Opinion: What next for Kamaru Usman and the other UFC Chile winners?

The UFC made it’s first visit to Chile this weekend and delivered a card which was packed with entertainment from top to bottom. It was another card which was met with derision by the majority of the fan base but much like UFC 224, it may have lacked big name pulling power but it delivered some exceptional performances. While the main event may have disappointed many, the rest of the card will likely have exceeded expectations in every way.

What should be next for Kamaru Usman? Who should Andrea Lee face in her second UFC appearance? How does Tatiana Suarez’ quick dispatch of Alexa Grasso change the picture in the strawweight division?

I’ve done my best to answer all of these questions and more as I make my choices for what should come next for all of the UFC Chile main card winners.

Vicente Luque (13-6-1)

Vincente Luque UFC Chile MMAMotion

Vincente Luque kicked off the main card in Chile against Chad Laprise and delivered one of the more memorable moments of the evening. Catching Laprise with a beautiful left hook with just 50 seconds left to go in the opening round, Luque put a swift end to the evening and picked up his sixth UFC win in eight fights. The win almost certainly edged the Brazilian toward cracking the UFC welterweight rankings but he likely needs another fight or two to finally make that jump.

Elizeu Zaleski (19-5-0) has worked his way into a five fight win streak following losing his UFC debut in May 2015 and looked impressive in finishing Sean Strickland in his last appearance at UFC 224. With both fighters seemingly knocking on the doors of the UFC welterweight rankings, it makes a lot of sense to have them meet to see who gets to make the next step first.

Andrea Lee (9-2-0)

Andrea Lee UFC Chile MMAMotion

Andrea “KGB” Lee made her highly anticipated promotional debut in Chile, picking up a comfortable unanimous decision win over Veronica Macedo. While Lee wasn’t particularly pleased with her overall performance, she did more than enough to ensure her UFC debut went into the win column. With high expectations all around for the Texan, she will be looking to build on this win and make a larger impression in her second UFC appearance.

Justine Kish (6-2-0) had proven herself to be dangerous at strawweight before making the jump to 125lbs following a loss to Felice Herig at UFC Fight Night 112. Kish made her flyweight debut in January 2018 where she lost a narrow split decision to Ji Yeon Kim. With wins over Randa Markos, Nina Anseroff and Ashley Yoder, 30-year-old Kish would make for an intriguing test for Lee. Should “KGB” pass that test, the UFC will inevitably give her a push forwards and look to get her moving up the flyweight rankings.

Guido Cannetti (8-3-0)

guido-cannetti-diego-rivas UFC Chile MMAMotion

Cannetti has alternated wins and losses since making his UFC debut and this win moves the former TUF contestant’s record to 2-2 since officially joining the promotion back in 2014. The 38-year-old’s unanimous decision win over Diego Rivas in Chile marks his first victory since returning from a 10 month suspension handed out by USADA last year.

At this stage in his career, it’s important for Cannetti to build some momentum by stringing together consecutive wins for the first time since 2013. Andre Soukhamthath (12-6-0) would make an interesting next opponent for the Argentinian. Soukhamthath hasn’t fought since his main card loss to Sean O’Malley at UFC 222. His 1-3 record includes two close split decision losses to Albert Morales and Alejandro Perez to accompany his loss to future star O’Malley. Soukhamthath certainly has the ability to test Cannetti as he looks to put together the first win streak of his UFC career.

Dominick Reyes (9-0-0)

Dominick Reyes UFC Chile MMAMotion

Undefeated Dominick Reyes kept his perfect record alive and lived up to his nickname with yet another devestating first round KO victory, this time over Jared Cannonier. The heavy handed California native wasted little time in picking up his third first round stoppage in three UFC appearances. It is hard to argue against him taking on a ranked opponent in his next fight considering the relatively shallow depth of the UFC light heavyweight division.

For his next challenge I’d like to see Reyes face Jordan Johnson (9-0-0). Johnson has an identical record to Reyes and is also 3-0-0 inside the UFC, albeit his wins have come via decision. The Arizona native is currently ranked at number 15 in he light heavyweight division and hasn’t fought since earning a split decision win over Adam Milstead at UFC 222. A win for either fighter would provide the platform needed to cement their position in the 205lb rankings and begin their climb toward the top half of the division.

Tatiana Suarez (6-0-0)

Tatiana Suarez UFC Chile MMAMotion

Tatiana Suarez bagged the biggest win of her young career with a quickfire submission victory over number 9 ranked strawweight Alexa Grasso. With just six professional fights, the undefeated California native will likely find herself breaking into the top 10 of the division which is a remarkable achievement.

To find out if Suarez is truely as good as she appears to be, it feels appropriate to see how the 27-year-old performs against a fighter with a little more professional experience. Michelle Waterson (15-6-0) is currently ranked at number 7 in the strawweight division and has the experience and skills to genuinely test Suarez. The former Invicta atomweight champion is 3-2 since making her UFC debut with her losses coming against reigning champion Rose Namajunas and top 5 contender Tecia Torres. Testing Watersons elite level striking against Suarez’s high pressure offence would make for an entertaining fight regardless of the outcome.

Kamaru Usman (13-1-0)

kamaru-usman-demian-maia-ufc-fight-night-129-5 MMAMotion

Initially slated to meet Santiago Ponzinibbio in Chile, I’m sure Usman was as disappointed as anyone to hear that the Argentinian wouldn’t be able to make it. Ponzinibbio’s loss turned out to be Usman’s gain though as Demian Maia stepped in at extremely short notice to save the fight and ultimately the card. While the main event may not have delivered what a lot of fans were looking for, it did deliver Usman a top level name to add to his list of victories. That alone should improve his chances of finally making a push up toward the pinacle of the UFC welterweight standings.

Usman has notably had difficulties in finding willing opponents in the past and frankly, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. The Nigerian Nightmare has built the second longest win steak in UFC welterweight history but his list of victims doesn’t contain many ranked fighters. There is however, another highly ranked welterweight with an identical record and a similar resume.

Colby Covington (13-1-0) is set to face Rafael Dos Anjos (28-9-0) for the interim UFC welterweight title at UFC 225 next month. Should Covington fall short in his attempt to capture the gold, I’d like to see him put his money where his mouth is against Usman. The two had an entertaining exchange at the UFC 25th anniversary press conference last month and I don’t see the fight as being particularly difficult to sell given the animosity which exists between the two of them.

If Covington defeats Dos Anjos, it becomes more likely that we see the 33-year-old Brazilian become the next man to face Usman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s