Saturday’s UFC Battle Evening in Rochester, New York, noticed Rafael dos Anjos decide up his first win since 2017 — on the expense of Kevin Lee in his welterweight debut.
There have been plenty of standout performances this weekend within the Octagon, together with a number of rising title contenders nonetheless of their 20s.
What’s subsequent for dos Anjos, Lee, and the opposite prime names of UFC Battle Evening? Right here is ESPN’s take.
Rafael dos Anjos, welterweight
Outcome: Defeated Kevin Lee by way of fourth-round submission
Subsequent: Leon Edwards
Dos Anjos is again within the win column, after dropping his earlier two. Look, the excellent news is these two losses have been towards the present champ, Kamaru Usman, and present No. 1 contender, Colby Covington. He can say he misplaced to the easiest. The dangerous information is … these two losses got here to the present champ and the No. 1 contender.
In different phrases, dos Anjos not too long ago had his likelihood towards the 2 prime canines, and he got here up brief. Neither loss was controversial. He’ll want (no less than) another win to get a title shot. Proper now, Edwards is a man who deserves a giant combat, however can not seem to rope in one of many prime names. Dos Anjos may need to present him that chance.
Though he was aggressive towards Rafael dos Anjos in his welterweight debut, Kevin Lee might strongly contemplate going again to the 155-pound division. Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY Sports activities
Kevin Lee, welterweight
Outcome: Misplaced to Rafael dos Anjos by way of fourth-round submission
Subsequent: Alex Oliveira
The preliminary response right here … it will probably really feel like the tip of the world for Lee. He has now misplaced three of his final 4. He has hassle making 155 kilos, however he simply misplaced to an opponent that, stylistically, most likely is not his worst matchup at 170. He is a person with no residence proper now, and his five-fight win streak between 2016 and 2017 seems like a distant reminiscence.
However there’s a silver lining. Despite the fact that he gassed out on Saturday and misplaced, he didn’t look out of his league towards the extremely ranked dos Anjos. It is affordable to suppose, with a couple of changes, Lee may nonetheless discover success on this 170-pound weight class.
There’s all the time a great likelihood he drops again to 155. The way in which he fights, you may perceive why he’d wish to keep away from larger opponents at 170. He is at his greatest when he can take an opponent down and impose his will, bodily. However I might encourage him to remain at 170. And if he does, I would wish to see him towards one other veteran, like Oliveira.
Outcome: Defeated Sijara Eubanks by way of unanimous determination
Subsequent: Yana Kunitskaya
I’m enthusiastic about Ladd’s future, but additionally utterly satisfied the UFC mustn’t rush her. Saturday was a convincing win so far as the scorecards go: 30-26, 29-27 and 29-28. However as a lot potential as she confirmed, Ladd additionally confirmed some areas by which she wants to enhance.
She’s already extremely ranked. If the UFC books Ladd towards somebody like Ketlen Vieira, who can be undefeated, it could undoubtedly make sense, however it could additionally imply if she wins, her subsequent combat would nearly definitely be a title shot. And I simply don’t suppose she is prepared for Amanda Nunes (or Holly Holm, for that matter).
I am not saying Ladd cannot win these fights now, however I believe it is extra seemingly these matchups would show an excessive amount of for the 24-year-old. It is tempting to hurry somebody with Ladd’s apparent expertise, however I vote play it gradual. Kunitskaya can be a respectable problem, and nonetheless preserve Ladd off that rocket ship to the title I am unsure she must be on but.
Outcome: Defeated Nik Lentz by way of second-round TKO
Subsequent: Gregor Gillespie
I can not imagine Oliveira is 29 years outdated. This actually snuck up on me. I bear in mind watching him compete on occasions like “UFC on Versus 2,” which just about seems like one thing I made up in 2019. This dude has been round without end, and he is nonetheless within the Beneath 30 Membership!
And I am going to admit, I have been responsible of writing Oliveira off. He is been in some large spots in his profession, fought guys like Frankie Edgar, Max Holloway, Anthony Pettis — and principally got here up brief. He is had hassle making weight. He misplaced three of 5 throughout one stretch. In some unspecified time in the future, throughout all of this, I finished desirous about Oliveira as a title challenger.
It is time to rethink that. It’s totally potential Oliveira is barely now coming into his personal. Getting into his greatest years. Let’s take a look at that. E-book him towards Gillespie, who no person desires to combat. Is Oliveira a gatekeeper, or is he a respectable menace to the title? This might be the proper matchup to seek out out.
Outcome: Defeated Derrick Krantz by way of first-round TKO
Subsequent: Demian Maia
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Luque desires Santiago Ponzinibbio, which I’m down for, 100 p.c. However I believe the UFC ought to e-book Ponzinibbio to the spot that opened up towards Robbie Lawler on June 29 in Minneapolis. And if that occurs, Maia is the following best choice for Luque.
I’m very excessive on Luque. He’s now 9-2 within the UFC, with 9 finishes. In actual fact, I might even contemplate him for that spot towards Lawler if I have been the UFC. This man is prepared for a giant combat. Even at age 41, Maia nonetheless provides that. A “large combat” really feel. A signature combat. If Maia wins his subsequent bout, towards Anthony Rocco Martin on June 29, that is the one to e-book.
Outcome: Defeated Megan Anderson by way of first-round submission
Subsequent: Cris Cyborg Justino
Ah, sure. The “feminine featherweight” situation of the UFC. Does this division exist, does it not exist? The UFC itself nonetheless, greater than two years after creating the division, doesn’t have a rating system in place for it. Spencer alluded to this downside herself on Saturday, saying, “What else is there? You guys inform me.”
Nicely. When there aren’t many choices, generally the precise reply is the obvious one. And the apparent one on this state of affairs is clearly Cyborg. To Spencer’s level, what else would even make sense? It is not as if the UFC is in place to slow-cook this factor. You may’t construct as much as one thing if you do not have the items to get there.
A matchup between Spencer and Cyborg may really feel slightly rushed on the floor, nevertheless it’s actually not. Spencer was a champion in Invicta FC and he or she simply beat the previous Invicta champion in Anderson. Convey on Cyborg.