Matches to Make for Winners and Losers from UFC 242
It is time to play matchmaker once again. UFC 242 on Saturday saw the most dominant champion in the sport successfully defend his lightweight strap at The Arena on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.
Khabib Nurmagomedov had to survive a guillotine choke, but that was pretty much all Dustin Poirier had to offer the champion. It was another mauling. Is Tony Ferguson next, or is the possible Conor McGregor rematch still on the table?
Where does Poirier go from here? And what about the lightweight co-main event between Paul Felder and Edson Barboza? How does that affect the division?
Grab your legal pads, pencils and put on your matchmaking caps. It's time to get to work to figure out what is next for each winner and loser on the UFC 242 bill.
Ready? These are the matches to make following UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi.
Preliminary Fights Quick Hits
Don Madge def. Fares Ziam by unanimous decision (30–27, 30–27, 29–28).
- Fares Ziam vs. Charles Jourdain
- Don Madge vs. Ottman Azaitar
Omari Akhmedov def. Zak Cummings by unanimous decision (30–27, 30–27, 29–28).
- Zak Cummings vs. Charles Byrd
- Omari Akhmedov vs. Karl Roberson
Muslim Salikhov def. Nordine Taleb by KO at 4:26 of the first round.
- Nordine Taleb vs. Mike Perry
- Muslim Salikhov vs. Dwight Grant
Belal Muhammad def. Takashi Sato via submission (rear-naked choke) at 1:55 of the third round.
- Takashi Sato vs. Ricky Rainey
- Belal Muhammad vs. Anthony Pettis
Ottman Azaitar def. Teemu Packalen by KO at 3:33 of the first round.
- Teemu Packalen should be cut from the roster.
- Ottman Azaitar vs. Don Madge
Sarah Moras def. Liana Jojua by TKO at 2:26 of the third round.
- Liana Jojua vs. Lara Procopio
- Sarah Moras vs. Nicco Montano
Zubaira Tukhugov vs. Lerone Murphy ended in a split draw (28–29, 29–28, 28–28)
- Lerone Murphy vs. Yoshinori Horie
- Zubaira Tukhugov vs. Rick Glenn
Joanne Calderwood def. Andrea Lee by split decision (28–29, 30–27, 29–28).
- Andrea Lee vs. Alexis Davis
- Joanne Calderwood vs. Winner of Viviane Araujo vs. Jessica Eye (December 14)
Carlos Diego Ferreira vs. Mairbek Taisumov
Carlos Diego Ferreira def. Mairbek Taisumov by unanimous decision (29–28, 29–27, 29–27).
Carlos Diego Ferreira continues to shine. The decision nod over Mairbek Taisumov marked his fifth straight victory. The pressure and output was able to keep him in Taisumov's face all night.
One name that presents itself for Taisumov is Alan Patrick. Taisumov has a TKO victory over Patrick, but it came in 2015. More than four years later, it may be time to revisit the fight. Both Patrick and Taisumov have matured and found success in the cage. Now, coming off losses, it could be a good rematch for a Fight Night undercard.
An easy choice for Ferreira may have been Islam Makhachev. They both fought and won on the card, so why not, right? Because both Ferreira and Makhachev deserve ranked opponents.
No. 13 contender Alex Hernandez would be a fantastic opponent.
Hernandez got back in the win column against Francisco Trinaldo earlier in the year. That win won't vault him into the top 10, and Ferreira would make for a quality fight with a good outcome for the fans. A contest between those two would be a sleeper pick for Fight of the Night.
Curtis Blaydes vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov
Curtis Blaydes def. Shamil Abdurakhimov by TKO at 2:22 of the second round.
Curtis Blaydes did what he does to fighters who aren't Francis Ngannou. He got Shamil Abdurakhimov out of there in less than half the 15-minute allotment.
For Abdurakhimov, Aleksei Oleinik seems to be the best option on the table. Other contenders are tied up, and Oleinik is coming off back-to-back losses. It's an even matchup that would put the winner back into their previous position in the division at the back-end of the top 10.
The UFC heavyweight title picture is a little murky after Stipe Miocic's victory at UFC 241. Does the promotion do the trilogy with Daniel Cormier? Will Jon Jones move up? Does Ngannou get his rematch? Blaydes is still a fight away, at best, from a title opportunity, but there cannot be a plan until that gets figured out.
Derrick Lewis and Blagoi Ivanov meet at UFC 244 on November 2. The winner of that would join Blaydes in the holding pattern, and being in a similar position probably means they should scrap.
Islam Makhachev vs. Davi Ramos
Islam Makhachev def. Davi Ramos by unanimous decision (29–27, 30–26, 30–26).
For 15 minutes, Islam Makhachev was the better man.
Davi Ramos went on a little run to get this main card opportunity, but now he'll have to hit reset. Also looking for a reset is Joseph Duffy. It's the kind of bout that could help to spark an undercard with quality action, and there is little reason not to book it.
Makhachev, No. 15 in the lightweight division, has earned another ranked fight.
One of the few ranked lightweights without a fight set is Charles Oliveira.
There is a bit of fun with the stylistic clash between the two, and the winner would have a case for a top 10-level fight in 2020.
Edson Barboza vs. Paul Felder
Paul Felder def. Edson Barboza by split decision (27–30, 29–28, 30–27).
Paul Felder got the win back in the rematch with Edson Barboza and now seems poised for a marquee lightweight tilt in 2020.
Barboza has suffered back-to-back losses. He's still a fantastic fighter, but the damage is adding up. Could he be falling into a gatekeeper position? The UFC should test him out as one. Rising lightweight contender Gregor Gillespie needs a big test. Barboza will provide him with one.
Felder deserves a big fight. But against whom?
The way the landscape is coming into focus, the winner of the UFC Fight Night 158 main event between Justin Gaethje vs. Donald Cerrone seems as good of a candidate as any. The biggest danger for Felder? The winner would also be an enticing fight for Conor McGregor's return.
Until McGregor makes a real step back to the UFC, we will just have to act like it's all talk. That leaves Felder with an amazing fight against either Cerrone or Gaethje in what could be a potential title eliminator.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Dustin Poirier
Khabib Nurmagomedov def. Dustin Poirier via submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:06 of the third round.
Well, the fight went just as most expected. Dustin Poirier is a fantastic fighter, but Khabib Nurmagomedov is a special talent. He is the most dominant lightweight in history.
Poirier can earn his rematch, but it will be a tough sell. Where does he start? With the winner of Dan Hooker vs. Al Iaquinta. That fight takes place at UFC 243 on October 6. It's one of the few fights on the table that makes sense for Poirier coming off the loss and remains relevant for the upper echelon of the division.
The logical choice for Nurmagomedov's next fight is Tony Ferguson. It's a fight that has been booked several times before but has never come to fruition. Now should be the time. However, McGregor looms over the division and the company as a whole.
No matter how you slice it, McGregor is the biggest draw in the sport. He could slide back into a title shot on that alone because it is what will make the UFC the most money. The Nurmagomedov-McGregor rematch would be big.
But it would also be bigger if the UFC doesn't force it for McGregor's return. The promotion should give it to the most deserving man, Ferguson, and pray this time the fight finally happens.