The UFC’s return to broadcast TV, and debut on ABC, went about as well as could be hoped. An exciting main card, multiple big finishes, and an all-time classic performance from Max Holloway in the main event. UFC Fight Island 7 was truly a blessed card, pun fully intended. A great way to kick off 2021, and get fan interest up. Of course, where there are highs, there will be lows. Several fighters will be taking a step back, and perhaps taking time off, following the event. Here’s a look at some matches to make for those who came up short this past Saturday.
Calvin Kattar proved he had heart, and one hell of a chin, absorbing a five-round beatdown from former featherweight champ Max Holloway. The problem is, while he had his moments, as the fight wore on, the UFC Fight Island 7 main event became far too one-sided. UFC President Dana White actually went to Kattar’s corner, hoping to see the fight stopped after the fourth round. Kattar himself admitted post-fight that being able to withstand a beating isn’t what he wants to be known for. So, step one, rest and recovery. Preferably a full six months off for Kattar. Step two, when he does return, a match-up with someone like Josh Emmett would work. Sure, Emmett’s coming off a win, but this is one of those cases where the winner vs. winner rule can be broken. Emmett is healing up from an ACL tear, and doesn’t need to rush back. Both guys hit hard, and Kattar won’t be faced with the sort of volume (700+ strikes thrown!) he saw against Holloway.
Calvin Kattar’s next fight: Josh Emmett
Matt Brown may be immortal, but he’s not unbeatable. The Ohio native was none too happy about the scoring in his fight with Carlos Condit, but there’s one problem: even if you agree that he won the first round, and he very much has a case, he still lost the fight. At 40, Brown has hit a point where age combined with mileage ensures that the end will come soon. He’s lost two straight, and is 2-5 in his last seven. A fan favorite who always puts on a show, now is the time for Brown to consider calling it a career. If he fights on, it needs to be against someone at a similar point in their career. Heading into Saturday’s card, Brown said he’d be willing to face Diego Sanchez in the TUF 1 winner’s retirement fight. Although Brown defeated Sanchez back in 2017, that’s not such a bad idea at this point.
Matt Brown’s next fight: Diego Sanchez
With apologies to Dominick Cruz, returning Argentinian Santiago Ponzinibbio looked a little rusty at UFC Fight Island 7. And who can blame him. Over two years out of action, due to serious medical issues, will do that to an athlete. There’s no shame in losing to Li Jingliang, however. Ponzinibbio, once recovered from that knockout, should get right back on the horse. And here’s a left-field idea: rebook his match-up with Robbie Lawler. The pair were scheduled to fight in 2019, and Ponzinibbio coming off a loss changes nothing, since Lawler has lost four straight (but is one of those rare fighters who can do so, and get a fifth fight in the octagon).
Santiago Ponzinibbio’s next fight: Robbie Lawler
Let’s not sugar coat it: Alessio Di Chirico was brought in to be cannon fodder for Joaquin Buckley. That’s not to take away from the Italian’s skills. But you don’t book a fighter on a three-fight skid against a red-hot viral star with two straight knockouts unless you are expecting a certain outcome. Well, the best laid plans and all. The UFC got the exact opposite of what was expected, outside of a highlight reel knockout occurring. Only, it was Buckley’s body hitting the floor. Now, for the most part, Buckley has only lost to solid competition: Fighter of the Year Kevin Holland, and Bellator MMA standout Logan Storley, for example. So put the middleweight in another fun match-up. “Coconut Bombz” (Maki Pitolo) is facing “The Cuban Missile Crisis” (Julian Marquez) in early February. Give Buckley the loser.
Joaquin Buckley’s next fight: Loser of Maki Pitolo vs. Julian Marquez
Someone’s 0 had to go, and in the end, it was Dusko’s. Todorovic found himself finished at the hands of the undefeated Punahele Soriano at UFC Fight Island 7. Both men entered the night without a loss on their pro records. That’s no longer the case for Todorovic. The simple plan moving forward is to pair him up with another fighter who also lost his perfect record recently: Canada’s KB Bhullar.
Dusko Todorovic’s next fight: KB Bhullar