Opinion: What’s next for TJ Dillashaw and the other UFC 227 main card winners?

It’s official, UFC 227 is in the books and if you didn’t watch the fights live, I bet you wish you did on hearing the results. The event will certainly go down as one to remember – this time for all of the right reasons.

Leading up to the event, the UFC took a lot of flack about the strength of the card for a PPV. All things considered, this card pleasantly surprised the MMA world and most importantly, the two smallest men’s divisions put their biggest feet forward.

In the main event, TJ Dillashaw once again placed his bantamweight title (and pride) on the line against hard-hitting Cody Garbrandt, who held the belt until Dillashaw took it away. We are all aware that there is a certain “history” there between the two just to add that certain zing to the mix.

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Prior to the headliner, flyweight champ and consensus pound-for-pound king, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson made the walk into a rematch with Henry Cejudo, the Olympic gold medalist who has recently remodelled himself ahead of another title fight.

Even with the star power criticisms, there was a certain intrigue buzzing around the event, in which only one contest took place above 145 pounds.

So, with the results in the books and a new king crowned at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, let’s go ahead and speculate what’s next for the UFC 227 main card winners.

Thiago Santos (18-6-0)

santos

Getting us started in Los Angeles was heavy-hitter Thiago “Maretta” Santos vs. a relatively unknown, but highly touted Kevin Holland.

The lead-up was basically a point of view of how much Thiago would damage Holland. Santos, a stud middleweight that has practically destroyed every other human being that has been locked in the octagon with him, was fully expected to rearrange a green, debuting Holland’s bone structure with his ferocity and power.

However, that was not the case. Santos seemed to have his hands full with an awkward and unorthodox Holland. Santos, by all means, seemed the more capable and experienced fighter and laid enough on to take the lopsided unanimous decision, but the performance would not propel him up the rankings as much as he would hope.

Next fight: #14 Urijah Hall. With “Primtime” coming off a close-fought loss to Paulo Costa back last month where he showcased a surprising durability and willingness to brawl, this would be a perfect match to make for Santos. Both gentlemen are well versed in the art of striking, and they have a mutual desire to knock their opponent out – the only difference being is that in this one, it would be more of a finesse vs. power matchup which is always an interesting spectacle.

J.J. Aldrich (7-2-0)

MMA: UFC 227-Viana vs Aldrich

J.J. Aldrich opened as a pretty heavy underdog at UFC 227 against prosperous Polyana Viana. As the edged closer, so did the odds at the bookies. Eventually, Aldrich closed the gap as just a mild underdog and by the time she put in 15 minutes with Viana, it was a little easier to understand why things had changed so much.

Aldrich took a unanimous decision from Viana after an impressive three rounds of clean, technical striking. Based on this performance, it is pretty clear to see that she is a training partner of current strawweight champ Rose Namajunas. Her ability to put combinations together and show imagination with her striking arsenal was the difference in this one.

That being said, her post-fight mic time wasn’t best used on the sizable platform of the main card of a PPV: “I’ve got a few names I’d like to fight – who doesn’t?” Aldrich said. “But I’ve never been one to call people out. I get the fights when they call me and I’m excited and just ready. Call me, Mick, Monday morning.”

Next fight: #16 Cynthia Calvillo. Calvillo has established herself a name within the woman’s strawweight division as being a tough all-rounder that is still developing. Coming off a loss to Carla Esparza, Calvillo certainly has a point to prove in the division. Now that Aldrich is looking to also gain that ranked notoriety but has only really come into the spotlight at UFC 227, this would be a great fight to pit two ambitious, capable young woman’s fighters to see who can rise to the occasion and work towards a title fight somewhere in the not to distant future.

Renato Moicano (13-1-0)

Renato-Moicano

Yes, point proven – Renato Moicano is a problem in the UFC featherweight division.

At UFC 214 in July 2017, Renato Moicano was handed his first career loss to number one contender, Brian Ortega. As far as roads to recovery go, his has been quite a textbook one. Following the loss, Moicano packed up and relocated from his native Brazil to Florida, where he is now being tutored at American Top Team. Whatever the coaches did there seemed to work as he’s now back on a two-fight winning streak, all over stiff competition.

Fighting an always game Cub Swanson, in his hometown in front of a packed out Los Angeles crowd is no easy feat, but to knock him down and take a submission win in the first round? Some would say impossible if you predicted that prior to the showdown.

After the biggest win of his career, Moicano has an idea as to what would make sense for him next. And while it’s ambitious, it’s not entirely unreasonable, but unlikely.

“I think Brian Ortega,” Moicano said backstage at Staples Center. “Because my only loss is to Brian Ortega. I think Frankie Edgar has a fight. And [champ Max] Holloway can’t fight. [Jeremy] Stephens lost to Jose Aldo, so I think a good matchup is me and Ortega.”

Giving all the goings on in the shark pool of the featherweights, I think an Ortega rematch may not come to fruition presently, especially after Ortega’s reaction to a chance at an interim best when Holloway pulled out of his last fight (an outright “No”).

Next fight: #3 Jose Aldo (27-4) – As we all know, Aldo had had problems over the last few years since the McGregor loss. He was defeated twice by current champ Max Holloway but subsequently beat Jeremy Stephens in brutal fashion finding redemption. So, let the UFC matchmakers strike whilst the iron is hot. We have a newly flourishing contender in Moicano, and a legend hoping to have one last resurgence. Stylistically, this fight is guaranteed fireworks as both have a high level forward-pressure game, and either could give the other as much as they can handle on the mat.

The hell with it, let us label it as a title eliminator. Is it to short notice for the UFC Fight Night: Sao Paulo on September 22nd?…

Henry Cejudo (13-2)/T.J. Dillashaw (16-3)

both

I want to start this one by saying that I am not Demetrious Johnson hater, nor am I a new age fan that is all caught up in the fad of “Superfights”.

I will simply be honest and say that I feel a little rejuvenated in the fact that we have a new champion at 125lbs after seeing such a dominant champion for so long. I felt the same when Jose Aldo and Ronda Rousey were both overthrown.

cejudo

The reason being is that such a change in the landscape ensures the division in question has a sharp change in dynamics. This then, in turn, produces a whole new chapter, and the butterfly effect of contenders enriches our MMA world for the better. I am not denying Cejudo’s split decision win over DJ was close, even Cejudo will admit that, but I will say I am excited to see how the next year in the flyweight division plays out (should DJ not win it back in an immediate rematch).

Cejudo was on point for this fight. He controlled the centre well trying his best to counteract the speed of DJ by pressuring him against the cage and unloading with either a group of punches or a takedown. This, whether you enjoyed it or disagree, was a perfect gameplan and Cejudo has been the only fighter in recent times to consistently do it. Regardless of the result, Cejudo played the game like the pro he is.

On to T.J Dillashaw.

Let’s be honest here, I am yet to see anyone in the bantamweight division with the ferocity, technique and coolness of an in-form and competitive Dillashaw. This has been showcased twice in his last two fights against Garbrandt.

Cody has come in hot with an untamed, wild style which has very nearly done the business, but Dillashaw just seems to turn that certain something up that little bit when required. Once the feeling out process is complete, here comes the powerful but composed combinations until one connects for the win – Ludwig seems to have nailed this to an art form. Again, at UFC 227 this was tried and tested.

Next fight: Bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw vs. Henry Cejudo – it seems the last few days have materialised into two camps of fans and “wannabe” matchmakers – on one side you have the “Rematch side”, campaigning that the fight was so close it a DJ rematch is undeniable. On the other, you have people calling for the “Superfight” with the current bantamweight champ. For the reasons mentioned above, the Dillashaw fight is what excites me, especially since they just competed on the same card, it seems very relevant. Also, because DJ was so opposed to this fight when it was first offered last year, it only cements my thoughts more. If we lose the buzz around this fight now, we may never get back to the same magnitude.

Brad Dalrymple

Follow me on Twitter @brad_mmamotion

 

 

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