UFC Rio Rancho Aftermath: Light Heavyweight Taking Shape

Every card we look to what’s next. UFC Rio Rancho is no exception. After a night of fights, divisions take new shape and we get a glimpse into what possible fights we will have in the future. All that on this episode of Aftermath.

#UFCRioRancho Aftermath: Light Heavyweight Taking Shape

John Dodson Back in the Win Column

Next opponent for John Dodson: Chito Vera, Assunção/Garbrandt loser

John Dodson has not had a great run of things since losing his last title shot to Demetrious Johnson in 2015. Since then, he has gone 4-5 including the win last weekend over Nathaniel Wood. It’s not like Dodson has lost to bad fighters either. In the stretch he dropped fights to Johnson, John Lineker, Marlon Moraes, Jimmie Riveria and Petr Yan, all big players.

Dodson fought well all night. Nathaniel Wood backed straight up off of Dodsons blitzes, a big no-no. It was just a matter of time before Dodson caught Wood and put him out. At the very beginning of round three, Dodson runs forward and connects on Woods chin putting him down.

Dodson is struggling to find his spot at 135. While he’s a ways out of a title fight, there are plenty of tremendous fights for Dodson to take. One great option would be Chito Vera for simply excitement’s sake. Chito and Dodson world blow the roof off a stadium and gave fans rowdy from pure violence standpoint.

The second option for Dodson post UFC Rio Rancho is to take on the loser between Cody Garbrandt and Raphael Assunção. Both of these fighters would be on a long losing streak and facing a huge drop in rankings, prime for a setup for a Dodson fight. Dodson would be taking on two guys formerly at the top of the division and a good litmus test for Dodson to move up to top ten competition again.

Ray Borg Misses Weight, Still Impresses

Next opponent for Ray Borg: Alex Perez, Tim Elliott

Ray Borg can’t catch a break. After having six rescheduled or canceled bouts from 2018 to 2019, Borg’s bout back early last year was a loss. He then won his next fight but his future was in question. How long would the UFC executives put up with his inactivity? Then tragedy struck when he missed weight coming into UFC Rio Rancho. It was do or die for Borg. Fortunately he did. And he did big time. He completely dominated Rogério Bontorin from start to finish, dominating him physically even though he was the smaller man.

Ray Borg is long removed from the highlight suplex-to-armbar that will be on UFC highlight reels for years that was done to him by Mighty Mouse. Now, he’s looking to simply find rhythm in his career. But, now with back to back wins for the first time since 2016, things are looking up for Ray Borg. While he did miss the flyweight limit by three pounds, I think this is more of a discipline thing for Borg. He needs to decide if he wants to keep pursuing fighting as a career, and that’s not a knock. Borg is no stranger to tragedy and he might have different priorities. But Borg doesn’t need to take unnecessary damage to his body if he’s not in it, in it.

His future lies in flyweight. Borg was small last weekend and he will be even smaller at 135. He’s nowhere near ready for a title shot, he needs to prove he can make weight a couple times before he gets anywhere close. Alex Perez is one option that would be a tough and competitive fight for Borg. Borg is a wrestling monster for the division and Perez has 7 submission wins on his record, he is no slouch on the ground. It would give Borg the opportunity to actually make weight and have a competitive fight without having major parts of the division held up in the fight.

Another option similar to Perez would be for Borg to take on Tim Elliott. It’s a low stakes fight with room to take a breath and actually make weight. Elliott is tough and would not be a pushover for Borg either. He and Borg would be fast paced action for even a five round fight.

Diego Sanchez Cheeses His Way To A Win

Next opponent for Michel Pereira: Tim Means, Oliveira/Griffin loser

I cannot say enough about Michel Pereira. While he didn’t win the fight, he showed great improvement. I’ll get more into the loss later on. Pereira is the guy who flips in the cage, dances, does everything and he fights at the same time. But it seemed like fighting was secondary for him, and he was there to entertain, as he’s said in interviews. This fight, Pereira showed that he wants to take this UFC blessing seriously and he’s not really just here to entertain, he wants to win. Pereira knew he was at a super high altitude and he didn’t want a repeat of the Tristan Connelly fight where he dominated the first round and gassed for the rest of the fight.

He dominated Sanchez with his size and, while he didn’t flip and do all the stuff we expected him to do to lose the fight, he was still entertaining. We saw some Showtime cage kicks, flying knees, and the likes. But he wasn’t over the top. I feel like this is more of what Pereira needs to be. Unfortunately he made a mistake and threw an illegal knee that cost him the fight.

Pereira essentially outclassed a veteran opponent in Diego Sanchez. He’s ready for the next level of competition after showing his improvement at UFC Rio Rancho. Tim Means is an opponent in that skill level. He would get to show everyone that he’s a force to be reckoned with in the welterweight division should he get past Tim Means.

The other option would be to take on the loser of Alex Oliveira and Max Griffin. Both are veterans that are a little closer to their primes than Diego Sanchez and would be in that competition step up for Pereira.

Diego Sanchez’s Veteran Move

Diego Sanchez is nowhere near the same fighter anymore. He came out with a rolling thunder to set the pace for the fight, but it was downhill from there. He was just the much smaller man in the cage against Pereira. Sanchez couldn’t get any good strikes off on Pereira without getting bludgeoned himself. He couldn’t wrestle like he wanted to, Pereira had obviously game planned well coming into the fight.

Then, Pereira threw the knee to the grounded Sanchez. Unlike the Brok Weaver-Rodrigo Vargas fight, Sanchez could have very well continued to fight. He did have a cut, but it wasn’t impending his vision. Sanchez asked the referee if it would be a disqualification if he said he couldn’t fight and then decided he couldn’t fight. It was a veteran move, Sanchez knew he was obviously losing the fight and there was almost no shot at a knockout in the third round. So he took his out and took the win. I wasn’t a fan of this move, however. While I see where he was coming from, the shot was very much illegal, Sanchez was able to fight still. But, a win is a win.

Jan Blachowicz is Next In Line for Jon Jones

Next opponent for Corey Anderson: Aleksandr Rakic, Shogun Rua

After his win over Johnny Walker, Corey Anderson felt like he needed to make some noise and start the trash talking to get a title shot. And with four wins in the light heavyweight division, he was right there. Unfortunately, he had the rematch with Blachowicz. Now, Anderson and all of his hype has been derailed and it will be a while before he gets a whiff of the title.

Anderson is in a bad spot now. Light heavyweight is pretty mapped out now. Ahead of Anderson is now Jan Blachowicz, Thiago Santos and Dominick Reyes. So where’s to go?

Aleksandr Rakic is one option that is coming off of a loss. He and Anderson are looking for a rebound fight. The winner would be looking for a turnaround going forward in 2020. It won’t take much to get a title shot once light heavyweight irons it’s top three out.

The second option is a rematch with Shogun Rua. Anderson and Shogun fought to a split decision back in 2016. It was a close fight and it’s time to see if Shogun is having a resurgence or if Anderson is the real deal and just got caught.

Next opponent for Jan Blachowicz: Jon Jones, Dominick Reyes

Jan Blachowicz did everything right in his fight with Corey Anderson. Anderson pushed the pace quite sloppily and Blachowicz made Anderson pay the price. A huge overhand right and put Corey Anderson down for the count. Blachowicz marched right over to Jon Jones and took his shot at calling out the champ.

So now Blachowicz is in the running for a title shot with Jon Jones. He is one third of the race with Thiago Santos and Dominick Reyes. So, now it’s up to what Jon Jones wants to do. He might want a fresh name to his resume. Blachowicz would be that new name for Jon Jones to fight.

The second option would be if Jones elected to fight someone else, likely Thiago Santos. If that’s the case, Blachowicz and Dominick Reyes would be a great option. The play is still there if Jones fights Reyes instead. It would have some flair to it, Santos was the last man to bear Jan Blachowicz.