The UFC’s Uruguayan debut offered up some exciting fights and performances on Saturday night, but UFC Fight Night 156 will go down in the memory for its uninspiring flyweight title defence by Valentina Shevchenko.
While Shevchenko was clearly in the driving seat for the full 25 minutes against Liz Carmouche, the flyweight title fight never got out of second gear in part due to the challenger’s unsuccessful attempts to engage.
Despite the lacklustre headline act, the co-main event provided a hard-hitting battle between Vicente Luque and Mike Perry with the former emerging victorious and the latter a badly broken nose.
Elsewhere there were big wins for the likes of Volkan Oezdemir, Gilbert Burns and Marina Rodriguez while promotional debutants Cyril Gane and Rodolfo Vieira earned arm-triangle submission wins.
With UFC 241 now fast approaching this weekend, here are five fights that the UFC matchmakers should pencil in:
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Calderwood/Lee Winner
It’s clear that there is a dearth of top contenders in the women’s flyweight division and as a result, the UFC can pretty much ignore meritocracy for the time being.
While Katlyn Chookagian is now the defacto #1 contender, would she offer a viable threat with her two most recent losses coming at the hands of Liz Carmouche and Jessica Eye?
Instead, with Andrea Lee and Joanne Calderwood set to fight at UFC 242, the winner would provide a more intriguing opponent for Shevchenko thanks to their more aggressive fighting styles.
Vicente Luque vs. Stephen Thompson
Adding Mike Perry to his resume of UFC wins, Vicente Luque is now 10-1 in his last eleven fights – his lone loss coming at the hands of top contender Leon Edwards.
Luque is now in need of a sizeable step-up in competition and a call out of Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson will have done his chances no harm.
With Thompson coming off back-to-back losses, a fight with Luque would make sense for both men and offer an interesting clash of striking styles.
Volkan Oezdemir vs. Jan Blachowicz
Coming off of three successive losses, Volkan Oezdemir allayed fears of a permanent downturn in his career as he scored a second-round KO of Ilir Latifi.
Oezdemir exuded confidence on the feet throughout the bout and looked to have rectified a persistent cardio issue as he patiently picked his shots.
‘No Time’ will now be back in the discussion at light heavyweight and with Jan Blachowicz scoring a big win against Luke Rockhold in his last outing, a fight between the two would be a fresh offering in a stale division.
Gilbert Burns vs. Anthony Rocco Martin
Returning to the welterweight division, Gilbert Burns picked up a unanimous decision win against Alexey Kunchenko, handing the Russian his first professional loss in the process.
The Brazilian is now on a three-fight winning streak across all weight classes in the UFC and will be searching for a big name after a notable victory.
With Anthony Rocco Martin looking to bounce back from a loss to Demian Maia, a fight between the two underrated fighters would be a must-watch.
Marina Rodriguez vs. Nina Ansaroff
Picking up the biggest win of her career and extending her undefeated record, Marina Rodriguez got the nod on all three judges’ scorecards against Tecia Torres.
Rodriguez is now 2-0-1 in the UFC and will start to look up the UFC strawweight rankings after knocking off the #8 ranked Torres.
With the current #3 ranked Nina Ansaroff yet to have a fight booked since a loss to Tatiana Suarez, a Rodriguez – Ansaroff bout later this year would test both women.