Matches to Make for Winners and Losers from UFC 243
UFC 243 saw the crowning of a new undisputed UFC middleweight champion at Marvel Stadium in Australia.
Israel Adesanya stopped Robert Whittaker in the second round with a vicious knockout off a well-timed hook. Adesanya has had a quick and impressive rise through the 185-pound ranks, and he capped it off with the performance of a career.
In the co-main event, Dan Hooker defeated Al Iaquinta and then called out Dustin Poirier. Is that the fight to make? Is Hooker-Poirier next?
It is that time once again. Grab your matchmaking gear. Make sure there is ink in your pen and the notepad has plenty of white space. We will go through the entire UFC 243 card and pick out the fights that should come next for every winner and loser.
These are the matches to make following all the action in Melbourne.
Preliminary Fights' Quick Hits
Khalid Taha def. Bruno Gustavo Aparecido Da Silva via submission (arm-triangle choke) at 3:00 of the third round
- Bruno Gustavo Aparecido da Silva vs. Journey Newson
- Khalid Taha vs. Casey Kenney
Ji Yeon Kim def. Nadia Kassem by TKO at 4:59 of the second round
- Nadia Kassem vs. Hannah Goldy
- Ji Yeon Kim vs. Mayra Bueno Silva
Megan Anderson def. Zarah Fairn Dos Santos via submission (triangle choke) at 3:57 of the first round
- Zarah Fairn Dos Santos vs. Felicia Spencer
- Megan Anderson vs. Pam Sorenson (Invicta FC)
Brad Riddell def. Jamie Mullarkey by unanimous decision (29-27, 30-26, 30-26)
- Jamie Mullarkey vs. Rodrigo Vargas
- Brad Riddell vs. Don Madge
Callan Potter def. Maki Pitolo by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Maki Pitolo vs. Rostem Akman
- Callan Potter vs. Kenan Song
Jake Matthews def. Rostem Akman by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Rostem Akman vs. Maki Pitolo
- Jake Matthews vs. Alan Jouban
Justin Tafa vs. Yorgan De Castro
Yorgan De Castro def. Justin Tafa by KO at 2:10 of the first round
After Holly Holm vs. Raquel Pennington was removed from the main card, this heavyweight slugfest was moved up. Both fighters were making their organizational debut. The clean shot from Yorgan De Castro put Justin Tafa to sleep. The Contender Series prospect got a significant win under his belt.
For Tafa, how about Juan Adams? He is 1-2 in the UFC with back-to-back losses. It's a fight that may send the loser out of the company, but it should provide some fireworks.
As for De Castro, how about Carlos Felipe?
Felipe was initially cut from the UFC after failing an out-of-competition test, but he's now back in the testing pool for the United States Anti-Doping Agency having re-signed with the company. Per MMAFighting's Guilherme Cruz, Felipe will be able to fight in January. It fits the right window for De Castro and sets up Felipe for a his long-awaited UFC debut.
Dhiego Lima vs. Luke Jumeau
Dhiego Lima def. Luke Jumeau by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
The bout between Dhiego Lima and Luke Jumeau didn't blow the doors off anyone, and it will ultimately be forgotten about in the near future. But the result will move Lima forward while keeping Jumeau stagnant.
A good test for Jumeau may be Curtis Millender. The two fighters are in a similar place within the confines of the 170-pound division. The matchup would help put one back in the win column while potentially sending the other to the cut line.
Lima has put together a streak with his UFC 243 win. Can he make it four?
Test him against Belal Muhammad. It's not the Top 15 matchup Lima will be seeking, but the welterweight division is stacked and a simple three-fight streak that has largely been unimpressive isn't going to cut it. But a win over Muhammad should give him the credentials to force his way into the discussion.
Tai Tuivasa vs. Sergey Spivak
Sergey Spivak def. Tai Tuivasa via technical submission (arm triangle) at 3:14 of the second round
This was supposed to be Tai Tuivasa's moment to shine. Instead, Sergey Spivak took the win and sent Tuivasa spiraling down the rankings.
Heavyweight isn't flush with talent, although it is growing. And at 1-1, Spivak doesn't have the juice to make a big call-out. But there is opportunity for him. Todd Duffee recently returned in September after four years away. Duffee is a solid opponent with decent recognition that could elevate him to the next level.
Tuivasa has to have his back against the wall now. After failing against the upper echelon, the UFC tried giving him a lesser opponent. And he not only lost, but he looked bad in doing so. The UFC could give him another 0-1 fighter or a debuting heavyweight.
Instead, they should put him against Junior Albini.
Albini is another heavyweight who has come up short time after time. The fight between the two could allow the UFC to see who has what it takes to stick around.
Al Iaquinta vs. Dan Hooker
Dan Hooker def. Al Iaquinta by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
Dan Hooker used superior striking and distance management to ease past Al Iaquinta in the evening's co-main event.
Iaquinta is at a crossroads. He didn't look that competitive against Hooker and he has hit a small skid. That is not to discredit any of his skills as he is still a legitimate threat to anyone, but he needs to right the ship in a hurry. The UFC would be wise to not put Iaquinta against a ranked opponent.
That is also not to say he shouldn't be challenged. The great thing about the lightweight division is its depth. Iaquinta should meet Carlos Diego Ferreira next. Ferreira is very talented and on the brink of breaking into the 155-pound rankings. This is a big fight for his journey, which will make him push the pace against Iaquinta.
That's an exceptional fight for any main card.
Hooker called out Dustin Poirier. That's a fine fight to make, and the UFC should pull the trigger. Poirier took to Twitter to claim he is fighting Conor McGregor next by saying he's fighting "the Irishman" next, but there is little to no truth to that. Merely hope. Hope that will not be realized in all likelihood.
Thus, once he comes to the realization that the McGregor rematch will happen, he should accept a fight against Hooker.
Robert Whittaker vs. Israel Adesanya
Israel Adesanya def. Robert Whittaker by KO at 3:33 of the second round
The titles are unified, and Israel Adesanya is the undisputed middleweight king. Robert Whittaker had moments in this fight, but Adesanya read his entries perfectly and timed hooks that repeatedly landed until the one that finished the fight.
Whittaker needs to be more active. He will be a fight away from a rematch. When you scan the middleweight rankings, the only name that makes sense is Jared Cannonier in a title eliminator. Kelvin Gastelum is already booked, and he has already fought Yoel Romero. That leaves Cannonier as the lone option.
And it'd be a great fight.
In the immediate aftermath of the result, you could see the name Jon Jones pop up over and over again. That is not the fight to make.
The UFC finally has another international star. Why rush him into a fight, in a heavier weight class, against potentially the greatest of all time? Especially before he has ever had a chance to defend the title. Adesanya vs. Jones is something to shoot for down the road, but right now there is absolutely no need to book that fight.
Paulo Costa was cageside, and Adesanya sent a crotch chop his way after the fight. And in the post-fight press conference, he called him out (h/t The Athletic's Shaun Al-Shatti). Sign it. That's the fight.
Adesanya vs. Costa would be a magnificent title tilt and the right fight to make. If Adesanya defeats Costa and gets a second title defense under his belt, then it will be time to look at the possible megafight against Jones. But not now. It's not time to venture into that territory just yet.
Let's keep the division moving.