5 Fights We Need to See After UFC on ABC 3
UFC on ABC 3 went down on Saturday on Long Island, New York, with an unusually early 11:00 a.m. start time. Anybody who kept their schedule clear to watch the event was rewarded with some pretty amazing action.
The card was headlined by a clash of featherweight contenders, as the No. 2-ranked Brian Ortega took on No. 3-ranked Yair Rodriguez. Rodriguez won the fight by first-round TKO after Ortega suffered a dislocated shoulder. It was a disappointing outcome, but thankfully many of the fights up until that point had been very entertaining.
That includes the co-main event, which saw Brazil's Amanda Lemos dominate Michelle Waterson-Gomez to a second-round submission win with a guillotine choke. Chinese welterweight Li Jingliang also showed out on the main card, crushing Russia's Muslim Salikhov with a second-round right hand. Both he and Lemos received $50,000 performance bonuses for their wins.
Fight of the Night honors went to flyweights Matt Schnell and Sumudaerji, who met earlier on the main card. China's Sumudaerji had Schnell in a lot of trouble early, but the American ultimately surged back with an epic second-round triangle.
It was the kind of card that opened the door to a whole host of exciting matchup options. Keep scrolling for five fights we'd like to see when the dust has settled.
Yair Rodriguez vs. Brian Ortega II
Yair Rodriguez vs. Brian Ortega was an incredible matchup on paper. Unfortunately, it fell short of expectations on Saturday night, as Ortega was forced out of action with a dislocated shoulder toward the end of the first round.
The official result is a TKO win for Rodriguez, but there are really no winners in a fight like that. He looked solid enough until the ref ended it, but he really didn't do anything to strengthen his claim to a crack at featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski.
He certainly didn't do anything to prove he deserves that opportunity before fellow contender Josh Emmett, who is now on a five-fight win streak. It's not his fault, but it's a fact.
From here, the only suitable option for Rodriguez is a rematch with Ortega. The good news is that he seems to be up for it, even if it's not his first choice.
"I already told [Ortega] we can run it back anytime," he said after the fight. "We can do this. But I would rather do it for a championship instead of being in this situation like this. But whatever the UFC decides, I'm OK with whatever."
So long as Ortega isn't going to be sidelined for ages, these two need to run it back.
Amanda Lemos vs. Tecia Torres
Brazilian strawweight contender Amanda Lemos gave an awesome performance at UFC on ABC 3, thumping the experienced Michelle Waterson-Gomez to a second-round submission win.
The win got Lemos back on track after a submission loss to fellow Brazilian bruiser Jessica Andrade earlier this year and reaffirmed that she is one of the best fighters in her division.
From here, it would be cool to see her matched up with Rose Namajunas or Marina Rodriguez, the division's No. 1 and 3-ranked contenders, respectively.
Both women arguably deserve title shots but will probably have to wait for a fight between champ Carla Esparza and Zhang Weili and may want to fight again in the meantime. Then again, if Namajunas and Rodriguez are willing to fight, it probably makes more sense to match them up with each other.
In that event, Lemos should be matched up with another veteran in Tecia Torres who, prior to Saturday's event, was ranked three spots above the Brazilian in the division's rankings at No. 8. It's not a perfect fight, but it'll do while we wait for the strawweight Top 5 pecking order to sort itself out.
Li Jingliang vs. Bryan Barberena
Chinese welterweight Li Jingliang needed a win at UFC on ABC 3.
He was the division's No. 14-ranked contender heading into the event—not a bad spot to be in—but was riding a decisive submission loss to surging contender Khamzat Chimaev. It was arguably the worst loss of his career and one he was understandably eager to put behind him.
He did so in emphatic fashion on Saturday, weathering a bit of early adversity to stop his foe Muslim Salikhov with a volley of strikes in Round 2.
The win over Salikhov, who was unranked heading into the fight, is unlikely to improve Li's position in the welterweight rankings. Still, it's very possible he'll be matched up with somebody in the Top 10 in his next fight. And after the work he's put in over eight years in the Octagon, he'd deserve it. But we're going to go off-book and suggest he fight another unranked opponent: Bryan Barberena.
Barberena, who was busy on Twitter during Li's fight, is fresh off a career-changing stoppage win over former welterweight king Robbie Lawler. It was his third win in a row.
He deserves a step up in competition, and Li doesn't seem to have any objections to fighting unranked opposition. And as luck would have it, they match up beautifully on paper as two of the most exciting guys in the weight class.
Matt Schnell vs. Matheus Nicolau
No. 8-ranked flyweight contender Matt Schnell picked up the biggest win of his career at UFC on ABC 3, weathering a near-knockout in the first round to submit China's Sumudaerji for a stunning second-round comeback.
After the fight, which left both men covered in blood, Schnell called for a fight with Brazil's Matheus Nicolau, who is ranked one spot ahead of him in the division at No. 7.
"November at Madison Square Garden looks awfully good to me," Schnell said, targeting the recently revealed UFC 281 event. "How about Matheus Nicolau vs. Matt Schnell? That's what I'm eyeballing."
Sometimes, these fighters make it too easy for the matchmakers.
It's a great fight from a rankings standpoint, and it looks like a good one on paper. At the very least, we know Schnell knows how to entertain.
Lauren Murphy vs. Grasso-Araujo Winner
No. 3-ranked flyweight contender Lauren Murphy finally returned to the cage at UFC on ABC 3, taking on former bantamweight champion Miesha Tate. It was her first fight back since she lost to flyweight queen Valentina Shevchenko in September of 2021 and the first step on her road to another title shot.
Murphy defeated Tate by unanimous decision, cementing her position in the Top 5, though she is unlikely to gain any ground in victory. After the fact, she set her sights on the winner of a fight between Jessica Andrade and Manon Fiorot, slated for September in Paris. It was a good callout, except that Andrade was recently forced out of the matchup with "medical issues."
For a second, it looked like Murphy might be able to sneak in and fight Fiorot in Andrade's stead. But then, on Sunday evening, Mike Heck of MMA Fighting reported that the opportunity would instead go to Katlyn Chookagian.
So let's match Murphy up with the winner of an Alexa Grasso and Viviane Araujo's fight, scheduled for August 13. Grasso and Araujo are ranked fifth and seventh at flyweight, respectively, so the winner will be more than worthy of a fight with No. 3.