What’s Next: UFC 299 Losers

Chito Vera, UFC 299
Chito Vera, UFC 299 ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Jay Anderson/Cageside Press

Win some, lose some, that’s how the story goes. UFC 299 was a big night for names like Sean O’Malley and Dustin Poirier, and a rough, very rough night for opponents Marlon “Chito” Vera and Benoit Saint-Denis. Where do the losers go from here, after some time to heal up? Let’s look at some options.

Marlon Vera

Everything about the UFC 299 Fight Week in Miami, at least on camera, went perfectly for Marlon Vera. The turnout supporting him was massive. The gate set records. He was afford two media days, a UFC first – one in English, one in Spanish. Vera’s star had arrived and had he won at UFC 299, it would have soared even higher. Even a close loss, and we’d be talkin about a main event next and a quick path back to the title.

Unfortunately, the Chito Vera who turned up on Saturday at the Kaseya Center looked out of place. He had no apparent game plan for Sean O’Malley in what turned out to be a one-sided beatdown. Vera said after the fight that he’ll be back, and he will. He’s still one of the biggest stars out of South America in the UFC and probably the biggest outside of Brazil. But he needs to forget the title picture for a bit and just put together some wins. And probably forget about Sean O’Malley period, as there’s minimal interest in a third fight despite the pair technically being 1-1.

It’s tempting to suggest Henry Cejudo next for Vera, but that doesn’t do him any favors and who knows what Cejudo’s plan is. Jonathan Martinez might be interesting however. He’s been on a roll and has two leg kick TKOs in his last three fights. That would almost certainly be an entertaining fight with bonus potential, plus either Chito rebounds or #11-ranked Martinez jumps to the next level.

Vera’s next fight: Jonathan Martinez

Benoit Saint-Denis

The odds-makers favored Benoit Saint-Denis at UFC 299, but Dustin Poirier proved he’s as dangerous as ever in the end. The knockout blow was as hellacious as the guillotine attempts were comical in the end. Either way, BSD endured a scary-looking KO and should be resting up.

After that, he still has plenty of promise. If the UFC heads back to Paris (or elsewhere in France) in the fall, that seems like an idea return date. Against who? Drew Dober, ranked #15, sure seems like a good fit. That has the potential to be another banger; maybe it’s BSD doing the banging this time around (but let’s be honest, Dober is no slouch either).

Saint-Denis’ next fight: Drew Dober

Kevin Holland

Kevin Holland is incredibly entertaining at times and has a great personality for this sport, but he wound up lured in and hypnotized by Michael “Venom” Page in MVP’s UFC debut. MVP’s flashy, creative and elusive striking attack seemed to frustrate Holland as the fight went on. It wasn’t a beatdown like the Wonderboy fight but it was still a clear loss.

Holland now has back-to-back losses over MVP and JDM (Jack Della Maddalena) so let’s keep him away from anyone whose name abbreviates to three initials. In all seriousness, let’s keep Holland in fun fights. Gregory Rodrigues is coming off a couple of wins and recently defeated Brad Tavares. That’s certainly a fun option and a good next test for Rodrigues/fun rebound for Holland. “Robocop” is always game too.

Holland’s next fight: Gregory Rodrigues

Gilbert Burns

“Durinho” may never again fight for UFC gold but Gilbert Burns remains a staple of the division. With Jack Della Maddalena smashing through him at UFC 299, it’s time to regroup. Especially given this marks the first time Burns has lost back-to-back fights in his professional career.

Burns has fought everyone from Khamzat to Usman to Gamebred and was ranked #4 at 170lbs. That ranking will drop a bit this week, but he’s still due a top ten opponent. Geoff Neal, who has also lost two straight and is ranked #9, could work here. Or, if you want to go real left field, book Burns and Kelvin Gastelum (who isn’t ranked) if he sticks around welterweight. Neal is the pick though.

Burns’ next fight: Geoff Neal

Song Yadong

Yadong vs. Yan may not have determined who the best boxer in the UFC is but it certainly determined who the best box between Song and Petr was on Saturday, and the answer was not Song Yadong. The Team Alpha Male product lost a decision to the ex-champ and it’s back to the drawing board.

Song had headlined three straight Fight Nights prior to UFC 299 and has been rather reliable for the UFC. He should have been fighting in Shanghai late last year, but the card was scrapped for undisclosed reasons. If it winds up back on the schedule, that’s the landing spot, but who is the opponent? Rob Font makes sense here. The pair were booked last August, but Song withdrew. They’re both coming off losses. Book ’em, Dano.

Yadong’s next fight: Rob Font