Sweden’s Jack Hermansson returned to the win column on Saturday, turning back rising star Joe Pyfer at UFC Vegas 86. In the co-main event, Dan Ige was a smashing success in his own return to the winner’s circle. Here’s what could be next for Saturday’s main card winners.
‘The Joker’ extended his streak of winning every other fight and losing every other fight on Saturday as he beat unranked prospect Joe Pyfer in the UFC Vegas 86 main event. Hermansson, the eleventh-ranked middleweight in the UFC, had not fought in 2023 after losing to Roman Dolidze to end 2022, but by starting 2024 the right way he cemented his place in the division with a savvy veteran performance at age 35.
What would make more sense now than pitting the winners of the last two main events against each other? Hermansson and Nassourdine Imavov won middleweight main events in back-to-back weeks, so their timeline for their next fight should be similar. Imavov is ranked eighth in the division and is searching for a signature win; a victory over a veteran gatekeeper like Jack would propel him forward as the young French fighter seeks UFC gold.
Hermansson’s Next Fight: Nassourdine Imavov
Dan Ige lived up to his nickname again in UFC Vegas 86’s co-main event as he earned a performance bonus for his walkoff knockout of Andre Fili. ’50k’ has long been a skilled operator, but tends to falter when facing top opponents in his talent-rich division. Still, a win over Fili is a big deal and puts him back in the win column after his close loss to Bryce Mitchell.
The problem is just that Ige has not beaten a ranked opponent since 2020, so does he really deserve another one right now with a losing record against those opponents? At most he should fight the man he was originally scheduled to face, #14 featherweight Lerone Murphy. The undefeated Murphy is primarily a striker also, so the bout has a lot of potential to be exciting.
Ige’s Next Fight: Lerone Murphy
Despite missing weight in his first fight at middleweight in the UFC, Ihor Potieria was able to out-duel debutante Robert Bryczek to a decision victory. Ihor is still only 2-3 in the UFC, but has saved his job for now and will have a chance to fight another inexperienced middleweight next, this time hopefully with a full camp and a proper weight cut. His next opponent should be Tresean Gore, who has a similar record to Potieria in the UFC at 1-2.
Potieria’s Next Fight: Tresean Gore
Now with a 6-2 UFC record, five finishes, and a plethora of memes about him looking like Barack Obama, Gregory Rodrigues is one of the more interesting unranked fighters at middleweight. After finishing veteran Brad Tavares he should be ready for his first foray into ranked waters. It has only been a week since Roman Dolidze lost, giving a flat performance in his first main event, so he should be on the same recovery timeline as ‘Robocop.’
Dolidze is the clearest ranked option at middleweight to fight down in the rankings after two straight losses, so he will ahve to put his #10 ranking on the line. Given his power and grappling skills, he should at least be able to put on a more interesting performance vs Rodrigues, especially in a three-round fight instead of five.
Rodrigues’ Next Fight: Roman Dolidze
At thirty-seven years old Michael Johnson is still able to put a beating on fighters in their twenties, and seems to be learning new skills as evidenced by his rare use of offensive wrestling on Darius Flowers. He should not be forced into fighting anyone too close to the rankings, as he got knocked out brutally last time that happened, but he can compete with most unranked UFC lightweights.
Anyone Johnson fights will be more inexperienced than him, but he could at least be given someone who is a veteran himself, like Jared Gordon. Gordon also is looking to turn his last win into a winning streak, and has a well-rounded skillset to rely on in pursuit of that, just like Michael himself.
Johnson’s Next Fight: Jared Gordon
ADCC champion Rodolfo Vieira got on a winning streak with a dominant grappling performance over Armen Petrosyan. Vieira was able to take down the kickboxer, methodically pass to mount, and lock up an arm-triangle for his fourth such submission in five UFC wins. Since his pair of UFC losses Vieira has clearly put in the work to improve ancillary aspects of his game in pursuit of becoming a well-rounded MMA fighter, and it appears to be paying off.
As he looks to get closer to the rankings, it is time for him to once again face the style that gives him the most trouble: strong wrestlers. Joe Pyfer lost in the main event of this very same card after winning his first three UFC fights, making him a well-matched opponent for Vieira. Further, his defensive wrestling will be tested for the first time in the UFC, while Vieira’s offensive wrestling will be tested more than it has been in a while.
Vieira’s Next Fight: Joe Pyfer