After Saturday night’s TUF 24 Finale, it was time to get in the heads of the UFC matchmakers and see who’s next for the main card winners.
For the first time in nearly two years, the UFC returned to the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas last night for the TUF 24 Finale. After last night’s entertaining main card fights, it was time to play matchmaker to determine who was next for the winners.
Demetrious Johnson vs. Jussier Formiga/Sergio Pettis
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For his ninth consecutive successful title defense, Demetrious Johnson (25-2-1) earned a unanimous decision over a game TUF 24 winner, Tim Elliott.
“Mighty Mouse” earns his eleventh consecutive victory, which is the fourth longest in UFC history. The 30-year-old product of AMC Pankration is also tied for second in most consecutive UFC title defenses in history behind Anderson Silva’s 10.
In the first UFC event of 2017, Jussier Formiga (19-4) will take on Roufusport’s Sergio Pettis (14-2) at UFC Phoenix. The winner should challenge Johnson for the UFC flyweight championship next.
Formiga earned a unanimous decision over Dustin Ortiz in his last fight at UFC Brasilia in September. The 31-year-old Brazilian fighting out of Nova Uniao has won four of his last five and is 5-3 since joining the UFC.
Pettis last fought in April at UFC 197 in Las Vegas and defeated Chris Kelades via unanimous decision. Like Formiga, “The Phenom” is 4-1 in his last five and is on a two-fight winning streak after losing his flyweight return bout.
Joseph Benavidez vs. Kyoji Horiguchi
In the battle of TUF 24 coaches, Joseph Benavidez continued his dominance over Henry Cejudo as he won the grudge match in a razor-thin split decision. The 32-year-old two-time title contender is on a six-fight winning streak and is 10-2 since making his flyweight debut; his two losses being his title defeats to Demetrious Johnson.
Before Benavidez can have another crack at flyweight gold, he needs to fight at least one more time due to his history with the current champion. His next fight should be a title eliminator against fellow top-five flyweight contender, Kyoji Horiguchi (18-2).
Horiguchi fought last month at UFC Belfast and earned a unanimous decision over Ali Bagautinov.
The 26-year-old Japanese prospect now fighting out of American Top Team in Florida is on a three-fight winning streak since unsuccessfully challenging Demetrious Johnson for the title. He is 6-1 since moving down to flyweight and is victorious in 12 of his last 13.
Jorge Masvidal vs. Gunnar Nelson
Despite the controversy, Jorge Masvidal (31-11) left the small Octagon with the bizarre first-round TKO over Jake Ellenberger. “Gamebred” has won consecutive bouts for the first time since 2014 and is 3-2 since returning to welterweight.
With the victory, Masvidal will enter the UFC welterweight rankings. The American Top Team fighter called out Donald Cerrone in his post-fight interview, and though it may be a fun scrap, “Cowboy” is too high up on the rankings to get that fight. Instead, he should fight Iceland’s Gunnar Nelson (15-2-1).
Nelson won his third Performance of the Night bonus in May, when he submitted Albert Tumenov with a first-round neck crank back at UFC Rotterdam. After winning his first four fights in the UFC, “Gunni” has alternated wins and losses in his last four.
Jared Cannonier vs. Gadzhimurad Antigulov
In his light heavyweight debut, Jared Cannonier earned a unanimous decision over Ion Cutelaba. “The Killa Gorilla” has won two consecutive bouts after losing his promotional debut. It was only the second time the 32-year-old Alaskan went the distance.
For his next test at 205-pounds, Cannonier should fight Gadzhimurad Antigulov (19-4).
Antigulov made his first appearance in the Octagon last month at UFC Sao Paulo and earned a Performance of the Night bonus for his 67-second guillotine over Marcos Rogerio de Lima. The Russian fighter is on a 13-fight winning streak and 14 of his 19 victories come by way of submission.
Sara McMann vs. Raquel Pennington
Sara McMann (10-3) spoiled the return of Alexis Davis after submitting the Canadian with an arm triangle in the second round for a Performance of the Night bonus. The 36-year-old Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling is on a two-fight winning streak and moves above .500 in the Octagon with a UFC record of 4-3.
Before she can earn another opportunity at the UFC women’s bantamweight title as she requested, McMann should take another fight with a couple of contenders ahead of her. She should fight Raquel Pennington (9-5).
Pennington opened up the UFC 205 main card with a unanimous decision victory over her TUF 18 coach, Miesha Tate, last month in New York City. The Colorado Springs native is on a four-fight winning streak and is 6-2 since competing on The Ultimate Fighter.
Brandon Moreno vs. John Moraga
22-year old Brandon Moreno (13-3) continues his surprising rise in the UFC following the split decision over Ryan Benoit to open up the main card.
“The Assassin Baby” improves to 2-0 inside the Octagon since competing on TUF 24. The Mexican prospect is on a 10-fight winning streak with six submission wins during that span.
During the post-fight interview, Moreno asked for a top-10 flyweight. Although John Moraga (16-5) is coming off a loss, he is the next best flyweight available and is ranked #9 in the division. He would be the perfect test for Moreno to determine his entrance into the top ten of the UFC flyweight rankings.
Moraga last fought in July at UFC Fight Night: Las Vegas and lost a split decision to Matheus Nicolau. He was set to fight Zach Makovsky this weekend at UFC 206, but pulled out with an injury.
The 32-year-old former title contender out of Phoenix is on a two-fight losing streak and is 3-3 since challenging Demetrious Johnson for the title. He is 5-4 since joining the UFC and making his flyweight debut.