UFC Vegas 69 turned out to be mildly more entertaining than anticipated, with a weak card on paper still producing some big moments. Among the biggest, Erin Blanchfield completed her star turn, dispatching former strawweight champ Jessica Andrade in little over a round.
What comes next for Blanchfield and her main card cohorts? Read on.
Now that is how you make a big impression in your first main event. Sharp-eyed MMA scouts have been high on Blanchfield since her Invicta days, but UFC Vegas 69 was her introduction to a wider audience — the type of audience that typically skips the prelims.
Though Taila Santos was technically ranked higher, having her replaced by ex-champ Jessica Andrade actually helped the visibility of this fight: as far as the history of women in the UFC goes, Andrade is one of the most recognizable names.
Blanchfield handled her with ease. Most surprising is how good she looked on the feet. We knew she was good on the ground already. The stand-up was unexpected.
Of course, there’s still work to be done. Blanchfield will need to keep improving to really be able to hang with Valentina Shevchenko. And here’s the problem: she might not get that time. After a performance like that, the promotion may want to strike while the iron is hot. Blanchfield called for the winner of Shevchenko vs. Alexa Grasso next month. She pointed out herself that the timing works out. The only other option would be Manon Fiorot, but Blanchfield is young enough that if she bombs in an early title shot, she can easily work her way back.
Blanchfield’s next fight: Shevchenko vs. Grasso winner
TUF 30 heavyweight finalist Zac Pauga made the drop to 205lbs for the UFC Vegas 69 co-main event, and it paid off. He put on a dominant performance against Jordan Wright, earning a unanimous decision win. A lesser fighter might have gone out before 15 minutes was up, so credit to Wright for his toughness, but he didn’t have much of an answer for Pauga’s elbows, clinch game, or grind-heavy grappling.
This fight, of course, was part of the problem with UFC Vegas 69 — only at a 2023 Apex show is this truly considered a co-main event. But you can’t hold the promotion’s struggle to stock these cards with meaningful fights against Pauga.
Pauga called for a top 15 opponent next. He probably won’t get one, but he should get someone who can get him there. Philipe Lins also had a big win on the night, against Ovince Saint Preux on the UFC Vegas 69 prelims. He also called for a top 15 foe following the fight, but probably needs one more win. This one books itself.
Pauga’s next fight: Philipe Lins
Jamal Pogues didn’t look like a world-beater against Josh Parisian, but he didn’t look particularly bad either. It was an emotional night for Pogues, whose UFC debut had been a long time coming. So it’s hard to read too much into this fight, quite frankly.
With that in mind, let’s not rush anything. Parker Porter has been an opponent suggested by some. Porter is coming off a loss, and that fight basically makes sense only because the UFC is short on heavyweights. Another option would be the winner of Łukasz Brzeski vs. Karl Williams, who fight in a couple of weeks. That, or a fresh face in the promotion.
Pogues’ next fight: Brzeski vs. Williams winner
Few people are ever going to watch Marcin Prachnio vs. William Knight back. The fight was… bad. The fault lies with Knight. He’s owned up to that, and he sure doesn’t deserve the death threats he’s reportedly received over it.
As for Prachnio, it’s hard to blame the guy for fighting smart, but really, his game plan didn’t help things. It did help him win, however, and that’s what matters. The Polish light heavyweight is now 3-1 in his last four, and finally living up to the expectations his run in ONE Championship set. Kennedy Nzechukwu has won his last two fights, and is a big, strong guy who probably won’t hesitate the way Knight did.
Prachnio’s next fight: Kennedy Nzechukwu
Jim Miller had been on a three-fight win streak prior to running into Alexander Hernandez. Stepping in on short notice, Hernandez fought his fight, was one step ahead throughout, and earned a very solid unanimous decision win.
Next up? Well, Hernandez has said he wants to give 145lbs another try, despite the fact that his junk stopped working the last time he tried that cut. Well, good luck with that, and here’s hoping the soldier can still salute when all is said and done.
Since 145 is his goal, we’re going to suggest Sean Woodson for Hernandez. Woodson is coming off a draw with Luis Saldana and had been pursuing a rematch. The UFC usually isn’t keen on those unless the original fight ended with some serious controversy however.
Hernandez’s next fight: Sean Woodson