What’s Next: UFC Austin Winners

UFC featherweight Josh Emmett
Josh Emmett celebrates a win over Ricardo Lamas in main card featherweight action at a UFC Fight Night mixed martial arts event in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017. (John Woods/The Canadian Press via AP)

On Saturday, the UFC returned to Texas for the second time this year, this time landing at the Moody Center in Austin. The crowd in attendance at UFC Austin were the beneficiaries of a blockbuster card that saw a tie in the record for most knockouts in a single event with eight.

Featherweights locked horns in the main event of the evening, as number four ranked Calvin Kattar took on number seven ranked Josh Emmett. The stakes were high in this bout, as current Featherweight King Alexander Volkanovski made it clear he wanted to see some new blood earn a title shot. Team Alpha Male’s Emmett got the nod in what was an extremely closely contested chess match, extending his win streak to five.

The day didn’t get off to the best of starts when Joe Lauzon pulled out of his scheduled bout with Donald Cerrone due to Lauzon’s knee locking. Kevin “Trailblazer” Holland’s bout with Tim Means was bumped to the co-main event spot, with Holland picking up the submission finish in what was his 16th fight in four years under the UFC banner.

Let’s take a look at some potential match-ups for the standout winners on the night.

Josh Emmett

Despite the scorecards causing some much expected controversy, Emmett got the nod regardless, and come Tuesday, the 37-year-old will see himself enter the top five in the Featherweight division. Aforementioned, despite the current champ’s bout with Holloway being just two weeks out, Volkanovski expressed his desire for some new blood to earn their right to fight him for the strap.

There is however one man from the UK who currently holds the second highest active featherweight win streak, behind the champion himself, who may think he deserves a title shot over the victorious Emmett. The winning performance on Saturday may not be enough in the eyes of the matchmakers to justify a match-up with the champion. There’s one way to settle that, UK vs US, winner fights whoever the champion may be come July 4th.

Emmett’s Next Fight: Arnold Allen  

Kevin Holland

The ever improving “Trailblazer” picked up another win since returning to the 170lb division, this time, D’Arce choking Tim Means. The problem Holland faced while fighting at Middleweight, was that he was consistently the smaller of the two, no matter who he faced. Since back-to-back losses to wrestling-heavy contenders, Derek Brunson and Marvin Vettori, he has made the correct adjustments and improvements to that side of his game, and he even showcased that briefly on Saturday night. Several times Means had Holland with his back to the cage, but due to Holland now being comfortable at his weight class, he was able to shrug off and stuff multiple takedown attempts. Holland used his mic time to make a callout of Sean Brady, who himself is struggling to find a dance partner.

Holland’s Next Fight: Sean Brady

Joaquin Buckley

Once again, Joaquin Buckley exhibited extremely powerful striking in his fight with Duraev. So much so, that due to an injury to Duraev’s left eye, the doctor deemed him unable to continue into round 3. Not only did he show almost flawless boxing, he bounced his shin off Duraev’s head multiple times in the fight, wobbling and dropping the Russian. Buckley has options for his next bout, winning in his last two, and there is another winner from Saturday night that we’d like to see him fight, that being Gregory Rodrigues.

Buckley’s Next Fight: Gregory Rodrigues

Damir Ismagulov

The UFC Austin main event wasn’t the only bout that resulted in a scoring controversy, as Ismagulov vs. Kutateladze was also shaded by questionable judging. Round one went in favour of the Georgian, Kutateladze, as he was successful with several body kicks and viscous elbows. Ismagulov came out in round two popping his jab, bloodying the face of Guram. The third and final round was the one that split the opinion of the community. Both fighters had their moments, but near the end of the round, Kutateladze landed what seemed to be a legal knee, subsequently securing top position on the ground. Herb Dean however deemed the knee illegal and took the position away from Kutateladze, resulting in him losing round three on two of the judges’ scorecards.

There are two names that come to mind when planning Damir’s next move. Diego Ferreira and Gregor Gillespie. The latter had been removed from the Lightweight rankings due to inactivity; as he later explained, he was waiting for the right fight to push him towards the title. As much as a win over Ismagulov wouldn’t be as rewarding as a win over a top 10 opponent, Gillespie’s inactivity has already caused him enough issues. Ferreira is without a win in his last three, currently occupying rank 15 with a win over Ismagulov sure to propel his momentum.

Ismagulov’s Next Fight: Gillespie or Ferreira 

Adrian Yanez

The 28-year-old once again looked phenomenal at UFC Austin. Yanez made it five straight wins since his victory on the Contender Series, picking up his fifth fight night bonus, being only the third fighter to do so in his first five fights. The beef between the two continued throughout fight week, with Kelley calling Yanez ‘a wish version’ of Jorge Masvidal. Yanez didn’t take long to make him regret his words, getting the flawless finish in the first round. For the first minute of the fight, Yanez took time to find his range and get into the flow of the fight, after catching a few of Kelley’s body kick attempts and returning a powerful left hook, he wobbled the 35-year-old with a flurry of strikes, subsequently flipping him off.

As much as the thought of O’Malley vs Yanez is exhilarating, you can only imagine that if ‘Suga’ Sean gets past Munhoz, it’ll only be up the rankings he is setting his sights on. Despite that, Yanez’s body of work so far is enough to deserve a ranked opponent. Raphael Assuncao currently occupies a ranking and would be far and away Yanez’s toughest test to date, despite his recent decline. If Yanez was able to get through the test of Assuncao, there would be no denying a bout with ‘Suga’.

Yanez’s Next Fight: Raphael Assuncao