UFC Fight Night in Philadelphia brought thrills and spill aplenty as the main card delivered a feast of finishes in Philly last night. It saw a quartet of fighters produce memorable performances to raise their stock on the ever-crowded UFC roster, but who should the night’s big winners face next?
Let’s play matchmaker and book some fights!
JUSTIN GAETHJE VS PAUL FELDER
The fight card for UFC 239 in International Fight Week is taking shape nicely, but if the UFC really wanted to underline the word “Fight” in that title, they need to book Justin Gaethje onto that card.
— Ahmar Khan (@AhmarSKhan) March 31, 2019
Looking up the rankings, Gaethje really deserves top 5 opposition next, but with Conor McGregor the only unbooked, available fighter in that list, it’s unlikely we’ll see that happen (but if we did, wow!). So we have to turn our attention elsewhere, and Paul Felder would offer the perfect style matchup to deliver a potential Fight of the Night in Las Vegas.
Felder is ranked just two spots below Gaethje, so if ‘The Highlight’ fancies stealing the show during International Fight Week, a fight with Felder makes all kinds of sense.
JACK HERMANSSON VS DEREK BRUNSON
Jack Hermansson may not be a headline name in the UFC’s middleweight division, but there’s absolutely no ignoring ‘The Joker’ after Saturday night’s incredible 49-second submission of Renzo Gracie BJJ black belt and former two-division World Series of Fighting champion David Branch.
Hermansson deserves a bump up in competition and a fight that gives him the chance to bridge the gap from the chasing pack to the established contenders, and a bout with Derek Brunson would give him exactly that. Brunson is a heavy-handed striker with solid wrestling. If Hermansson can finish him in similar fashion, he’ll be on the fast track to the top. But against a man with genuine knockout power, ‘The Joker’ will have to be as focused as he was on Saturday night if he’s to progress past Brunson.
It’s the perfect next step for the Norwegian and a test that could easily feature as a co-main event bout on a European fight card later this year.
MICHELLE WATERSON VS THE UFC STRAWWEIGHT WORLD CHAMPION
Reigning UFC strawweight champion Rose Namajunas is already booked to face Jessica Andrade at UFC 237 in Brazil, but after Michelle Waterson’s brilliant display on Saturday night, she already has another contender waiting for her if she can get past the dangerous Brazilian in May. Quite simply, Waterson’s next fight has to be for the belt. She’s proved herself against top opposition and is the best contender not to have already fought for the title, so her time is now.
Whether it’s against Namajunas or Andrade, ‘The Karate Hottie’ should fight for the UFC women’s strawweight title later this year. She deserves it, and if it means sitting and waiting for a few months to get it, that’s exactly what she should do.
PAUL CRAIG VS MISHA CIRKUNOV
Despite finding himself on the end of some beatings in his recent bouts, Paul Craig has shown his ability to keep fighting and always chase the finish. It’s seen him claim highlight-reel submission finishes against Magomed Ankalaev and, on Saturday night, against Kennedy Nzechukwu.
— ern.s3 (@ErnestSIII) March 31, 2019
Now might be the ideal time to test Craig against a more highly-ranked grappling-based opponent and, after coming off a recent loss, No.15-ranked Misha Cirkunov might well be the ideal candidate. Latvian-Canadian Cirkunov was finished in spectacular fashion by flashy striker Johnny Walker last time out, and would surely love nothing more than a battle against a fellow grappling specialist like himself.
It would make for an interesting clash of grappling styles, with Cirkunov’s smothering top pressure contrasting with Craig’s active guard play. It’s a fight both men would likely relish, and one that could easily be held over here in Europe later this year.