Once again, magic struck in the city of Houston, Texas, with plenty of knockouts and submissions as well a new UFC interim heavyweight champion crowned. The media and fans labeled the card "weak" and "not worthy of a pay per view," but it is always the cards that people don't expect tons from that overdeliver. The card ended off with Ciryl "Bon Gamin" Gane, who stays undefeated at 10-0 by handling hometown favorite Derrick "The Black Beast" Lewis for a 3rd Round TKO win and becoming the UFC interim heavyweight champion and sets up a fight against the current champion and former sparring partner of Gane, Francis "The Predator" Ngannou. Other highlights include Jose Aldo turning back the clock for a decisive Unanimous Decision win over perennial contender for years to come to Pedro Munoz, Vicente Luque now breaks Tony Ferguson's record of most D'Arce choke finishes with 4 after submitting BJJ purple belt and TUF season 15 winner Michael Chiesa and a potential fight of the year contender between UFC veteran and long lost Diaz brother Bobby "King" Green and the main striking coach at Tiger Muay Thai and rising prospect Rafael "Attaman" Fiziev with Fiziev coming away with Unanimous Decision victory and fight of the night honors. After a fun night of fights and finishes, there are many decisions to be made for the movement of rankings and matchups for rising prospects and veterans alike. These matchups will maximize the skills of each fighter and create the fans and media alike will gush over and have to tune in for.
Johnny Munoz Jr. V.S Mark Striegl
The matchup between Munoz and Striegl was booked once before but fell through, and with Munoz beating Jamey Simmons by 2nd Round rear-naked choke, now is the best time to pull the trigger and re-book this. Johnny "Kid Kvenbo" Munoz Jr.(11-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) lost his UFC debut taking on Nate Maness on short notice, losing his undefeated 10-0 record in the process but bounced back with a full training camp submitting Jamey Simmons to notch his first UFC win under his belt. After a tough first UFC outing against Said Nurmagomedov (that last name should strike fear into any fighter who has to face someone with it), Mark "Mugen" Striegl (18-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) is looking for his first victory inside the UFC octagon. A former ONE FC fighter and holds a win over the #7 ranked flyweight in the world, Kai Kara France and definitely rivals Munoz's skill on the ground with 14 of his 18 wins coming by submission, submitting names such as Kai Kara France and Strikeforce and WEC veteran Harris Sarmiento. This fight would be an absolute spectacle on the ground to watch and ultimately comes down to who can control the pace and the striking on the feet because when two Brazilian black belts fight one another, it becomes either a standing affair for 15 minutes or scrambles and takedown galore, and MMA fans want to see both.
Melissa Gatto V.S Antonina Shevchenko
After a 4 year absence from the sport of mixed martial arts, Melissa Gatto (7-0-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) made her UFC debut against DWCS alum Victoria Leonardo and won via doctor's stoppage at the end of round 2 when Victoria broke her arm and could not continue the fight due to the doctor calling it. Before her debut, she rattled off a win over UFC flyweight prospect Karol Rosa with a 2nd round kimura and was on many people's radars for flyweight prospects outside of the UFC. On the other hand, the sister of the flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko, Antonina fought her way into the UFC through DWCS and amassing a 3-3 record so far in her UFC tenure with wins over Arian Lipski and Ji Yeon Kim and losing to higher-ranked opponents like Roxanne Modafferi and Andrea Lee. This matchup would show if Shevchenko found her groove in the flyweight division; she has been streaky during her spell in the promotion so far, but her striking is second to none, and her weakness has been submissions and grappling. With Gatto, 4 of her 7 wins are by submission and is a BJJ purple belt, so give it a little bit of time before the fight is booked to see if Gatto's striking can match up to Shevchenko. The flyweight division would love to take in a new contender if either woman wins via finish.
Miles Johns V.S John Castaneda
Miles "Chapo" Johns had the Toyota Center in the palm of his hand last night with a vicious 3rd Round knockout of Anderson Dos Santos. The two punch combination from the lead body hook to the right hook dropping Dos Santos to the mat down and out lit social media ablaze. The Fortis MMA product has won two straight after suffering his first professional loss to Mario Bautista in his second bout for the UFC, finishing the aforementioned Dos Santos and Kevin Natividad both in the 3rd round by KO. Additionally, the former LFA champion has a win over surging bantamweight prospect Adrian Yanez and looks to have a bright future and potentially a rematch in the future. Two straight highlight-reel knockouts puts Miles Johns in the seat for an even bigger fight and an even bigger payday if he can cash out another 50 thousand with this matchup, but it will not be easy. Former Combate Global champion John "Sexi Mexi" Castaneda (18-5 MMA, 1-1 UFC) made a big name for himself after finishing former WEC bantamweight champion and former UFC title challenger Eddie Wineland by first-round TKO and getting his first UFC win after falling short in a decision loss to Nathaniel Wood in his debut. There is no question to either of these men's skills, Johns being stocky and having a wrestling background, winning the 5A Kanas State Championships and wrestling in college, and his heavy hands finally matching his wrestling skills. Castaneda is a finisher, having 13 out of his 18 wins by way of stoppage, and is known for his smooth striking and underrated submissions. This matchup is a big next step for whoever wins and helps the winner build up their respective stock and possibly find a ranked opponent in the near future.
Manel Kape V.S Sumudaerji
Before coming to the UFC in March of 2020 with much fanfare, "Starboy" was the bantamweight champion in RIZIN after defeating Kai Asakura by 2nd round TKO to claim the vacate belt left by Kyoji Horiguchi. His trash talk and wild antics made him a big name overseas, and when he came to the UFC and made his promotional debut against Alexandre Pantoja, many expected fireworks and wanted to see where he would stand against high UFC competition. Shockingly he lost his first two fights under the promotion, losing to Pantoja by Unanimous Decision and facing Matheus Nicolau on short notice and fought to a controversial split decision win for Nicolau. Many believed that coming into this fight against Ode Osbourne that Kape was never as good as he was in RIZIN as he missed weight by 3 lbs. However, the flying knee knockout at 4:44 of the first round saved Kape's UFC career and sets him up for a bigger fight and most likely a ranked opponent. Sumudaerji is known as "The Tibetan Eagle" and is ranked at the #13 best flyweight in the world (right under Nicolau, who Kape beat) and is currently on a 3 fight win streak after losing his promotional debut to Louis Smolka via 2nd round armbar. His last win was against Zarrukh Adashev, whose record is only 4-3, but his kickboxing accomplishments are second to none. Sumudaerji is deserved a bigger-named opponent, and Kape is looking to rightfully jump into the top 15 rankings, so it is a matchup made in heaven. As well both fighters are young in this sport, with Kape being 27 and Sumudaerji being only 25 as well both are strikers, with Kape using footwork and speed and Sumudarji using his 72-inch reach and as well as his background in Sanda, so this fight is a great contrast in striking styles MMA fans would love to see be on a main card of a fight night in the near future.
Jessica Penne V.S Kanako Murata
In a matchup that would have been pivotal 5 years ago in the rankings, Jessica Penne submitted Karolina Kowalkiewicz, which brought her winning streak up to 2 after beating Hannah Goldy by Split Decision back in April. The loss to Penne, however, marked 5 straight losses dating all the way back to 2018. The sad reality of the sport is sometimes it just isn't a fighter's time anymore, and their best days are behind them in the case of Karolina. However, with Penne, at age 38 and losing 3 straight wins and 2 losses by KO/TKO and her back against the wall, has rattled off 2 straight to save her UFC career and put some momentum on the TUF Season 20 alum. Unfortunately, Penne had to serve a 20-month long suspension handed down by USADA for violating the UFC's anti-doping policy and tested positive for stanozolol, an anabolic steroid derived from testosterone and deemed illegal by USADA. Her first run-in with USADA was being flagged for a potential doping violation after a biological passport review. The whole case got pretty messy with Penne starting a GoFundMe for money in a legal battle with USADA and her manager throwing out claims, but ultimately she was cleared to fight in February of 2020. Kanako Murata, however, is a prospect with a high ceiling, even after suffering her first UFC loss to Virna Jandiroba due to an arm/shoulder injury caused during the second round of their bout. Before that fight, Murata dominated Randy Markos from bell to bell to earn herself a Unanimous Decision win in her UFC debut. With her smothering ground game and with her submission skills shown off when she had a stint in RIZIN, her and Penne like to fight in similar fashions. Where the biggest difference is striking, how much will being a veteran of the sport improve Penne's striking, or will the brute strength and youth carry Murata over her opponent?
Alonzo Menifield V.S Da Un Jung
A matchup previously booked all the way back in 2019, Menifield V.S Jung would be a barn-burner of a scrap and something that would catapult the victor into the UFC light heavyweight rankings. Menifield improved his winning streak to 2 with a beatdown of TUF season 3 finalist Ed "Short Fuse" Herman, chopping his leg down bad and hurting him on multiple occasions through the 15 minutes with Alonzo earning his first-ever Unanimous Decision victory with all of his other wins coming via KO/TKO or submission. Not only did he have the most beautiful Mr. T inspired mohawk ever seen, he also put on a dominant performance, and after suffering his first 2 professional losses back to back against Devin Clark by Unanimous Decision and getting finished for the first time in a KO loss to Ovince St. Pruex, he has bounced back nicely with a Von Flue choke over DWCS alum Fabio Cherant and the Herman victory Saturday night. Da Un "Sseda" Jung has amassed an unbeaten record of 13 fights and is undefeated in the UFC with 3 wins, knocking out DWCS alum Mike "Slow" Rodriguez, took the 0 away from Khadis Ibragimov with a standing guillotine choke and gave the behemoth of a man William Knight a beatdown for 3 rounds on UFC ABC 2. Sandwiched in the middle of the Rodriguez and the Knight fight was a split draw against Sam "Smiley" Alvey, which has been Jung's only blemish on his UFC record. Two killers matched up against one another for high stakes in the next step, with Jung finishing all but 2 of his fights via KO/TKO or submission and Menifield seeing his first-ever decision win, there are guaranteed fireworks on the feet as well as on the ground, so this fight should earn each fighter an extra 50 thousand in their pockets for each of the men's dues.
Vince Morales V.S Randy Costa
Vince "Vandetta" Morales snapped a two-fight skid Saturday night after defeating Drako Rodriguez by Unanimous Decision in what many called a lackluster or boring fight with not much action happening on both ends but with Morales moving forward and landing 84 strikes compared to Rodriguez's 60 strikes landed. Morales has had an up and down UFC tenure amassing a 2-3 record and wins over the aforementioned Drako Rodriguez and Aiemann Zahabi, the brother of the head trainer of Tristar Gym Firas Zahabi. A DWCS alum, in a losing effort to Domingo Pilarte, fought in Bellator after his Contender Series beating Justin Higo by Unanimous Decision before signing with the UFC afterward. To really establish where Morales stands in the bantamweight division, Randy Costa would give him a run for his money. Randy "Zohan" Costa is a prospect still on the rise even with his recent setback against Adrian Yanez. None of his fights, amateur and professional, ever reached the 3rd round and amassed a 2-2 UFC record with two first-round finishes over DWCS season one alum Boston Salmon and Journey Newsom. However, even after the Yanez defeat, his stock grew with a very dominant first round, being the first to draw blood by busting up Yanez's nose. Costa is a valid example of a human highlight reel with a kill or be killed mentality in the octagon, and a matchup against Vince Morales will show what fighter will reach the next level with Costa coming off a tough loss and Morales looking to start a winning streak in a log-jammed bantamweight division.
Rafael Fiziev V.S Thiago Moises
Rafael "Attaman" Fiziev (10-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) is one of the highest level strikers the UFC has ever seen, being the main striking coach at Tiger Muay Thai as well as many accolades in Muay Thai, amassing a record of 29-4 and winning multiple belts along the way. The only blemish is a quick TKO loss to Magomed Mustafaev in his UFC debut, but he has since rattled off 4 straight wins against names like Renato Moicano and Marc Diakiese. However, the only aspect of his game to not be fully tested yet is his ground game. Sure his striking is second to none, but who in the top 15 realistically give him the biggest challenge on the ground as well can hold their own on the feet? That name would be Thiago Moises. After earning his way into the UFC through DWCS Brazil, he has earned a 4-3 record with wins over TUF season 12 alum Michael Johnson, a contract winner from the first episode of Dana White's Contender Series Kurt Holobaugh, Bobby Green, and Alexander Hernandez and earned himself the #14 ranking in the lightweight division before losing to surging contender Islam Makhachev in the headliner of their Fight Night event by 4th round rear-naked choke. Moises is a hot fighter in the right matchup; when facing a heavily stand-up fighter like Johnson, he found the best path to victory after getting pieced up in the first round and submitted him within 30 seconds of the second. And with a matchup with Fiziev, it would be a good rebound after a tough loss, and for his opponent, it will show how much he has changed from a Muay Thai fighter to a full-blown Mixed Martial Artist, and he will need to most likely pull out his bag of tricks he has learned since moving to MMA.
Song Yadong V.S Raulian Paiva
The fight between two bantamweight prospects, Casey Kenney and Song "Kung Fu Monkey" Yadong, ended in a Yadong split decision win with a 29-28 and 30-27 in favor of the Chinese born fighter and a 29-28 scorecard in favor of Kenney. The fight was close, with Kenney moving forward, but Song landing the more effective strikes and out striking Kenney 121 to 85. That fight makes him a winner of 6 of his 8 UFC appearances with a majority draw to Cody Stamann and Unanimous Decision loss to TUF season 27 and DWCS alum Kyler "The Matrix" Phillips. The team alpha male product is still only 23, and with much time to improve and hone his skills at one of the best MMA gyms and fighting top-level competition, there is no wrong answer for the next step forward. Raulian Paiva moved up to bantamweight after spending his entire UFC tenure down at flyweight and won a controversial split decision against Kyler Phillips (who gave Yadong his only UFC loss to this day), with most media seeing it as a clean 28-28 draw after a very dominate first round by Phillips, hurting him on the feet and hitting him with a clean elbow near the end of the first round and arguably could have finished the fight if more time was on the clock. Down at flyweight, Paiva put on a 2-2 UFC record after winning his contract on DWCS Brazil and earned the #12 ranking after a 2 fight win streak against Mark De La Rosa and Zhalagas Zhumagulov, the latter bout against Zhumagulov, he missed weight weighing in at 129 pounds, and after two bouts fell through against Amir Albazi and David Dvorak, he moved up to 135 and told the media the move is permanent. Realistically Paiva should be ranked number 15 or 14 in the bantamweight division after beating the number 14 ranked Kyler Phillips on Fight Night - Sandhagen V.S Dillashaw, but the winner of this matchup definitely earns a number next to their name, and Song Yadong has to use his full arsenal of striking and grappling learned after years at Team Alpha Male to solidify himself a spot in the rankings with a finish over Paiva. Or will Paiva strike the upset yet again with underrated and improving striking along with the established ground game and undeniable heart and grit?
Tecia Torres V.S Claudia Gadelha
With the division being run by Thug Rose herself, the search for surging contenders and challengers for the UFC strawweight belt is at the highest urgency it can be. Weili Zhang is most likely going to receive an immediate rematch once she is able to compete, but the rise of Tecia "The Tiny Tornado" Torres is a pleasant one. A competitor of The Ultimate Fighter Season 20 and a UFC veteran since 2014, Torres winner of 3 straight and has fought a who's who of the strawweight division, including names like Joanna Jedrzejcyzk, the aforementioned Weili Zhang and Rose Namajunas, Angela Hill twice, Michelle Waterson and the list goes on and on. She has seemed to hit her stride at age 31 and has found herself at rank #10 in the strawweight division after defeating #12 Angela Hill by Unanimous Decision. However, one of the only names she has not fought and one of the fighters that stand in her way between herself and title contention is former UFC strawweight title challenger and #8 ranked in the world Claudia "Claudinha" Gadelha. She has not been on the hottest of streaks out of late, being 3-3 in her last 6 and her last stoppage win all the way back in 2017 against Karolina Kowalkiewicz. However, she has consistently has seen the top 10 of the division and has fought the highest level competition with names such as Jessica Andrade and, more recently, one of the more interesting prospects in the division Yan Xiaonan. Tecia is most definitely 2 to 3 more fights away from contention, but with a win over a former title challenger like Gadelha is a huge feather in her cap and makes her resume stand out compared to other ranked straw weights. In Claudia's shoes, she wants a fight to get herself back into the spot she was in a few years ago and one step closer to the beat she has fought once before for, and Torres is the perfect first step forward.
Vicente Luque V.S Leon Edwards
Vicente "The Silent Assassin" Luque just jumped the line when it comes to a UFC welterweight title shot with his D'Arce Choke finish over Michael "Maverick" Chiesa, which breaks the all-time UFC record for most D'Arce chokes passing Tony Ferguson (who had 3) with 4 finishes over Alvaro Herrera, Niko Price, former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and the aforementioned Chiesa. The Ultimate Fighter season 21 alum Luque put on more of a title-shot earning performance than the other man; many media and fans speculated a title shot for a while now Leon "Rocky" Edwards. Edwards fought and beat Nate Diaz through a 5 round beatdown which earned him the Unanimous Decision but what many take away from the fight was when Diaz hurt him bad with a picture-perfect 1-2 that rocked Edwards, and many take away that exact moment from the fight and not the 24 minutes beforehand. Luque V.S Edwards is a perfect title eliminator for the winner of the booked title fight rematch between Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington on November 6th for UFC 268. Luque's UFC resume is nearly unrivaled with the amount of finishes and the dominance shown with a record of 15-3 in the UFC and all but one win via finish. He has finishes over names such as current #9 welterweight of the world Belal Muhammad, Niko Price twice and the former UFC welterweight champion of the world Tyron Woodley and his only losses coming to Leon Edwards back in 2014, long-time contender Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson and Mike Graves in his UFC debut. Edward's resume holds up just as well with an 11-2 record with one no-contest due to an eye poke against Belal Muhammad. His 9 fight win streak with wins over RDA, Donald Cerrone, and Gunnar Nelson is only behind Jon Jones, Kamaru Usman, and Amanda Nunes for the longest current UFC win streak. These two are the best two welterweights behind Kamaru and Colby, and a fight between them with settle who the next challenger for the UFC welterweight championship.
Jose Aldo V.S T.J. Dillashaw
Aldo put together one of his best UFC performances at the fine age of 34 and over 10 years of UFC fights, putting on a boxing clinic against perianal contender Pedro Munoz to a Unanimous Decision and brought his win streak to two after a 3 fight skid. Seeming to get better with age, Aldo is pushing for another shot at UFC gold, this time at bantamweight after fighting at featherweight for the entirety of his career and being known as one of the best featherweights of all time. He also has made it vocal for a fight with the second-ranked bantamweight T.J. Dillashaw nearing the end of the year, and it is a great matchup. Dillashaw (17-4 MMA, 14-4 UFC) is considered one of the best bantamweights of all time, being UFC bantamweight champion twice after upsetting then #2 pound for pound fighter in the world Renan Barao (look how time changes) back in 2014 and then after losing his belt to Dominick Cruz, earned his shot against former teammate Cody "No Love" Garbrandt and defeating him via 2nd round knockout, he knocked him out in the first round in the rematch. However, his drop-down to flyweight and his attempt to become double champion against Henry Cejudo was unsuccessful; that was not the worst outcome. He tested positive for EPO, which is illegal under USADA, and accepted a 2-year ban after the Cejudo lose. The suspension ended, and his first fight back was a very close split decision win over Cory "The Sandman" Sandhagen back in July. Once Dillashaw recovers from knee surgery, this is the fight to make for the stacked bantamweight division, with Aldo seeming to polish his skills off and growing his striking arsenal out of just a leg-chopping Muay Thai fighter with a boxing clinic in his last place. And with Dillashaw performing with his classic footwork and hooks galore, with provide a tough matchup for Aldo and help smooth out what is next for the winner and loser of this pivotal bantamweight scrap.
Ciryl Gane V.S Francis Ngannou
France, your boy, got it done by dominating the hometown hero Derrick Lewis and finishing him by TKO in the 3rd round, and becoming the first French UFC champion. With the win, Saturday improves his record to 10-0 and 7-0 in the UFC and lines up the storybook matchup of former sparring partners turn rivals title unification bout against Francis "The Predator" Ngannou. Ngannou has been on a tear since joining the UFC with every single win by finish and all but one by KO/TKO. His original run to a UFC title challenge was a 6 fight win streak with brutal knockouts over Luis Henrique, Andrei Arlovski, and the murder of Alistair Overeem; however, his inexperience in the octagon showed as Stipe Miocic weathered an early storm to grind and wrestle his way to clear cut Unanimous Decision victory, giving Ngannou his first UFC loss and the lackluster performance in one of the worst UFC fights of all time against Derrick Lewis did not help his stock out. After the Lewis loss, he went on a killstreak with 5 straight finishes under a minute and a half over legends such as Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos, and after his 20 second knockout of accomplished kickboxer Jairzinho Rozenstruik set up another challenge to Stipe's heavyweight gold. However, the rematch was lightyears different than the first, with Francis stuffing an early takedown and having a patient attack with lead to a second-round knockout win to claim UFC gold. Many saw Ngannou as untouchable before the dismantlement of Lewis, but Gane has changed the view from a rising prospect to a serious threat to defeat Ngannou. With an all-around skillset, shown from technical striking against Lewis to his ground game when he submitted long-time jiu Jitsu practitioner Raphael Pessoa and as well as knockout power shown against Junior Dos Santos. Gane is the perfect blend of the new generation of heavyweight, and the fireworks shown in the octagon when these two come to blows will be unmatched.