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Okay, I expected UFC 259 to be a lot to unpack. It was that and more. So much happened that I expected and did not expect. So, we’re going to dive in to the latest edition of Aftermath.
An Aging And Declining Dominick Cruz
I’m not saying Dominick Cruz sucks, but he’s obviously not the same as he was. Cruz is still fast but not as fast. On the broadcast, the commentary (who was terrible all night), brought up his age and lack of damage. But what they failed to think about is the amount of time Cruz has been out had the game catching up and passing him by.
But, all said, Dominick Cruz has not been completely figured out by all fighters yet. Just because he lost to Cody Garbrandt and Henry Cejudo doesn’t mean Casey Kenney can come in and replicate that. Cruz lulled Kenney to sleep and looked like Dominick Cruz. He just wasn’t.
Aleksandar Rakic Points His Way To A Win Over Thiago Santos at UFC 259
Next opponent for Aleksandar Rakic: Magomed Ankalaev, Prochazka/Reyes winner
Aleksandar Rakic is a problem. His win over Thiago Santos at UFC 259 was thought to be a barn burner, instead, Rakic put on a class act and a masterful performance. Santos is a bull in a china shop. But Rakic neutralized the wild and reckless abandon that Santos has that has got him wins over some of the best in the division, including a win over now-champion, Jan Blachowicz.
Rakic kept Santos on the end of his jab and with the teep to the body. Santos, who thrives in the pocket, struggled to get any offense going. While the commentary (another example of the bad night Rogan and DC had) said that Santos could still be suffering from mobility issues after the double knee surgery after the Jones fight. But that didn’t stop him against Glover Teixeira in his return from the surgery. Rakic was just a smart fighter.
Now, Rakic is in a spot for a number one contender fight in the light heavyweight division, which is alive and well now. I said in UFC Vegas 20 Aftermath that Magomed Ankalaev should get the loser of Rakic and Santos. With Blachowicz winning and calling his next shot, it makes sense that the winner of that fight, Ankalaev, and this one fight for the number one contender spot. Plus, two great prospects fighting for the title is always fun.
The second option for Aleksandar Rakic is the winner of Jiri Prochazka and Dominick Reyes. Prochazka is a win into his UFC run and Reyes has challenged for the title twice. The two meet with a lot of hype behind Prochazka. Reyes looks to rebound from his loss to Blachowicz for the vacant title. The winner of that looks to get to the title shot but they should have to go through the surging Rakic.
Islam Makhachev Is Not Khabib 2.0, But He’s Still Really Good
Next opponents for Islam Makhachev: Tony Ferguson, Dan Hooker
While he’s heralded as the next Khabib Nurmagomedov, Islam Makhachev is one of the most hyped prospects at 155. His fight with Drew Dober at UFC 259 was a great performance, but to call him the next Khabib is reaching. While Makhachev is very good, a title contender even, he’s not going to be Khabib or even close. His performance was great, but it wasn’t against anyone ranked, no offense to Dober.
What Makhachev needs is a signature win. He called Tony Ferguson out in his post fight speech and I really like that fight. Tony has lost two straight, both horrible showings. Ferguson needs a win and a fight with 14th ranked Makhachev could entice him. Plus, we never got to see Khabib vs. Tony and this could be the Great Value version of Khabib vs. Tony.
The real reason I like the Ferguson fight for Makhachev is because I want him to fight someone that’s been there. I like Dan Hooker for that same reason. Hooker was brought to hell and back in his loss to Dustin Poirier. He’s now dropped two straight and needs a win. Makhachev could use Hooker as his way into the elite of the stacked lightweight division.
Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan Ends In An Unfortunate Manner
Perhaps the most bizarre title fight in UFC history, Aljamain Sterling captured the belt from Petr Yan due to a disqualification for an illegal knee. The fight ended as the doctor called the fight off after Yan blasted Sterling in the face, likely concussing him.
Aljamain Sterling is a fun fighter. But he was getting beat by Petr Yan at UFC 259. Yan is a slow starter and Sterling came out red hot. He pushed the pace and paid for it by gassing out. Yan started to take over and was in full control in rounds four and likely in round five. But Sterling’s gameplan and reliance on the takedown backfired badly and almost cost him the fight if not for Yan’s ignorance.
Petr Yan was on the way to winning the fight and showed some very good striking and trips, outwrestling the Funk Master. It was unfortunate that Yan threw the knee. But it was an illegal strike and the disqualification was proper. These two need to run this back. It will also let TJ Dillashaw find his place in the division.
Amanda Nunes, Destroyer of Divisions
Next opponent for Amanda Nunes: doesn’t matter
Megan Anderson was no match for Amanda Nunes at UFC 259. Nunes is quite literally the complete package and the only name that comes close to her is Valentina Shevchenko, who has already lost to Nunes twice.
Amanda Nunes’ performance at UFC 259 was more of the same from the most dominant women’s fighter of all time. Much like the de Randamie fight, Anderson had the length advantage. So Amanda Nunes forgoes the power and decides to avoid any danger by getting to the ground. Anderson got caught by a triangle early in the first and it was all over.
As for what’s next for Amanda Nunes, it doesn’t really matter. She’s the queen. She’s conquered every mountain shown. The only thing left for Amanda Nunes is to distance herself from whoever becomes champion when she gets tired of winning and wants to spend more time with her family.
One interesting fight would be Danyelle Wolf at 145. Wild takes on Felicia Spencer in May which is a tough task. Wolf is a former pro boxer that compiled a 30-14 record with no belts. But even then, that fight would just end up on the ground. Unless Nunes wanted to prove a point and box with her. That could pave a way to a new challenge for Nunes in boxing possibly under the long rumored Zuffa Boxing banner.
Jan Blachowicz Shocks Everyone By Decisioning Israel Adesanya
Next opponent for Israel Adesanya: Darren Till if victorious, Robert Whittaker 2 if victorious
UFC 259 was supposed to be the next step in the legacy for Israel Adesanya. Instead, he lost a decision to Blachowicz in a very unconvincing fight for the middleweight champion. Adesanya looked slow, small and out of his league against the Polish champion. Leading up to the fight week, Izzy said he was going to come in light and he paid the price for it. Blachowicz was just the stronger guy. I feel that Adesanya didn’t take the move to light heavyweight serious enough and got out muscled. In the past, most fighters have taken time to move up a weight class, especially if it was more than 10 pounds. Nunes moved up to 145 and took time to pack on muscle against a big Cyborg. Georges St-Pierre went to great lengths to get big for the move from 170 to 185. Now, Jon Jones is taking time to bulk up to move to heavyweight. If Adesanya wants to be serious at 205, which he says he will be back, he needs to take the same approach.
Adesanya says he’s moving back down to 185. One good fight he’s been wanting for some time is a fight with Darren Till. Till is coming off a close loss to Robert Whittaker and fights Marvin Vettori in April. A win from Till could have Adesanya calling the shot and taking in Till in his next defense. I don’t see Vettori getting the title shot with a win, however, and will likely need one more win.
There’s really nothing else for Israel Adesanya at 185 that he hasn’t done yet. Robert Whittaker is the obvious choice but he has to beat Costa first. Costa won’t get the rematch if he wins however. Whittaker makes more sense because of the past win over Till and could get the nod over the Englishman.
Next opponent for Jan Blachowicz: Glover Teixeira
Many people, myself included, counted Jan Blachowicz out of the fight with Israel Adesanya. He was simply the paper champion keeping the belt warm for Stylebender after it was vacated by Jon Jones. Blachowicz showed that he and other light heavyweight fighters are capable of implementing game plans and being skillful. Blachowicz showed awesome fight IQ with the pursuit of the takedowns knowing he was the stronger man in the cage. While he was the champion after beating Reyes at UFC 253, it feels more legitimate after beating Izzy.
Now proven himself one of the best, Jan Blachowicz can begin to take real fights in the division as a champion. While the Adesanya fight was a great sideshow, light heavyweight has some great contenders in the ranks chomping at the bit for a shot at the belt.
The only real choice that makes sense is Glover Teixeira. He is on a 5 fight win streak with very good wins over Santos, Smith, Krylov, Cutelaba and Robertson. Glover has done more than enough to earn his second title shot and he deserves it without a doubt. Blachowicz called out Teixeira after the fight too and it makes sense to have the two wait and fight each other. Teixeira would be stupid to fight again instead of fight for the title with a couple more months of a wait.
Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to check out Aftermath’s sister column, Beforemath. It drops every Wednesday for free on Rokfin!