It’s been a difficult week for Las Vegas following the recent tragedies, but UFC 216 provided fans with a welcome relief from the pain on Saturday evening.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship paid its respects to the victims and emergency services superbly on the night, and the fighters delivered an exciting fight card for the spectators – four of the five main card fights ending in stoppage.
We step into the shoes of UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby to pick out some potential matches to make for the winners and losers from the evening’s action…
Tony Ferguson def. Kevin Lee via submissionEmbed from Getty Images
Tony Ferguson became the interim UFC lightweight champion of the world by defeating Kevin Lee via triangle in the third round of the main event.
The current champion, Conor McGregor, has not defended his belt since dethroning Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 – hence why the interim belt was put on the line.
Despite Ferguson now holding lightweight gold, a unification bout with McGregor may not be the next move.
The Irishman, who recently lost his boxing debut to Floyd Mayweather, has plenty of other options on the table – options that may be more enticing than a fight with Ferguson.
A trilogy fight with Nate Diaz would be the biggest draw given McGregor’s history with the Stockton native with the score tied at 1-1, the lightweight belt would add even more weight to the bout.
UFC president, Dana White, said in the build-up to the Mayweather fight that McGregor was chasing a bout with Khabib Nurmagemedov, but doubt surrounds the Russian’s future at 155lbs following his pull-out at UFC 209.
Regardless of what the UFC or McGregor wants, his next opponent should be Ferguson.
The win at UFC 216 makes ‘El Cucuy’ the true number one contender in the lightweight division, stretching his consecutive win streak to ten and means a meeting with McGregor is inevitable.
For Lee, a fight against the loser of Eddie Alvarez vs Justin Gaethje would be a smart move and give both men the opportunity to stake their claim to stay in title contention.
The ‘Motown Phenom’ endured a severe weight cut, not helped by the revelation of staph infection, in the build-up to the bout with Ferguson.
A win against either Alvarez or Gaethje would keep him at the top of the lightweight rankings.
MATCHES TO MAKE: Ferguson vs McGregor/Lee vs Alvarez-Gaethje loser
Demetrious Johnson def. Ray Borg via submissionEmbed from Getty Images
Demetrious Johnson made history on Saturday night when he defeated Ray Borg to break Anderson Silva’s title defence record sensationally. It was his 11th title defence since becoming the inaugural flyweight champion.
Johnson was initially slated to face Borg at UFC 215 before his opponent pulled out due to a virus.
Nevertheless, ‘Mighty Mouse’ continued his dominance in the flyweight division with a ‘Submission of the Year’ contender and remains the only champion the UFC’s 125lb has ever had.
His next move remains uncertain after cleaning out the majority of the flyweight division. The natural step would be a jump to 135lbs where he would be at a size disadvantage but has more challengers of his calibre.
However, Johnson has maintained his stay at flyweight may not be over anytime soon with the possibility of a bout with Sergio Pettis and a rematch with Henry Cejudo being mooted.
Personally, I believe Johnson should move up and fight the winner of Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw for the UFC bantamweight title.
It would be a ‘Mighty Mouse’ fight that fans could get behind and would make him both the most money and cement his legacy as one of the pound-for-pound best the company has ever seen.
Borg’s credibility remains mostly intact despite the loss as no-one has been able to compete with the flyweight king. At just 24-years-old, his best years are still to come, and he wore his heart on his sleeve against Johnson.
His next fight could be against Wilson Reis – who is coming off losses to Johnson and most recently Cejudo.
The Brazilian needs a win to stay in the mix at 125 and Borg’s stock would continue to rise should he pick up a victory.
MATCHES TO MAKE: Johnson vs Garbrant or Dillashaw/Borg vs Reis
Fabricio Werdum def. Walt Harris via submissionEmbed from Getty Images
Fabricio Werdum was expected to fight Derrick Lewis in a heavyweight barnburner, but an injury to the ‘Black Beast’ forced him out of the bout on the day of the fight.
Instead of the bout being cancelled, Lewis was replaced with Walt Harris who was expected to fight Mark Godbeer on the undercard.
Despite having little preparation for his new opponent, the fight was a complete mismatch with Werdum submitting Harris via armbar just 65 seconds into the contest.
The Brazilian is 2-1 after losing his title to Stipe Miocic, and the former heavyweight champion called out the Cleveland native following his win. His loss to Alistair Overeem is still fresh on the mind, and his victory over Harris does little to add to his hopes of a title shot given the strength of opponent.
Werdum remains at least one win away from another crack at Miocic meaning his next opponent could be Alexander Volkov – who recently knocked out Stefan Struve at UFC Rotterdam.
Volkov has climbed the heavyweight rankings, riding a five-win streak and with most other top heavyweights booked, he could be the perfect opponent for Werdum.
A win over Volkov would keep Werdum in the heavyweight title picture and boost his hopes of a title shot.
On the other hand, Harris’ stock is not hurt by his loss to Werdum given his opponents experience and Brazilian jiu-jitsu expertise.
If anything, he should be applauded for taking such a dangerous fight on extremely short notice.
The logical move will be to simply reschedule his bout with Godbeer if the Brit is willing to retake the fight after the cancellation. Harris took little damage during the round and would likely be prepared to get straight back in the Octagon to show what he can do against a lower calibre opponent.
MATCHES TO MAKE: Werdum vs Volkov/Harris vs Godbeer
Beneil Dariush vs Evan Dunham ruled a majority drawEmbed from Getty Images
Beneil Dariush battled Evan Dunham in the main card opener in a hugely exciting contest that was ruled a majority draw by the judges.
Dariush piled on the pressure in round one and almost finished Dunham, but the American found back in rounds two and three to even the scorecards.
Remarkably, it was the second draw of the evening after Lando Vannata and Bobby Green could not be separated on the undercard.
It’s hard to pick out potential opponents following a draw with neither man making any significant progress.
With most other lightweights booked to fight in the coming weeks, the UFC could look to book Dariush against Al Iaquinta who is currently riding a five-fight win streak including wins over Diego Sanchez and Jorge Masvidal.
Dariush has continuously come unstuck against the top contenders at 155lbs, and a win over the loud-mouthed Iaquinta would give him a big push in the rankings.
Dunham represents the perfect route into the octagon for Michael Chiesa who already holds a submission win over Dariush.
‘Maverick’ has been out of action since losing his eagerly anticipated fight with Lee in a hugely controversial contest. Dunham would be a good test for Chiesa who is looking to return to winning ways.
What matches would you make following UFC 216? Let us know in the comments below