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I never thought we were going to make it to this point. But we have come to the end of the 2020 year and we’ve wrapped up 24 weeks in a row of events in the UFC. UFC Vegas 17 capped off the tumultuous 2020 and ended the UFC’s year on a good note. So without further adieu, the last Aftermath of 2020.
Don’t forget to check out the Beforemath section out on Rokfin every Wednesday for free! While there will not be a new one this week, or for a couple weeks for that matter, I’ll be uploading some cool stuff like exclusive Rokfin podcasts in the meantime.
There is so much to discuss on UFC Vegas 17. From Christos Giagos on two days notice to Gillian Robertson and Taila Santos going at it on the ground, and Anthony Pettis surviving the early onslaught of Morono, there was a lot to unpack from last night’s card. So we will have to abbreviate and start from higher up on the card than normal.
Marcin Tybura Answers The Greg Hardy Question: Can He Wrestle?
The answer is no, Greg Hardy cannot wrestle. As a matter of fact, Hardy is absolutely clueless on the ground. He’s been spoon fed quasi-strikers to grow his skill set and improve his grappling. He looked absolutely helpless once Marcin Tybura got the fight to the ground, it was all but over, and you could see it though Hardy’s eyes.
That’s not to say this was a total loss for Hardy. In the first round, he looked improved on the feet and was well measured. He didn’t blitz Tybura and actually fended off a couple take down attempts. I’ve said it for a while now, Greg Hardy is improving, weather you like him or not. Now, I don’t believe Greg Hardy belongs in the UFC at this time and should be among the roster cuts, but his villainy will likely keep him around.
…Well Rob Font is Pretty Damn Good
Next opponent for Rob Font: Munhoz/Rivera winner, Merab Dvalishvili
Rob Font showed out at UFC Vegas 17. Marlon Moraes looks to be shot, however, having been knocked out twice in his last two, which is insane considering Aldo not finishing him. But, Font showed that his hands are among some of the best in the division and he can be a force to be reckoned with.
With bantamweight being stacked and slow, Font’s way to the title is going to require patience and two more wins. He’s going to have to let Yan and Sterling settle their beef and let TJ Dillashaw make his way back into contention as well. But, with Pedro Munhoz and Jimmie Rivera set to fight at the end of January, the winner could be a potential target for Font. A win over either, in addition to the Moraes win would allow him to make his case for a number one contender fight.
If Munhoz and Rivera is not very compelling for Font for whatever reason, Merab Dvalishvili is a second option. Dvalishvili is a superb grappler and could use a stand up test, and vice versa for Font. Dvalishvili was supposed to fight a week or two ago before his opponents were pulled from the fight. Font, not taking much damage, could make a relatively quick turnaround and put on a good show with Dvalishvili.
Michel Pereira Tames Khaos Williams at UFC Vegas 17
Next opponent for Michel Pereira: Niko Price, Mike Perry
This was one of those prospect-on-prospect fights that I was really intrigued about going into UFC Vegas 17. Michel Pereira proved to everyone that he is no longer the high flying sensation that puts on a show over the prospects of winning a fight. Since the Diego Sanchez fight, he’s shown a more measured approach while still entertaining people with the occasional acrobatic stunt. Khaos Williams is known for nuking his opponents. Going into the fight with Pereira, he had not yet totaled an entire minute of fight time inside the UFC yet. Pereira successfully kited Williams around the ring and got off the more shots. Many saw this fight closer than it actually was. Williams was left chasing all night, whiffing at a Michel Pereira that was perpetually not there.
Now, Pereira is ready for the top of the division and a shot at a ranked opponent. But with how the division is booked, I feel there will be one more fight for him before getting a shot at a number by his name. That’s why I believe Niko Price is the fight for Pereira. Price is on the cusp of being ranked as well but has not really panned out in the UFC. A win over Pereira would be him proving himself. Pereira, should he win, would prove that he’s ready for that step to try to be ranked.
If we’re going all out there on Michel Pereira, Mike Perry is the guy. People watch Mike Perry, and good or bad, he always brings a fight. Pereira beating Perry would be a boost to his popularity which is already sizable early on. A knockout of Mike Perry is even bigger of a boon to Pereira. Plus, the lead up and hearing Mike Perry talking about the Pereira antics would be insanely fun.
Jose Aldo Sons Chito Vera
Next opponent for Chito Vera: Sean O’Malley rematch, Nathaniel Wood
I really thought this would be the coming out party for Chito Vera. After dismantling Sean O’Malley, I felt like he could get the job done against Aldo. Boy, was I wrong on this one. Vera was dominated. When he tried to get the same leg kick gameplan going against Aldo that he did against O’Malley, Aldo actually checked the kick, and that just ruined Vera’s night. Vera was overreacting to Aldo all night, and at one point he threw a leg kick and covered up at the thought of Aldo firing back. It was all-in-all an ugly night for Vera at UFC Vegas 17.
Of course the best fight for Vera is the O’Malley rematch. While he finished the Suga Show, it wasn’t without controversy, with O’Malley’s leg likely dead. O’Malley is eager to get back at Vera and is extra salty as seen in the two tweets above. While there’s not much excitement for me about this fight, I will admit to unfinished business.
Next option for Vera is an unranked opponent like Nathaniel Wood. Wood lost to Casey Kenney and is looking for a fight to bounce back on while getting his shot at the top 15. Vera, with a win over Wood, would put himself back in the win column and start his way back up after a tough fight in Jose Aldo.
Next opponent for Jose Aldo: Dominick Cruz, TJ Dillashaw
Jose Aldo looked fantastic at UFC Vegas 17. He seems to be handling the weight cut well, even if he’s not winning his fights all the time. That said, he won this one convincingly. There was not a part of the fight where Aldo was in trouble against Vera. The body work was great and Aldo out grappled Vera as well, dashing his hopes at a title shot for now.
I will never stop calling for Aldo and Dominick Cruz now that Cruz is back and Aldo is a legit contender. Cruz is fighting Casey Kenney next month and should he win that, I’m all in for the legend versus legend matchup.
But, I am forced to admit, TJ Dillashaw versus Jose Aldo is a great fight. Aldo gets a shot at someone who held the belt at bantamweight, and getting a step closer to the title. Dillashaw gets to add a name to his record that many thought we’d never see. It gives Dillashaw a chance to get back in the swing while Yan and Sterling fight, whenever that may be.
Wonderboy Wows Geoff Neal
Next opponent for Geoff Neal: Neil Magny, Vicente Luque
Geoff Neal had nothing for Wonderboy at UFC Vegas 17. Neal struggled to gauge distance, rarely had the option to clinch, and overall had nothing to offer Thompson in their fight in the APEX. While he was outclassed all night, Neal can use this as a learning experience and learn that while he is a fantastic fighter, he’s got a long way to the top if he wants to be the champion. His five fight win streak in the UFC may be over, he’s still got tons of potential to give.
One fight we were supposed to get was Neil Magny back in August before Geoff Neal was pulled due to COVID. Now coming off of a loss, and Magny coming off of a win, it’s the perfect time for both Magny and Neal to square off and finish that business of theirs.
Vicente Luque is my second pick for Geoff Neal. Luque also has a loss to Wonderboy but has rebounded to win two straight. Luque brings the heat and is the exact type of fighter that can really let Geoff Neal shine, and the other way around. Putting Neal and Luque in the ring together will be dynamite, three rounds or five.
Next opponent for Stephen Thompson: Jorge Masvidal, Edwards/Chimaev winner
Stephen Thompson was a master at UFC Vegas 17. He completely controlled the fight with Neal and didn’t give him much room to do what he does best. Thompson stayed on his toes the entire fight and with all the movement and feints, confused Geoff Neal and made him get off first a lot less than he’s accustomed to. Thompson’s footwork was top notch as usual, even in the smaller cage. He consistently circled and pivoted out from Neal’s attacks, frustrating the newcomer all night.
Stephen Thompson is one of my favorite fighters to never win the belt. At 37, that option is far from there and to be honest, his time could run out any day now. But, as he wins, his case grows. His call out of Jorge Masvidal was perfect in his post fight interview. Masvidal and Thompson fought way back in 2017. With the huge hype Masvidal has, and how much he’s improved as a fighter, the rematch would be perfect to see how Masvidal has progressed. While there’s rumors he’s fighting Covington next, a much more compelling fight if we’re being honest, getting a win back over Wonderboy would be great for Masvidal. For Thompson, the win over Masvidal would leapfrog him over Edwards, likely putting him ahead in line for a title shot, and one win away.
But, Masvidal is likely fighting Covington, as mentioned. So he will likely be the odd man out with Burns and Usman fighting in February for the belt. The winner of Leon Edwards and Khamzat Chimaev is the logical next choice, more so Edwards. This fight will be tough to materialize, regardless of who wins. Leon Edwards goes and beats Chimaev, he’s likely to sit and wait for at title shot, keeping his fingers crossed he gets it over Masvidal-Covington should they fight. With a Chimaev win, he’s skyrocketing to a title shot and Wonderboy will be the odd man out again. But, should Usman opt for Covington-Masvidal’s winner, Chimaev and Edwards could be looking for another win.
With another year in the books, the UFC has done great keeping cards going in the midst of COVID-19 restrictions. They haven’t all been stacked and 2021 will likely offer much of the same early on. But, at least they kept our minds off of the negativity in 2020. See you all in 2021. Happy New Year!