The last UFC event of the year is in the books and it provided us with plenty of storylines. More than a couple of prospects got knocked down a peg at UFC Vegas 17 by their veteran counterparts. Today, we look at some of those who didn’t take the step forward they expected and determine where they should go next.
Geoff Neal has been through a lot. After going into congestive heart failure thanks to a freak medical issue, dealing with a yearlong layoff, and having his head coach test positive for COVID-19, he was then given the tall task of dealing with the enigma that is Stephen Thompson. Neal didn’t seem to have many answers for the stylistic issues that “Wonderboy” presented, but to be fair, few do. While a loss might sour the view of Neal’s future, with all things considering, he shouldn’t be expecting too big of a drop off in opponent. Right next to him in the rankings is Vicente Luque, a man who was on a similar run ended by Thompson, and who has likewise been dispatching of his unranked foes with ease. He seems like a logical choice for where Neal could go next now that he has his feet underneath him again.
Geoff Neal’s Next Fight: Vicente Luque
Vera had a chance to make a huge run towards the top of the division. After dropping a controversial decision to Song Yadong, he beat fan favorite Sean O’Malley and got a chance against former featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo. The speed and quickness of the Brazilian proved to be too much for Vera though, and now he finds himself looking for a place to regain some momentum having gone 1-2 in his last 3. The win over O’Malley likely keeps him hovering around the top 15 looking for a fringe opponent. Nathaniel Wood is on a similar run having lost to Casey Kenney and John Dodson on either end of his last win. Both guys are nearing the end of that prospect label, and this fight would help determine who gets more cracks at these ranked foes.
Marlon Vera’s Next Fight: Nathaniel Wood
Although not a higher ranked foe, Williams also had issue with his step up in competition. Michel Pereira has loads more experience than Williams, and used some of that en route to a unanimous decision victory. The biggest problem for Williams is that he had an opponent who just wouldn’t stay still and throw with him. Although that’s something he does need to work on, he’s a prospect and the UFC matchmaking should handle him as such. So rather than feed him to the wolves with another fighter with attributes like Pereira (if such a thing exists), they should pair him with someone who is a willing combatant in his kind of fight. Daniel Rodriguez isn’t afraid to throw down as he showed in his fight with Dwight Grant. He’s also coming off a loss that ended his quality win streak, so this would allow one of them to get back on the right track.
Khaos Williams’ Next Fight: Daniel Rodriguez
Moraes is actually the lone higher-ranked veteran who didn’t manage to overcome his lower ranked, up-and-comer opponent on Saturday (although it is worth noting that Font was the older fighter). Rob Font returned from a long layoff looking like a man possessed and KOed the #3 ranked bantamweight. Moraes has now dropped two straight and finds himself in the middle of a top 15 where he’s fought the majority of those around him in the rankings. One fighter he has not thrown down with yet is Pedro Munhoz, who has also dropped two straight after some impressive wins. The newfound wrestling of Moraes would also make for an intriguing match-up with the always fun submission skills of Munhoz.
Marlon Moraes’ Next Fight: Pedro Munhoz
The UFC broadcast team could not speak more highly of the improvements of Greg Hardy’s striking if they tried. In the first round, he certainly did show a new sharpness to his hands. However, there was a huge drop-off in speed from the first to the second, which can be attributed to his lack of cardio. He looked out of his element on the ground and seemed to want out as soon as he was flattened out on the mat. This need to KO opponents in the first round is going to be a major deterrent in how far he can go in the heavyweight division. I’m all for putting him in there with another tough out to see if he can make those adjustments. Sergey Spivak fits the bill. He’s shown that he can take some pretty big shots and keep coming forward. He has solid pace and cardio that would test whether the 32-year old Hardy can get on his bike for more than 5 minutes.
Greg Hardy’s Next Fight: Sergey Spivak