Welterweight Vicente Luque returned from a year away, during which he recovered from a brain bleed, at UFC Vegas 78 on Saturday— and it was a successful return at that. A five-round decision victory again ex-lightweight champ Rafael dos Anjos puts Luque back in the mix, but where does he go from here?
Vicente Luque snapped the first losing streak of his MMA career and bounced back from his first knockout loss by defeating former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos over five rounds. Luque showed a more well-rounded game in this bout as he took down RDA several times on his way to the decision victory.
Luque defended his ranking against an unranked challenger but still is not ready to fight up in the ranks again with a 1-2 record in his last three. Fighters like Kevin Holland and Jack Della Maddalena are new, talented strikers in the welterweight rankings who would make great fights for Luque.
If Luque could be ready by UFC 293 in September then a fight with Jack Della Maddalena in Australia would be great, but that seems a bit too soon. Facing Kevin Holland later in the year seems like the appropriate next fight.
Luque’s Next Fight: Kevin Holland
After his fight vs Dooho Choi was inducted to the fight wing of the UFC Hall of Fame last year Cub Swanson locked down an official place in MMA history. This, his first bout since receiving that honor, must have meant a lot to the thirty-nine year old veteran of over thirty UFC and WEC fights. Swanson won a close split decision over the younger Hakeem Dawodu.
At his age Swanson is definitely nearing retirement, but he is not quite there yet. He should spend his last few fights in fun bouts; it is not realistic to match him against top contenders at this age. A fellow elder statesman of the division is Gavin Tucker, who lost to Diego Lopes in his return from a two year layoff recently. If these two fight, it would keep us from seeing one of these older men fighting a young up-and-comer, which is a fight archetype that often ends with a bad taste in fans’ mouths.
Swanson’s Next Fight: Gavin Tucker
Khalil Rountree Jr.
Muay Thai specialist and the UFC’s thirteenth-ranked light-heavyweight Khalil Rountree’s brand of violence was once again on full display at UFC Vegas 78 as he knocked former heavyweight contender Chris Daukaus out in the first round. After four wins in a row, all of them coming either by knockout or in a ‘Fight of the Night’-winning bout, Rountree is ready to once again look towards ranked fighters above his #13 spot.
Two other fighters battling it out to move up in the ranks are Anthony Smith and Ryan Spann, who will rematch their 2021 fight in two weeks’ time. The winner will move into title contention while the loser will have to fight down in the rankings against someone like Rountree. All three fighters bring entertaining striking skillsets to the table, but both Smith and Spann can test the wrestling defense of Rountree, something Khalil has not had to face recently.
Rountree’s Next Fight: Loser of Smith/Spann
Brazil’s Lucindo has won two straight fights since dropping her UFC debut to fellow hot prospect Yazmin Jauregui last year. At only twenty-one years of age Iasmin is one of the brightest prospects in all of women’s MMA and has several years to realize her full potential, so she does not need to be pushed into facing ranked opposition just yet.
There are several strawweights on the rankings bubble that would be perfect to challenge Lucindo next. Gillian Robertson could challenge her wrestling, Loma Lookbonmee her striking, and Karolina Kowalkiewicz her all around skillset. At this stage Robertson probably makes the most sense. Polyana Viana is a good grappler but has nowhere near the wrestling capabilities of Gillian, and that test is one that all prospects need to pass at some point. It is best to learn now if she can defend takedowns sufficiently.
Lucindo’s Next Fight: Gillian Robertson
Mark Coleman protégé AJ Dobson earned his first UFC win at the third time of asking as he defeated Tafon Nchukwi by unanimous decision. That will be a weight off his chest, but at 1-2 in the promotion he still is fighting an uphill battle and will fight an unranked fighter in a similar spot to himself next. At middleweight there are many fighters on their first UFC contact with a win percentage of under .500 like Christian Leroy Duncan, Nick Maximov, and Dobson’s UFC Vegas 78 card-mate Josh Fremd.
Of these, Duncan probably makes the most sense. The two are both striking specialists so it could be a fun stand-up battle, Duncan is only 1-1 in the UFC while Fremd and Maximov are both 2-2, and Duncan fought somewhat recently which puts him on a similar timeline to Dobson for their next fight.
Dobson’s Next Fight: Christian Leroy Duncan
After a two-fight losing streak to start his UFC run, Josh Fremd has now won two fights on the bounce against Sedriques Dumas and now Jamie Pickett. Getting back to .500 in the UFC must be a relief, but every fight is still crucial at this point as Fremd fights to get a winning record in the promotion; with that comes more job security.
One potential opponent is Duško Todorović. The Serbian middleweight is 3-4 in the UFC but his last loss was due to a freak knee injury. His well-rounded mixture of striking and wrestling ability, as well as his greater experience, makes him a tough challenge for Fremd and a worthy one for a fifth UFC fight.
Fremd’s Next Fight: Duško Todorović