Last week, the UFC held three events over the course of eight days, all held in Tampa Bay, Florida, with no fans in the stands. Despite the lack of fans in attendance, the events were considered a huge success as they generated giant pay per view buys, lots of viewers on ESPN+, and as much media coverage as the company has ever had.
Dana White knew that whichever sport was the first to return was going to get a lot of notoriety, and he was right. Now that all the smoke has cleared from these three events, we are going to take a look at which five fights the UFC needs to make next, after the events of UFC Fight Night Smith vs. Teixeira. These are the fights the fans demand to see, make it happen, Dana!
Glover Teixiera vs. Dominick Reyes
Nobody had a better performance at UFC Fight Night Smith vs. Teixeira than the headliner, Glover Teixeira. Heading into the fight, some were saying that this could be the end for Teixeira, if he couldn’t find a way to beat Anthony Smith in the main event. And that was understandable as Glover is on the wrong side of forty and has been fighting professionally for nearly twenty years.
With longtime light heavyweight champion Jon Jones flirting with a move to heavyweight, the light heavyweight division just might be up for grabs. Let’s take a quick peek at the top five of the UFC rankings after this week’s fights.
UFC Light Heavyweight Rankings
- Jon Jones (Champion)
- Dominick Reyes
- Thiago Santos
- Jan Blachowicz
- Corey Anderson
- Glover Teixeira
Assuming Jones jumps to heavyweight, and that is the right move for Bones at this point in his career, none of these guys in the top five are more than one more big win away from fighting for Jones vacated belt.
At the ripe old age of forty, Teixeira isn’t going to be interested in any fights against lower-ranked guys, so he is going to want a fight in the top five for sure. And while Dominik Reyes is screaming for an immediate rematch with Jones after losing a controversial decision to the light heavyweight GOAT back in February, I don’t see that happening.
— UFC (@ufc) May 14, 2020
Reyes just doesn’t have the clout to be demanding a rematch without even taking another fight, let alone winning one. Yeah, it was a close fight, and it could have gone his way, but he needs to win another fight, in my opinion, before getting back in there for the title. That makes a fight with Teixeira a perfect matchup for him.
A win over Teixeira puts Reyes right back at the top, to either fight Jones if he decides to stay at light heavyweight, or to fight for the vacated or interim belt, while Jones dips his toes into the heavyweight waters.
For Glover, a loss against Reyes would likely end his illustrious career, and a win would put him into number one contender status with either a rematch with Jones, who defeated him by decision back in 2014, or a fight for a vacated or interim belt, likely against Thiago Santos or Jan Blachowicz. This fight makes a lot of sense for both guys and would be an absolute war that would sell a lot of pay per views. Make it happen, Dana!
Drew Dober vs. Donald Cerrone
Drew Dober has been flying mostly under the radar in his time with the UFC. He was featured on The Ultimate Fighter but never made it into the house as he lost in the entry round to Daron Cruickshank. He still got his shot in the big show, though, but started off slow, losing four out of his first five fights.
But since then, he has really turned it on, as he has won eight out of his last ten fights, including a three-fight winning streak, with all three of those wins coming by knockout. In his last fight, at UFC Fight Night Smith vs. Teixeira, he completely overwhelmed Alexander Hernandez, picking up a second-round KO victory.
?????????.@DrewDober finishes Hernandez standing! ?
➡️ LIVE on ESPN+ pic.twitter.com/75sm0ltWF2
— UFC (@ufc) May 14, 2020
The recent surge has Dober ranked for the first time in his UFC career, coming in at #14 in the latest lightweight rankings. But when you look back on who he has fought, he hasn’t faced many contenders, and he needs a real fight, against a ranked opponent, if he is going to put together a run at the lightweight strap.
Who do I have in mind? Donald Cerrone. Cerrone also fought in Tampa Bay, on the UFC 249 card, and picked up a controversial loss to Anthony Pettis. That makes four straight losses for The Cowboy, and the fan-favorite needs a fight against a guy he can beat. The last four fights for Donald have come against Justin Gaethje, Tony Ferguson, Connor McGregor, and Pettis, all former champions.
A fight against Dober would be one where Cerrone would be favored, but not by as much as most people might think. When you look at the rankings, this fight passes the smell test, as Cowboy is currently ranked 13th, and Dober is 14th.
If Cerrone wins, he gets to go right back to fighting big named guys for big paydays. If Dober wins, we know he is a real threat in the lightweight division and will then be on track to a fight a top ten guy like Kevin Lee or Paul Felder. On top of this fight making sense for both guys, it would be a lot of fun as these guys both love to stand and bang and have knockout power.
Both guys like to stay active, Dober has already fought twice this year, and Cerrone would fight every week if the UFC let him. If offered, neither guy would turn this scarp down, and it is a fight I would love for the UFC to make.
Andrei Arlovski vs. Sergei Pavlovich
The ageless Andrei Arlovski put on a vintage performance at UFC Fight Night Smith vs. Teixeira when he picked up a win against highly touted newcomer Philipe Lins. Arlovski picked apart Lins on the feet and earned a unanimous decision victory. The former UFC heavyweight champion has now won two out of his last three fights.
While a title run isn’t in the cards for Arlovski, he has whittled out a nice gatekeeper role in the heavyweight division. And he has done a great job of being competitive against some of the best up and coming fighters in the UFC.
He had split decision losses to both Walt Harris and Augusto Sakai, two guys that are both ranked right now, and in addition to the win over Lins, he also has a recent win over Ben Rothwell, a guy that is never easy to beat.
Still got the ????! ?
— UFC (@ufc) May 14, 2020
It appears that Arlovski has no plans to retire, and I would love to see him get challenged by another guy looking to make a name for himself in Russian fighter, Sergei Pavlovich. Pavlovich was a star in Russia as he started out his career by winning his first twelve fights, with nine of those wins coming by knockout.
He finally made the jump to the UFC in late 2018 and faced off against former heavyweight champion, Alistair Overeem. It was a tough matchup for Pavlovich, and he was knocked out in the first round by Overeem. But he has rebounded nicely, winning his last two fights, against Marcelo Golm and Maurice Greene, knocking out both guys.
Arlovski is the perfect opponent as he will stand and trade with him, and beating a former champion and legend of the sport like Andrei Arlovski, would be quite the feather in the cap for Pavlovich. This would be a great fight to hold in Russia, assuming the Corona Virus pandemic goes away at some point, as both guys are huge stars in Mother Russia. Two guys that both started their careers overseas, with one guy potentially handing the torch off to the other? It makes too much sense not to make happen!
Brian Kelleher vs. John Dodson
Talk about derailing a hype train! Brian Kelleher was brought in to lose to former Dana White Contender series undefeated fighter, Hunter Azure, at UFC Fight Night Smith vs. Teixeira. But things didn’t go as planned for Azure as Kelleher knocked out the hot young prospect, earning Fight of the Night honors along the way.
The win was the second in a row for Kelleher, and in eight UFC fights, he has five wins, four of those coming by stoppage, and he has earned a whopping four performance bonuses. This guy brings it each and every time out and has a win over former bantamweight champion and UFC legend, Renan Barão, on his resume.
➡️ Watch NOW on E+ pic.twitter.com/GOxLZusxeM
— UFC (@ufc) May 13, 2020
Kelleher has been fighting professionally for nearly a decade, and while a title shot is somewhat unlikely at this point in his career, he has done enough to deserve a step up in competition. The guy I am looking at is former UFC title challenger, John Dodson.
It wasn’t all that long ago that Dodson was atop the bantamweight division, as he faced off against Demetrious Johnson for the title on two separate occasions, losing both fights by decision. But Dodson has fallen on hard times as of late as he is just 5-5 in his last ten fights.
When you look at the bantamweight division, there are a lot of question marks right now. The current champion, Henry Cejudo, just announced his retirement, and the guy that he just defended his title against, former champ Dominick Cruz, looks to be headed out of the sport as well. That means Dodson can’t be too far away from a title shot, as his resume is as good as any fighter in the division.
This fight gives Kelleher another chance to display his entertaining style of fighting on a big stage, against a fighter ranked in the division. If he manages to beat Dodson, that would likely get him into the rankings for the first time in his UFC career.
For Dodson, at this point, he just needs to string together a couple of wins against any type of quality competition, as the division is in complete disarray. A win over Kelleher would be two straight wins for former Ultimate Fighter winner, and at that point, he could make a case for a top ten fight. This fight is sure to entertain as they have seven performance bonuses between the two of them, and I need to see these guys scrap!
Chase Sherman vs. Greg Hardy
Chase Sherman patiently waited for his call back from the UFC after being cut in 2018, and when he got it, he took full advantage of the opportunity. Sherman was destroying guys on the regional circuit, as he was 3-0 with three first-round knockouts, and at UFC Fight Night Smith vs. Teixeira, he picked up his fourth consecutive knockout win when he blasted Isaac Villanueva, knocking out the UFC newcomer in the second round.
JUST GETTING STARTED! ?@ChaseShermanUFC makes a HUGE IMPACT in his Octagon return.
➡️ Watch now on ESPN+ pic.twitter.com/9dE7AvjGAK
— UFC (@ufc) May 13, 2020
The Vanilla Guerilla is a monster on his feet, and of his eleven wins, ten of them have come by way of knockout, with nine of those coming in the first round. He weighs in at over 250 pounds and at 6’-4” truly lives up to his gorilla nickname.
We have already seen what Chase Sherman looks like against ranked fighters, and it hasn’t been pretty. But against a step down in competition, he has been crushing guys. I would like to see him get another fight against a non-ranked fighter, to get him a bit more established before throwing him back to the wolves like they did in his first stint with the promotion. Sherman is still just 30-years old, and with his exciting fighting style, and knockout power, I want to see him fighting in the UFC for a long time.
To me, the perfect matchup for Sherman, would be against up and coming fighter, former NFL star, Greg Hardy. Hardy is 3-1-1 in his last five fights and picked up a nice win last week over Yorgan De Castro. Before picking up the decision win in Tampa Bay, all five of Hardy’s previous wins were first-round knockouts.
— UFC (@ufc) May 10, 2020
Both of these guys are enormous, and a fight between them would feature over five hundred pounds of knockout power in the cage. Neither guy is ready to fight a ranked opponent, and this fight would be an absolute war, with one of these guys going to sleep before it was over. At the end of the day, the UFC is a form of entertainment, and I can’t think of many fights in the heavyweight division that would be more entertaining than a fight between Chase Sherman and Greg Hardy!
The UFC is hoping to start firing off fight cards on a weekly basis. With few sports to compete with, UFC president Dana White knows now is the time to strike. ESPN has been packed full of UFC content in the last two weeks, and it has brought a lot of new fans to the sport. Thanks for reading and make sure that you stay tuned to The Sports Geek for all of your UFC betting advice!