UFC Vegas 35 is wrapped up and the fighters have made their journeys home. Now, it’s time to look at what’s next for the athletes that will be returning to the Octagon in the coming months!
DISCLAIMER: this is purely opinion based, feel free to disagree!
Giga Chikadze (14-2) – #9 UFC featherweight
Picking up his 7th straight win in the UFC, Giga Chikadze is on the cusp of breaking into the title picture. Georgia’s top hope at UFC gold picked up an impressive 3rd round TKO on Saturday night, solidifying his spot in the top 10. A matchup that I would love to see is Chikadze vs Chan Sung Jung. This both gives 145lbs a new title contender in the form of the winner, and an all-action fight between ‘Ninja‘ and ‘Korean Zombie‘.
Edson Barboza (22-10) – #10 UFC featherweight
Falling to 2-2 in his featherweight run, Brazilian veteran Edson Barboza is in a tricky spot following his loss. In order to stay relevant in the contender discussion, Barboza is gonna need a big name in his next win. If you ask me, there’s no bigger hype around any 145lb prospect than Movsar Evloev. His striking hasn’t truly been tested yet, and Barboza could be the man to do it. This is a fun stylistic clash that does big things for the winner.
Bryan Battle (6-1) – TUF 29 middleweight winner
Pulling through to win the middleweight bracket of TUF 29, Bryan Battle is now a UFC fighter. For his next fight in the Octagon, I think that Jacob Malkoun would be a very interesting clash. Both men are highly touted prospects with excellent ground games. I think this is the one to make.
Ricky Turcios (11-2) – TUF 29 bantamweight winner
The 135lb winner from TUF 29, Ricky Turcios, has made a real splash with fans after his win over Brady Hiestand in the finals. If he’s looking to dive straight into the shark tank at bantamweight, I’m sure Randy Costa would gladly sign to fight. Both men are fan favourites that will fight until the final bell. Book it, Dana!
Daniel Rodriguez (16-2) – UFC welterweight
Daniel Rodriguez continued his accession up the the welterweight ladder at UFC Vegas 35 with a win over Kevin Lee. The 3 round shutout made it 2-straight for ‘D-Rod‘, who’s gone 6-1 in the UFC since 2020. Though I must credit Mike Perry for the original idea, I think Rodriguez vs Geoff Neal is a stylistic dream fight. This seems like a no-brainer for the UFC brass.
Kevin Lee (18-7) – UFC welterweight
Though his mystique has been shattered, Kevin Lee still believes he has what he takes to claim UFC gold. If his time in the company isn’t yet over, a return to 155lbs HAS to be in order. ‘The Motown Phenom‘ isn’t a welterweight. I’d match him up with the well-rounded tactician Mike Davis. Lee has to bring his best to win this, or he’ll be on the chopping block.
Andre Petroski (6-1) – UFC middleweight
Though he didn’t become TUF 29 champion, Andre Petroski is one of the more beloved fighters to come from the latest edition of the show. His third round stoppage of Michael Gilmore has secured his spot in the UFC, and it’s time to consider what’s next for him. If Sam Alvey is still on the UFC roster come the end of the week, I think he would make a good opponent for Petroski.
Gerald Meerschaert (33-14) – UFC middleweight
Gerald Meerschaert turned back his second straight win on Saturday with a submission victory. Though many wrote him off after his loss to Khamzat Chimaev, ‘GM3‘ is proving he’s still a force to be reckoned with. Dricus du Plessis is doing a fantastic job at 185lbs right now, and seems to be on a collision course with the elite of the division. Is it time for Meerschaert to end another hype train? I want to see what happens!
Makhmud Muradov (25-7) – UFC middleweight
Despite his first UFC loss, Makhmud Muradov still has plenty of potential at middleweight. The Uzbek prospect needs to get back on track with a big win, and I think that Tom Breese is the right opponent. Both men can bring the fight, and a win places them both back into a position to crack the top 15.
Abdul Razak Alhassan (11-4) – UFC middleweight
Snapping a losing streak in spectacular fashion wasn’t something that Abdul Razak Alhassan intended on, but something he delivered on. His 17 second KO at UFC Vegas 35 proved he’s still more than capable of sparking some of the best in the world. Punahele Soriano is another unranked KO artist at 185lbs, and it makes perfect sense to match these two up right now.
Alessio di Chirico (13-6) – UFC middleweight
He may have lost some of the momentum gained by his KO of Joaquin Buckley, but there’s no denying the talent of Alessio di Chirico. The Italian is well-equipped on the feet and boasts a 77% finish rate. Another middleweight prospect with a high finishing-rate is Rodolfo Viera, who has 87.5% of his wins by submission. This is a matchup set for a finish, regardless of who gets it.
Do you agree with my picks? Who do you want to see these fighters matched up with? Let us know in the comments section below!
COPA COMBATE: Brackets Announced For One-Night Tournament, $100,000 on the line
Combate Global today announced the official brackets and first, or quarterfinal stage, matchups for its coveted “COPA COMBATE” one-night, eight-man, $100,000 grand prize bantamweight (135 pounds) tournament on Sunday, Dec. 12, live on Paramount+ from Miami, Fla.
Paramount+ live coverage of “COPA COMBATE” will begin with a pre-show at 9:30 p.m. ET/8:30 p.m. CT, and will continue with the live fight action, beginning at 10:00 p.m. ET/9:00 p.m. CT.
In one bracket, Carlos Briseño (13-2) of Mexico will face off with Cristian “El Scorpio” Barraza (7-3) of Chile, and Frans “The Zulu Irishman” Mlambo (10-5) of Ireland will battle Jose “The Mercenary” Zarauz (22-8-1) of Peru.
In the opposite bracket, Leo Muniz (6-1) of the U.S. will square off with Pierre “The French Hawaiian” Daguzan (6-5) of France, and Kevin Cordero (12-2) of Spain will collide with Luciano “El Aguila” Ramos (8-6) of Argentina.
The winners of the two quarterfinal bouts in each bracket will square off with each other in the semifinal stage of the tournament, and the two semifinal stage fight winners will face each other in the championship stage of action.
Carlos Briseño vs. Cristian Barraza
The 31-year-old Briseño of Mexico City holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and is a member of the Bonebreakers fight camp. He enters La Jaula, the Combate Global competition cage, on a two-fight win streak after earning a unanimous decision over Adam Martinez in what was Briseño’s Combate Global debut on October 1.
The 28-year-old Barraza of Santiago is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt who has notched all 7 of his professional career wins by way of submission. He is coming off of a first round (2:01) armbar submission of Mexico’s Diego Silva on October 22.
Frans Mlambo vs. Jose Zarauz
Mlambo, a 30-year-old protégé of famed trainer John Kavanagh and former International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) world championships gold medalist, will become the first fighter in history to represent Ireland in the “COPA COMBATE” tournament. To date, Mlambo has produced 8 of his 10 career wins via (T)KO or submission, and will enter “COPA COMBATE” on a two-fight win streak.
Fighting out of Lima, the 28-year-old Zarauz holds the most professional experience of any of the “COPA COMBATE” tournament entrants, and will enter La Jaula for the second time in 2021 after securing a unanimous decision win over Fernando Noriega in a regional event in Peru on July 17.
Leo Muniz vs. Pierre Daguzan
The 31-year-old Muniz is a resident of Tobyhanna, Pa. and a native of The Bronx, N.Y. He put together back-to-back victories over Team Alpha Male member Hector “El Matador” Fajardo on May 29 and August 13, respectively, to secure an entry to “COPA COMBATE.”
At 35 years of age, Daguzan, a native of Versailles, Yvelines and resident of Honolulu, Hawaii, is the eldest competitor in the tournament field. He holds a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and is coming off a unanimous decision win over Carlos Puente, Jr. in Combate Global action on July 16.
Kevin Cordero vs. Luciano Ramos
The 22-year-old Cordero of Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, is the number one pound-for-pound rising star out of Spain, and the youngest of the eight tournament entrants. He has claimed 9 of his 12 professional wins via (T)KO or submission, including his last start and Combate Global debut on September 3, when he produced a first round (4:59) submission (triangle choke) of veteran battler Ricky Bandejas.
Ramos is a 25-year-old finisher who hails from Concordia, and who relocated to Stockton, Calif. last year in order to train with the team founded by famed MMA siblings Nick and Nate Diaz. Since making the leap to the Diaz camp, Ramos, who has achieved six of eight career wins by way of (T)KO or submission, has been victorious in both of his MMA bouts in 2021, most recently defeating Keilen Fantroy via first round (1:54) submission (triangle choke) on July 31.
In two previously announced women’s bouts that will be featured on the “COPA COMBATE” card in addition to the tournament, Criszaida Adames (5-1) will throw down with Caroline “Taz” Gallardo (5-4) at strawweight (115 pounds), while Lucero “La Loba” Acosta (2-2) will square off with Rosselyn Chavira (1-0) at flyweight (125 pounds).
The tournament will also be supported with two “reserve” bouts. Should any of the tournament’s quarterfinal stage winners be unable to continue his bid in the semifinal stage due to injury, the winner of one of the tournament reserve bouts will replace the injured winner in the tournament’s semifinal stage.
In one tournament reserve bout, Felipe “Pipe” Vargas (7-2) of San Jose, Calif. via Bogota, Colombia will take on unbeaten Diego “El Niño” Gomez Manzur (4-0) of Santiago, Chile and, in the second tournament reserve contest, Ricky Bandejas (14-6) of Brick, N.J. via Coconut Creek, Fla. will face Alan “Beche” Cantu (9-7) of Monterrey, N.L., Mexico.
Jose “Froggy” Estrada headlines Combate Global Dec. 3 show against Martin Bravo
Combate Global today announced a six-fight Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) event, live on Paramount+ on Friday, Dec. 3 from Miami, Fla. In the featherweight (145 pounds) main event, hard-hitting American star Jose “Froggy” Estrada (7-2) will square off with The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 3 reality television series winner, Martin “El Toro” Bravo (12-3).
The 30-year-old Estrada of Oxnard, Calif. secured his career-best victory to date on July 2, defeating seasoned Nicaraguan star Leonardo “Chimmy” Morales by way of majority decision.
The result marked Estrada’s only victory to date that has gone to the judges’ scorecards. All six of his other wins have come via (T)KO or submission within two rounds of action.
Hailing from Rosarito, B.C., Mexico and fighting out of Newton, N.J. the 28-year-old Bravo made his Combate Global debut in 2021, scoring a first round (1:09) TKO (punches) on veteran Andrew “The Beast” Whitney on September 17.
In a featured strawweight (115 pounds) contest, Stephanie “Macaquinha” Frausto (8-8) of Dublin, Calif. will face Camila Rivarola (3-3-1) of Montevideo, Uruguay via Stockholm, Sweden.
The other featured main card bout will pit Tommy “The Spaniard” Aaron (9-5) of Los Angeles, Calif. against Ivan “Choko” Castillo (21-13) of Ensenada, B.C., Mexico at welterweight (170 pounds).
In preliminary card action, Jonathan Sepulveda (9-3) of Isabela, Puerto Rico will throw down with Adrian Garcia (6-1) of Miami, Fla. at a catchweight of 130 pounds.
“Slick” Rick Zelada (1-0) of Los Angeles will meet Gustavo “Volcan” Navarrete (0-1) of Chandler, Ariz. at bantamweight (135 pounds).
Elizabeth Avila (0-2) of Mexico City, Mexico will look for her first professional victory in an atomweight (105 pounds) fight against Tamika Jones (0-0) of Las Vegas, Nev.
Paramount+ live coverage will begin with a Combate Global pre-show at 10:30 p.m. ET/9:30 p.m. CT, and will continue with the live fight action, beginning at 11:00 p.m. ET/10:00 p.m. CT.
Sergio Pettis looking to follow in his brother Anthony’s footsteps and earn two belts
Sergio Pettis won the Bellator Bantamweight World Championship belt opposite Juan Archuleta back in May. He will defend his belt for the first time against Kyoji Horiguchi at Bellator 272 on December 3rd.
The younger Pettis has big plans and wants to match his brother’s legacy. Anthony Pettis captured WEC and UFC in his long and storied career, but Sergio feels there is space on the mantel place for a belt from an Asian promotion (he spoke to MMA Fighting about the defense and his dreams).
“I think it would be a great opportunity for me to cross-promote,” Sergio Pettis said of an overseas move. “Anthony has a WEC belt and a UFC belt, and it would be awesome to have a Bellator belt and Rizin belt as well, to have all the belts in all the organizations – it would feel like a completion.”
Horiguchi has done some cross promotion with Bellator and actually took the belt from Darrion Caldwell before vacating and going back to Rizin. In Sergio’s eyes he holds the true belt because The Gooch injured his knee and could not defend the Bellator belt and by the time he healed up he was back in Rizin again. This is a welcome fight for Pettis who feels this fight will be the capturing of the true belt.
“I feel like the title in general is on the line. I think this is a fight where it’s really going to show who has the real championship in my division.”
The Rizin belt isn’t on the line, but Pettis does not rule some cross promotion at Flyweight or Bantamweight.
“It would be an honor to go overseas and get that opportunity,” he said. “But as of right now, my main focus is next week. I’m not looking ahead of Horiguchi at all. This is one of my toughest fights.”
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