What Next For The Winners at UFC Ottawa
By Jack Maher
UFC Ottawa has been and gone and looking back I think it’s fair to say the event as a whole fell short of most people’s standards, with its six fight main card providing only one finish. However the event was not a terrible one and the main card still produced six winners so now it is time to look at what should be next for all of UFC Ottawa’s winning fighters:
Many fans felt Sanchez was lucky to leave the octagon with a win due to how close his opponent Marc-Andre Barriault came to finishing him in the second round, but his ability to neutralise Barriault on the ground and against the cage led him to a 29-28 decision on all 3 scorecards. Next for Sanchez should be Tom Breese, who made the move up to middleweight in his last outing. Breese is 11-1 as a pro and has struggled with injuries, but if he can keep himself healthy then him and Sanchez would be a fun fight. Sanchez’s saving grace against Barriault was his strong grappling and while this advantage would likely still be present over Breese, Breese definitely has the power to punish Sanchez on the inside and find the finish that avoided Barriault. Both men have what seems like a clear path to victory over each other making this a real fifty-fifty fight in my opinion.
If you ever need any proof that in MMA you should never back a fighter based off of record alone, this fight should serve as fitting proof of that. Walt Harris, who was 11-7 going in to this fight blitzed Serghei Spivac (who was 9-0 beforehand), in less than a minute. Harris has previously fought and lost to former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum, which partially explains his less than perfect record, and while Harris’s performance was impressive, I don’t think it warrants another opponent of Werdum’s stature, at least not yet. Instead I’d like to see ‘The Big Ticket’ get rebooked to fight his original opponent for UFC Ottawa, Alexey Oleinik. Oleinik was removed from the Ottawa card to face Alistair Overeem in the main event of UFC Saint Petersburg on short notice, in which he put up a valiant effort but ultimately lost. Oleinik is still one of the best grapplers in the division however, and a fight with Harris serves both men well giving them both a chance to prove they deserve another shot at one of the divisions top dogs.
Dvalishvili is likely not a man the UFC has big plans for, given that he doesn’t throw much volume on the feet or on the ground, and instead employs a fast pace with constant takedowns and decent ground control, but he handed Brad Katona his first loss and will hopefully be rewarded with a new UFC deal now his current one has expired. If Dvalishvili is given a new deal then I’d like to see him take on Montel Jackson next. Both men are on two fight winning streaks, and both men’s last loss came against Ricky Simon. If Dvalishvili wants to climb to the upper echelons of the division then he could do with adding a finish to resume, which will not come easy against Jackson who has never been put away. There is also a fun undercurrent to this fight, as both men where singled out to join the UFC by president Dana White. Jackson was given a UFC deal on the back of his performance on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, while Dvalishvili was spotted on an episode of Dana White Looking For a Fight.
Beating Cub Swanson in 2019 may not be as impressive as it was a couple of years ago, but it’s still nothing to be scoffed at, and any prospect that can overcome Swanson deserves attention. Despite one judge scoring the bout in favour of Swanson, Burgos was in control for the majority of the fight and was a deserving winner. Burgos has gained a reputation as an action fighter amongst hardcore MMA fans due to him being slightly irresponsible defensively in the cage. Burgos is far from perfect, but fights a fan-friendly style and looked good against Swanson, so next I think he should take on the loser of Renato Moicano vs Chang Sung Jung who will meet in the main event of UFC Greenville next month. Burgos’s style would gel really well with either man as both Moicano and Jung have made a habit of finishing their opponent or being finished themselves in their recent bouts, all 3 men are hittable, carry power in both hands and have dangerous submission games. The winner of Moicano-Jung will be looking at the top contenders in the division, but the loser will be on a 2 fight losing streak and will likely be in need of a slight step down in competition, while Burgos is not quite ready to face the very best in the world, so this fight makes sense.
I think we’re all in agreement that Brunson vs Theodorou is a fight that does not need to happen again. After overcoming Theodorou in what can be described as a peculiar fight, Brunson should face someone who’s style mixes better with his trademark aggression. A fight that would undoubtedly be a better watch than Brunson vs Theodorou would be Brunson vs either Antonio Carlos Junior or Ian Heinisch who will meet at UFC Rochester in less than 2 weeks. Brunson was scheduled to fight Carlos Junior last August so that fight would be a rebooking, while Heinisch has looked impressive in his UFC run so far and a bout with Brunson is probably the level of competition Heinisch is looking for. Brunson vs the winner of Carlos Junior vs Heinisch would be a fight between 2 top 15 middleweights that would be a lot more fan friendly than Brunson’s recent fight.
I would love to see Cerrone vs Conor McGregor. I’m sure Donald Cerrone would love that fight too considering this is not the first time he’s called for a bout with ‘Notorious’. Despite Cerrone wanting this fight, and McGregor even telling Cerrone months ago on Twitter he’d fight him, I just can’t see it happening. McGregor may well and truly be done with the sport and has his own issues outside of the cage to deal with. If somehow everything can be resolved however then this fight should absolutely be next, Cerrone’s win over Al Iaquinta will likely mark his return to the top 5 of the lightweight rankings, and a bout with McGregor would be a blockbuster bout that could fill any arena in America or Ireland.
If this fight can’t happen though, Cerrone should instead turn his attention to Justin Gaethje, who like Cerrone is a fan favourite who keeps the fight standing and seemingly understands nothing but violence. Either fight would be a brilliant striking battle between 2 of the very best at 155lbs, but I’m leaning in favour of Cerrone-McGregor simply because of the spectacle and mainstream buzz that fight would create. Cerrone- McGregor would likely get it’s own press tour as well as endless promotion by the UFC, while a fight with Gaethje probably wouldn’t even get a single press conference, the McGregor fight is simply a much bigger fight, and while that doesn’t mean everything, there are probably few opportunities to get McGregor back in the cage, so if one arrives the UFC need to act on it.