Rory MacDonald finished Tarec Saffiedine in a masterful performance. Does he get a title shot next?
Rick Story quieted the Gunnar Nelson hype. Is he anything more than a gatekeeper now?
Raphael Assuncao won his seventh fight in a row. Can the man get a title shot?
We’ll try to answer all these questions and more below.
As usual, MacDonald had the winning gameplan and executed it perfectly. The Canadian used his reach and picked Tarec Saffiedine apart with jabs. When Saffiedine tried to close the distance, MacDonald knocked him out. It might have been the best performance of the 25-year-old’s career and that’s saying something.
Who’s next: Johny Hendricks-Robbie Lawler winner
There isn’t much left for MacDonald to do at this point. He has beaten top 10 welterweights like Tyron Woodley, Demian Maia and Saffiedine. Few outside Hendricks or Lawler have that kind of résumé. MacDonald should wait to see who wins between those two in their title fight at UFC 181 on Dec. 6 and take on the winner. MacDonald is a UFC veteran, but he’s only now entering his prime.
Who knows what would have happened if Saffiedine’s bout with MacDonald on Saturday night in Halifax would have gone longer. Saffiedine was landing powerful leg kicks and it could have started to wear on MacDonald, but we’ll never know. Saffiedine got a little too aggressive and MacDonald knocked him out.
Who’s next: Erick Silva
Saffiedine is a top 10 welterweight in the UFC, but let’s not forget that his most impressive — and only — win in the organization is against Hyun Gyu Lim. The former Strikeforce 170-pound champion needs to fall a few rungs on the ladder and be built back up. That’s where Silva comes in. All the Brazilian does is put on exciting fights and his standup style will mesh very well with Saffiedine.
Rick Story (left) lands a left on Gunnar Nelson.
Story is no enhancement talent. Gunnar Nelson was the hot prospect and future star coming into Saturday’s main event in Sweden. Story derailed the hype train with a complete split decision victory. Never mind the "split" part of that. Most people had Story winning every round despite a pretty nasty cut over his right eye.
Who’s next: Stephen Thompson
"The Horror" still isn’t anything more than a gatekeeper, but he’s a darn good one. This is a guy who has a win over UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks and many believe he should have gotten the decision over Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 171 in March. Story is a durable veteran with good wrestling and power. Next he should meet another up-and-comer in Thompson. Let’s see if Story can do it again.
Gunnar Nelson (right) is no longer undefeated.
The next big thing at welterweight is going to have to go back to the drawing board. UFC Fight Night in Sweden on Saturday was supposed to be Nelson’s big coming-out party as a headliner and he ended up getting dominated in a split decision loss to Rick Story. Nelson’s ground game is sublime. Standing up? He needs some work.
Who’s next: Court McGee
Nelson might not be ranked in the welterweight top 15 following the loss to Story. He came into the weekend at No. 12, but has never beaten a ranked fight. Nelson’s evolution might be a little slower than some expected. McGee represents a similar opponent to Story: durable with solid striking. Nelson is going to have to beat someone like that eventually if he’s ever going to be among the elite at 170 pounds.
Maybe Assuncao should have gotten a bantamweight title shot a long time ago, but he’s certainly making it difficult for the UFC to continue overlooking him. Timing and his rib injury earlier in the year have made it tough. Assuncao’s win over Bryan Caraway on Saturday in Halifax, though, reaffirmed his status as an elite fighter.
Who’s next: Urijah Faber
With the win over Caraway, Assuncao has now joined Dennis Bermudez for the best current winning streak about non-UFC champions (seven). That’s ironic, because neither one of them will be getting a title shot. Assuncao is behind Dominick Cruz and maybe Renan Barao in the bantamweight pecking order. If the UFC is going to want him to cut the line, he’s going to need a signature win over someone like Faber.
That was disappointing. Caraway boasted he was the best in the world on the ground coming into this weekend, but just couldn’t get things there as much as he probably would have liked against Raphael Assuncao on Saturday in Halifax. Caraway might not be one of the top guys at bantamweight, but he’s close.
Who’s next: Eddie Wineland
Caraway shouldn’t fall too far. He was coming into his eventual unanimous decision loss to Raphael Assuncao winning five of his last six fights. Caraway is fairly well known among fans, so it makes sense to keep him in contender bouts. We haven’t seen Wineland since he fell to Johnny Eduardo in May. Him against Caraway would be a fun striker vs. grappler matchup. Can Wineland be taken down?
Max Holloway (right) lands an elbow on Akira Corassani.
It’s possible we all saw Holloway’s star turn Saturday in Sweden. Showing some nice killer instinct, Holloway came in and ended Akira Corassani’s night early via TKO in the first round. That was by far Holloway’s most impressive performance and, at age 22, he’s developing into a potential contender at featherweight.
Who’s next: Nik Lentz
How do we know if someone is a contender at featherweight? If they can beat Lentz, they are legit. The only person Lentz has not beaten in his last five fights was Chad Mendes and Mendes is fighting for Jose Aldo for the 145-pound title this month. Lentz is a pretty solid gatekeeper and a good grappler. If Holloway can beat Lentz, we can start talking about him being in the top 15 — or better.
Dennis Siver attempts an arm triangle on Charles Rosa.
For a ranked fighter, Siver was buried pretty deep on the prelims Saturday in Sweden. The German, coming off a performance-enhancing drug suspension, ended up putting on a show in a Fight of the Night performance against Charles Rosa. Siver beat the UFC newcomer by unanimous decision and cemented his spot at 145.
Who’s next: Thiago Tavares
Siver has just two losses in his last 10 fights and they came to Cub Swanson and Donald Cerrone. So as long as he doesn’t run into anyone from Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA, he should be fine. Siver is currently ranked No. 11 among featherweight contenders, though it’s doubtful he’s very close to a title shot. That could mean gatekeeper duty and Tavares looked awfully good in his 145-pound debut. Set it up.