UFC Vegas 64 ended up something of a strange event. Lots of finishes, some quality action, but a serious feeling that the event lacked real stakes, even with a potential strawweight title shot on the line. That said, after a couple tepid rounds Amanda Lemos made a strong statement in the main event. Neil Magny battled back from adversity to shut the welterweight gates on Daniel Rodriguez. And Grant Dawson made his own bid for a UFC ranking with a dominant showing over Mark Madsen.
So, is there any reason Lemos doesn’t get the next crack at strawweight gold? Is Gilbert Burns gonna want anything to do with Neil Magny? And is the Nevada commission gonna be taking a look at Darrick Minner’s loss to Shayilan Nuerdanbieke?
To answer those questions—and not a lot else—I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking methodology from the UFC of years past. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent up against one another. Hopefully, by following that model, a few of these bout ideas will actually make it off the page and into the Octagon. Now, let’s get to the fights!
In a division in need of fresh title challengers, Amanda Lemos looks like the genuine article. Marina Rodriguez may not be unbeatable in the Octagon, but up until this fight she’d been unstoppable. Lemos didn’t push the action much, but stayed patient in her power counter-punching style. The moment Rodriguez gave her chances to land she made her shots count. Obviously, the worst thing that could happen for her would be for Weili Zhang to beat Carla Esparza. Not because Esparza would be likely to get an instant rematch, but because Zhang’s multiple losses to Rose Namajunas would give the Whittman-trained talent an obvious angle to steal another quick chance at gold. Still, Lemos is the fresh fight no matter who has the belt come November 13, a title shot should be hers for the taking. If that can’t happen, then eliminator bouts with Namajunas or the Esparza/Zhang loser would also be prime fights.
It’s hard to blame Marina Rodriguez too much for fighting the way she did against Amanda Lemos. After all, once she started to really press the action and stop fighting tentative, Lemos hit her so hard that the ref felt like he had to stop the fight. Was Rodriguez really hurt so bad she couldn’t continue? That’s up for debate, but there’s no question she was in a bad place and things were only likely to get worse had the fight gone on.
It’s a hard halt to the Brazilian’s rise and hopes for top contender status. And given the number of top 10 fighters she’s already faced, it puts her in kind of a rough spot for the immediate future as well. Would Rose Namajunas be interested in a Rodriguez fight? If Weili Zhang doesn’t beat Carla Esparza, is that a booking she could get? If Emily Ducote beats Angela Hill, that’s not a terrible fight to make either. Given that Namajunas is the woman without a booking right now, that’s the avenue I’ll take, but that may be the kind of fight that Lemos gets instead. Marina Rodriguez vs. Rose Namajunas is one of just a few sensible bookings for Rodriguez right now.
A back and forth thriller that saw both men have lots of success, but over the long haul Magny’s suffocating clinch and top game snagged him another UFC victory. Rodriguez found great success marching Magny down and looking to hurt him with bigger shots in equal exchanges, but he got caught up just a little too often clinching with the taller man and it clearly started to hit his gas tank. When Magny got the takedown in the third, he forced Rodriguez into the submission and his 20th UFC win.
After the bout, Magny called for a fight with Gilbert Burns. I have no problem with it, if Burns isn’t going to fight Jorge Masvidal, but Magny’s recent loss to Rakhmonov really puts a damper on his hopes to streak to title contention. Maybe bouts with Sean Brady or Vicente Luque instead? Hell he could even fight Belal Muhammad since both men seem bound to have to fight every last welterweight on the planet before they see gold. Just because I don’t think the Burns fight will happen, I’ll say Brady vs. Magny is the fight to make. Good wrestlers and grapplers have been Magny’s poison for too long for him to skip other men with that game in the top 15. Brady vs. Magny feels like a test Magny still needs to pass to get to gold.
After his fight, Tagir Ulanbekov had some specific thanks to give. Notably, a shoutout to teammate Umar Nurmagomedov—who had his own recent win over Nate Maness—and who Ulanbekov credited for laying out the gameplan he needed to win. It was one hell of a gameplan too, with the former Sambo champ hitting the quick single leg and catching a seriously brutal guillotine as Maness tried to scramble back to his feet. A fantastic win for the Dagestani to bounce back after a hard loss to Tim Elliott.
That should set him up nicely for another test at the lower end of the flyweight top 15. David Dvorak, Sumudaerji, Manel Kape, or the winner of Jimmy Flick vs. Jeff Molina would all be really strong bouts. Of those, the fight with Kape seems like the most interesting test, given the Angolan-born fighter’s incredible top-end athleticism and fairly slow pace. Can Ulanbekov compete with one of the division’s best athletes? Can Kape create enough offense to keep Ulanbekov from stealing rounds off him? Ulanbekov vs. Kape is the right fight to find out if the AKA talent is ready for the elite.
As expected, standing at range Mark Madsen’s power gave him a big early edge against Grant Dawson. Unfortunately for the Olympian, his lack of a nuanced grappling game became an even bigger edge for his opponent in a hurry. Once Dawson found ways to chase Madsen to the mat, he was able to scramble his way to back takes and even just simple top control for long stretches, wearing Madsen out badly in the process. The result was a late sub win for ‘KGD’ and a callout after the bout for former interim lightweight champ Tony Ferguson.
Ferguson most recently jumped up to welterweight, and even if he hadn’t, I’ll be honest, I have no desire to see that fight. Bouts against Gregor Gillespie (if he’s not just retired now), Jalin Turner, Mateusz Gamrot, or the loser of Arman Tsarukyan vs. Damir Ismagulov all seem like much more interesting ideas to me. Of those, the Turner fight feels like the most sensible right now, and like it’d be a true test for Turner as well as a step forward for Dawson. Dawson vs. Turner is a great way to see if Dawson can keep his run up the lightweight division.
It wasn’t the most thrilling fight of Miranda Maverick’s career, but she did exactly what she was supposed to do over an opponent she was set to have a major advantage over. Shanna Young’s wrestling and grappling games have been major holes in her skillset for a while. Once Maverick found her way into clinches she hauled the ‘Shanimal’ to the mat with ease and schooled her to the final bell. After the win, Maverick called for a bout with Molly McCann. A fight she’s wanted for a while now. Unfortunately for her, McCann is already booked, and that fight with Erin Blanchfield doesn’t feel like one she’s very likely to win. That doesn’t mean the UFC couldn’t still roll with McCann vs. Maverick as a winner/loser matchup, but it doesn’t feel like a necessary fight.
It’s too bad Casey O’Neill is still rehabbing, because that’d be a great fight. Instead, how about a booking against Priscila Cachoeira. The Brazilian struggled hard early in her career, but has been making big strides lately as a fearsome power puncher. A good chance for Maverick to focus on her striking defense, and a chance for ‘Zombie Girl’ to show if she’s made any improvements to her grappling. Cachoeira vs. Maverick seems like a good way for both women to keep working toward a spot in the top 15.
An absolutely one-sided shitkicking from Mario Bautista, who started troubling Benito Lopez right out of the gate with low kicks and body punching before moving on to an easy takedown and utter domination on the mats in service of the first round submission. He’s had a couple hard setbacks in his UFC career so far, but Bautista really looks like he’s turned a corner. His striking was layered and well targeted and his grappling game looked unbelievably smooth. Fights against Adrian Yanez, Heili Alateng, Taylor Lapilus, or Raoni Barcelos would all be good possibilities. Realistically, Bautista can be a lot of fun against just about anyone from the edges of the top 15 on down. I’ll go ahead and say the UFC should book him against Adrian Yanez. It’d be a step up for Yanez given his past competition and an all-action bout. Yanez vs. Bautista would be a ton of fun for however long it lasts.
Polyana Viana’s time in the UFC hasn’t been easy. She’s an aggressive, high action fighter who loves to create chaos any time she can. When it works, she’s a thrilling fight finisher. When it doesn’t, she’s usually the one getting finished. I’m not sure that her fight against Jinh Yu Frey gave us any new insight on that dynamic, but it absolutely reinforced that the right fights make her a hell of a lot of fun to watch. So let’s throw her in against another fun fighter who likes to push the pace. That could mean bouts with Jessica Penne or Piera Rodriguez. I’d have loved to see her against Elise Reed or Loma Lookboonmee as well, but they just got booked against one another. So with the remaining options on the table, I’ll go with Jessica Penne. Penne’s knack for guard grappling and upright stalking striking game make this something of a mirror match. Is Viana skilled enough to beat the former Invicta champ at her own game? Can Penne still hang with the young talent at 115? Penne vs. Viana seems like it’d guarantee a finish.
OTHER BOUTS: Daniel Rodriguez vs. Max Griffin, Shayilan Nuerdanbieke vs. Luis Saldana, Darrick Minner vs. Chase Hooper, Nate Maness vs. Ode Osbourne, Mark Madsen vs. Joel Alvarez, Shanna Young vs. Hannah Goldy, Benito Lopez vs. John Castaneda, Jinh Yu Frey vs. Diana Belbita, Johnny Munoz vs. Mana Martinez, Liudvik Sholinian vs. Joshua Weems, Jake Hadley vs. Victor Altamirano, Carlos Candelario vs. Carlos Mota, Tamires Vidal vs. Chelsea Chandler, Ramona Pascual vs. Julija Stoliarenko