I know, that title was so corny. But it is appropriate, Conor McGregor did return last night, and not just to the cage. After another three week drought, we’re back and banging’ better than ever. So let’s dive in to some of our favorite fighters from UFC 246 in the newest edition of Aftermath.
Sodiq Yusuff Still Great Prospect, Gas Tank is In Question
Next opponent for Sodiq Yusuff: Darren Elkins, Bektic/Ige loser
Sodiq Yusuff is one of the brighter prospects coming from the Contender Series. He is fast and powerful as we’ve all seen. Yusuff had his second close call since joining the promotion at UFC 246. He starts off fantastic. He’s fast and has insane power in his hands. Then he quickly fades in the second round and even more in the third. As he gets higher and higher up the totem pole of the featherweight division, cardio will be more and more of an issue. While Yusuff is explosive, he needs to learn to pace himself and start to build cardio if he ever wants to get to the next level.
While Andre Fili is a borderline ranked fighter, I don’t think Yusuff is quite ready for a top fifteen opponent yet. I would like to see Yusuff take one more fight before taking a crack at the top fifteen. I would also like seeing someone tough fight Yusuff again so he can get that experience of pacing himself more. Darren Elkins is one such fighter. He’s hard to put away and he’s experienced as well. It would be a great test to see if Yusuff can make the adjustments needed to take his game to the next level.
Another similar option would be for Yusuff to take on the loser of Mirsad Bektic and Dan Ige. Both are tough fighters. The winner of that fight will likely get a top ten fight and the loser looking in from outside the featherweight rankings. Yusuff fighting either would be, once more, a test of his fight IQ.
Roxanne Modafferi Upsets “The Future,” Maycee Barber
Next opponent for Maycee Barber: Antonina Shevchenko, McCann/Evans-Smith winner
Maycee Barber’s goal to be the UFC’s youngest champion seems unreachable now. After losing to Modafferi at UFC 246, her quest for UFC gold has taken a step back and she might not make the cut now. Barber didn’t fight bad. She obviously injured her leg in the fight. But under pressure she didn’t really crack. She didn’t stop until the final bell rang. When Modafferi was had the advantage on the ground, Barber did a good job reversing and getting in spots where she could do some damage. Barber clearly improved from last fight. But, it wasn’t enough. Her body couldn’t hold up and I’m not sure she would have won the fight with a good knee. There was just too much of a difference in the grappling aspect.
Barber might want to fight a Shevchenko, but it won’t be Valentina. One good option would be for her to fight Valentina’s sister, Antonina Shevchenko. It’s a good test of her striking and would be a fantastic fight, in all honestly.
Another smashing fight would be for Barber to take on the winner of “Meatball” Molly McCann and Ashlee Evans-Smith. The victor would be looking for a step up and Barber needs to bounce back with a win. The fight would give the winner of that fight a stepping stone to what’s next.
Next opponent for Roxanne Modafferi: Lee/Murphy loser, Viviane Araujo
Coming into the Barber fight, Roxanne Modafferi was seen as a sacrificial lamb for Barber. But in our last Aftermath segment we said that Barber and Modafferi would be a good fight to expose Barber to some higher level grappling and a more experienced fighter. Well, Modafferi proved to be too much grappling and experience. It was the biggest win of her career. Modafferi is ready to take the next step in the women’s flyweight division. Modafferi told me in an interview for My MMA News, “I’ve been working a lot with Muay Thai specialist AJ Matthews,” and it showed. Her stand up was improved a great deal.
One option is for Modafferi to take on the loser of Andrea Lee and Lauren Murphy. It’s another ranked bout for Modafferi and would bolster her resume in a division that is constantly looking for contenders.
The second option is another top ten bout with Viviane Araujo. Again, this is a resume builder for Modafferi as she moves up the women’s flyweight rankings making her case for a crack at UFC gold.
Diego Ferreira Is The Real Deal
Next opponent for Anthony Pettis: Christos Giagos, Drew Dober
Anthony Pettis did not have much of an opportunity to fight. The pressure and grappling from Ferreira was just too much for Pettis. While the old Anthony Pettis may be long gone, he still has a lot to give in the sport. Pettis needs a lot to rebound now. Since losing his title, Pettis is only 4-8. Hrs dropped bouts to Rafael Dos Anjos, Eddie Alvarez, Max Holloway, Dustin Poirier, Tony Ferguson, Nate Diaz and now Ferreira. But, Pettis also has wins over Jim Miller, Charles Oliveira, Michael Chiesa, and Steven Thompson in that time too. He’s not losing to scrubs and he’s beating legitimate contenders.
It might be time for Pettis to take a step down in competition for a while and get a win streak started. Christos Giagos is a great fighter and would be a good fight for Pettis to take. He and Giagos can go to battle without much at stake for either fighter. That is also a very winnable fight for Pettis as well and would start him back in the right direction.
A second similar option is Drew Dober. Dober is coming off of a career best win on the same card when he knocked out Nasrat Haqparast. Dober is one of those prospects that can use a win but is also a winnable fight for Pettis as well. You give these young fighters an opportunity to prove themselves against a former champion and you give the former champion a little room to breathe.
Next opponent for Diego Ferreira: Gregor Gillespie, Alexander Hernandez
In our podcast, Diego Ferreira said he had to be hungrier than Pettis in their fight. I never thought he would be that much hungrier. Ferreira dominated Anthony Pettis with a grappling-heavy attack. Pettis is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. For Ferreira to out grapple Pettis is a major accomplishment. Now Ferreira looks towards the top ten of a deep lightweight division.
One option is another grappling test. Gregor Gillespie is coming off of that devastating loss to Kevin Lee. He and Ferreira test each other to see who has the better grappling. Pitting two prospects against each other is seldom a good idea. But this time we have two fighters that need a test. Let’s test them against each other.
The other option is to see the test of pressure. Alexander Hernandez has a different type of pressure from Gregor Gillespie. He drops bombs on anyone in his way. Hernandez is coming off of a win against Francisco Trinaldo and is looking for another test. Diego Ferreira and Hernandez is another fun fight post UFC 246 for fight fans.
Conor McGregor Makes A Statement
Next opponent for Donald Cerrone: Carlos Condit, Oliveira/Lee loser
Donald Cerrone didn’t get the opportunity to showcase anything against Conor McGregor at UFC 246. He didn’t land anything of significance. While Cerrone got paid, he also took some punishment.
Cerrone is at a crossroads. For the second time in his career, he’s dropped three straight fights. But, as with Pettis, he doesn’t lose to slouches. He’s dropped fights to Tony Ferguson, Justin Gaethje and now McGregor.
Cerrone fighting at welterweight might be tempting to return to the weight class. Carlos Condit has been itching to return and was scheduled to fight Mickey Gall late last year. He and Cerrone would be a great legacy fight that fans would eat up.
If Cowboy is keen on returning to lightweight, the loser of Charles Oliveira and Kevin Lee would be a fun fight for the division as well.
Next opponent for Conor McGregor: Jorge Masvidal
There’s not much Conor McGregor did wrong at UFC 246. Even leading up to the fight, it was not the trash talking McGregor we’ve all become accustomed to. He was humble, respectful and honestly, kind of boring.
But when that moment came and the cage was locked, it was a glimpse of what we haven’t seen from McGregor since the Eddie Alvarez fight. He was aggressive and precise. It was refreshing to see. He fought the exact way I think you need to beat Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Now I am of the opinion that McGregor is chasing gold at welterweight. But McGregor will want to take his time and build mass before taking on Kamaru Usman. The real fight to make is Jorge Masvidal, anyhow. Masvidal fought at lightweight once upon a time, so he’s not towering over McGregor. That’s also the money fight. Masvidal is riding a huge wave. He and McGregor are on an undeniable collision course. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the only fight to make right now.