’s own right, the Covington fight is what I’m looking most forward to. The lead up would be amazing. Two former teammates going at it. Covington and Masvidal don’t like each other anymore and Covington is bound to get under Masvidal’s skin. The last time someone got under his skin, we got the fastest knockout in UFC history. Count me in for a title shot. It’s the right call.
The second side is if Masvidal wants a major check. Conor McGregor says he intends to fight in January then challenge for the BMF belt, who we now know would be Masvidal. McGregor would be the Joker to Masvidal’s Batman and could launch either into a new level of stardom. Plus the pay per view buys would be out of this world. The UFC likes money, don’t count this fight out either.