UFC On Fox 31 – What’s Next for the Winners?
By Ben Jessop
As the UFC ended an era with Fox, they put on one final event, this time in Milwaukee. Alongside a highly anticipated main event in Lee vs Laquinta, we were treated to great matchups all the way down the card.
I’m here to look through the winners from the card and see what could be next for them in their runs for the belt.
Al Iaquinta win via unanimous decision over Kevin Lee
This rematch took place as the final event for the UFC/Fox era and the rivalry between these two was as alive as ever. Both fighters are top contenders for the top spot. The fight went the distance with both fighters taking real shots in the early rounds but Iaquinta continued with the pressure and seemed to add more power as the fight got into its later stages. By the fourth round, Lee was using his jab to keep Laquinta at bay, but was just being picked apart with Iaquinta’s brilliant striking.
Despite Lee’s shocked reaction the result at the end of the fight, it was a unanimous decision for Iaquinta as he shut down this rivalry once and for all. Lee will struggle to come back from this, it will be along time before he’s anywhere even near a title shot and will most likely face Iaquinta on his way back to the top.
Iaquinta came into this fight the underdog. People don’t take him seriously with his real-estate, estate agent attitude, but Iaquinta has proven himself and people have sat up to pay attention after this dominant win. Considering this is his second defeat over a top five contender and he went five rounds with current champ Khabib Nurmagomedov on only one days notice! Albeit this was a brutal fight for Iaquinta but he managed to either control Khabib, or weather the storm better than the likes of Conor McGregor in that famous fight earlier this year.
People may now look at Iaquinta as a contender, whether he’s in with a genuine shot of getting the belt is another question but he certainly has the pick of the top five as to who he calls out next. There are two fights that stand out to me personally, and they would be either Justin Gaethje or Dustin Poirier. Whether Iaquinta gets Poirier is a different story and I think Gaethje is most likely of the two, as both fighters need one more high profile win to really launch them into the top five and potential championship position.
Edson Barboza win via KO over Daniel Hooker
The UFC’s ranked number 5, took on the number 14 in this co-main event in Milwaukee and in reality, Barboza brutalised Hooker from the outset. Barboza is on a vicious chase back into the frame of title contender after being absolutely mauled by the champ
Khabib and also Kevin Lee. Back to back defeats left Barboza with something to prove and he showed up with everything he had on Saturday night.
No one could deny Hooker’s toughness or heart in this fight and he continuously pushed forward through an absolute onslaught of heavy kicks and strikes from Barboza. Barboza managed to land a monster spinning back kick to the liver which he finished with a powerful punch when the referee decided he’d seen enough and called time on the fight.
This was exactly what Barboza needed, a high profile win against one of the toughest guys in the division. Although it also proves that Daniel Hooker has a long way to go before he’s in with a shout of keeping up with the top five guys. Dana White said after the fight that he felt is should have been finished sooner but complemented Hooker’s ability to carry on pushing forwards.
There are a lot of fights Barboza will be looking to take on next with the final goal being the rematch with Khabib and to gain the belt. Perhaps a matchup for the redemption against Kevin Lee. This may be exactly what Lee is looking for to bounce him name back from his defeat but this would be all or nothing for Lee, if he were to lose to Barboza now, it would be difficult to see a route to the belt for him for a long time. I think that all of the other four (Poirier/McGregor/Ferguson/Nurmagomedov) will be too keen on fights between themselves to entertain Barboza for now but his time will come without a doubt.
Rob Font win via Decision over Sergio Pettis
The number two ranked flyweight decided to take on a contender in the bantamweight division and was confident size wouldn’t play a part in the fight, unfortunately for Pettis, this was not the case. From the get go Font utilised his height and reach whilst standing and his sheer sizer whilst grabbling to dominate Pettis.
Unsurprisingly, Font used his reach and his jab to keep Pettis under control which gave Pettis very little to counter with as he was always out of reach, even with a brave attempt a head kick that missed the spot. Pettis wasn’t out of contention for the entire fight and managed to secure a takedown and a top position until Font was able to reverse him. In the last round Font managed to get Pettis to the ground and worked consistently from there.
Font didn’t get the KO or the finish which he was hoping for, which he stated was due to
how unexpectedly slick Pettis’ footwork and head movement was, but he did add another W to his record so he’ll be happy with the result.
What this result says for Font fighting up the bantamweight rankings is yet to be known but every fighter above him poses a real threat and stands in his way of getting to the top. I would like to see him take on Aljamain Sterling, whoever was to win that bout really is in place for a top five event, although both fighters are a long way off being near current champ TJ Dillashaw.
Charles Oliveria win via Round 1 Submission over Jim Miller
This fight was over extremely quickly, in fact one minute and fifteen seconds of the first round. Eight years ago, it took Jim Miller only two minutes to submit Charles Oliveria with a kneebar, on Saturday night, Oliveria returned the favour with a stunning rear-naked choke.
Jim Miller, competing in his record 31st UFC fight, threw a low kicked towards Oliveria early in round one that Oliveria managed to catch and quickly put Miller onto his back and managed to sink in a rear naked choke leaving Miller with no choice but to tap.
This leaves Oliveria with an impressive 12 submissions in his UFC career, and with this impressive defeat of a UFC veteran, he poses questions for the people ranked above him.
Oliveria called out the champ in his post-fight interview but anyone with common sense knows that he’s not going to be anywhere near that for some time. I would like to see him to take on James Vick next, with Vick being one of the toughest people in the division it’ll prove if Oliveria’s name really does belong amongst the top ten.
There are a lot of great fights you could make with any of the winners from UFC on Fox 31 and I’m excited to see what they can have lined up next.