By Nick Stavas and Zack Lambert
Over the course of the pandemic, the UFC has been the sport that has endured. While the rest of the entire planet paused for nearly three months, Dana White and his club of gladiators have paved the road to renewal, and everyone who has tuned in to the fights have received some of the best the sport has to offer. UFC Vegas 4 was no different as we were treated to one of the best events of the year. The main card filled out with a variety of finishes including a finale that could be up for Fight of the Year. Most of the winners and even some of the losers from Saturday’s bouts are on the rise and will be looking forward to bigger and badder opponents. Many of the competitors left their futures to be determined, so we’re going to break down the best step forward for the biggest winners. Several of the winning fighters came out unscathed, so we could see them as soon as the Fight Island events, so let’s jump into who’s next on the chopping block for Saturday night’s victors.
Julian Erosa (24-8, 2-4 UFC)
Julian Erosa was a heavy underdog coming into the fight against Sean Woodson thanks to Woodson’s rising stardom and Erosa’s replacement status, but “Juicy J” was able to pull off a comeback submission over his younger opponent. Erosa took the fairytale path of getting pounded for about a round by Woodson’s lanky limbs, but once Erosa was able to decipher the feints and hand movements he completely took over the fight. Clearly the aggressor in the 2nd and 3rd rounds, Erosa was able to get Woodson on his heels and was happy to accept a jab to the head in exchange for body combinations that opened up Woodson’s head.
The punching stats were generally very similar and Erosa might have been lucky not to go to the judges, but the aggression he displayed in his takedown attempts finally paid off. While Woodson was laboring in the third Erosa took the opportunity to control his head. With no retaliation from the gassed Woodson Erosa was able to secure a D’Arce choke and Woodson had no choice but to tap. That Erosa was able to absorb so many punches and endure for a submission on short notice should be enough for the UFC to get him a few more fights early on their main cards.
Erosa took a beating of his own and probably won’t be able to fight on the infamous Fight Island, but he’ll want to get another fight probably before we hit the winter months. One possibility we discussed was a Nate Landwehr fight. Landwehr last fought in mid-May and beat Darren Elkins in a unanimous decision. Erosa would certainly take this fight but Landwehr might have his sights on bigger prizes. Another possibility could be Alex Caceres who beat Chase Hooper also by unanimous decision and looked great in the process. The same issue might arise with Caceres, however, as the UFC may want to push him against a better fighter.
Chase Hooper himself might actually be the best option for Erosa. With Hooper being the UFC’s youngest fighter, Erosa could be seen as a good test considering he just beat a fighter with a very similar body type. Hooper looked bad against Caceres and the UFC will want to test him with another experienced fighter before they make a decision on his future. Both fighters should be ready to go sometime in late August or early September so pairing them up would make the most sense.
-Zack Lambert (@bigbird8224)
Tanner Boser (18-6-1, 2-1 UFC) and Maurice Greene (9-4, 4-2 UFC)
If you didn’t see the fights on Saturday I’ll do my best to save you a bit of time here. Boser fought on the undercard and lived up to his “The Bulldozer” nickname as he steamrolled Philipe Lins on punches. The upset came as a bit of a surprise but after the fight he called out Maurice Greene who was scheduled to fight the 4th event on the main card, claiming they had discussed the fight over some drinks at the pool in recent nights. Greene took the mat against Gian Villante and despite looking a bit outmatched for most of the fight, was able to slip Villante into a modified submission of sorts, forcing him to tap.
After the fight, Greene and Boser did reveal their behind the scenes conversation and Greene was able to disclose his point of view. With neither of the fighters taking too many shots they both made it clear that they wanted to fight each other and they wanted to do it on the Fight Island. A pair of rising heavyweights that are willing to go after each other will always be a sweet commodity for the UFC so they’d be silly to hold off if both fighters are ready. We should expect to see their match on one of the Fight Night main cards on the island.
-Zack Lambert (@bigbird8224)
Brendan Allen (15-3, 3-0 UFC)
The Brendan Allen fight against Kyle Daukaus was admittedly a bit underwhelming compared to some of the other fights on the card, but that doesn’t discount the performance that Allen put on. It was Daukaus’s first fight in the UFC and he did well up to keep up with Allen’s striking and seemed eager to get onto the floor, but once he took Allen down he struggled to keep him there. Allen repeatedly slipped out of Daukaus’s grasp and was able to take him back. That isn’t to say that Allen was in complete ground control; Daukaus nearly found a straight rear naked choke on him in the first, but Allen was able to control a majority of the ground time and generally have Daukaus in helpless positions.
Allen hasn’t lost a fight since January of 2018 and considering he’s a proven commodity in the middleweight division it’s time to get him into fights with some bigger names. The only issue is that in the fight against Daukaus, Allen sustained orbital and nasal fractures that will likely put him on the sideline until 2021. Were those injuries not the case a fight against someone like Marvin Vettori could have been an option as both are on win streaks and Vettori could provide a good change of pace.
However, with those injuries a good choice could be one Krzysztof Jotko. Jotko just fought in mid-May, beating Eryk Anders by unanimous decision. With the fight coming so recently Jotko might be willing to wait if the price is right. The case for Allen to take the fight is that Jotko is a fighter who has taken on big names and would absolutely be the resume win if Allen could bag him. That might not sound tantalizing for Jotko but the fact of the matter is that since his losing streak against Branch, Hall, and Tavares, Jotko hasn’t really beaten anyone of note. Taking down Allen could vault him back into the ranking conversation with the UFC and maybe get him another shot with a big name.
-Zack Lambert (@bigbird8224)
Mike Perry (14-6, 7-6 UFC)
Famous for his clowning antics, Mike Perry is one of the most entertaining personalities in the UFC. Per usual, Platinum Mike pulled another wild stunt Saturday, this time having his girlfriend as the only person in his corner. It obviously didn’t matter as Perry was able to earn a convincing decision victory over Mickey Gall. As I said in my UFC Vegas 4 betting preview, Gall is nothing special in terms of skills inside the octagon, so we can’t let this win be the deciding factor when judging Perry’s future in the UFC. That being said, any win in the UFC is a good one, so props to Perry for his performance.
There were post-fight rumors swirling around that Perry wants to move up to middleweight to fight Darren Till. The rivalry between Perry and Till, which has escalated through social media, got to the point where Perry says that if he ever sees Till in public, they will throw down on sight. Now, all that talk is great, but if Perry has even the slightest sliver of what’s in the best interest of his fighting career, he would stay away from Till altogether.
Regardless of his beef with Till, we’re just going to assume Perry will stay at 170 pounds and await his next welterweight opponent. So who will that opponent be?
Two candidates emerge to the forefront. If Perry is looking to slowly work his way up the food chain in the welterweight division, someone like Belal Muhammad would be a great fit. Finding fighters that are willing to sign the dotted line during the pandemic is going to be a major factor in determining future opponents for many competitors. Given the fact that Muhammad fought and won just two weeks ago at UFC Vegas 3, I think a matchup with Perry toward the end of 2020 could be great for both men.
If Perry wants to go straight to the top and start picking off ranked opponents, Neil Magny could be a good option. Magny defeated Anthony Rocco Martin at UFC 250 a month ago and looked as sharp as he ever has in his UFC career. It wouldn’t surprise me if Magny wants to fight up and continue climbing the ranks, but if he’s just looking to get another win under his belt, fighting Perry would be a solid opportunity for him to do just that.
– Nick Stavas (@nickstavas)
What’s next in the lightweight division?
The ever-changing UFC lightweight division is arguably the most exciting weight class in professional MMA. While it lost some star power when former champion Conor McGregor retired, there are still a lot of entertaining fighters with championship potential. UFC Vegas 4 showed us two of those guys in Dustin Poirier and Dan Hooker.
In a scrap that will likely hold up for 2020 Fight of the Year, Poirier and Hooker tagged each other so many times it seemed to be a true act of God that both fighters were still conscious after 25 minutes. Hooker owned the first two rounds, but once Poirier settled in and found his range it was all Diamond for the final three periods. This fight proved two things to the MMA world: 1) Poirier is undoubtedly still a championship-caliber competitor, and 2) Hooker is a legitimate title contender. As interim champion Justin Gaethje wrote on Twitter Saturday night, Hooker “definitely deserves a seat at the big dog table.”
Since Gaethje will almost certainly face Khabib Nurmagomedov for the undisputed lightweight title in the near future, where do Poirier and Hooker go from here? Well, it’s relatively simple.
Assuming McGregor has no intention of returning to the UFC, this sets up an ideal matchup between Poirier and second-ranked Tony Ferguson. After losing the interim title fight to Gaethje UFC 249 in May, Ferguson’s future was in the balance and depended heavily on the outcome of Saturday’s main event. Now that Poirier is back in the win column, a fight between him and Ferguson just makes too much sense. As a stylistic clash that makes MMA die-hards drool, this bout would be fantastic for the promotion and would serve as a title eliminator, deciding who gets the next shot at the winner of the Nurmagomedov-Gaethje title fight.
As for Hooker, there are a few options on the table, and they both come from Brazil. Seventh-ranked Charles Oliveira proved to be a serious force when he submitted Kevin Lee at UFC Brasilia back in March. Having won seven straight fights, Oliveira is primed to climb the lightweight rankings, and a matchup against Hooker would be a fantastic opportunity. Hooker and Oliveira are stylistic opposites, meaning this fight would be a great guage to find out how Hooker manages against a true jiu-jitsu artist of which he has yet to face in his UFC career.
The other option for Hooker would be a very similar fighter in ninth-ranked Diego Ferreira. While Ferreira’s ranking isn’t jaw dropping, his record is. His only two professional losses are to Poirier and Beneil Dariush, both of whom are currently ranked. Ferreira is on a six-fight winning streak and is coming off a dominating performance over Anthony Pettis at UFC 246 in January. The only reason I could see Hooker refusing this fight is because he’d be fighting pretty far down in the rankings, but other than that this is a nearly perfect matchup for both parties.
The lightweight division is the UFC equivalent of the Wild West, and time will tell what Dana White’s plan is for his 155-pound fighters, but if these potential matchups come to fruition, it can only get more exciting.
Potential Future Fights:
– (C) Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. (IC) Justin Gaethje – UFC Lightweight Championship
– (2) Tony Ferguson vs. (3) Dustin Poirier – Lightweight title eliminator
– (5) Dan Hooker vs. (7) Charles Oliveira OR (9) Diego Ferreira
– Nick Stavas (@nickstavas)