UFC Vegas 8 saw another weekend of fights and division defining moments this past Saturday. From Sean Brady doing what Sean Brady does to Zak Cummings stealing a win over Alessio Di Chirico in literally the last second, the card was not without drama. Unfortunately, one of the fights we discussed in UFC Vegas 7 Aftermath, Cutelaba vs. Ankalaev, was called off. None the less, it’s time to dive into this week’s Aftermath as well as look forward to a few fights on this week’s UFC Vegas 9.
Neil Magny Continues Welterweight Tear
Next opponent for Robbie Lawler: Nate Diaz, Tyron Woodley (at 185)
Robbie Lawler is one of my all time favorite fighters. His run from UFC 171 to UFC 195 showed truly how ruthless Lawler could be. But since losing his belt to Tyron Woodley in 2016, it seems as the days of Lawler’s dominance has come and gone. Lawler notched a win over Cowboy Cerrone after the Woodley loss and now has lost four straight fights: Rafael Dos Anjos, Ben Askren, Colby Covington, and now Neil Magny. Lawler showed shades of his former self in the Magny fight, but only when he was down two rounds and needed a finish. It seems as if the Ruthless One is no more.
I thought to myself that Robbie Lawler was washed. But in all honesty, the game has simply passed him by. He’s not going get flatlined like Chuck Liddell in the twilight years of his career, Lawler just hasn’t evolved. That said, I think there is some fight left in the old dog.
If we want some star power to Robbie Lawler’s name, just say Nate Diaz. Diaz has found a new home at welterweight, apparently. His last four fights, two McGregor, Anthony Pettis, and Jorge Masvidal, have all been at 170. Diaz and Lawler would be a fun fight, and if we’re being honest, it is a winnable fight for Lawler. A five round main event on a pay-per-view would be optimal for Diaz and Lawler to bang.
If Nate Diaz becomes difficult to work with even for a fight with a former champion, which is probable, then there is always the Tyron Woodley rematch. While Woodley is fighting Covington in a couple weeks, a win won’t have Woodley anywhere near a title shot any time soon. As mentioned earlier, Woodley took the belt from Lawler and the rematch that never happened was on the table in Minneapolis in 2019. It had great buzz and fans seemed excited for the rematch. I’m going to float an idea out there though: let’s cut the weight cut and have the fight at 185. Woodley has talked about moving up in weight before his loss to Gilbert Burns at UFC Vegas 1. With Lawler having fought there in the past, the options seem there to make the fight at middleweight.
Next opponent for Neil Magny: Geoff Neal, Stephen Thompson
Neil Magny neutralized everything Lawler had to offer. He kept the pressure on and kept the grappling exchanges throughout the entire fight for the most part. Magny was effective and when Lawler tried to go nuts at the beginning of the third round, he stayed calm and initiated another grappling exchange to take the fight the distance. Magny also used his reach well and used his jab perfectly to keep Lawler off of him and out of his brawling comfort zone.
Magny was originally supposed to fight Geoff Neal on this fight card before Neal pulled out for health reasons. That was a great contender versus contender fight and with the minimal damage Magny took at UFC Vegas 8, he can make a relatively quick turnaround. The logic behind this is simple, they honey-dicked us with this fight and the matchmakers should give it to us, plain and simple.
If the UFC is keen on pushing Magny up the rankings instead of the Neal fight, Stephen Thompson is the fight to make. Wonderboy is looking for a fight and is coming off of a decisive win over Vicente Luque at UFC 244. With the loss to Pettis, Thompson is still recovering from the damage that took on his stature. But fighting Magny could correct that ship. Both fighters are long and would matchup size-wise. Should Magny win, he just beat a top 10 two-time title challenger.
Rakic’s UFC Vegas 8 Win Bodes Well
Next opponent for Anthony Smith: Thiago Santos (if he loses), Nikita Krylov
After last night, I questioned this fight and weather or not Anthony Smith was an actual player at light heavyweight:
And as my good buddy at Needing Artwork said: a little of both. While Smith had a run up to the title, it was never a trailblazing path. On his way up to the title he beat an old Rashad Evans, a just as old Shogun Rua, and a questionable Volkan Oezdemir. Granted the Oezdemir win was good at the time, the other two wins were very over-hyped. Smith’s fight with Jones showed that, he was nowhere near ready to fight the greatest fighter the division has seen. He went on to beat Alexander Gustafsson but now has dropped two straight. His beating from Glover Teixera at UFC Jacksonville was tough to watch and I feared the damage from that fight would carry over into this one. While that didn’t happen, the skill difference was obvious at UFC Vegas 8.
Anthony Smith is now far removed from title contention. There aren’t really many paths to the top for him right now the way the division is booked. That said, there is history with him and Thiago Santos. Santos is booked to fight Glover Teixeira in a couple weeks and should Santos lose to Teixeira, the fight could make sense. Two former title challengers and Santos was the last man to beat Smith at middleweight.
Second option is Nikita Krylov. Krylov just dominated Johnny Walker before the pandemic and is riding high. Krylov is looking for his way into the upper echelon of the division and Smith could be that opportunity. For Smith, it could provide him with a chance at a winnable fight with someone that’s not old and over the hill.
Next opponent for Aleksandar Rakic: Volkan Oezdemir rematch, Teixeira/Santos loser
In last week’s Aftermath column, I said this card would showcase two bright light heavyweight fighters: Magomed Ankalaev and Aleksandar Rakic. Ankalaev was pulled off the card but we did get to see Rakic in action. He put on a beautiful performance against Smith at UFC Vegas 8. Rakic worked the legs early on against Smith, causing him to crumble over a couple times. Smith seemed to want to go to the ground and welcomed Rakic down there. Many thought, myself included, that Rakic wanted nothing to do with Smith, a Jiu Jitsu black belt, on the ground but Rakic proved a point. He isn’t amazing with submissions on the ground, but he isn’t incompetent with the ground and pound or defense either. Another question about Rakic was answered too: his gas tank. He went three rounds and looks to have been able to go two more. Albeit, he dominated and spent most of the fight on top of Smith, so his tank wasn’t taxed as much as it could be.
Many were quick to pit prospect versus prospect after Aleksandar Rakic’s domination at UFC Vegas 8. Jiri Prochazka was the most common name thrown around. I think that is a fun fight but I don’t think it will be next for Rakic. One fight that is wide open for Rakic is the Oezdemir rematch. Oezdemir beat Rakic in a close fight at UFC Busan that went to a split decision. That fight was razor thin and could have gone either way. A rematch with Oezdemir could benefit Rakic and give Oezdemir a familiar opponent after the odd fighting Prochazka that knocked him out. It would also give Rakic a chance to right that perceived wrong.
If the UFC wants to push Rakic more instead of taking their time with him, then the loser of Teixeira and Santos would be a good spot to fit Rakic in. The winner of that fight would likely fight for the title after Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz decide on the new title holder. So the loser would likely be the best bet to get Rakic in line for contention of the title.
Looking Forward to UFC Vegas 9
The UFC will return this weekend with their ninth fight night card in the Apex. The card features two heavyweights at the top as well as several other contenders like Marcos Rogerio de Lima and Alexander Romanov on the prelims.
Michel Pereira To Return to Flippy or Smart Fighting?
Michel Pereira is exciting. In his UFC debut, he showed off his acrobatic skills against Danny Roberts. He then went into his second fight and did the same thing to Tristian Connelly but then was wrestled to death after blowing his gas tank. Then, at UFC Rio Rancho, Pereira was dominating the veteran Diego Sanchez. Pereira threw an illegal knee, and Sanchez said he couldn’t fight. It was marred in controversy because Sanchez wasn’t that hurt from the knee, but knew he wasn’t going to win the fight if he didn’t take the DQ. Regardless, Pereira is back. Will he get back to the formula that saw him dominate the TUF 1 veteran Diego Sanchez or will he come to flip and do the crazy thing he’s become known for.
Overeem and Sakai Is Odd Matchmaking But Fun
The main event features the legendary Alistair Overeem as he takes on Brazil Contender Series, Augusto Sakai. The fight seems like a test for Sakai, who packs power in his hands. Overeem, who’s chin isn’t what people would say is “good” is taking on yet another power puncher. Jairzinho Rozenstruick knocked him out in the last second and Walt Harris almost finished Overeem in May. Reem is a skilled striker and having him as a test to these young guys is what the UFC uses him for these days. Overeem says he’s on the last title run of his career. A loss here could retire the former K-1 champion. If smart Overeem shows up that takes his time boxing, he could drag Sakai into deep waters and notch a second straight win.