After every event, fans wonder whom the winners will be matched up with next.
And with another night of UFC action in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward, put on a pair of Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard’s shoes, and play UFC matchmaker for UFC on ESPN+ 10’s most noteworthy winning fighters.
Those winners include Rafael dos Anjos (29-11 MMA, 18-9 UFC), who submitted Kevin Lee (17-5 MMA, 10-5 UFC) in the fourth round of the welterweight headliner, which took place at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y., as well as Felicia Spencer (7-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), Vicente Luque (16-6-1 MMA, 9-2 UFC), Charles Oliveira (27-8 MMA, 15-8 UFC) and Aspen Ladd (8-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC).
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Should fight: Ketlen Vieira
Why they should fight: Perhaps the most intriguing up-and-comer in women’s MMA netted another victory in her young career when Ladd outworked a very game and tough Sijara Eubanks over three rounds to win a unanimous decision.
Although Ladd owns a victory over Eubanks from more than two years ago at an Invicta FC event, to do it again on the UFC stage – and in a “Fight of the Night” effort – is a huge accomplishment. The 23-year-old has now won eight-straight to start her career, including three consecutive fights under the UFC banner.
Before the matchup with Eubanks came together, Ladd was scheduled to fight Holly Holm, who is now booked to challenge Amanda Nunes for women’s bantamweight gold at UFC 239 in July. Some thought that was too big a step up, but Ladd at this point is shown she’s ready for a serious, serious test.
A matchup with fellow unbeaten Vieira (10-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC), who has been out of action since March 2018 due to injury but is coming off wins over Cat Zingano and Sara McMann, could be a true title eliminator for the women’s 135-pound weight class.
Should fight: Islam Makhachev
Why they should fight: UFC submission leader Oliveira flipped the script when he earned his first octagon finish via strikes with a second-round TKO of Nik Lentz in the trilogy lightweight matchup to push his winning streak to five.
Oliveira said before and after he nailed the point home with Lentz that he deserves more than unranked opposition. The Brazilian is now tied for the second most finishes in UFC history, and it seems as though he’s only getting better. “Do Bronx” has a fearless approach to the sport and has been spectacular since his most recent loss, which came to Paul Felder in 2017. It’s time for Oliveira to get another chance to fight someone in the top-15 at lightweight, and Makhachev (17-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) would be a fascinating matchup.
Makhachev called for a showdown with Oliveira at UFC 242 on Sept. 7, and it would certainly be compelling. The Dagestani is a training partner of Khabib Nurmagomedov and has one of the most relentless grappling games at 155 pounds. Oliveira’s submission arsenal might be the best in the weight class, though, and the clash of style could make magic. But more than that, the winner would be deserving of no less than a top-tier name.
Should fight: Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos
Why they should fight: After losing out on a co-main event with a ranked opponent when Neil Magny was pulled from the card, Luque made the best of a bad situation when he scored a first-round TKO of short-notice replacement Derrick Krantz, who proved game for a time before getting finished with strikes.
Luque has now won five consecutive fights and has finished his opponent inside the distance in all of those wins. He’s rightfully deserving of a big fight like he was supposed to have with Magny. That could be rebooked if Magny’s issue with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) is resolved quick, but currently it’s unknown how long Magny will be out. That means Luque should look at someone else, and Zaleski dos Santos (21-5 MMA, 7-1 UFC) is a solid candidate.
Zaleski dos Santos has won his past seven at welterweight and, like Luque, is one of the more promising and dangerous rising contenders in the division. With 170 pounds being so deep on talent, one of these fighters is gong to have to fall out of the running for the time being with a loss. A matchup between them would decide who it is.
Should fight: Cris Cyborg
Why they should fight: Undefeated Canadian Spencer made an impression in her UFC debut, when she defeated fellow former Invicta FC champion Megan Anderson by first-round submission in a rare fight in the women’s featherweight division.
Immediately after her win, former UFC champ Cyborg (20-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC), who hasn’t fought since losing her title to Amanda Nunes at UFC 232 in December, called for a fight with Spencer at UFC 240 on July. That seems like a big jump for Spencer for just her second octagon appearance, but that’s the positive and negative that comes with the thin women’s 145-pound weight class.
There aren’t much in the way of options for Spencer or Cyborg, and with no timeline for Nunes to come up and defend her belt, it’s possible an interim title could be attached to a potential Spencer vs. Cyborg fight.
Rafael dos Anjos
Should fight: Santiago Ponzinibbio
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why dos Anjos should fight Ponzinibbio (27-3 MMA, 9-2 UFC) next after his main event victory.
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Sean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Rafael dos Anjos and UFC on ESPN+ 10's other key winners?