After another Saturday spent at the Apex Center, it’s time to speculate on what’s next for the UFC Vegas 74 main card winners like Amir Albazi, Alex Caceres, and the forever-young Jim Miller.
Amir Albazi – Brandon Royval
It wasn’t necessarily the cleanest victory but Amir Albazi made a huge step in the flyweight division. No matter how you scored it, a win over a recent title challenger like Kai Kara France means a lot. Albazi took advantage of a size disparity and superior wrestling to sway the judges against the Kiwi kickboxer. The constant forward motion and pressure most likely tipped the scorecards in his favor.
Although he called for a chance to fight for the belt, the winner of Brandon Moreno and Alexandre Pantoja shouldn’t be the next step. Instead, let’s see what he’d look like against Brandon Royval. This pairing wouldn’t be new territory. Their previously scheduled contest was scrapped due to the latter breaking his wrist.
Both men are riding impressive win streaks and can rightfully call themselves championship contenders. It just makes too much sense.
Alex Caceres – Edson Barboza
It’s been well over a decade since Alex Cacares first made himself known to UFC fans. Since then he’s been a consistent presence and is a reliable bet for a fast-paced action fight. His decision win over Daniel Pineda shows “Bruce Leeroy” isn’t planning on altering course now.
So let’s put Caceres up against someone who will not only compliment his fight style but is also on the fringes of the rankings. Edson Barboza checks those boxes.
At numbers 14 and 15, Caceres and Barboza will maintain their position in the featherweight division against one another. But that’s not what we really care about. We want to see the two dynamic strikers spin kick so much that the Shaw Brothers blush.
Jim Miller – Jared Gordon
Heading into Saturday, Jim Miller was creating the perfect recipe for a complete disaster of a performance. After two opponent changes, Miller was committed to fighting UFC newcomer Jesse Butler just a few days before the opening bell.
An aging vet taking on a young and hungry prospect on such short notice has been the downfall of more than a few in MMA. However, Miller spoiled the debutante’s inaugural appearance in highlight reel fashion and snapped the five-fight winning streak he walked into the Apex Center with.
Let’s rebook Miller versus Jared Gordon. When Gordon was tapped to replace L’udovit Klein, it was hard to not picture the chaotic scrambles and scrappy slugfest that would likely ensue. Although Gordon was pulled after admitting to having a concussion, a full camp would give him enough time to clear up any medical issues.
Tim Elliott – Manel Kape
It would’ve been understandable if Tim Elliott underperformed last night. In a very short span of time, his personal and professional lives have intersected to create the perfect storm of misfortune. However, that didn’t stop Elliott from putting on an excellent showing in his unanimous decision win over Victor Altamirano.
Elliott would make a great opponent for Manel Kape. His awkward style and relentless pace could push Kape to his limits. A win for either would give their resume the name value it needs for a push further up the flyweight division.
Karine Silva – Joann Wood/Priscila Cachoeira winner
Karine continued the submission win streak she started in 2020 with her first-round kneebar of former Invicta champion Ketlen Souza. So far Silva has looked dominant in the UFC and putting her in a position to touch the rankings makes sense.
With that in mind, we can pair her with the winner of Joann Wood and Priscila Cachoeira. Both ladies sit outside of the top 15 but at least offer more established options than a fighter making her Octagon debut. Wood and Cachoeira are scheduled for the prelims of UFC 292 in July.
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos – Gunnar Nelson
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos came out victorious in the perceived striker versus grappler bout against Abubakar Nurmagomedov. The Brazilian forced Nurmagomedov to eat shots as most of his takedown attempts fell short.
While “Capoeira” continues to show he is a much more well-rounded mixed martial artist than he gets credit for, the jury is still out on his chances to reclaim the momentum he enjoyed during his earlier UFC run.
Let’s see if he can handle another difficult-style match-up against Gunnar Nelson. Nelson’s blend of karate and jiu-jitsu could simultaneously make for entertaining results and give Zaleski a good litmus test.