It’s official: Fight Night 2022’s main event theme is injuries. Tom Aspinall blew his knee. Brian Ortega separated his shoulder. Now Calvin Kattar has also blown his knee. The injury came late in the first round, just when it looked like the action was about to explode. It ruined Arnold’s opportunity to make a statement and put a major cloud over what had been a solid, if unspectacular, card until then.
So where does Allen go from here? Has Max Griffin made enough of a statement to fight a ranked opponent next? And Roman Dolidze?
To provide the appropriate answers to these questions, I will use the strategy used by my fellow student, Zane Simon, of the classic Joe Silva strategy of matching winners with winners and losers with losers. There will be some exceptions – there always are exceptions – but only when it seems like the unquestionably best option.
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The last thing a fighter wants when looking to make a statement is to see their opponent get hurt. Unfortunately for Allen, that’s what happened to him when Kattar fell awkwardly from a flying knee, adding an asterisk to Allen’s 10th straight UFC victory in the eyes of many. To be fair to Allen, he seemed to win the fight before the injury, but it was only one round, so it’s hard to overemphasize that. Either way, it’s a win and Arnold deserves to keep climbing the UFC ranks.
The victory puts Allen in an odd position. The UFC now has three fighters who look worthy of challenging for Alexander Volkanovski‘s featherweight title: Allen, Josh Emmett and Yair Rodriguez. However, the UFC clearly doesn’t like either of those options. Otherwise, they wouldn’t encourage Volkanovski to go challenge Islam Makhachev for light gold. A working title seems appropriate, but who ends up being the odd one out? If only we could stage a triple threat match in WWE…
This could get complicated, so bear with me. A fourth dance partner is needed for my script. The easy choice would be Max Holloway, but it’s hard to justify re-entering the title picture if Volkanovski is to return to defend his gold. Also, I’d rather see him in a legacy fight with the Korean zombie at this point because I’m baffled we haven’t seen that fight yet. Next in line is an easy pick, but I haven’t heard an update on Brian Ortega‘s shoulder issues. I might be off the mark, but I’m going to assume Ortega will be ready in time for my ideal scenario. I like the idea that wins mean something and given that Arnold is on a ten-fight winning streak and Emmett is on a five-fight winning streak, that leaves Rodriguez – he’s had three wins in his last six fights – as the strange man, despite his having the highest rank. So my storyline has – all on the same map – Holloway vs. Zombie, a rematch between Rodriguez and Ortega, and Arnold vs. Emmett for Interim Featherweight Title with Rodriguez replacing if Arnold or Emmett is forced to step down.
It sucks to match a fighter who appears to have suffered a serious injury, but not as bad as it sucks to be the fighter who suffered the serious injury. It’s possible the injury has permanently taken Kattar out of the title picture as he will be at least 35 the next time he fights returning from a blown knee. However, I don’t want that to be the reason he gets kicked out, so I wouldn’t want to give him too much of a kick back. So hoping he hasn’t completely shot himself by the time Kattar returns – he’ll be 37 early next year – I’d love to see the gripping battle between Kattar and Edson Barboza.
Griffin has aged like fine wine. Despite his 37th birthday next month, he continues to improve, earning his fourth victory in his last five fights against the ever-difficult Tim Means. The only blemish at that time was a controversial decision against ranked Neil Magny, which is nothing to be ashamed of. There is a seemingly endless list of welterweights in a similar position to Griffin, all jockeying for an opportunity against a ranked opponent. Khaos Williams, Alex Morono, Randy Brown, Li Jingliang… not all of them are reserved and would make sense. Yes, even Morono, although Griffin lost to him a few years ago. Although I agree with one of them, I prefer someone who has become a bit of a forgotten man in the division, because his wrestling ability is something I anticipate Griffin will struggle with. . So I reserve Griffin vs. Jacques Matthews in a clash of styles.
WALDO CORTES ACOSTA
Cortes-Acosta’s performance was a bit mixed. He showed courage as he persevered in his lead leg assault to claim the decisive victory over Jared Vanderaa. Again, he struggled to come up with a strategy to deal with Vanderaa’s kicks. He’s still young in his career, so he’s got quite a bit of leeway. The UFC sees promise in him considering he hails from the untapped Dominican Republic. So, in order to help boost his image, how about giving him an opponent that will bring out the dog in him? There would be an imbalance in terms of experience level, but tell me it wouldn’t be fun to see Cortes-Acosta throw with Chris Barnett?
It took three fights in his UFC career, but Gore finally started delivering on the promise everyone saw in him on TUF. Not that it was a flawless performance – he arguably dropped out of the first lap after a hot start – but it was enough for Gore to earn a win over Josh Fremd. Those cracks were enough to show that Gore still isn’t ready for a big step up in competition. If Fremd hadn’t been caught in that guillotine, the general consensus is that he probably would have finished his comeback on Gore. The problem is, there aren’t many that are lower on the totem pole than Fremd. Going through the list, there is one fighter of this level that I think Gore should go based on just his physical skills. However, Denis Tuiluilin proved to be as intractable as possible. These are the type of tests that will help Gore grow. Thereby, pit Gore against Tiuliulin next.
Whether you agree with Rountree raising his hand, there’s no denying that the longtime roster stalwart put in the best performance of his career against an ever-tough Dustin Jacoby. However, given the controversial nature of the decision, it’s hard to justify giving Rountree a definitive step. But a step aside? It just seems right. However, if I’m not going to give Rountree a step up, giving it a different look should be justifiable, right? Someone who might be more willing to test Rountree’s ability to stop a takedown. So after sifting through names like Jimmy Crute and Alonzo Menifield, I settled on Azamat Murzakanov as the best option for Rountree.
I was in the majority who believed that Jacoby was the rightful winner. I hate to say the word “theft”, but I’m tempted to use it. Either way, Jacoby’s stock shouldn’t be affected in the slightest given that he and Rountree put in strong performances. However, rather than giving him a step forward in the competition, a step aside seems more appropriate…much the same approach I took towards Rountree. So, it makes sense for me to look at the same people I looked up for Rountree. Between Crute and Menifield, the logical thing to do would be to go with Crute given that he, like Jacoby, is coming off a loss. However, I said that I treated Jacoby as if he had won. Besides, I find a contest between Jacoby and Menifield be more intriguing.
After dropping out of his middleweight debut, Dolidze has since won three straight against increasingly tough competition, to top it all off with a heavy knockout of Phil Hawes. Dolidze called for a contest against a ranked opponent, which makes sense given his momentum. And while I agree with that sentiment, it was hard for me to find a contest I really liked against someone with a number next to their name. The loser of Darren Till and Dricus du Plessis makes sense. Possibly the winner of Chris Curtis and Joaquin Buckley. However, there is a name just off the ranking that I really as for Dolidze which has the perfect type of game to test Dolidze. So while he may not be a rated fighter, I see the crafty Gerald Meerschaert as the perfect test for Dolidze.
MARCOS ROGERIO DE LIMA
The heavy-handed Brazilian wasted no time in securing a win over the biggest name of his career. Unfortunately, while Andrei Arlovski has name value, he is not the same fighter he was in his prime now that he is 43 years old. So while I admit that de Lima looked like a force to be reckoned with in his demolition of the former champion, a very big grain of salt has to be taken with the win. So while he’s won three of his last four fights, there’s a lot of hesitation in giving de Lima a big step up. Even if he doesn’t take a huge leap forward, there are several fighters with respectable UFC records he could match with in Tanner Boser, Martin Buday and Parker Porter. Since I said I’d keep the number of exceptions when it comes to pairing winners and losers and none of them particularly stand out as being superior competitions, I’d better put my mind to it. stick to the rules this time around. Thereby, de Lima against Buday is the way to go.
JUN YONG PARK
I wasn’t mad that Park was the match with the inexperienced Joseph Holmes in the first place, as I felt a win over Holmes would only outplay Park. No disrespect to Holmes, but he seemed like a step back from Eryk Anders, who Park beat before the Holmes fight. Either way, the win puts Park at a more than respectable 5-2 in the organization, a record that’s often good enough to warrant a fight with a ranked opponent. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be enough quality in those wins, which is why I questioned the match with Holmes. In other words, there are still a lot of questions about Park that need to be answered before this happens. Middleweights have no shortage of fighter options in a similar boat, such as Armen Petrosyan, Punahele Soriano, Jacob Malkoun and Absupiyan Magomedov. Of these, Magomedov appears to have the highest potential, which would also be the most rewarding for Park. This seems like a reasonable move for both men considering where they’ve recently been and would best meet the benefits for both. The UFC should book Park against Magomedov.
OTHER EVENTS: Tim Means versus Carlston Harris, Jared Vanderaa vs. Zac Pauga, Josh Fremd vs. Dustin Stoltzfus, Phil Hawes vs. Ian Heinisch, Andrei Arlovski vs. Don’Tale Mayes, Joseph Holmes vs. AJ Dobson, Steve Garcia versus Kamuela Kirk, Hooper hunting versus. Jarno Errens, Cody Durden versus Bruno Silva, carlos mota versus. Victor Rodriguez, Christian Rodriguez versus Mana Martinez, Joshua Weems versus. Saimon Oliveira