Opinion: What next for Tyron Woodley and the other UFC 228 main card winners?

In the days leading up to UFC 228, a number of people could be found on social media writing this card off as ‘boring’ and promising that they wouldn’t be watching. Of course there is no real way to tell just how much of that was just social media bravado but if people really did avoid this card, they missed out on one of the most entertaining events of the year so far.

For any of you who think I’m exaggerating, I’d invite you to check out these two finishes, neither of which were awarded performance bonuses…

From the Fight Pass prelims right through to the PPV main event, the card was packed with exciting battles, incredible submissions, stunning knockouts and technical battles.

Lets take a look at what could be next for the fighters who picked up big wins on an action packed main card in Dallas, Texas.

 

Abdul Razak Alhassan (10-1-0)

MMA: UFC 228-Alhassan vs Price

In a match up which was never likely to trouble the judges, Abdul Razak Alhassan kicked off the main card with a bang. Several bangs to be precise, all to the face of Niko Price with less than a minute having passed in the opening round. With Price’s back to the cage, Alhassan unloaded a barrage of punches on his opponent, with the final strike sending Price to his knees before the referee stepped in to call and end to the fight.

It was an impressive performance from the 33-year-old who now finds himself holding three consecutive wins and potentially only a fight away from cracking the welterweight top 15.

The big question now is what should be next for Alhassan? One option would be to match him against another heavy handed, promising welterweight holding multiple consecutive wins – Curtis Millender (16-3-0).

The 30-year-old is in the midst of an impressive eight fight win streak and is a perfect 2-0 since arriving in the UFC earlier this year. While his last UFC appearance was a decision win over Max Griffin at UFC 226, the three victories prior came via knockout and he has all the necessary ability to put on another incendiary performance should he and Alhassan meet in the octagon.

 

Jimmie Rivera (22-2-0)

John+Dodson+Jimmie+Rivera+UFC+228+Woodley+z05uBPX_nnOl

Elevated from the FS1 portion of the card as a result of Nicco Montaño’s withdrawal on medical grounds, Jimmie Rivera and John Dodson had the daunting task of following Alhassan’s highlight reel first round KO of Niko Price.

More chess than checkers, the two bantamweights battled for three full rounds and ended up being the only fight on the main card to need the judges to intervene. Rivera, who dictated the pace for the majority of the fight, did enough to have his hand raised after a rather forgettable contest in comparison to the rest of the fights on the PPV portion of the card.

Earlier in the card there was another bantamweight scrap which saw Aljamain Sterling (16-3-0) showcase his outstanding ground skills to hand Cody Stamann his first loss in ten fights with an incredible knee bar submission from back control (the first of a pair of identical finishes on the night).

Sterling has well and truly bounced back to form following his KO loss to Marlon Moraes back in December 2017 and with two consecutive wins over top class opposition, finds himself in a strong enough position to call for another crack at the bantamweight top five. With Rivera solidifying his spot at number five in the division and being only one fight removed from his own brutal KO loss to Moraes, it makes perfect sense to put the two resurgent 135lb stars together for their next octagon appearance.

 

Zabit Magomedsharipov (16-1-0)

MMA: UFC 228-Magomedsharipov vs Davis

The enigma that is Zabit Magomedsharipov proved too much for Brandon Davis to solve with the featherweight star finishing his short notice opponent in the round number two with the second beautiful knee bar of the night (I see you Aljo).

It appeared to be just another day at the office for Zabit, who took the oppotunity to remind the world that he has the ground game to match his flashy, unorthodox stand up abilities. I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves but can you imagine what’s going to happen if this form continues and we get to see the former ACB champion pit his skills and wits against the likes of Brian Ortega and Max Holloway?

Speaking with Joe Rogan after the fight, Zabit called for a fight with either Jose Aldo or Chad Mendes (18-4-0). While he is yet to face anyone in the top ten in his four fight UFC career, a fight with number fice ranked featherweight Mendes is certainly an enticing option.

“Money” Mendes returned from his USADA enforced break from the sport in July and looked as good as ever, needing just 2 and a half minutes to demolish Myles Jury. He would easily be Zabit’s biggest test to date but should he emerge victorious against the highly touted prospect it would set him up nicely for a run up the rankings and an eventual shot at the 145lb strap.

For Zabit, adding a name like Mendes to his already impressive record would certify the 27-year-old as the real deal and all but guarantee a crack at the featherweight title within his next couple of fights.

 

Jessica Andrade (19-6-0)

MMA: UFC 228-Andrade vs Kowalkiewicz

The UFC strawweight division has always been action packed but isn’t exactly notorious for explosive finishes. On Saturday night Jessica Andrade proved once and for all that even at 115lbs, she has the power in her hands to leave her opponents wondering what day of the week it is.

With a single, devastating right hook, Andrade left Karolina Kowalkiewicz flat on her back, out cold and sent a warning shot to reigning champion Rose Namajunas in the process.

With undefeated phenom Tatiana Suarez (7-0-0) calling for a title fight against ‘Thug Rose’ following her destruction of former 115lb champion Carla Esparza earlier in the night, the pressure was on Andrade to cement her place as the number one contender and she certainly did that, earning an extra $50,000 for her troubles in the process.

There should be no discussion regarding what fight should be next for Andrade. Reigning strawweight champion Rose Namajunas (8-3-0) has to be the Brazilian’s next fight. The only obstacle would appear to be Rose still dealing with the mental aspect of her experience as a passenger on ‘that‘ bus in Brooklyn earlier this year.

Andrade has looked unstoppable since coming up short in her last title challenge against Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 211, defeating a trio of top end strawweight talents in Kowalkiewicz, Tecia Torres and Claudia Gadelha. If anyone in the division has earned another chance at capturing the title it is the 26-year-old Brazilian. Should Rose find a way to move forward from her traumatic experience, the prospect of seeing the two young talents face off for the title is a tantalising one.

 

Tyron Woodley (19-3-1)

ufc-228-tyron-woodley-darren-till

Ring rust? Tyron Woodley has never heard of it.

With a stunning performance which deservedly netted the Missouri native a $50,000 performance bonus, Woodley retained his UFC welterweight strap in emphatic fashion, dropping Till to the floor with a powerful right hand, following up with heavy ground and pound before securing the D’Arce choke which forced the tap from the previously unbeaten British star.

It was an extremely intelligent performance from the champion, who now owns the largest number of title defences among active champions but it was the apparent ease with which his dominated his younger opponent that really caught the eye.

Make no mistake, Till is the real deal and belonged in the cage challenging for the belt – it’s just that Woodley is that damn good. The 170lb champion has proven on multiple occasions now that he’s the best welterweight in the world. With last nights display adding to a career of big victories and impressive performances, I’m not sure there’s anyone out there brave enough to dispute that claim.

Former interim welterweight champion Colby Covington (14-1-0) wasted little time in calling for his shot at the 170lb king and while there are certainly options for Woodley, this is the fight which makes the most sense.

Speaking to the media at the post fight press conference, Woodley didn’t pull any punches in his assessment of Covington.

“This guy had his chance. He let Darren Till go out there and take his whooping for him. He tried to pause, tried to wait for a bigger PPV because his eyes got big. My thing is, I’m gonna fight anybody, I’m the best in the world. Anyone they put in front of me is going to get beat up. If it’s Colby Covington, if it’s Usman, if it’s Robert Whittaker, whoever they want me to fight, we’re gonna do it.”

“I’m not saying that I am gonna fight him because I don’t feel like he deserves my platform right now. He had his chance to be here, he bitched out if you want to be honest and frank. He talked all that crap and then he got in the hot seat and the second he got that belt I said ‘come get this smoke’ and he got quiet.”

“I think he’s an embarrassment to the sport and if that’s the next person who’s got to get the work then you won’t have to do much to get me up for that fight.”

Despite feeling Covington doesnt really deserve his platform, Woodley confirmed that he was open to fighting again in November should the UFC want him to fill the vacant main event spot at Madison Square Garden.

“I’m here to stay. It’s the Woodley-weight division, I’m excited to be back. As I told you guys before, I don’t really believe in ring rust, my mind stays sharp…the more I fight, the better I get, the more comfortable I get, the more confident I get. I want to stay as active as possible, if November is the date they’re looking for a main event then I think they got their guy.”

 

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