UFC 224 – Matches To Make

Amanda Nunes – After yet another dominant title defence in one of the sport’s most shallow divisions, Amanda Nunes is beginning to run out of compelling challengers. As the Bantamweight division currently stands, only one contender is worthy of a shot at the champion. That contender is Ketlen Vieira.

Kelvin Gastelum – This win has now placed Kelvin Gastelum as the number one contender in the Middleweight division with him likely facing the winner of the upcoming bout between the champion Robert Whittaker and Yoel Romero. The potential matchup between Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum is by far the most enticing Middleweight fight currently available to the UFC.

Mackenzie Dern – As strange as it sounds, winning this fight is, in the long run, going to be bad for Dern’s career. Although she was impressive in her performance, it is clear that Dern has a clear disciple issue. This is not only highlighted by her lack of effort to make weight but also by her split with the MMA Lab. From all indications the split was the result of Dern’s attitude and lack of commitment to learning new aspects of MMA. Dern has the potential to be an exciting prospect but unfortunately, I don’t see her current trajectory leading to a positive end. Her attitude along with the UFC inevitably pushing her too far to fast will likely see her meeting a similar fate to that of her potential future opponent Paige Van-Zant.

John Lineker – ‘Hands of Stone’ continues to be one of the most entertaining fighters on the UFC roster. This fight didn’t show new wrinkles to Lineker’s game but it did showcase him at his very best. For his next bout, a matchup with Cody Stamann would be fantastic.

Lyoto Machida – This was an all-time great KO from an all-time great fighter. Seeing Lyoto return to form in this manner was one of the brighter moments of 2018 for me personally. That being said, I am still not comfortable seeing Machida face top-level Middleweights. At this point in his career, he is most definitely best suited to facing fellow veterans. The idea of a fight with Michael Bisping is intriguing enough but the likelihood of that taking place, unfortunately, grows slimmer every day.

Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos – ‘Capoeira’ Dos Santos is slowly becoming one of the most compelling up-and-coming Welterweights in the world. He is currently on a five fight win streak, with this win being by far the most impressive in both execution and opponent. For his next fight, it is time that he takes a step up in competition and faces Gunnar Nelson upon his return from injury.

Raquel Pennington – It was always going to be a tough hill to climb for Pennington — returning from a one and a half year layoff to face arguably the best female fighter in the world for five rounds. But even with the expectation of this being lopsided, I was uncomfortable watching this fight. It was made abundantly clear that Pennington is not a championship caliber fighter. For her return, after a lengthy layoff, a matchup with Sara McMann would be suitable.

Jacare Souza – Although he is still one of the best fighters in the world and is likely to defeated anyone other than Robert Whittaker, Yoel Romero, and Kelvin Gastelum. Jacare Souza has now shown that he is, unfortunately, one step behind the best Middleweights in the world. For his next fight, a matchup with Chris Weidman would be perfect for both guys.

Brian Kelleher – Although he was on the wrong end of the Lineker freight train for the majority of the fight, Kelleher displayed the admirable levels of heart and toughness we have come to expect from him. This was a tough set back but it will not be an insurmountable one for Kelleher. For his return, a matchup with Brett Johns will be just right.

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