UFC Vegas 29: Fights to make
What’s next for Dan Ige after his UFC Vegas 29 loss to The Korean Zombie? | Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC
All the best, most interesting, and unquestionably coolest fights the UFC needs to book following their latest event in Las Vegas, NV.
It may not have been much to look at on paper, but UFC Vegas 29 delivered a pretty high quality night of action for fans that took the time to watch it. Chan Sung Jung and Dan Ige put together a top-class show of talent and skill in the main event. Marlon Vera and Davey Grant absolutely went to war. And Matt Brown put the boots to father time for a classic KO win.
So, is it time for the ‘Korean Zombie’ to get another chance to win featherweight gold? Is Sergey Spivac really ready for the heavyweight elite? And how fast can we get Vera back in the Octagon against another action talent?
To answer those questions – and one or two other things – I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking methodology from the UFC of years past. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent up against one another. Hopefully, by following that model, a few of these bout ideas will actually make it off the page and into the Octagon. Now, let’s get to the fights.
CHAN SUNG JUNG
It wasn’t an electrifying KO that might have really solidified his stock as the featherweight top contender, but it was a controlled, comprehensive victory for the ‘Korean Zombie’. Chan Sung Jung landed some of his trademark power counters early, then took over much of the rest of the bout off of well timed reactive takedowns and a grappling game that still rates as one of MMA’s best. Ige’s got a reputation as a strong, aggressive BJJ player in his own right, but he couldn’t stop TKZ from beating him to positions and locking him down on the mat.
What comes next for Chan Sung now will likely largely depend on who wins the upcoming featherweight title fight between Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega. If Ortega grabs the victory, Max Holloway would have a much better claim to top contender status considering how badly ‘T-City’ dominated Chan Sung just last year (and how badly Holloway dominated Ortega in 2018). However, likewise if Volkanovski wins, the Fight Ready talent seems like the much more fun, fresh matchup for the Aussie champ than a Holloway trilogy bout. No matter what happens, however, there’s one fight I have to see, and that’s Chan Sung Jung vs. Max Holloway. If it needs to happen after either or both men challenge for the belt, that’s fine, but this is a fight that has to happen while they’re still competing at the highest levels.
‘Dynamite’ Dan got another chance to challenge the elite after a bounce back victory over Gavin Tucker earlier this year, but once again the fighter out of Xtreme Couture came up short. Ige struggled to command the range and tempo against Chan Sung Jung and found himself on the end of some huge shots standing and some smothering top control off takedowns on the mat. There were, however, some great moments for Ige off his early pressure and his better combination boxing in the later rounds. Things to build upon going forward.
All things considered, I wouldn’t argue for a big step back off this loss. It’s clear that Ige is still a dangerous fighter very much in his prime. Fights with the likes of Josh Emmett, Shane Burgos, or Sodiq Yusuff all make a lot of sense to me and should be fan friendly wars. Of all those, I think Burgos feels like the fight I most want to see. He’s got the range to potentially pick Ige off from distance, but also loves to slug it out in the pocket where Ige is at his best. Feels like chance for both men to get the kind of fight they love. Ige vs. Burgos would be a great chance to see which action-oriented fighter can stay afloat in the top 15.
Not a pretty win, but one that Spivac absolutely had to have if he was going to try and secure his place as a top 15 heavyweight. His lack of finishing power is still a concern for the top of the division. But he’s proven that he can be a tough, busy fighter who wins bouts by dragging opponents into energy sapping battles. That could lead him to a winner loser bout with Augusto Sakai or Blagoi Ivanov (when he returns from injury). But I think this is the right time for a prospect vs. prospect fight. Much like Spivac has made his reputation as a tough, challenging grappler, Tom Aspinall has made it clear that he’s one of the division’s better striking talents on the rise. Is Aspinall a good enough wrestler to keep Spivac from taking him down and wearing on him? Is Spivac a safe enough striker to defeat Aspinall if he can’t get him to the mat in a hurry? Seems like a good time to find out. Sergey Spivac vs. Tom Aspinall is a great test to see how well rounded both men truly are.
It may not have been smooth, it may not have been easy, but Vera gutted through Grant’s early charge and wild power to get a tough as hell win over three rounds. The victory is a welcome return to form for ‘Chito’, coming off a difficult loss to Jose Aldo last time around. And it’s a fight that should set Vera up for another premiere matchup. After the bout he called out Dominick Cruz, who was quick to talk about how he’s looking to find his own fight higher up the rankings, but it’s obviously a fight I’d love to see if the UFC wants to book it.
Otherwise, fights with Frankie Edgar, Jimmie Rivera, or Cody Stamann could work. But hot new prospect Kyler Phillips is supposed to be taking on Raphael Assuncao sometime in the near future, and the winner of that bout seems like they’d be perfectly lined up for Vera’s next challenge. If Phillips gets the win, then he’s got another chance to expand his quickly deepening resume as a title challenger. And if Assuncao gets the win, then he’s back on form as a top 10 guy and looking for more chances to prove he could be a contender again. Marlon Vera vs. the Phillips/Assuncao winner seems like the best option out there if Cruz isn’t interested.
The Korean came out ready to bang with Erosa from the get go and put ‘Juicy-J’ on the canvas in a hurry. It’s exactly the kind of win he needed off of his surprising upset over Youssef Zalal last time out. A victory that really cements his momentum going forward as a prospect to pay attention to. After the bout he called out Giga Chikadze (I think?), and that would be a hell of a fun battle. But with Chikadze coming off a win over Cub Swanson, it doesn’t seem likely to the bout he gets. Instead names like Mike Trizano, Gabriel Benitez, or Alex Caceres all seem like strong possibilities. I know Caceres is almost certainly looking for bigger name fights, but this would be the best striker he’s faced since Guan Wang back in 2017. It’s a name opponent that could get SeungWoo some real momentum. And it’s a step up for Caceres, even if it’s not as big a one as he’s looking for. Caceres vs. SeungWoo should be a thriller on the feet.
Beautiful win from Matt Brown. He’s been talking for a minute now about how he still has the tools to beat some welterweights out there, even at 40. And there’s no question that he proved that point tonight. Lima found great success in round 1 with his low calf kicks, but he could never quite convince Brown to stop pressuring him, or do enough work with his takedown attempts to sap Brown’s cardio. Letting the ‘Immortal’ stay in the pocket in front of his prey for multiple rounds is rarely a good idea. That win should line Brown up for another thrilling action bout. He called for a fight with Nick or Nate Diaz, and I’d especially like to see him take on Nick if he’s truly returning to the Octagon. But, banking on that seems like a fool’s errand. Instead, something like a fight with James Krause or a rematch with Tim Means? Or maybe a bout with ‘Cowboy’ Oliveira? Between bouts with Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone, Alex Morono has crafted himself a reputation as a dude looking to fight welterweight’s old guard. How about Brown vs. Morono next? Seems like a great way for Morono to keep building his resume. And for Brown, it’s guaranteed action with a real opportunity for him to still be the more powerful fighter in the cage.
A fantastic performance from Jandiroba, who looked sharper on her feet than she ever has before, and showed her clear quality on the mat the moment Murata chased her to the ground. Murata made a big mistake after escaping an armbar by diving right back into guard, and ultimately it was all Jandiroba needed to bust her arm for an eventual doctor’s stoppage. That sets Jandiroba up for another top 15 bout after her hard setback against Mackenzie Dern. Someone like Amanda Lemos, Michelle Waterson, or maybe even Tecia Torres or Claudia Gadelha. Unfortunately, since they seem like they’d be prime options, Torres and Lemos are both booked. Instead, this seems like a fine time to go winner loser and match Jandiroba up with Amanda Ribas. Ribas was on a fantastic run before getting KO’d by Marina Rodriguez. A win over Jandiroba would be a great way to bounce back and prove again that she’s a top 10 talent. And for Jandiroba, it’s a chance to move up the rankings against another strong, dynamic grappler. Jandiroba vs. Ribas should be an opportunity for both women.
A shocking win from Glenn, who’s never really been the kind of guy to go out and spark anyone in a hurry. But, Silva leapt right into the pocket and ate that left hook clean on the jaw. A few followup shots from the ‘Gladiator’ and that’s all she wrote. A big reintroduction to lightweight for the longtime seasoned veteran after a somewhat rough go of things at 145. Coming off that kind of quick victory, I’m all for throwing Glenn into more tough bouts. He’s got the experience, he’s always hard to put away, let him prove that he can show some of lightweight’s better prospects a thing or two. Fights with the likes of Devonte Smith, Joel Alvarez, or Grant Dawson would all fit the bill. So, why not make it the matchup of former featherweights. Dawson vs. Glenn would be a good way to see which man could get more out of the extra weight that being up a division provides. And a challenge for Dawson to see if he can out-hustle a man who’s used to having the grinding cardio edge on almost everyone he fights.
OTHER BOUTS: Aleksei Oleinik vs. Juan Espino, Davey Grant vs. Heili Alateng, Julian Erosa vs. Damon Jackson, Dhiego Lima vs. Kenan Song, Nicolae Negumereanu vs. Shamil Gamzatov, Aleksa Camur vs. Carlos Ulberg, Kanako Murata vs. Brianna Van Buren, Khaos Williams vs. Impa Kasanganay, Matthew Semelsberger vs. Sasha Palatnikov, Josh Parisian vs. the Nascimento/Baudot winner, Roque Martinez vs. Chris Barnett, Joaquim Silva vs. Davi Ramos, Casey O’Neill vs. Luana Carolina, Lara Procopio vs. Mariya Agapova