UFC 247 was overshadowed by terrible and incompetent judging. But, with a new night of fights, we get a new view of the landscape of several divisions in the UFC. We look forward to those divisions and what’s next for some of our favorite fighters in this edition of Aftermath.
Derrick Lewis Goes The Distance, Ain’t Buying Us Shit
Next opponent for Ilir Latifi: Saki/Ivanov winner, Gane/Abdurakhimov winner
I will be the first to admit, I completely counted Ilir Latifi out coming into UFC 247. His last fight against Volkan Oezdemir was a knockout at light heavyweight. There was absolutely no way he could survive anything Derrick Lewis, likely the second hardest hitter in the UFC, had for him. I was completely wrong. Latifi ate shots that would put down any other man. He did manage to get pressure on Lewis, but ultimately could not secure the victory. Latifi might be a little too small at heavyweight, but, I’m not ready to give up on him in the division just yet. He’s an incredibly adept wrestler and with some adjustments on the feet, Latifi can make a run in heavyweight.
Latifi may not have won the fight, but he showed he can compete at a high level in the heavyweight division and will not crumble under the power. Perhaps he was draining himself to get to 205, compromising himself. Unfortunately, there are no clear cut heavyweights for him to fight. Everyone at his level is booked, so Latifi will have to play the waiting game. One fight I like is Augusto Saki and Blagoy Ivanov. Both fighters are very durable and can take some punishment. I would like to see Latifi fight another heavyweight fight and take it the distance, showing off his gas tank, before making a run at heavyweight. He could take on the winner of Saki and Ivanov to do so.
One other fight that I have my eye on for a possible Latifi matchup is Ciryl Gane and Shamil Abdurakhimov. Gane is one of the best prospects in the division. He is getting his first major test against Abdurakhimov. Should Gane get past Abdurakhimov, I would like to see him go up against a pure wrestler like Latifi. It would be a fantastic test for both fighters. Can Gane handle a great wrestler that will lurk near the top of the division? Can Latifi handle incredible kickboxing at heavyweight where he has a size disadvantage? Should Abdurakhimov win, Latifi gets a shot at another ranked heavyweight and gets to test himself against one of the best in the division.
Next opponent for Derrick Lewis: Curtis Blaydes, N’Gannou/Rozenstruick loser
Derrick Lewis might not have got the finish against Ilir Latifi, but he showed tremendous improvement from his last fight against Blagoy Ivanov. His creativity on the feet was leaps and bounds better than in the past. Lewis had some flying knees, switch kicks, and he didn’t just sit behind a 1-2 looking for a power shot. He varied up his striking hiding his power shots behind other shots. I’m very happy with Lewis’ improvement coming out of this fight. He may have been disappointed, but his improvement was fantastic.
Derrick Lewis was dominated by DC in his lone title shot. While he will never get that fight back due to DC retiring, I would like to see Lewis fight another wrestler. Curtis Blaydes is the man for the job. The two have never fought and it would be a good litmus test for both. Can Derrick Lewis handle a wrestler now? Can Curtis Blaydes handle a power puncher like Lewis? Lock them in a cage and lets find out.
One other option is to have him face another top 10 heavyweight. The loser of Francis N’Gannou and Jairzinhio Rozenstruick is prime for a throw down with Lewis. Now before you all go get the pitchforks and crucify me for even remotely booking N’Gannou-Lewis 2, the rematch is likely to happen at some point. I know the first fight was boring, but N’Gannou was mentally not there and Lewis was handicapped. We were robbed. Let’s re-book it if Rozenstruick beats Lewis. The idea behind Rozenstruick-Lewis, should Rozenstruick lose, is simply two bangers banging. Let’s see some violence, why don’t we?
We also got another fantastic Derrick Lewis post fight interview. I want him to win to simply get these until he retires. Check it out!
Valentina Shevchenko Is Practically Invincible at 125
Next opponent for Kaitlyn Chookagain: Jessica Eye rematch, Maycee Barber
Kaitlyn Chookagain was just outclassed by Valentina Shevchenko. She did have the length advantage and we saw Shevchenko somewhat struggle to get inside and get her strikes. But Shevchenko managed to get takedowns and bring the fight to the ground. Chookagain had no answer for Valentina Shevchenko’s ground game that people seem to forget about. Chookagain was put out in the third round with a crucifix and now it’s back to the drawing board.
Chookagain and Jessica Eye have history, the two fought and Eye won by split decision at the end of 2018. Chookagain and Eye can have another three rounds to throw down and see who is the better fighter and who has improved the most since their fight. Eye is coming off of a win from last December and is likely looking to get back in action soon. It would be a good fight to make for fans.
The other option is Maycee Barber. Barber is looking to get to title contention soon after her loss to Roxanne Modafferi. Eye is a step up but Barber is keen on taking challenges like this. Chookagain will likely keep the fight standing, like Barber wants, and would be a banger of a fight. It would fast track Barber, should she win the fight, and would give Chookagain a chance to bounce back with a win.
Next opponent for Valentina Shevchenko: Roxanne Modafferi, Zhang Weili
Valentina Shevchenko proved how complete of a fighter she is at UFC 247. She’s not a knockout artist, on the contrary, she has a quite good ground game. A crucifix is no easy position to get in and Shevchenko set up quite easily. As mentioned earlier, she did struggle with the length of Chookagain, but Shevchenko was patient and waited for Chookagain to make mistakes. She adjusted her gameplan and got the fight to the ground where she could take over.
Roxanne Modafferi is the logical in-division choice for Valentina Shevchenko. Shevchenko called out Modafferi post fight and after Modafferi beat Maycee Barber, she’s the next choice, seeing Shevchenko has beat everybody else. Modafferi earned it with a win over the hot prospect, Barber. The win put her name in the forefront with a great, dominating performance. Now Shevchenko likely wants to extend her legacy in the division, and cleaning it out is where her eyes seem to be set.
The second option is the champion versus champion route. But, it’s not Amanda Nunes. Zhang Weili has made giant waves in the UFC, becoming it’s first Chinese champion when she ran through Jessica Andrade to capture the belt. Weili is set to take on Joanna Jedrzejczyk next month on UFC 248. Should Weili beat Jedrzejczyk, she could be fast-tracked to the super fight that would pit two champions against each other. Shevchenko beating another champion would add to the list that includes Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Holly Holm, boosting her resume for women’s greatest of all time.
Jon Jones Survives Another Close Decision
Next opponent for Dominick Reyes: Jon Jones rematch, Anthony Smith/Glover Texiera winner
Personally, I had Dominick Reyes beating Jon Jones last night. But the judges saw it a different way. They picked Jon Jones via unanimous decision. When you look at the stats, Reyes clearly out struck Jones in the first three rounds. Jones won four and five with more strikes and a takedown in each round. But, Reyes didn’t win, plain and simple. He did give Jones one of his toughest fights, something he’s no stranger to. Reyes went five rounds and now has been to deep waters. He is likely heading to a rematch with Jones in the next year, barring any losses.
Dominick Reyes’ future relies on what Thiago Santos does. Santos and Jones fought to a split decision in Jones last time out. Should Santos be ready, he could fight Jones in a rematch which would have Reyes out of the picture of an immediate rematch. Anthony Smith or Glover Texiera is the option Reyes could take. An emphatic win over someone ranked as high as Smith, he couldn’t be denied his rematch with Jones. Should Texiera win and Reyes and Texiera fight, it would be another win to put him closer to a rematch.
The other, more attractive choice, would be an immediate rematch with Jon Jones. While Jones isn’t without tough fights, Reyes was one of the closer ones. He and Jon’s rematch would be a great experiment. Jon Jones has never had an immediate rematch and been able to test against someone who is fresh off of fighting him. Reyes could make some adjustments to pacing and bring it to Jones, winning the title and setting up a trilogy.
Next opponent for Jon Jones: Thiago Santos, Dominick Reyes
Jon Jones has seemingly regressed as a fighter. He’s had one finish since 2013, excluding the DC knockout that was turned to a no contest. Jones isn’t as creative with his strikes, his wrestling has been ineffective, and he’s looked quite run of the mill. But, he got the job done in the eyes of the judges and that is all that matters. I don’t think Jon Jones moves up to heavyweight. I think he has a date with Israel Adesanya in the next year and a half.
As for now, Jones has a couple options that stand out. Thiago Santos brought Jones to the brink of loss last July. Santos took so much damage in that fight that both of his knees needed surgery. Now, it’s been seven months and by the time Jones is ready to fight again, Santos will likely be ready to get back in the cage. The rematch needs to happen sooner than later, I don’t want to see a five year gap between fights like with Jones and Alexander Gustafsson or even a two year gap like between the two Daniel Cormier fights. Make the Santos fight now, fans deserve it.
If Thiago Santos is not ready and needs more rehab time, make the Dominick Reyes rematch. Jones didn’t do enough to Reyes to put it to rest that the two should never rematch. Plus, having incompetent judges that score the fight 49-46 doesn’t answer many questions for fans. Do it on International Fight Week in Vegas. Or just in Las Vegas in general. Just make sure the judges aren’t terrible and give Reyes a fair shake.