UFC Vegas 49’s main event was shaken, and definitely stirred, about a week out from the show. With Beneil Dariush suffering a fractured leg, it was Bobby Green making a short turnaround to save the day. Not surprisingly, things didn’t go his way against Islam Makhachev — who now has a potential shot at gold ahead of him.
There’s always a “but” in these situations though, isn’t there? That arrived Monday. So let’s play matchmaker for the winning side of UFC Vegas 49 — knowing that Makhachev’s return could come sooner than expected.
This one’s easy, right? While Bobby Green wasn’t a top-10 fighter in the UFC’s lightweight division, he’s always game, and Makhachev now sports a 10-fight win streak. That alone should land him a shot at the winner of Charles Oliveira vs. Justin Gaethje.
And let’s be honest: this was a dangerous fight for Makhachev. Sure, he went out and dominated Green, but a loss really would have taken the wind out of the Dagestani’s sails. Even a gruelling, lengthy affair (think Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Al Iaquinta) could have thrown a wrench in the works for what feels like an otherwise inevitable title shot.
So it’s the title next, right? Sure seemed that way Monday morning. Then along came the MMA gods to thumb their nose at the sport and force Rafael Fiziev out of his fight with Rafael dos Anjos this weekend.
Could Islam Makhachev save the bout, and turn around on a week’s notice to fight a former champ? The bout would likely come at welterweight, but who cares? RDA and Makhachev have a lengthy history, and the fight between them has fallen through more than once. Islam appears willing to do it, and a win against RDA, even up a weight class, locks him in as the next lightweight contender. It would be really hard to argue against that were he to beat Green and RDA a week apart.
This is how legends are made. This is the fight the UFC should be booking right now. If not, it’s the title shot.
Makhachev’s next fight: RDA or a title shot
Middleweight Wellington Turman’s co-main event fight against Misha Cirkunov did not look to be going his way after the opening round. Cirkunov appeared to have settled in, likely won the opening frame, and all expectations were that he’d so the same over the next two rounds.
Then, Turman hit an arm-bar out of nowhere. Cirkunov tapped before most onlookers even realized what had happened. Just like that, Turman, who trains alongside Glover Teixeira, was sitting on a two-fight win streak.
Turman is now 3-3 inside the octagon, but probably isn’t going to be rushed to the top just yet. Marc-André_Barriault had a two-fight win streak snapped earlier this month by Chidi Njokuani. That feels like a solid match-up.
Turman’s next fight: Marc-André_Barriault
Outside of Islam Makhachev, no fighter had a bigger night at UFC Vegas 49 than Brazilian Priscila Cachoeira. After her December bout with Gillian Robertson, which was marred by illegal eye gouging on the Brazilian’s part, her peers were outright calling for her to be cut from the UFC.
That meant she was under the microscope on Saturday. One wrong move, and she could have been on the scrap heap. Instead, she got into a war with Ji Yeon Kim that captured Fight of the Night, using some nasty standing elbows in the third round to claim the victory.
Sure, it could have gone the other way, but the win leaves Cachoeira at 3-1 in her last four fights. The “dirty fighter” label will be forgotten for the time being, because MMA fans have short memories. It’s all about what you’ve done lately, and Cachoeira put on a very entertaining performance Saturday.
Next up: Queen of Violence Ariane Lipski. She just pulled out of a March 12 date with JJ Aldrich, and will hopefully be ready to go later this year. This just feels like another fun, violent fight.
Cachoeira’s next fight: Ariane Lipski
Armenian-Russian lightweight Arman Tsarukyan arrived in the UFC with a ton of hype behind him, then flopped out of the gate. That’s one way of looking at things. Another is that he ran into Islam Makhachev too early in his career — and that’s a match-up we may want to see again some day.
Since the Makhachev loss, Tsarukyan has won his next five bouts in the promotion, earning back-to-back Performance of the Night bonuses in his last two. Not to mention, the Makhachev bout earned Fight of the Night when they met in April 2019.
Tsarukyan isn’t a ranked fighter yet, but he will be soon if he keeps performing this way. Joel Alvarez had been on a four-fight win streak, and Tsarukyan finished him inside the distance. It’s time for a step up. Damir Ismagulov is undefeated in the UFC, and 20-1 overall. If he gets his weight under control — he came in so heavy against Magomed Mustafaev back in October that their fight was scrapped — this is the bout to make.
Tsarukyan’s next fight: Damir Ismagulov
It’s hard to gauge where Petrosyan is based off his performance opposite Gregory Rodrigues, for two reasons: one, the split decision could have gone the other way, and two, Rodrigues opted to forgo the obvious path to victory, his grappling, and engaged in a stand-up battle against the striker.
Petrosyan has wins by head kick, body kick, and had never gone the distance prior to UFC Vegas 49. He at least proved he has the gas tank to go all three rounds.
Chidi Njokuani was also successful in his promotional debut recently — that match-up could go off with a bang.
Petrosyan’s next fight: Chidi Njokuani