Booking what’s next for UFC Vegas 73 main card winners, including Mackenzie Dern

With UFC Vegas 73 in the rearview mirror, let’s speculate on potential fights for the main card victors such as post-fight bonus winners Mackenzie Dern and Diego Ferriera

Related: UFC Vegas 73 awards – Hooper and Johnson earn honors following Saturday’s card

Mackenzie Dern – Carla Esparza

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In what was easily her most complete performance to date, Mackenzie Dern established herself as a legitimate strawweight contender. Her complete destruction of Angela Hill in the main event at UFC Vegas 73 showcased remarkable growth for the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and is likely to push her into the top five of the rankings next week.

The eternally exciting 115-pound division leaves no shortage of viable options for MacKenzie Dern’s next fight. Because the UFC passed on booking Xiaonan Yan to challenge Weili Zhang in a layup for the Chinese market, it’s very tempting to run that back and get some clarity on Dern’s razor-thin decision loss last October. However, a rematch will likely make more sense in the future.

In the post-fight press conference, UFC President Dana White acknowledged how exciting a fight with former champion Rose Namajunas would be. There is no reason to challenge that assertion. But since we simply don’t know when “Thug Rose” will be ready to return, let’s look to another former champion and the other half of her last appearance in Carla Esparza.

Carla Esparza’s wrestling-based approach would make for a potentially interesting complement to Dern’s high-level jiu-jitsu. Should she elect to avoid that realm, Dern would have a chance to display her greatly improved striking arsenal. Esparza was last seen relinquishing her title in a second-round submission loss.

Anthony Hernandez – Derek Brunson

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Since leaving the Glendale Fight Club, Edmen Shabayzan has clearly stepped up his overall game. Unfortunately, those improvements weren’t enough to get the job done against Anthony Hernandez. Despite some impressive work in the scrambles, the relentless pace and pressure of Hernandez proved too much, and “Fluffy” poured on the punishment after the first round. 

With four consecutive wins with three finishes, it’s time for Hernandez to level up in competition and get a chance to earn a number beside his name. Derek Brunson fits that description.

With a similar ability to constantly move forward and force suffocating grappling on his opponent, Hernandez would likely have to dig deep to replicate his recent results. Brunson has a lot to prove in his next outing after suffering back-to-back stoppage losses in his last two appearances.

Lupita Godinez – Polyana Viana

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Emily Ducote’s weekend didn’t go as planned. Not only was she originally scheduled to fight a few weeks ago, but her original opponent withdrew and opened the door for Lupita Godinez to step in at a 120-pound catchweight. That change proved too much for Ducote as Godinez walked away with a unanimous decision win.

During fight week Godinez admitted that her affinity for trading hands has made her neglect using her skills in judo and wrestling. Against Ducote, “Loopy” relied heavily on her strikes and used those grappling skills in reverse to keep things standing.  

Instead of reinventing the wheel, tapping the woman who Godinez replaced, Polyana Viana feels right here. The jiu-jitsu brown belt might give Godinez the ground battle she can’t seem to find in the Octagon. Viana was last seen making quick work of Jinh Yu Frey last November.

Joaquin Buckley – Khaos Williams

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So far so good for Joaquin Buckley’s move to 170 pounds. The man whose 2020 viral flying spinning kick knockout inspired a Kanye West song dropped down from middleweight and continued adding to his highlight reel at the expense of Andre Fialho. 

Buckley looks physically well-suited for the division and credits that 15-pound difference for forcing his nutrition and conditioning to get in line. His ambitions to climb the ladder were clearly stated and if he performs like he did Saturday, it won’t be long before he gets his wish. 

In the meantime, let’s just keep watching Buckley stand across from like-minded action junkies. A scrap with Khaos Williams serves that purpose. Along with being a more established fighter at welterweight, Williams would be more than happy to provide Buckley with yet another firefight.

Diego Ferreira – Bobby Green/Tony Ferguson winner

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Diego Ferreira entered the Apex Center in desperate need of a win. In his three previous trips there, he came out on the losing end and only saw the final bell once. It initially looked like his bad luck in the venue was going to continue until a sensational overhand right connected perfectly on Michael Johnson’s chin to secure an almost certain knockout-of-the-year candidate.

The win buys Ferreira another opportunity to regain the momentum he had a few years ago and the crowded lightweight division has no shortage of suitable opponents. The winner of the upcoming bout between former interim champion Tony Ferguson and Bobby Green makes sense. 

Both Green and Ferguson will enter their July showdown attempting to right the ship on a losing streak. The winner would be in a similar position to Ferreira and it’s only logical that their paths collide.

Ant Walker is a native of the Washington DC area that now lives in Los Angeles. He has been... More about Anthony Walker

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