Playing Promoter: Fights to make after UFC 255

Playing Promoter: Fights to make after UFC 255

The UFC‘s latest PPV offering ended in a couple of dominant displays from flyweight champions Deiveson Figueiredo and Valentina Shevchenko, who both retained their titles via submission and wide points decision respectively. Elsewhere on the main card there were wins for Tim Means, Katlyn Chookagian and Paul Craig.

Like always attention turned to what was next for both champions, with a number of interesting challengers emerging in what is admittedly two of the weaker divisions in the promotion. Here are some compelling matchups that could be made following UFC 255.

Figueiredo (20-1) looked superb in submitting former Contender Series alumni Alex Perez in under two minutes in his first title defence, and is well and truly dispelling the myth flyweights are ‘boring’. Dana White all but confirmed the Brazilian and Brandon Moreno, who beat Brandon Royval on the prelims, would be sticking around Vegas and squaring off as soon as December, in what would be the quickest turnaround for any champion in the company’s history. Already ranked at #1 heading into what had been spoken about as a number one contender matchup with Royval, a fast paced and entertaining first round ended in disappointment as ‘Raw Dawg’ dislocated his shoulder and was pounded out as he tried in vain to put it back into place. With Cody Garbrandt not ready till March of next year, Moreno (18-5-1) seems the clear next man in line.

In the co-main Valentina Shevchenko (20-3) defended her 125 lbs strap for the fourth time with a unanimous points decision win over the game but overmatched Jennifer Maia, with scores of 49-46 x3. Shevchenko often looks so far ahead of her contemporaries that it is difficult to even imagine someone giving her trouble, that being said Jessica Andrade’s subsequent move up in weight and stoppage win over former title challenger Katlyn Chookagian marks the first time in a while there seems to be a genuine contender to the Russian’s throne. A former strawweight UFC champion, Andrade (21-8) fought the best at 115 lbs, reaching the summit of the division with a come from behind stoppage victory over Rose Namajunas in May of 2019. The 29 year old is on paper at least the toughest test of Valentina’s flyweight run and would be a great feather in her cap if she was able to come out victorious.

With all the attention on the divisive Mike Perry heading into his bout with welterweight veteran Tim Means (31-12-1 1NC) no one really knew what to expect from the alarmingly erratic brawler from Michigan. What we got was the 36 year old Means not just matching the younger man, but out landing and out hustling him on route to a unanimous decision win with scores of 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28. With four wins in his last six and two in a row, Means should be matched accordingly taking his age and damage resistance into account, someone along the lines of Brazils Claudio Silva would make sense for ‘The Dirty Bird’ next. Suffering his first UFC loss last time out at the hands of James Krause, the 38 year old is a BJJ black belt under Ricardo Vieira and matches up well physically with Means.

Rebounding from a tough first round defeat to Jessica Andrade, former title contender Katlyn Chookagian (15-4) ensured she remains in the title picture with a unanimous decision win over touted prospect Cynthia Calvillo. In a cross roads bout between a former bantamweight who seemed on the way down and a rising former strawweight, Chookagian utilised precision, range and movement to outpoint Calvillo in what was largely a boxing match. Back in the win column and with little to no chance of her fighting for the belt next, Chookagian should rematch surging contender Lauren Murphy next. Murphy (14-4) has gone 5-1 since dropping a decision to the 31 year old Pennsylvania native four years ago and is currently on a four fight win streak. With the potential for the winner of this fight to get a title shot, its really the only fight that makes sense.

Scotland’s Paul Craig (14-4-1) earned a big win in his rematch with former UFC and PRIDE champion Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, and while it is probably time for the 38 year old Brazilian legend to call it a day, it is worth remembering he came into the bout with a respectable 5-1-1 record in the last five years. Craig made the perennially tough Rua tap to strikes in the second round, earning his first win streak in the UFC and taking his record in the company to 6-4-1. With Craig likely moving up one to #14 in the rankings, a fighter ranked above him that would make sense would be Russia’s Johnny Walker currently sitting at #9. Viewed by many as the next big thing at 205 lbs, the Johnny Walker (18-5) hype train lost some steam after back to back losses to Corey Anderson and Nikita Krylov, but after returning to winning ways back in September a fight with Craig offers an intriguing clash of styles and will see the winner advance to bigger and better things.


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