What’s Next: UFC Vegas 53 Winners

Marlon Vera UFC
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 06: Marlon Vera of Ecuador battles Frankie Edgar during the UFC 268 event at Madison Square Garden on November 06, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)

Well then. Marlon Vera made a statement atop UFC Vegas 53, dropping Rob Font three times in three consecutive rounds, via three different methods — then hurt him again in the fifth. Font gutted it out to the end, showing ample heart (not to mention chin), but left the fight looking like something out of The Hills Have Eyes.

How’s that for a card that wasn’t supposed to be any more than an afterthought?

A lot of bad takes made the rounds on social media ahead of UFC Vegas 53, perhaps spurred on by a couple of mostly disappointing Fight Night cards this month. This past weekend’s affair was solid top to bottom, however, even without much in the way of name value.

Now, what’s next for the night’s big winners? We’ll have a go at it.

Marlon Vera

“Chito” Vera put on what was arguably the best performance of his career on Saturday. We say arguably, because stopping Frankie Edgar still means something, right? But on this particular night, Vera went the distance with a very game Rob Font, took the best he had to offer, dropped him repeatedly, and fought for twenty-five minutes for the first time.

Where does Vera go from here? Good question. Bantamweight is overflowing with talent at the moment. T.J. Dillashaw, Jose Aldo, and Henry Cejudo are all in the title hunt. All three are also former champions with more name value than Vera, so he likely has more work to do. Vera wants to run it back with Aldo, but that’s not likely to happen with Aldo campaigning for the next title shot. Cory Sandhagen is an option, but he’s lost back-to-back fights. Then there’s Petr Yan. He’s #1 in the weight class, and likely to get whoever doesn’t fight Aljamain Sterling next out of the three champs just named.

There’s another ex-champ out there that doesn’t have a fight lined up however. Dominick Cruz has won two straight. Vera struggled with Aldo, let’s see how he does against Cruz.

Vera’s next fight: Dominick Cruz

Andrei Arlovski

People calling Arlovski vs. Collier the biggest robbery since [insert recent robbery here] haven’t been following fighting all that long. Was Arlovski vs. Collier close? Yes. Could it have gone the other way? Probably. Was it some massive robbery because the media at home scored it for Collier? No.

Us media types do get these things wrong from time to time, and we’re quick to jump on what we see as miscarriages of justice when it comes to scoring. But we’re also as open to bias and outside influences as anyone else, even if we should be more cognizant of it. So let’s consider that you had former champion Dominick Cruz, on air on ESPN, claiming that Collier stole the third round because of a takedown at the bell. What? Why? What exactly did Collier do with that takedown, other than land it after Arlovski fired off a low-percentage, but potentially devastating, spinning back fist that missed? Why does a Collier takedown that means literally nothing in the grand scheme of the round matter enough to win him a round that he, in Cruz’s estimation, was otherwise losing? And how many people watching at home were swayed by those words?

Honestly, no one should take the UFC commentary team as anything more than entertainment value at this point. In the meantime, Arlovski wins a close fight. He’s won four in a row. You keep lining these young bucks up, he’s going to keep knocking them back, until he runs into a real stud as was the case with Tom Aspinall. The UFC seems happy to have Arlovski stay in this low-level gatekeeper role, and will probably do something silly, like match him up with Alexandr Romanov next. Honestly though? Arlovski is 43, a draw, and made the Collier fight interesting. He showed the chin, after all these years, is still there. There are a couple of options here: match him up with someone like Alexei Oleinik, another aging star, or give him a shot at the top 15. Blagoy Ivanov is ranked #15, and is fighting Marcos Rogerio De Lima at UFC 274. Give Arlovski the winner. He wins that, he’s back in the rankings, if not, then he can end out his career separating the wheat from the chaff.

Arlovski’s next fight: Blagoy Ivanov vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima winner

Joanderson Brito

Did anyone see that coming? Andre Fili was a big step up for Joanderson Brito, and boy did he pass the test on Saturday. You’ve got to reward that, while keeping in mind that Brito is just 1-1 in the UFC.

Umar Nurmagomedov is 2-0 in the UFC, and despite having just two fights in the promotion, everyone knows that name. He’s a cousin of Khabib Nurmagomedov, and if Brito does well against him, he’s got a real future at featherweight.

Brito’s next fight: Umar Nurmagomedov

Grant Dawson

Grant Dawson was all about the wrestling against Jared Gordon, and did an excellent job implementing his game plan. With the win, Dawson, who switched teams ahead of the fight, maintained his unbeaten streak in the UFC. The man hasn’t lost since 2016, but he’s just 2-0-1 in the lightweight division since returning to 155lbs last year. Considering the depth lightweight has, there’s no need to rush things.

Thiago Moises might have lost a couple of fights, but he’s still a name at lightweight, has headlined a card, and would be a good next step for Dawson. Let’s do that next.

Dawson’s next fight: Thiago Moises

Darren Elkins

After fighting out his deal at UFC Vegas 53, featherweight Darren Elkins’ next fight will be for a new contract, which he should get. Then, match him up with someone similar to Tristan Connelly, who was game where ever the fight went on Saturday.

When he gets back? Makwan Amirkhani snapped a three-fight skid in his last fight, choking out Mike Grundy. Elkins is another guy willing to go out on his shield. This should be fun where ever it goes.

Elkins’ next fight: Makwan Amirkhani

Krzysztof Jotko

Poland’s Jotko put on what might be the best performance of his UFC career this past Saturday. He’s now won two straight, and five of his last six, with the only loss coming to Sean Strickland. Had this Jotko showed up against Strickland, it would likely have been a closer fight.

Julian Marquez is facing Gregory Rodrigues next month; the winner makes sense, especially if it’s Marquez given he’d be on a three-fight win streak.

Jotko’s next fight: Marquez-Rodriguez winner


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