Another APEX card has come and gone, but the latest, UFC Vegas 73, stood out among many recent less satisfying “home games” the promotion has put on of late — thanks to a plethora of exciting finishes, and an unexpectedly violent main event between Mackenzie Dern and Angela Hill.
There was a lot to like about the promotion’s final event of May (next week is a rare off week). Let’s look at what comes next at the losing side of the Fight Night card as we play a little matchmaker.
She’s been described as the female “Cowboy” for her active schedule over the years, which has certainly won her fans. She probably earned some new fans this past weekend as well, thanks to a gutsy but ultimately futile showing against Mackenzie Dern. So in a sense, Angela Hill came out of UFC Vegas 73 in as good a spot if not better than she was in prior to it, despite having a two-fight win streak snapped.
People are going to remember that fight.
Moving forward, ideally you keep Hill in the mix, while giving her some time to heal up. Ranked #14 at the moment, one solid option is to have Hill fight the winner of the upcoming Gillian Robertson vs. Tabatha Ricci fight. Ricci is ranked #15 and would move up with a win, while Robertson might just crack the strawweight rankings should she submit “Baby Shark.”
Hill’s next fight: Robertson vs. Ricci winner
Just when it seemed like Edmen Shahbazyan might be over his rough patch, he ends up finished by Anthony “Fluffy” Hernandez.
“Fluffy” is a great name but there’s nothing fluffy about Hernandez at this point: he turned up in a great shape and had cardio for days, which allowed him to go at an insane pace that Shahbazyan just couldn’t match in the end.
What Shahbazyan needs is to a) fix a few issues between fights and b) take a step down in terms of competition. That’s not a knock on his long term prospects, it’s just a matter of too much, too fast, too soon. Hernandez was on a three-fight win streak prior to UFC Vegas 73 and had the 2021 Submission of the Year. That’s a bit much when you consider Shahbazyan was 1-3 in his last four fights prior to Saturday.
We saw Edmen have success against Dalcha Lungiambula last year. Now let’s see how he does against someone like Cody Brundage, who is coming off two losses.
Shahbazyan’s next fight: Cody Brundage
Emily Ducote arrived in the UFC hot after beating a former title challenger in Jessica Penne, but after dropping a decision to Loopy Godinez at UFC Vegas 73, she’s 1-2 in the promotion and has lost her last two. Without knowing her contract status, she could be in a must-win situation here, going into the fourth fight of her initial deal with the UFC. A former Invicta FC champ and Bellator title challenger, Ducote has found success, but she’s also been in this position before, bouncing out of Bellator off three straight losses.
Also in dire straits is Chinese strawweight Na Liang. Having lost both her fights in the UFC thus far, “Dragon Girl” is likely in must-win territory. She pulled out of a fight with Brogan Walker earlier this year, maybe she’ll be ready for Ducote in the fall.
Ducote’s next fight: Na Liang
Andre Fialho is as game as they come, and has been both hammer and nail at times in his UFC run thus far. At UFC Vegas 73, he was the nail, with Joaquin Buckley adding to his highlight reel.
Fialho is never far from a fun fight. He’s 2-4 in the promotion and has lost three straight, but given his active schedule and exciting style, the company really should give him another go.
As for an opponent — Jared Gooden is 1-4 across two stints in the UFC. If he’s staying at welterweight (he did miss weight last time out), book that.
Fialho’s next fight: Jared Gooden
The only thing Michael Johnson should be doing for the next few months is recovering from a brutal knockout at the hands of Carlos Diego Ferreira.
Johnson has fought a who’s who of the 145 and 155lb division in the UFC. Which goes a long way to explaining why his record is barely above .500. The guy does not take easy fights, and seems game to take on all comers.
Whenever Johnson is ready to go, someone like Rafa Garcia makes sense. Johnson is a good name to test some of the younger guys against, and Garcia is 4-3 in the UFC with two straight wins, including one against Clay Guida. Most importantly — he’s someone Johnson hasn’t fought yet.
Johnson’s next fight: Rafa Garcia