Sparing us another week at the Apex, the UFC took a Fight Night to Jacksonville, Florida this past Saturday for a mid-day card airing live on ABC. The fifth time the promotion has aired on the broadcast network, the UFC Jacksonville card was topped by a featherweight firefight between Ilia Topuria and Josh Emmett.
You know how this works by now — it’s our time to play matchmaker. We’ll take a look at the losing side of Saturday’s card to see what comes next for the fighters in question.
Josh Emmett always had a puncher’s chance at stopping Ilia Topuria in the UFC Jacksonville main event — but it never seemed like much more than that. And when the knockout wasn’t there, Topuria pulled further and further ahead, picking Emmett apart. By the fifth round, as Emmett’s corner was insisting that he was still in the fight, trying to motivate their man, the rest of us watching saw the writing was on the wall.
Emmett proved to have plenty of heart and chin by surviving until the end of the fight. But this setback is particularly soul-crushing. Emmett was coming off a loss in an interim title fight against Yair Rodriguez, and back-to-back losses at age 38 means it is highly unlikely he can work his way back to a title shot — and even more unlikely that he can win it. Fighters north of 35 have had a historically rough go in title fights in the UFC’s lower weight classes, after all.
One thing we don’t do in this column is tell fighters to retire, though Emmett probably should reflect on what he wants to do from here. There’s money to be made and some fun fights, but if the plan was to push to the title until the wheels came off, wheel, at least one wheel is off.
Assuming Emmett fights on, however, he’s in a bit of a pickle. A lot of hungry up-and-comers like Topuria himself would no doubt like to make a name off the Team Alpha Male veteran.
One of those could be Giga Chikadze. Sharing Georgian heritage with Topuria, Chikadze has been out since suffering his first career loss against Calvin Kattar in January 2022. He did have a fight booked with Sodiq Yusuff last September, but was forced out due to injury. With Emmett ranked #5 (for now) and Chikadze #8, rankings-wise, this fight makes sense.
Emmett’s next fight: Giga Chikadze
Perhaps as important as who Amanda Ribas should fight next is the question of what weight class she should be at. Ribas has been bouncing back-and-forth between strawweight and flyweight, and unless you’re Amanda Nunes (or maybe Jessica Andrade), that rarely goes well.
Ribas was bloodied and beaten by Maycee Barber in the UFC Jacksonville co-main event, at 125lbs. She’s 2-2 in her last four fights, but 1-2 at flyweight and 1-0 at strawweight. If she can make the weight, giving 115lbs another go, and staying there consistently, might be ideal for the perpetually perky Ribas.
The Brazilian was scheduled to face Michelle Waterson-Gomez last year; an injury to “The Karate Hottie” scuttled that, but it’s worth putting this fight between top 15 strawweights back together.
Ribas’ next fight: Michelle Waterson-Gomez
Justin Tafa vs. Austin Lane
There wasn’t a loser, or a winner, just an eye poke that ended Tafa’s night early. Once he’s able to go again, maybe run this one back. They’ve already trained for each other, no reason to let that effort go to waste.
Tafa/Lane’s next fight: rematch
LFA featherweight tournament winner Gabriel Santos is now 0-2 in the UFC, after starting his career a perfect 10-0. A win in his next fight is a must.
“Slick” Nick Aguirre is 0-1 in the UFC so far, after starting his own MMA run at 7-0. He doesn’t have a fight booked but has stayed busy taking a grappling match during his downtime. One of these fighters get their first UFC win. Book it.
Santos’ next fight: Nick Agguire
Being submitted by Brendan Allen is becoming a common occurrence in the middleweight division these days. Bruno “Blindado” Silva is the latest fighter to succumb to Allen’s dangerous ground game.
Silva is now 1-3 in his last four. Sporting an identical 1-3 record in his last four bouts is Phil Hawes. Both fighters had Performance bonuses in their lone win of late, and this feels like it could lead to an explosive finish. Hawes fought just last month, so the timing should work out as well.
Silva’s next fight: Phil Hawes