UFC Vegas 50 was a fantastic Fight Night card oozing with finishes that was unfortunately capped off by a not-so-great main event. On paper, Thiago Santos vs. Magomed Ankalaev was a barn burner, but it certainly didn’t play out that way. Instead, both men displayed more respect than they should have for the other’s abilities and power — at least in terms of producing an exciting fight.
That said, Ankalaev moves on with his quest for a UFC title shot, while Santos goes back to the drawing board. We’ll put our matchmaker hat on now for the winning side of the UFC Vegas 50 main card.
The main event of UFC Vegas 50 didn’t play out the way we wanted it to, but Magomed Ankalaev still walked away with his hand raised. In terms of his quest for gold in the light heavyweight division, that should matter above all else.
After the fight, Ankalaev suggested he’d wanted to go the full five rounds to test himself. Whether you buy that or not, he does seem ready for the title picture — but is likely still behind the winner of Jan Blachowicz and Aleksandar Rakic. Since Jiri Prochazka has the next title fight locked up (he’ll face champ Glover Teixeira in June), that leaves Anthony Smith when it comes to the top five. That also feels like a very compelling match-up. Smith has won his last three fights, and looks poised to make another run at the title himself. The winner of this could easily step into a title fight should Blachowicz vs. Rakic fizzle.
Ankalaev’s next fight: Anthony Smith
There is no going back for Song Yadong now. It’s full speed ahead to the deepest, most dangerous depths of the bantamweight division for the Chinese fighter, who scored a walk-off KO of Marlon Moraes at UFC Vegas 50.
Having now won three in a row, Yadong also just beat the #10 ranked bantamweight in the UFC. Pedro Munhoz is coming off a loss, Chito Vera is booked, and those two are #9 and #8, respectively. Yadong called for a fight with Dominick Cruz after his latest win, and the former champ is ranked #7. That’s the fight to make.
Yadong’s next fight: Dominick Cruz
The return of Sodiq Yusuff did one thing above all else: remind fight fans that Yusuff was still in the game. After a nearly year-long absence and coming off a loss, the talented featherweight had become something of an afterthought.
That’s the problem when you have a division as star-studded as featherweight. At least with his win over Alex Caceres, Yusuff is back in the mix. The Nigerian fighter had been coming off a loss to Arnold Allen, and is currently ranked #12. Beating the #15 ranked “Bruce Leeroy” won’t see him jump too far ahead, but there are options. How about Edson Barboza? After UFC 272, we suggested a rematch with Dan Ige (or alternately a fight with Movsar Evloev) for Barboza, but this works as well. He’s lost two straight, but is a dangerous fight for anyone in the division and has the sort of name that could give Yusuff a boost in profile.
Yusuff’s next fight: Edson Barboza
Khalil Rountree Jr.
What will be remembered more than Khalil Rountree Jr’s finish of Karl Roberson at UFC Vegas 50 will be passion he showed on the mic after the fact.
Rountree just comes off like a good, likeable dude at this point, and the message he had after his fight might be more important than the win itself.
That said, we’re here to play matchmaker, so we’ve got to give him a fight. With Rountree having won two straight, how about Dustin Jacoby? He just hit the top 15 at the #15 spot, and is 5-0-1 in his second UFC stint. Feels like a fun fight.
Rountree’s next fight: Dustin Jacoby
Dober’s fight against Terrance McKinney was a war, and in hindsight, McKinney stepping in to replace Ricky Glenn made this a more exciting fight. McKinney came out looking for another first-round stoppage, and he nearly had it. He levelled Dober and hit him with everything but the kitchen sink early — but Dober’s chin proved impressive, and he rallied back to secure a TKO stoppage victory of his own.
All that in less than a round. Following the fight, Dober called out Bobby Green, and did our job for us. Thanks Drew! Because that’s a fight we want to see too.
Dober’s next opponent: Bobby Green
He had to go the distance this time, but Alex Pereira moves onward and upward in his UFC journey. The Brazilian striker is best known as the man who beat Israel Adesanya in kickboxing (twice!), and that will likely continue until he hits the deep end of the division and makes more of a name for himself in MMA.
After going three rounds with a hard-hitting Bruno Silva, that could come sooner rather than later. And at 34, the promotion needs to avoid dragging things out for Pereira. If the idea is to get him into a very marketable fight with Adesanya down the road, he needs to start nipping at the heels of the top 15. Currently, Edmen Shahbazyan is ranked #15, but has lost three straight, and Chris Weidman is #14 despite still healing up from that horrific broken leg he suffered last year. #13 is another Brazilian, Andre Muniz, who would test Pereira’s ground game, but #12-ranked Brad Tavares might be the better option for Pereira. He’s won his last two bouts, and was also an early challenge for Adesanya in the UFC.
Pereira’s next fight: Brad Tavares