The UFC rolled into Boise, Idaho on Saturday night and while for some people the card may have lacked “star power” compared with some of upcoming fight night cards (I’m talking about you Calgary), it certainly delivered an entertaining night of fights.
I’ve taken a look at who I think should be up next for Cat Zingano, Chad Mendes, Niko Price, Rick Glenn, Sage Northcutt and Junior Dos Santos.
Cat Zingano (10-3-0)
Kicking off the main card in Boise, Cat Zingano had her hand raised for the first time in almost four years, earning a unanimous decision win over Marion Reneau. The win snapped a three fight losing streak for the 36-year-old, dating back to her first round submission loss to Ronda Rousey at UFC 184.
It has been a tough road for Zingano and all three of her previous losses have come against the very elite in the division. It would be easy to lose sight of the fact that she is the only fighter to hold a win over current bantamweight queen Amanda Nunes. Should the stars align over the course of the next 12 months or so, it feels inevitable that Zingano will meet Nunes again, this time perhaps with the title on the line.
Looking ahead, in a somewhat shallow bantamweight division there really aren’t a great number of options available for Zingano. Ranked at number five we have Germaine de Randamie who for all intents and purposes should be on a milk carton as far as her UFC career is concerned. Raquel Pennington (9-7-0) holds the number four spot in the rankings and realistically is the only viable option for Zingano at this point. At number three we have Juliana Pena who is still on maternity leave followed by Ketlen Vieira at number two who picked up a win over Zingano at UFC 222. Holly Holm still occupies the number one contender spot in the division despite her last two fights being at 145lbs. We then of course have the champion, Amanda Nunes who seems set to take a step up to featherweight in the very near future to face Cris Cyborg for her title.
All things considered, Pennington vs Zingano should make for an entertaining contest and a win for either fighter would go someway toward justifying awarding them a place opposite Vieira in the almost inevitable interim title fight which is likely to follow any announcement of a Nunes vs Cyborg super fight.
Chad Mendes (18-4-0)
Chad “Money” Mendes is back in business and it’s as if he never went away.
Mendes stormed back into the UFC with a first round TKO win over Myles Jury in the 33-year-old’s first fight since his December 2015 loss to Frankie Edgar. The stoppage will almost certainly see him re-enter the UFC featherweight rankings, presumably replacing Jury at number 12.
While it would be sensible not to rush things after such a long lay off, it is hard to justify not giving Mendes a top 10 opponent after that performance. Mirsad Bektic (13-1-0) currently holds the number seven spot in the rankings and is riding a two fight win streak following his impressive performance against Ricardo Lamas at UFC 225.
Bektic may prefer to fight up the rankings rather than risk his position fighting Mendes but a win over the Team Alpha Male star would certainly solidify his position in the top 10 and prove that he has what it takes to make a run at the top five. For Mendes, defeating Bektic would elevate him back into the top 10 and give him a platform to make his own push back to the very top of the division.
Niko Price (12-1-0)
28-year-old Niko Price delivered perhaps the most talked about moment of the whole event with his second round KO of Randy Brown. Price showed the world he has serious fire power, finishing the Jamaican with hammer fists thrown from his back. The win gives Price consecutive second round finishes following his submission win over George Sullivan in January.
Up next, I’d like to see Price put his two fight win streak on the line against Warlley Alves (12-2-0). Alves has a two fight streak of his own, earning wins over Salim Touahri and Sultan Aliev after enduring the first two losses of his career against Bryan Barbarena and Kamaru Usman.
Both fighters will be looking to make a push toward the UFC welterweight top fifteen and a win for either of them would surely be enough to ensure they get a ranked opponent in their next outing.
Rick Glenn (21-5-1)
Rick “The Gladiator” Glenn got back into the win column in Boise with a hard fought, split decision win over Dennis Bermudez. Glenn has spent much of his UFC career on the cusp of breaking into the top fifteen in the featherweight division but has fallen short whenever he’s faced a ranked opponent. In handing Bermudez his fourth consecutive loss, Glenn has cemented his position on the edge of the rankings and now needs to string a couple of wins together to earn his next crack at the top fifteen.
Shane Burgos (10-1-0) would make for an interesting challenge for “The Gladiator”. Undefeated prior to his stoppage loss to Calvin Kattar earlier this year, Burgos has only put the judges to work twice in his eleven fight professional career, finishing five of his opponents inside the first round. While a win wouldn’t be enough to push Glenn into the featherweight rankings, it would give him the platform he needs to stake a claim to fighting a low ranked opponent in his next fight.
Sage Northcutt (11-2-0)
The third time was the charm for “Super” Sage Northcutt, as he picked up his first win at welterweight, stopping Zak Ottow with a barrage of strikes in the second round of the co-main event. Northcutt moves to 1-2-0 at 170lbs after leaving with submission loses against Bryan Barbarena and Micky Gall in his last two welterweight appearances.
The 22-year-old survived an early scare after being rocked by Ottow less than 30 seconds into the fight. While it would appear on paper to be a comfortable win, the fight highlighted a number of development areas for Northcutt to take back to Sacramento, as he continues his development under the watchful eye of Team Alpha Male owner “Mr Faber”.
From an entertainment perspective, Li Jingliang (15-5-0) would make for an interesting next opponent for ‘Super’ Sage. Jingliang is 5-1 in his last six fights, having bounced back from a tough loss to Australian prospect Jake Matthews with an impressive decision win over Daichi Abe at UFC Singapore last month.
The 30-year-old Chinese star has the stand up skills to provide a stiff test for Northcutt at 170lbs and holds a KO win of his own over Ottow, with his finish coming just halfway through the opening round of their contest at UFC Shanghai last November.
Jingliang’s all out attack fighting style, coupled with the American’s flamboyant karate striking would without doubt make for an entertaining contest.
Junior Dos Santos (19-5-0)
Making his return to the octagon following a tainted supplement related run in with USADA, Junior Dos Santos walked away with a relatively comfortable decision win over UFC newcomer Blagoy Ivanev. While it was far from a vintage performance from the 34-year-old, he had more than enough to keep former WSOF heavyweight champion, Ivanev at bay for 25 minutes.
Prior to his recent troubles with USADA, Dos Santos was booked to face Francis Ngannou (11-3-0) at UFC 215. While Ngannou has been on quite the journey since that fight was cancelled, I feel it is still a fight which could have positive implications for both of them.
For Dos Santos, he gets the chance to push himself immediately back into the top five of the division. Facing this new version of Ngannou is arguably a more comfortable fight for the veteran than it would have been back when Ngannou was collecting bodies during his run to the number one contender spot.
For Ngannou, he gets the opportunity to bounce back from his disappointing performance against Derrick Lewis last week at UFC 226. The 31-year-old has made it clear that his loss to Stipe Miocic has sapped his confidence and he was noticeably gun shy when facing Lewis. Dos Santos does still have the power to cause Ngannou problems but it is a fight that the former title challenger should consider to be winnable, he just needs to show up and actually fight.