UFC Fight Night: Gaethje vs. Vick is now behind us, and if you didn’t tune in you certainly missed out on a night of exciting fights with only 4 of the 13 going the distance. There were some finishes that will live in the highlight reel archive forever, but not for those on the losing end.
With this weekends card now over and things beginning to settle down, fighters will now begin to put together the highs and lows. Some move on to bigger and better things, while others who had been hoping to push themselves towards the title go straight to the back of the line again.
In what was the UFC’s debut event in Lincoln, fans were treated to a very good card from top to bottom which saw fighters such as Justin Gaethje, James Vick, Eryk Anders and Michael Johnson. Some of these fighters went into their bouts at a make or break point in their career and for many of them, it did not work out of the way they wanted. In this article, I am going to give my opinion on which direction I believe each loser should head next.
Tim Williams (15-5)
Coming into this fight, Eryk Anders (11-1) was one of the biggest favourites seen inside the octagon at a massive -900 with the Vegas bookies, so Tim Williams was not expected to pose much of a threat. However, Anders was not in for an easy ride.
Anders started slow and gave up the first round to a game Williams. However, as the fight went on, he developed in confidence and started to land heavy, which was evident from the damage done to Williams’ face. Williams was eventually finished via a legal soccer kick as he attempted to get back to his feet after being knocked down. It was brutal, to say the least
As this is Williams second loss via KO in a row, I believe there is a strong possibility that he will, in fact, be cut from the roster. Unless he fills in against an extremely tough opponent last minute, I do not believe he will be given another shot inside the Octagon. Time will tell…
John Moraga (19-7)
Before this fight, Moraga was on the best streak of his career. Post-title fight with Demetrious Johnson, he attained wins over top fighters such as Ashkan Mokhtarian, Magomed Bibulatov and Wilson Reis.
This fight with Figueiredo was extremely close on the betting lines and was certainly a fight that Moraga felt that he should have won. He began the fight well, landing at range and not taking much damage. However, Figueiredo’s grappling proved to be the deciding factor as he used his technical wrestling to grind and wear on Moraga, before finishing him on the feet with powerful strikes – something which not many flyweights have the ability to do.
Next for Moraga, I believe that a fight against Brandon Moreno would be very exciting. Both inside the top and both need a win. This would be primarily a striking battle, with Moreno possessing a high grappling threat. This would be another difficult test for John, but would ultimately show where he belongs in the divisional rankings.
Jake Ellenberger (31-15)
For a while prior to this fight, the majority of MMA had desperately been calling for Ellenberger to finally hang up the gloves following five losses from his last six contests (four of which were via stoppage).
From his last few performances, it had appeared that Jake had lost the ability to take any sort of punch, and that trend continued in this fight. Midway through the first round, Barbarena dropped Ellenberger and followed up with shots on the ground. As he made his way to his feet, he was struck with another glancing blow to the top of the temple and finished from there.
Following his loss, Ellenberger finally called it a day and retired, much to the delight of his home state fans. Ellenberger has had a career that most fighters would be lucky to have, but its good to see him retire and save himself from any more unnecessary damage.
Angela Hill (8-5)
This bout between Courtney Casey and Angela Hill was made with very short notice and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Both girls were happy to stand and trade, with Casey landing huge counter shots, particularity the uppercut. Casey also landed the most of the two, which ultimately saw her given the split decision. It was an extremely close fight and Hill should not feel too disappointed over the loss.
Given that Hill is most likely heading out of the top 15 now, a fight with someone like Polyana Viana would be good a good matchup and make for an interesting scrap. Coming off a loss to a similar style fighter as Hill in JJ Aldrich, Viana would pose a grappling threat towards Hill, while in return Hill would have a huge advantage in the striking exchanges. It is a fight that both women would be capable of winning, and both they would need to win.
Andre Fili (18-6)
Coming into this fight off the back of a two-fight win streak with a dominant win over Artem Lobov and a split decision over Dennis Bermudez, Fili was looking to take advantage of Michael Johnson, who himself was on a three-fight win streak.
The fight was mostly on the feet apart from the second round in which Fili dominated Johnson on the ground for most of it. In the first and second rounds, we saw Johnson control the range and land punches in the pocket. Ultimately, it came down to Johnson out-striking Fili, which swayed the judges in a Split-Decision.
I believe that a fight against #12 ranked featherweight Ricardo Lamas would make sense. Lamas is coming off two losses to Bektic and Emmett and is looking to desperately get back to winning ways. A win for Fili would also allow him to bounce back into the top 15.
It makes sense for both fighters. It would also be an all round good spectacle as both fighters possess excellent skills in all areas of mixed martial arts. I believe it would take place primarily on the feet.
James Vick (13-2)
This was without a doubt the biggest fighting opportunity of Vicks relatively short Career. It was his first main event and his highest ranked opponent to date. Vick came into this fight as a slight favourite and the unfair dismissal of Gaethje’s accomplishments due to his recent losses made a lot of fans favour him stylistically in this fight.
However, many believed that Vick hadn’t fought anyone close to the animal that Gaethje is, and kept the brutal KO loss to Beneil Dariush in their minds pre-fight. After all, this was the last highly ranked opponent Vick had faced two years ago.
Ultimately, this fight ended in equally devastating fashion, as Gaethje landed a huge overhand right whilst Vick was propped against the cage to completely switch Vicks lights off. This was a massive blow to Vicks career and could set the market at the level that he will reach. It is clear that he does possess high-level skills, but it could be argued that he doesn’t have the chin to deal with the best strikers in the world.
While time off should be his main priority, when Vick does return I believe that diving back into the deep end should not be the way to go. Both coming off losses, I think Michael Chiesa would not only be a household name to add to his resume, but also allow him to fully showcase his skills and get back to winning ways.
Chiesa does not have dangerous power, so for Vick, it would come down to stopping the grappling game and expressing himself on the feet while keeping distance – something which Anthony Pettis did perfectly in their outing. Out of everyone on the roster, I believe that Chiesa would make the most sense for him.
That’s it for this weeks card. It was a thoroughly entertaining night of fights which is always great!
The next card is UFC 228 which sees Darren Till challenge Tyron Woodley for the Welterweight title – I for one can’t wait.