#UFC249 Aftermath: The UFC ReturnsTweet
It has been a long, long time since our last Aftermath piece. But now, we’ve finally been treated to some fights and, boy does it feel nice. Not to mention we have fights on Wednesday too. It’s going to be a wild ride. UFC 249 was incredibly packed and this will be a very in depth episode of Aftermath without a doubt. Let’s dive in!
Bryce Mitchell Puts the “Thug” and the “Nasty” in Thug Nasty
Next opponent for Bryce Mitchell: Herbert Burns, Kron Gracie
Bryce Mitchell might be the best prospect at featherweight. He took on Charles Rosa at UFC 249, who is a very adept Jiu Jitsu player, and made him look novice. Mitchell and Rosa scrambled on the ground all night with Mitchell going between twister attempts and arm triangles. It was by farther best grappling match we’ve seen since Demian Maia and Ben Askren fought at UFC Singapore.
While I think that Bryce Mitchell needs to be tested on the feet before making his climb up the ladder, I am not done seeing the crazy Jiu Jitsu magic from him yet. That being said, I’ve said it in his last fight at UFC DC. I want to see Bryce Mitchell take on Kron Gracie. Just the name alone would be wild. The other Jiu Jitsu wizard that I can see facing off with Mitchell would be Herbert Burns. It’s quite cut and dry here. Bryce Mitchell is insanely good at Jiu Jitsu. I want to test him against the best names and see just how good he really is.
Alexey Oleinik Ekes Out A Win Over Fabricio Werdum
Next opponent for Fabricio Werdum: Stefan Struve, Rothwell/St. Preux winner
On almost the entire other end of the spectrum, two of heavyweight’s best grapplers went at it later on the card at UFC 249. Fabricio Werdum made his return to the UFC after a two year suspension for a failed drug test. It was quite apparent that Werdum had been out for that extended time. He seemed to forget just how high level fighting would be. With that being the case, I’m not willing to say the former champion needs to retire just yet. I believe he suffered a severe case of the ring rust and think he needs to get back to action soon.
Stefan Struve is back in action. Struve is a good opponent for Werdum to see exactly where he stands at 42 years old. Should Struve go out and do something wild, like submit Werdum, it might be that time for Vai Cavalo. Second option is the winner of Ben Rothwell and Ovince St. Preux. Both Rothwell and St. Preux wouldn’t be too far outside Werdum’s wheelhouse but also wouldn’t be too much of a challenge for him.
Next opponent for Alexey Oleinik: Jairzinhio Rozenstruick, Walt Harris
This fight was supposed to be a pretty fun grappling matchup. But Alexey Oleinik threw windmills with his 80” reach that saw him get the nod over another legend of the sport. Oleinik found himself underneath Werdum a couple times but not much happened when he was there. He managed to escape a couple arm bar and kimura attempts.
Oleinik is getting up there in age. He is also 42, but the wild thing is, he still has so much skill. Oleinik faced Maurice Greene who is a fantastic striker. I would like to see Oleinik face another great striker. Jairzinhio Rozenstruick is the man for the job. He’s coming off of a loss on the same card and he needs a rebound fight on his skill-level. The other option is to put him against pure power, that would be Walt Harris. While Harris has a fight with Alistair Overeem, but win or lose, he should take on Oleinik all the same.
Pettis And Cowboy Put On A Show
Next opponent for Donald Cerrone: Carlos Condit, Jim Miller
Donald Cerrone is now on the longest losing streak of his career. But to be fair, he’s fought Tony Ferguson, Justin Gaethje, Conor McGregor and Anthony Pettis. All four of those guys have held belts of some kind at some point. Cerrone fought well at UFC 249. Pettis was just the guy who the judges saw deserving the victory in a close fight. Cerrone isn’t washed up but he is not anywhere near elite anymore, which hurts my heart.
It’s time to get Cerrone some legacy fights. Let’s book him against some legends for him to simply have fun and get paid. Carlos Condit has been trying to come back. With Cowboy fighting at 170 in his last two fights, the weight cut bug might have bit Cerrone again. Cerrone and Condit is a fun fight with plenty of name recognition for fight fans. Second legend fight would be to run it back with Jim Miller. Cerrone won the fight the first time around and Miller has fought quite well the past few fights sans Holtzman. While Miller has been fighting at 155, the two could forgo the weight cut and fight at 170. He and Cowboy would be another good legacy fight.
Next opponent for Anthony Pettis: Rafael Dos Anjos, Robbie Lawler
Anthony Pettis may not be elite anymore, but he is still a damn good fighter. Cerrone looked like the old Cerrone and was aggressive and crisp on his strikes. The decision was unanimous but close and Pettis was shocked by the decision. Pettis fights the big names of the sport and that won’t change in the future. In addition to Cowboy, he’s fought names like Nate Diaz, Stephen Thompson, Tony Ferguson, Dustin Poirier, Jim Miller, Max Holloway, and on and on. That trend will likely continue with Pettis going forward.
Rafael Dos Anjos is the man that took the belt from Anthony Pettis in 2015. With both fighting at 170, it might be time to run that fight back. Dos Anjos and Pettis are not at their champion level when they first fought. But a rematch will be just as fun now at 170. I’m a fan of 170 Anthony Pettis so the second option I really like for him is Robbie Lawler. Lawler is a much bigger guy but the fight will be nothing but fireworks. Pettis-Lawler has enough steam for a main event.
Greg Hardy Fine Under Fire
Next opponent for Greg Hardy: Rothwell/St. Preux winner, Tai Tuivasa
Greg Hardy came out and took a very tough opponent in Yorgan De Castro. De Castro has heavy, heavy hands. Five of his six wins came by knockout. Hardy coming off of a loss to Alexander Volkov where he shined against a fighter way better than him. Hardy may have lost that fight but his stocks rose. The fight with De Castro paid off for Hardy big time. He went the full distance and wasn’t absolutely gassed by the end of the fight.
Now Greg Hardy, who is always controversial, is right on the cusp of a ranked fight. With his fight with Volkov and now the De Castro win, he is one fight from fighting for a ranked spot in the heavyweight division. My first pick for Hardy’s next fight is the winner of Ben Rothwell and Ovince St. Preux. Both are seasoned fighters and will be fantastic tests to see if Hardy is ready to climb the ranked ladder. Second option is Tai Tuivasa. Tuivasa loves to bang. He would be another good test to see how Hardy handles even more fire in the heavyweight division.
Calvin Kattar is the Volkanovski Kryptonite We Don’t Know Yet
Next opponent for Jeremy Stephens: Cub Swanson, Shane Burgos
Something has got to change in Jeremy Stephens’ game plan. His style of brawling and looking for the finish and finish only does not work for him anymore. His opposition knows it’s coming. Now on four losses and a no contest in the middle, Jeremy Stephens might have his foot out the door in the UFC. He needs a win badly. But as I said before, something has to change. Kattar boxed him up their entire fight.
There are not many featherweights Stephens hasn’t fought. While there are up and comers, I really like a rematch for Stephens. Cub Swanson and Stephens fought in 2014, a fight Swanson won. Should Swanson be close to recovering from his knee injury, Stephens might need some time off from the athletic commission. The timelines could line up.
If you’re wanting fresh meat for Jeremy Stephens, Shane Burgos is your guy. Burgos is a skilled boxer as well and would give Stephens incentive to change things up in his camp as well. Burgos and Stephens would also be Fight of the Night material as well.
Next opponent for Calvin Kattar: Yair Rodriguez, Brian Ortega
Calvin Kattar is the dark horse of the featherweight division. With such technically sound hands, Kattar is dangerous to anyone. His only hang up is the loss to Zabit Magomedsharipov at UFC Moscow. After Holloway gets his rematch with Alexander Volkanovski, Magomedsharipov is absolutely next in line for the title. Until then, Kattar will do well to notch another win.
Let’s really test Kattar after his UFC 249 win and pair him with Yair Rodriguez. Rodriguez is fantastic standing up and he and Kattar would go to war. The fight would also serve as somewhat of a number one contender fight to see who is next in line after Holloway and Zabit.
If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, let’s do a stylistic matchup. While Brian Ortega has been beefing with The Korean Zombie, that might not be a logical fight for him with Zabit in the picture. Ortega and Kattar is a classic grappler versus striker matchup. It gives Kattar a very unique challenge with the level of grappling Ortega possesses. On the other hand, it gives Ortega the chance to show his improvement standing up after the beat down Max Holloway put on him in their title fight.
Francis N’Gannou Is Very Scary (Still)
Next opponent for Francis N’Gannou: Title Shot
There is not much scarier than Francis N’Gannou at the moment. As a matter of fact, there are only two fighters that I am confident enough in to say they will absolutely be champion one day: Petr Yan and Francis N’Gannou. In the fight with Rozenstruick, N’Gannou simply brawled and that was enough to get the win in 20 seconds. He didn’t over do it with the technique, he simply didn’t give his opponent room to breathe and that worked perfectly.
N’Gannou needs to learn from Tony Ferguson’s mistakes and not take another fight that isn’t a title shot. He does not need to risk taking a fight that can possible ruin his next shot at a title and huge pay day. In the heavyweight division, there’s so much more that can go wrong. Don’t risk it Francis.
Henry Cejudo Does The Thinkable
Dissecting Dominick Cruz
Dominick Cruz is at a crossroads. He’s lost to Henry Cejudo and doesn’t know where to go from here. He was finished for the first time in his career and just looked a step slower than Henry Cejudo at UFC 249. Wether Cruz decides to fight or retire is yet to be seen. But his time at the elite might be over. Question is will Dominick Cruz want to fight not being the best?
Dissecting Henry Cejudo
Henry Cejudo got what he wanted: an easy fight. He broke down Cruz in the first round and did a fantastic job at the end of the round finishing Cruz. Cejudo retired after the fight was over. It remains to be seen if it’s a negotiation tactic or if what he says is true. Time will only tell.
Justin Gaethje Shocks The World
Next opponent for Tony Ferguson: Dustin Poirier, Charles Oliveria
Tony Ferguson’s story is that akin to Icarus. He flew too close to the sun and lost his wings. I get the bravado, he wanted to prove he was the best. But Ferguson finally found the guy to beat him. Ferguson didn’t fight bad, either. Gaethje just game planned perfect. Now Ferguson has lost his title shot with Khabib and a massive pay day. The story is gone. While Ferguson can rebound and get a title shot, it just won’t be the same.
One good option would be to place a similar fighter to Gaethje against Ferguson. Dustin Poirier has similar striking to Gaethje minus some of the power. He and Ferguson would be an amazing ESPN+ main event and have Fight of the Year potential.
Next option is another Swiss Army knife in Charles Oliveira. Do Bronx is ready to make that leap and he and Tony are insanely comparable with each other on all areas of the mat. Just give me the violence.
Next opponent for Justin Gaethje: Khabub Nurmagomedov
As we stated in our Justin Gaethje analysis piece, he has improved leaps and bounds. He fought a near-perfect fight against Ferguson. He was patient and managed his cardio very well. Gaethje was a new and improved version of himself and showed he is truly one of the best in the division.
Justin Gaethje is now the interim champion and has a date with Khabib Nurmagomedov. The matchmaking is cut and dry. Khabib is the champ. Gaethje is the interim champ. Make it happen. That’s the toughest fight for both of the champs.