Fights to Make after UFC Vegas 19: Lewis vs. Blaydes

            Following an action-packed UFC Vegas 19 filled with upsets and rising prospects, there are lots of great fights to be made. Derrick Lewis reminded everyone that it only takes one despite Curtis Blaydes’ strong opening round, and the heavyweight division added two fighters to look out for in Tom Aspinall and Christopher Daukus. That being said, here are the fights I would like to see made.

Derrick Lewis vs Winner of Rozenstruik/Gane

The phrase “it only takes one punch” is something I often find cliché in MMA but it’s hard to think of a fighter who embodies this more than Derrick Lewis. Derrick didn’t necessarily look sloppy in the first round, but Curtis Blaydes was definitely landing with more volume and power. That all changed in a split second when Curtis shot a raw takedown that was immediately countered by Lewis’ uppercut and the show was over. This win for Derrick is huge as he is now on a four fight win streak and has wins over three of the top five heavyweights, the only exception being Jairzinho Rozenstruik. Rozenstruik happens to be fighting this weekend against the rising prospect Ciryl Gane. The timing is perfect for Derrick to fight for the winner of this fight with the title being contested for at UFC 260 and with Jon Jones moving up. The ideal situation in my opinion is for Derrick to fight the winner of Rozenstruik and Gane as the co-main event to whenever Jones fights the winner of Miocic and Ngannou.

Yana Kunitskaya vs Aspen Ladd

Speaking of upsets, on Saturday’s main event, Yana Kunitskaya put the oddsmakers on notice when she defeated Ketlen Viera via unanimous decision. While Viera retained control for a good portion of the fight, Kunitskaya stayed active and continued to strike and landed an impressive 215 total strikes. With her victory on Saturday, Yana is just outside the top five in the women’s bantamweight division, and I would like to see a matchup between her and Aspen Ladd. Ladd is coming off of ACL surgery and while she didn’t fight in 2020, I fully expect that she is eager to get back in the octagon. Both women have a lot to gain from this matchup as it would break Kunitskaya into the top five and solidify Ladd as a top contender. I’m not sure on the timeline for Ladd’s recovery but I hope that this is the matchup that’s made and that it is booked sooner rather than later.

Darrick Minner vs Youssef Zalal

Darrick Minner has become somewhat of a “prospect stopper” in his last two fights with wins over T.J. Laramie and now Charles Rosa. Rosa was definitely getting the push in the buildup to this fight and Minner reminded fight fans that, while his record may not be the best, he is no steppingstone in the featherweight division. What impressed me the most was Minner’s wrestling and grappling as he dominated Rosa (a black belt in Jiu Jitsu). For Minner’s next fight I would like to see him against a striker, and I think Youssef Zalal is a great option. While Zalal is on a two-fight skid right now, his Muay Thai is no joke and I believe that a fight between these gentlemen would be very entertaining.

Christopher Daukus vs Alistair Overeem

As mentioned before, Christopher Daukus put his name on many heavyweight’s radars when he finished the veteran Aleksei Oleinik. Christopher and his brother Kyle are making strong runs in the UFC currently and with a win on Saturday I expect to see Chris just outside the top 10. While Daukus couldn’t pick a fighter to call out in his post-fight interview, I think a good matchup for him would be the 6th ranked Alistair Overeem. Even though Overeem is unsure if he will fight again; hypothetically, I think this would be a good matchup for both. Overeem’s elite striking would definitely be a test for Daukus, but if either Overeem or Daukus won this fight, they would end any doubt that they deserve to be in the top ten.  

Phil Hawes vs Alessio Di Chirico

Expectations were high for Phil Hawes at UFC Vegas 19 after his electric debut in October. While he didn’t finish his opponent this time, he defeated the strong Russian prospect Nassourdine Imavov via majority decision. Hawes showed solid striking and takedown ability and with a little improvement in his defense I think he could find himself in the rankings soon. However, I don’t think he is ready for a ranked opponent just yet and I think a good opponent to test himself against is the Italian Alessio Di Chirico. Di Chirico is coming off of a statement knockout victory in January after losing three in a row. These two are both powerful kickboxers and just on the cusp of the next level. In my opinion, a bout between these two would establish who is ready for top competition.

Tom Aspinall vs Blagoy Ivanov

For those who didn’t know of Tom Aspinall before this card, what better introduction to the English heavyweight than a finish over Andrei Arlovski. Aspinall put on a show with his uncanny speed for a heavyweight that became too much for Arlovski and he punctuated his performance with a bull rush takedown and rear naked choke. Aspinall Is now 3-0 in the UFC and on a six-fight win streak and I think it’s time for him to get a shot at a top fifteen opponent. The ideal opponent in my opinion is the thirteenth ranked heavyweight Blagoy Ivanov. Even though he is on a 2-fight losing streak, Ivanov is a talented grappler and striker who would be another strong opportunity for Aspinall to show his strengths as a mixed martial artist.

All that being said, thank you for reading and I hope everyone is as excited for the future of the heavyweight division as I am!

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