UFC Vegas 31 had everybody all jacked up for the names at the top of the card. After all, who wouldn’t be pumped by Khabib’s protégé and the return of a champion five years in the making? But while both of the aforementioned fighters were victorious and continue to make strides towards their goal of the top of the division, we also have to look at the other side of the coin as well. This week, we dive into what’s next for those who didn’t get the dub on UFC Vegas 31’s main card.
Author’s note: Due to her retirement, I did not match Marion Reneau with anyone.
Stepping up to face Islam Makhachev was a big ask for Thiago Moises, who saw his three-fight win steak snapped with a fourth round submission. While it was a tough loss and he never really seemed to threaten Makhachev (save for a short lived back take attempt in the third), he’s likely still right in the mix at the edge of the top 15. I’d like to see him face someone else next to work out his ever improving striking – since it didn’t get much work against Makhachev. John Makdessi is currently 4-1 in his last five fights. Although he is healing up from an injury, if the timelines matched up, he’d be a great one to draw out those skills from Moises.
Thiago Moises’ Next Fight: John Makdessi
A 65-second submission loss to Mateusz Gamrot at UFC Vegas 31 leaves the 14-year UFC veteran with zero wins in his last six fights. At this late stage in his career, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the UFC show him the door. However, Dana White does seem to have an affinity for Jeremy Stephens, so he may stick around. If he does, I think the UFC ought to use him as a building block for young up-and-comers. They sort of did that with Gamrot, who I think saw a huge stock bump with his victory Saturday. Joel Alvarez could use a similar one. He’s on a three-fight win streak with back-to-back submissions. It would be nice to see the UFC book him with Stephens to give him a bit of the rub.
Jeremy Stephens’ Next Fight: Joel Alvarez
Stoltzfus hung right in there with Rodolfo Vieira at UFC Vegas 31 for the better part of the three-round affair. He stuffed a number of takedowns and had some decent moments on the feet. This loss drops him to 0-2 and, like Stephens, puts him in a tough spot where the UFC may give him the axe. If they do give him another shot, which I think they should, I say pair him with someone where he can be the wrestler. That was never going to be the case with Vieira, but it would be against someone like Dusko Todorovic. Todorovic is also riding a two-fight losing streak and is badly in need of a win. Might as well let it happen for one of these two.
Dustin Stoltzfus’ Next Fight: Dusko Todorovic
Benitez had the roughest night at the office of anybody at UFC Vegas 31. That includes Montserrat Ruiz who only lasted a grand total of 35 seconds in the cage. Benitez was instead out worked brutally by Billy Quarantillo who held his back for the majority of the fight and eventually finished him with strikes. Benitez is another case where it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the UFC let him walk. He’s missed weight recently and is now 1-3 in his last four. If they don’t give him his walking papers, I say send him back over to the person he was supposed to fight when he missed weight badly – Jonathan Pearce. Pearce has a similar grappling style to Benitez and it would tell the UFC a lot about the adjustments Benitez is capable of.
Gabriel Benitez’s Next Fight: Jonathan Pearce