UFC St. Petersburg: What Next for the Winners
By Jack Maher
UFC St. Petersburg: Overeem vs Oleinik lost half of its main event and even went from a 6 fight main card to a 5 fight main card in the build-up to the event and still managed to produce a relatively entertaining card that provided wins for veterans, prospects and underdogs alike, and now the event is in the record books we can look at what should be next for all of the events winners.
No disrespect to Alen Amedovski but his 8 strikes landed compared to Jotko who landed over 100, as well as Jotko’s dominant grappling display should serve as a clear indicator that Jotko is deserving of higher level opposition. Jotko needed a good performance to save his UFC career, and now he can focus on climbing the rankings once more. Derek Brunson meets Elias Theodorou in a middleweight bout on May 4th and while the winner of that fight will be looking at top contenders in the division, the loser would make a good next opponent for Jotko. A bout with Brunson would likely promise fireworks as Brunson has only seen a decision once in his past 10 fights, while Elias Theodorou has an unorthodox standup game that will force the Polish middleweight to be aggressive in the striking exchanges if he wants to avoid being outpointed over 15 minutes.
Few gave Modafferi a chance against Antonina Shevchenko despite having 30 more fights on her record, and it was the experienced grappler in Modafferi that took home the split decision. Modafferi now has momentum back on her side and I believe that she should aim for a fight with the loser of Valentina Shevchenko vs Jessica Eye who will meet at UFC 238 for the flyweight crown. Eye is expected by most to lose to Valentina but she will likely remain highly ranked in the division and could provide Modafferi with a path to a title fight. If Eye does pull off the upset then Modafferi should face Valentina, giving Valentina a chance to avenge her sisters loss and giving Modafferi a high-profile fight. While a matchup with Eye is the more realistic possibility, either would likely put Modafferi within a win of a title fight.
Pavlovich was thrown into the deep end in his UFC debut against Alistair Overeem, but in a fairer matchup he impressed against Marcelo Golm with a first round knockout. He is now on a steadier path through the division and I feel that he should next fight Marcin Tybura, who also competed at UFC Saint Petersburg, losing to Shamil Abdurakhimov. Tybura has lost 2 of his last 3, both by knockout, so a slight step down in competition may be in order for the Polish heavyweight. The two would matchup well against each other and it would be interesting to see if Tybura can exploit Pavlovich’s ground game like Overeem did to him months ago, or if Pavlovich can hit the off-switch on Tybura like Abdurakhimov did.
While Makhachev didn’t dominate Arman Tsarukyan, his quality shone through in a FOTN bout, and the Dagestani can move on to bigger and better things from here. Makhachev said he was ready for anyone in the top 15, and I think that Alexander Hernandez, who is ranked number 12 would be a fun opponent. Hernandez has a respectable grappling game but may not attack Makhachev with takedown attempts as ferociously as Tsarukyan did, so it’s anyone’s guess how this fight turns out, but given that both men are coming off of FOTN bonuses it would not be surprising to see both men put on a show. Makhachev’s teammate Khabib Nurmagomedov is rumoured to be making his return in September in Abu Dhabi, so perhaps Makhachev-Hernandez could feature on the undercard.
Overeem didn’t look perfect against Oleinik, and against a more dangerous striker the fight could’ve gone very different for The Reem, but he did whether Oleinik’s storm to record a first round TKO. Afterwards Overeem called for a rebooking of the originally slated main event against Alexander Volkov. If the rumours about Volkov having USADA issues are false then I see no issue with this fight going ahead. Both men are heavyweight veterans who will likely see no issue with keeping the fight standing, and the winner will not be too far from a title fight given the mess that is the heavyweight division. Overeem remains relevant in the division despite looking shaky against Oleinik, but he would remove doubt about his future in the sport with a good performance against Volkov.