After a trip Down Under for UFC 293, it’s time to see what the future holds for new middleweight king Sean Strickland and the other main card winners from Saturday night’s pay-per-view event.
Sean Strickland vs. Dricus Du Plessis
In what will go down in history as one of the most surprising upsets in MMA history, Sean Strickland owned nearly every second against Israel Adesanya. Sean Strickland’s dedication to moving forward in a defensively sound way was too difficult of a puzzle for Adesanya to solve.
Sean Strickland’s win breathes new life into middleweight. Israel Adesanya derailed the title hopes of quite a few of his contemporaries. But before the floodgates open, Dricus Du Plessis should be next up. Du Plessis finished Robert Whittaker by second-round TKO at UFC 290.
Alexander Volkov vs. Derrick Lewis
In one of his more impressive performances in recent memory, Alexander Volkov did almost everything right against Tai Tuivasa. Volkov kept his range, relied on straight shots, and avoided being lured into the type of wild fight that Tuivasa thrives in. The Ezekiel choke finish felt like icing on the cake after “Drago” dominated in nearly every aspect.
With new blood at the top of the heavyweight division, there is certainly room for the 14-year veteran to make a run for a title shot. However, the title fight between Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic could very well be a dual retirement bout. That would leave Tom Aspinall and Sergei Pavlovich as the most logical pairing for a vacant belt. Jailton Almeida and Curtis Blaydes will be busy with one another soon as well.
If Volkov wants to stay active instead of waiting for the smoke to clear, a rematch with Derrick Lewis could be a suitable alternative. Evening the score with Lewis could boost his chances of being inserted into the title picture and show his growth from his loss to the “Black Beast” at UFC 229. Lewis scored a first-round knockout of Marcos Rogério de Lima in late July.
Manel Kape vs. Kai Kara France
Despite putting in a spirited effort and surprising everyone watching with his granite chin, Felipe Dos Santos couldn’t get his hand raised against Manel Kape. The former RIZIN champion was simply too precise with his counterstrikes for the newcomer to handle on short notice.
It’s clear that Kape and his original opponent Kai Kara France are still looking forward to hurting one another. There’s no reason to shake things up. Beyond the bad blood, it’s a great match-up on paper and makes sense ranking-wise. France’s last outing was a split-decision loss to Amir Albazi in June.
Justin Tafa vs. Blagoy Ivanov
Austen Lane’s UFC debut certainly didn’t go as planned. Neither did the do-over. Justin Tafa did away with the Contender Series vet and put the eye poke that prematurely ended their first outing in the rearview mirror.
If nothing else, Tafa is consistent. He simply wants to send his opponent to the shadow realm and doesn’t seem to bother with much else. There’s no reason to rock the boat. Let’s give him Blagoy Ivanov next. While Ivanov isn’t exactly someone who looks for a brawl, his technical striking style should make for an interesting contrast. Ivanov lost a decision to Alexandr Romanov in July.
Tyson Pedro vs. Filipe Lins/Ion Cutelaba winner
Tyson Pedro wasted little time in the main card opener. With the support of his hometown, the Sydney-born fighter used his almost unfair power differential to make quick work of Anton Turkalj. The stiff jab and distance management showed that his time at City Kickboxing has been well spent.
In order to move up the ladder, Pedro needs to create further distance between himself and a few of the other longtime fringe fighters in the division. The winner between Filipe Lins and Ion Cutelaba would help thin the herd. Lins and Cutelaba will meet on Oct. 7 at the Apex Center.