UFC Fight Night 80: Matches To Make

Esther Lin|MMAFighting

At UFC Fight Night 80, Rose Namajunas put forth a contender for beatdown of the year in her win over Paige VanZant. Namajunas absolutely dominated VanZant everywhere the fight went, bloodying the marketable young fighter with elbows in the first round and threatening with a variety of submissions en route to a fifth-round rear-naked choke victory. VanZant demonstrated serious mental toughness in defeat, never once looking for a way out, but was clearly leagues behind Namajunas technically. With the main event out of the way, let us look to the future and at potential opponents for all of the main card fighters. Rose Namajunas: Namajunas must be close to a title shot after her one sided showing against VanZant. Another women's strawweight edging towards a title shot, Tecia Torres, would be suitable step up for her in what could be a title eliminator bout. While Torres holds a 2013 win over Namajunas already, a rematch would likely be a very competitive fight. Paige VanZant: After suffering such a dominant loss the UFC will likely return to booking VanZant against lower tier 115-pounders. Nina Ansaroff fits the bill and would offer VanZant the opportunity to score a clear win over a solid fighter. Michael Chiesa: Chiesa lost the first round to a crafty Jim Miller but came back big in the second, stunning Miller with ground and pound before finishing him with a rear naked choke. Chiesa is in fringe top fifteen territory at 155-pounds and should meet another man in a similar position, to decide who takes a step into the elite tier of the division. Evan Dunham, who is also coming off an impressive win over a well established lightweight in Joe Lauzon, would be a perfect fight Chiesa. Jim Miller: Miller looked good before succumbing to Chiesa's ground strikes and submission game so it is unclear whether his skills are truly declining or if the next generation of young lightweights are just too good for him. In either case he is very likely no longer a top fifteen fighter and should meet a much lower ranked adversary next time out. Mitch Clarke is also coming off a loss to Chiesa and is a very beatable opponent for Miller. Sage Northcutt: Despite getting the finish against Cody Pfister, some big holes were exposed in the grappling defense of Sage Northcutt. The UFC will likely continue to feed him bottom tier lightweights until he has shored up those holes. Someone like Andrew Holbrook would be a solid next fight for Northcutt as Holbrook is not a particularly dangerous finisher at the UFC level. Cody Pfister: Pfister started out aggressive but his own defensive weaknesses were revealed as soon as Northcutt got on top of him. He should meet the Mexican veteran Akhbar Arreola in a loser leaves town match. Thiago Santos: Santos won a split decision against Theodorou, bloodying and brutalizing the grinder in round three. He is now on a three-fight winning streak and should meet another fighter in the same position before meeting a top fifteen middleweight. Magnus Cedenblad also rides a three-fight winning streak and would be a perfect next opponent for Santos. Elias Theodorou: Theodorou took a tough loss the striker Santos but did enough in the first and second rounds to have at least one judge score the bout in his favour. Caio Magalhaes is in a similar position in the division to Theodorou and presents a similar threat that Santos did with the added weapon of dangerous offensive grappling; a bout between the two is one one of the more interesting mid to lower tier middleweight match ups that can be made right now.

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