While UFC 234 lost one half of its shine less than 12 hours out from the event, the promotions return ‘down under’ was saved by a fun and fascinating bout between Israel Adesanya and Anderson Silva in the main event.
With the younger man in Adesanya chalking off a decision win against the former pound-for-pound king, the top end of the middleweight division is now in a state of flux following the champion Robert Whittaker’s hernia.
Putting the chaos of the 185 lbs weight class to one side, however, UFC 234 also saw a slew of impressive finishes by the likes of Lando Vannata, Montana De La Rosa, Jim Crute and Devonte Smith.
With UFC 234 done and dusted, and most likely completely forgotten about, here are five fights that the UFC should make with the Melbourne events big winners as we gear up for a deeper card next Sunday, headlined by a monumental heavyweight clash between Cain Velasquez and Francis Ngannou.
Israel Adesanya vs. Jacare Souza
While ‘The Last Stylebender’ has proclaimed himself the new no.1 contender following his win over Anderson Silva, Israel Adesanya should still have more hoops to jump through before getting a crack at the title.
With Kelvin Gastelum and Robert Whittaker being remarkably unlucky to have their title fight postponed, the UFC should really wait until the champion is 100% healthy and make sure that fight goes ahead.
In the meantime, Adesanya is still missing a marquee contender to his resume if he is to make a case for challenging for UFC gold.
With Jacare Souza in a state of purgatory himself, a match-up between Adesanya and Souza would decipher a true standout contender.
Lando Vannata vs. Steven Ray
Bumped up to the co-main event on short notice, Lando Vannata put his all-action style on display as he dominated Marcos Mariano on the mat before locking in a kimura at the end of the first round.
While Vannata called out Jim Miller in his post-fight interview, that’s a big step-up in the rankings for someone who is now 1-2-2 in their last five fights.
Instead, a fight with Scotland’s Steven Ray would pit two dynamic strikers against one another in a fight that would both make sense from a meritocracy standpoint and be a guaranteed barnburner.
Ricky Simon vs. Cory Sandhagen
With his mullet flowing gloriously throughout the 15 minutes, Ricky Simon’s pace proved too much for Rani Yahya to handle.
Simon has demonstrated time after time in his UFC tenure that he is only concerned with moving forward so why not match the American fighter with another aggressive high paced fighter.
Following Cory Sandhagen’s recent submission win over Mario Bautista, a Simon – Sandhagen bout might as well be awarded fight of the night honours the moment it is made official.
Montana De La Rosa vs. Paige VanZant
Montana De La Rosa out-classed Nadia Kassem at UFC 234 as her grappling ability ensured that the ‘Ultimate Fighter’ alum recorded a record third finish in the women’s flyweight division.
At just 23-years old, De La Rosa has a huge amount of potential to grow into so the UFC should be cautious with throwing her into the deep end.
With Paige Van Zant earning a submission win of her own recently, a grappling-heavy bout between the two would be a must-watch fight.
Devonte Smith vs. Michael Trizano
Devonte Smith is a big hitter at 155 lbs and if he carries on his destructive tendencies, he’ll be facing a big-name opponent in no time.
Ignoring a fanciful call-out of Francisco Trinaldo, Smith should keep plugging away in a deep division and a fight with The Ultimate Fighter Season 27 winner Michael Trizano would test both men’s mettle.