What promised to be a strong fight card on paper more than delivered come fight night as UFC 238 produced a bundle of great fights.
Headlined by an excellent title fight for the vacant bantamweight championship, it was Henry Cejudo who emerged victorious after overcoming some early adversity from Marlon Moraes.
Adjusting from a tough first round, Cejudo’s increasing pressure saw Moraes wilt in the second before a third-round TKO ensured that ‘The Messenger’ was the latest ‘champ champ’ in the UFC.
UFC 238 also saw a knockout of the year contender in the event’s second title fight as a head kick from Valentina Shevchenko put Jessica Eye out cold in the second-round.
The other marquee bout of the Chicago event saw Tony Ferguson continue his ridiculous run in the lightweight division against Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone while there were big wins for the likes of Calvin Kattar and Alexa Grasso on the preliminary card.
With UFC 238 now in the books, here are five fights that the UFC matchmakers should be making with the night’s big winners:
Henry Cejudo vs. Aljamain Sterling
Dubbing himself as ‘Triple C’ in the aftermath, Henry Cejudo may well be the most decorated combat athlete in history.
Now holding both the flyweight and bantamweight UFC titles in addition to his rarely talked about Olympic gold medal, Cejudo’s evolution as a fighter has been truly remarkable.
While Cejudo called out three of the 135 lbs division’s biggest names, he simply has to fight the #1 contender as opposed to one of three gentlemen (Dominick Cruz, Cody Garbrandt & Urijah Faber) whose collective last win came in 2016.
With Aljamain Sterling defeating Pedro Munhoz on the preliminary card in impressive fashion, ‘The Funkmaster’ has to be next for Cejudo in the bantamweight division.
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Katlyn Chookagian
The pre-fight odds predicted that Jessica Eye would provide little competition for Valentina Shevchenko and those odds proved to be right on the money.
Following a controlling first-round on the mat, Shevchenko’s body kicks set-up a head kick early in the second that landed flush and ensured a successful first title defence for ‘The Bullet’.
While there is likely no one on Shevchenko’s level in the flyweight division, the Kyrgyzstani–Peruvian fighter will have to do what a champion does and take on the next in line.
Following a win for Katlyn Chookagian in the nights opening fight against Joanne Calderwood, the rangy American should be next up for Shevchenko.
Tony Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov / Poirier Winner
While the fight ended in somewhat controversial fashion after a late strike at the end of the second round, Tony Ferguson’s breathtaking pace looked to be too much for Donald Cerrone to handle.
Closing the eye of Cerrone with his deceptively powerful strikes, Ferguson was widening the gap between the fighters throughout the second-round and a third stanza would have likely been even worse for a slowing ‘Cowboy’.
Ultimately, a title fight for Ferguson is the only fight that makes sense going forward in the lightweight division and if he is overlooked yet again, we might as well pack up and go home.
With Khabib Nurmagomedov set for his return against interim champion Dustin Poirier in September, the winner should face Ferguson and no one else – especially not a Conor McGregor who was dominated against Nurmagomedov and whose last win came in 2016.
Petr Yan vs. Assuncao / Sandhagen Winner
Jimmie Rivera looked to be giving Petr Yan a fair bit of trouble in their UFC 238 bout early on, only for Yan to put Rivera on his backside late in the first.
From there, Yan’s accuracy and control ensured he was dictating the fight against a game Rivera en route to getting his hand raised via unanimous decision.
With five wins already to his name since signing with the UFC in 2018, Yan is on the cusp of a title fight in the bantamweight division.
As Raphael Assuncao and Cory Sandhagen prepare for a fight at UFC 241 in August, the winner should be pitted against Yan in a title eliminator.
Tatiana Suarez vs. Jessica Andrade
Tatiana Suarez’s win against Nina Ansaroff mightn’t have been as dominant as her previous outings but the controlling grappler extended her unbeaten record to 8-0.
Despite sustaining a neck injury early in the fight, Suarez still scored four takedowns throughout the contest and landed more strikes in each round.
While there might a few ways the UFC can go with the strawweight division, a fight between Suarez and new champion Jessica Andrade would make for a fascinating clash of styles.