UFC 231 Results: Matches to Make for the Winners and Losers
UFC 231 on Saturday featured two title tilts, and both fighters who walked out with the belts put on fantastic performances.
In the main event, Max Holloway turned it on against Brian Ortega. Holloway peppered Ortega throughout and forced the doctor to halt the bout before the fifth and final frame. Ortega wasn't outclassed, but he could not keep the pace of the champion.
Valentina Shevchenko was thought to be the uncrowned flyweight champ, but in Toronto, she grabbed the crown with a dominant performance over Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
The champions move into 2019 with divisions hot on their heels. Who will get the next title shots?
And what about the remaining fighters on the undercard? Where will they go from here? This is the question we are here to answer by suggesting the matches to make following a stellar night of action. Let's grab our matchmaker cap and get to work.
These are the fights to book following UFC 231 in Toronto.
Preliminary Card Quick Hits
Aleksandar Rakic def. Devin Clark TKO at 4:05 of the first round.
- Devin Clark vs. Tyson Pedro
- Aleksandar Rakic vs. Misha Cirkunov
Carlos Diego Ferreira def. Kyle Nelson by TKO at 1:23 of the second round.
- Kyle Nelson vs. Desmond Green
- Carlos Diego Ferreira vs. Gilbert Burns
Dhiego Lima def. Chad Laprise by KO at 1:37 of the first round.
- Chad Laprise vs. Loser of Randy Brown vs. Chance Rencountre (January 19)
- Dhiego Lima vs. Alex Morono
Brad Katona def. Matthew Lopez by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28).
- Matthew Lopez should be cut from the roster.
- Brad Katona vs. Yadong Song
Elias Theodorou def. Eryk Anders by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
- Eryk Anders vs. Peter Sobotta
- Elias Theodorou vs. Derek Brunson
Jessica Eye def. Katlyn Chookagian by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
- Katlyn Chookagian vs. Loser of Ashlee Evans-Smith vs. Lauren Murphy (January 19)
- Jessica Eye vs. Valentina Shevchenko
Gilbert Burns def. Olivier Aubin-Mercier by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
- Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Darrell Horcher
- Gilbert Burns vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira
Nina Ansaroff def. Claudia Gadelha by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
- Claudia Gadelha vs. Felice Herrig
- Nina Ansaroff vs. Jessica Andrade or Tatiana Suarez
Jimi Manuwa vs. Thiago Santos
Thiago Santos def. Jimi Manuwa by KO at 0:41 of the second round.
It was the Fight of the Night at UFC 231, and Thiago Santos staked his claim as a contender in the light heavyweight division with an emphatic KO over Jimi Manuwa.
Poster Boy dropped a third straight fight which could signal the end of the road for him, but in the shallow waters of 205, he is likely to get another crack inside the Octagon. No. 14-ranked contender Nikita Krylov makes sense for where both are at. It could be a loser leaves UFC fight.
Santos beat a top-10 light heavyweight, and that should earn him another premier contest in the division.
Although coming off losses, Santos should meet Volkan Oezdemir. It's a contest that would almost certainly give fans another Fight of the Night slugfest, and the winner would move right into title contention. Given how the division is playing out, putting Santos into a bout with someone such as Dominick Reyes would only serve to eliminate a budding star.
Hakeem Dawodu vs. Kyle Bochniak
Hakeem Dawodu def. Kyle Bochniak by split decision (28-29, 30-27, 30-27).
Hakeem Dawodu breezed through Kyle Bochniak on Saturday to set himself up for bigger and brighter things. Bochniak is in a rough spot after dropping three of his past four.
Bochniak may be fighting for his UFC career in his next outing. Martin Bravo is also in a similar position after back-to-back losses. It may be best for the UFC to see who can get a win and stay afloat in the organization.
Dawodu could get a top-15 opponent, but it's still a little too early for such a fight. He needs one more win.
Jordan Rinaldi looked good in his recent fight against Jason Knight, and it could be a prime opportunity for both men to make their case for a ranked fight. Rinaldi vs. Dawodu should provide fireworks and have significant implications for the future.
Gunnar Nelson vs. Alex Oliveira
Gunnar Nelson def. Alex Oliveira via submission (rear-naked choke) at 4:17 of the second round.
Gunnar Nelson's return put him right back into the thick of things at 170 pounds. He showed he could handle a well-rounded, bigger man in Alex Oliveira.
Oliveira is a lot of fun, and a fun matchup should be what the UFC eyes regardless of rankings. Jake Matthews looked good in his most recent fight, at UFC Fight Night 142, but a misstep saw him defeated via submission. Oliveira vs. Matthews should be very fun and put the winner back into good standing in the division.
How far should the UFC push Nelson?
He is the No. 14-ranked contender in the division and has a solid fanbase. Pushing him too far up the ranks could be the wrong move, but he also shouldn't fight someone unranked. Perhaps the best plan would be a meeting against Leon Edwards.
It's a fight that could easily co-main event a 2019 European card and thrust the winner into a big PPV fight later in the year.
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Valentina Shevchenko def. Joanna Jedrzejczyk by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46).
Valentina Shevchenko moved to 4-0 against Joanna Jedrzejczyk in her career. Jedrzejczyk didn't perform terribly, but her issues against the bigger, stronger women at 125 were on display. It should signal a move back down to 115.
A fight fans would love to have? Jedrzejczyk vs. Michelle Waterson. They are two dynamic strikers willing to throw down. It would be a significant fight in the strawweight division and one of the best options on the table.
If you've already been following along, you know the person Shevchenko should face. Jessica Eye.
Nicco Montano was stripped and should have to fight at least once before getting her title shot. Sijara Eubanks moved up to bantamweight. Katlyn Chookagian was No. 3 on the board, and Eye defeated her. It should be a simple pick.
Additionally, Eye was the world No. 1 flyweight before she entered the UFC at bantamweight. Since the UFC instituted the division and Eye dropped, she is 3-0. She hasn't lost at 125 since 2011. That record makes her more than worthy of a title shot in 2019.
Max Holloway vs. Brian Ortega
Max Holloway def. Brian Ortega by TKO (doctor stoppage) at the end of the fourth round.
The main event delivered. Max Holloway took control, but not without some moments from his challenger. It is a fight every fan would love to see again. But when can that be? Certainly not until Ortega gets another win.
Ortega shouldn't need a string of wins. He just needs one. He performed well enough to engage fans in the idea of a rematch to see what adjustments he will make. Having beaten several top-10 fighters, the obvious choice is the No. 3-ranked Jose Aldo.
A win for Ortega should net him the title rematch.
It is much more difficult to identify a possible opponent for Holloway. At least it is at featherweight. Frankie Edgar and Renato Moicano are the logical choices, but nobody is clamoring for those fights. Holloway's best option is to go to lightweight for a bigger challenge.
It's easy to suggest he fight Khabib Nurmagomedov, but haven't we seen divisions get held up too much with these kinds of fights? And are we buying into this fight? The lightweight fight that makes the most sense is Holloway vs. Tony Ferguson.
That is an exceptional matchup. It has meaning and would serve to be a potential Fight of the Year given their styles. It is the contest to make.