The UFC returned to Kansas City, Missouri, for only the second time in the promotion’s history this past weekend, with a fight night with title implications atop the UFC Kansas City card.
Max Holloway vs. Arnold Allen was the marquee match-up, with an Arnold Allen win all but cementing a title shot for his next fight. The Brit couldn’t get through the tough test of Holloway though, with the featherweight division once again being put in an unpredictable position.
Let’s take a look at what could be next for the winners of the night.
Max Holloway once again showed that the best is “Blessed”, at least outside of Alexander Volkanovski. Coming into this bout, the 31-year-old knew that even with a win here, it wouldn’t do anything for him in terms of getting a fourth fight booked with the champion, but he has silenced doubters with his performance.
Breaking his own significant strikes record surpassing 3000, Holloway put on a vintage performance against an Arnold Allen in which a lot of people were, and still are high on. Volume vs Power was the talk coming into it and that’s how it played out. Allen landed some big substantial shots, but just couldn’t quite do enough to be the first man to drop Max Holloway.
In a division that is crying out for new contenders, Holloway knows a win here does nothing for him moving forward. Coming into this bout, he admitted that if he lost he would move up to the 155lb division, but after his impressive win, it looks like he is staying around at featherweight.
In the post fight press conference, Holloway told the media that he wants a fight with “The Korean Zombie,” but for me this fight does absolutely nothing. Chan Sung Jung has shown a clear regress in his career against the top echelon in the past few years, and someone like Holloway who pours it on any opponent, it’d be a horrible match-up for “The Korean Zombie’s” retirement bout.
In my opinion, Holloway has two options. Why doesn’t he carry on and move up to lightweight despite beating Allen? If it was something he knew he’d have to think about if he lost, why not do it anyway? Having said that, I unlike the majority believe there is a path for Holloway to get back towards a title shot at featherweight.
Josh Emmett and Ilia Topuria are scheduled to meet in June. If Topuria passes that test, match him and Holloway up. If Holloway could stop Topuria’s tear of the division and win one more after that, he would be worthy of another title shot. Having said that, there is no guarantee that Volkanovski will beat Yair Rodriguez or that Volkanovski will be champion by the time Max re-earns his shot, so for me, Max just has to keep beating contenders.
Holloway’s Next Fight: Ilia Topuria (If Topuria beats Emmett)
Edson “Junior” Barboza showed that he is still as dangerous as ever this past Saturday, with another highlight reel knockout, over Billy Quarantillo. This UFC Kansas City co-main event was a chance for Quarantillo to earn a ranking and to start knocking on the door of the top 10, but unfortunately for him, Barboza made a statement that he is not finished yet.
The picture perfect knee up the middle came halfway through round one, marking only Barboza’s third first-round finish during his UFC tenure. In his Octagon interview he declared his desire for his next fight to be against someone ahead of him in the rankings, instead of fighting someone trying to take his spot.
With that in mind, there are a few different options for the Brazilian 37-year-old. Sodiq Yusuff is someone who sits two spots ahead of him, but would mark a big fight for Yusuff’s career. Failing that, Calvin Kattar is looking to return to the Octagon this year after a big injury in his last outing, a fight with Barboza would be fireworks. Having said that, maybe the ferocious leg kicking of Barboza isn’t what Kattar needs in his return fight.
The third and final option that I will throw out there, is Edson Barboza vs “The Korean Zombie.” For Chan Sung Jung, it’d be an amazing fight for him to bow out on and one that excites me more than the aforementioned two.
Barboza’s Next Fight: Chan Sung Jun “The Korean Zombie”
The Russian, Murzakanov, kept his undefeated record intact this weekend with a win over striker Dustin Jacoby. Since his emergence from the Contender Series back in 2021, “The Professional” has won three in a row, all against a relatively high calibre opposition.
With his win over Jacoby, Murzakanov will leapfrog him and occupy rank 13, looking upwards at the division. In his prior two fights, the Russian managed to secure the finish in the final round, however this time he just needed to survive the final round to win a decision.
Round one was a clear round for the 34-year-old, with round two being slightly closer for the judges to pick. Jacoby decided to pile on the pressure in the final five minutes, but it just wasn’t enough to get his hand raised.
Murzakanov is now in a position where he’ll likely be fighting inside the top 10. “Bearjew” Paul Craig is coming off a loss to Johnny Walker and will likely have to defend his ranking next time out. Craig vs Murzakanov makes a lot of sense all round.
Murzakanov’s Next Fight: Paul Craig
“The Hulk” came into his fight against Tanner Boser with a point to prove, and he did just that. Boser was making his debut at light heavyweight, with Cutelaba being a tough first test. Boser made weight with room to spare though, making this fight even tougher to call.
Cutelaba though had other plans, securing himself a first round stoppage over the Canadian. The finish caused a slight bit of controversy though, with several people in the MMA world believing that it came a tad early. I personally had no problems with the stoppage.
Despite that, Cutelaba is the one who had his hand raised and will now likely look to fight just outside or just inside the rankings again.
Someone who is occupying a ranking very narrowly and lost this weekend, is Dustin Jacoby. The two met back in 2021 where their bout finished in a split draw. Now could be a sensible time to run that one back.
Cutelaba’s Next Fight: Dustin Jacoby
“The Young Punisher” lived up to his nickname once again, defeating the 31-year-old Chris Gutierrez. Coming into this one, fans were excited about the possibility of this one being a leg kicking masterclass from either fighter. That was the case with Gutierrez landing 39 and Munhoz landing 31. But it was Munhoz that did the better work outside of that, edging a decision victory.
Just when it seems as though the 36-year-old is on the decline, he bounces back with a big win that keeps his name in conversations. Although it won’t get him anywhere near a title fight anytime soon, it does mean that his next fight will once again be a big one.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see Munhoz matched up with Umar Nurmagomedov for his next outing, possibly for October’s Abu Dhabi card. Failing that, a match-up with Jonathan Martinez could be great.
Munhoz’s Next Fight: Umar Nurmagomedov
“Gifted” Garcia put on a crisp and impressive performance against the longest tenured active UFC fighter in Clay Guida.
The former Combate Global lightweight champion put on a terrific performance in what was always going to be a relatively tough fight against the ever game Guida. Despite Guida being 41-years-old, he still has one of the most impressive gas tanks in MMA with Garcia knowing he’d have to be on it for 15 minutes straight. Throughout the 15 minutes, Guida only attempted three takedowns, being unsuccessful with all of them. Over seven UFC fights, Garcia has accumulated a takedown defence percentage of 79%, showing that he has improved in that side of his game.
From there, Garcia knew he could keep the fight where he wanted it, getting the better of almost every striking exchange they got involved in.
Moving forward, Garcia will be knocking on the door of the top 15. Someone who has picked up impressive back-to-back wins is Jamie Mullarkey. A match-up between these two strikers could be fun.
Rafa Garcia’s Next Fight: Jamie Mullarkey