History was made on Saturday’s UFC 226 main card, which took place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and aired on pay-per-view.
Light heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier (21-1 MMA, 10-1 UFC) became the second fighter in UFC history to hold two belts simultaneously when he added heavyweight gold to his collection with a first-round knockout of Stipe Miocic (18-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC) in the event headliner, putting his name on the short list of greatest fighters in MMA history.
Cormier’s achievement stole the show, but prior to his fight there were some other stellar performances – Derrick Lewis (20-5 MMA, 11-3 UFC) not withstanding. Mike Perry (12-3 MMA, 5-3 UFC) showed new aspects of his game, Anthony Pettis (21-7 MMA, 8-6 UFC) got his best win in years, and Khalil Rountree (7-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC) pulled off a stunning upset.
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 226’s winning fighters.
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Should fight: Sam Alvey
Why they should fight: Rountree extended his unbeaten streak to four fights when he pulled off a stunning finish of a former kickboxing champion for arguably the biggest upset of the night.
Rountree stopped Gokhan Saki with punches in just 96 seconds and now has some good momentum behind him in the light heavyweight division. The striking specialist said he’s opening to fight anyone in his weight class going forward.
Rountree is rather large for the 205-pound division, so fighting someone like Alvey (33-10 MMA, 10-5 UFC), who recently moved up from middleweight and is 2-0 in his new weight class, would present an interesting stylistic matchup.
Should fight: Al Iaquinta
Why they should fight: Pettis’ UFC career has been nothing if not a wild, up-and-down ride. He’s once again on a high, but given his record and history, it’s too soon to definitively declare “Showtime” as back at his best.
The former UFC lightweight champ delivered arguably his best performance in years when he scored a second-round submission of an overweight Michael Chiesa. There was flashes of prime Pettis, because he showed little concern about takedowns and managed to submit a dangerous opponent from bottom.
Pettis said post-fight that he thinks he’s “one good win” away from fighting for the 155-pound title. That seems unlikely given the long queue of contenders in the division, and after alternating wins and losses over his past six fights, some extended consistency will be needed before he’s taken seriously.
If Pettis can prove a point against another name in the division, then the renewed hype around him could move him into title contention. Iaquinta (13-4-1 MMA, 8-3 UFC) is without a fight after withdrawing from an August matchup against Justin Gaethje, and the well rounded skillset of “Ragin’ Al” would present some compelling challenges to Pettis.
Should fight: Winner of Jordan Mein vs. Alex Morono at UFC on FOX 30
Why they should fight: The change in training camps and decision to approach his career in a more professional manner paid off for Perry.
After losing consecutive fights, Perry opted to relocate to Jackson-Wink MMA in New Mexico and try something different. It paid off with a split-decision win over Paul Felder in what was Perry’s fist time winning on the scorecards.
At 26 and with a natural ability for fighting, Perry could be a real threat so long as he continues to take his career seriously and commit himself to improvement. He’s not yet ready for the elite in the welterweight division, but beating Felder is a nice feather in his cap and could be the start of a serious run.
An appropriate step up for Perry coming off the win would be the winner of Mein (30-12 MMA, 4-4 UFC) and Morono (14-4 MMA, 3-1 UFC), who fight later this month at UFC on FOX 29. Mein is a longtime veteran of the sport and has shared the cage with some of the best. He would be a good test for Perry, and the matchup would be a welcomed addition to one of the UFC’s stops in Canada before the event of the year. Morono is the less desirable matchup on paper, but if he can get past Mein, it would be hard to argue he doesn’t deserve a name like Perry.
Should fight: Stipe Miocic
Why they should fight: Watch the video in the losers column to see why Lewis should fight Miocic next.
Should fight: Brock Lesnar
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Cormier should fight Lesnar (5-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC) next.