UFC 259: Blachowicz vs Adesanya Prelim Matchmaking

PC: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Dominick Cruz def. Casey Kenney via Split Decision

Dominick Cruz – Frankie Edgar

Dominick Cruz was back to his old vintage self, winning via a closely contested decision. Cruz’s footwork was once again the difference on the night. Kenney was unable to figure it out, and the movement overwhelmed Kenney. Cruz’s name value alone can get him just about any fight in the division. That being said, this victory will justify getting those names. It was his first victory since 2016 when he defeated Urijah Faber. Inactivity has been the summary of Cruz’s career so hopefully he can stay busy now. Frankie Edgar recently suffered a KO loss to Cory Sandhagen and his career may be winding down. Both men are former champions and are future hall of famers. A fight between the two could easily headline a fight night card.

Casey Kenney – Said Nurmagomedov

Casey Kenney proved he deserved to be the favorite on the night despite the loss. He landed some heavy shots throughout the fight and clearly had the power advantage. Ultimately, the footwork of the former champion was too much for Kenney. He will remain on the outside of the rankings but within striking range. With a couple big wins, he could find himself back in the Top 15. Said Nurmagomedov recently knocked out Mark Striegl which likely earned him a big step up in competition. For Kenney, it gives him an opportunity to rebound from a closely contested fight with Cruz. For Nurmagomedov, it will help him skyrocket towards the rankings with a huge victory.

Kyler Phillips def. Song Yadong via Unanimous Decision

Kyler Phillips – Marlon Vera

Kyler Phillips has just earned the biggest win of his young career. The nikidokai blackbelt was the underdog entering his fight with Yadong and emerged victorious. Many felt like this bout could have been fight of the night at the end of the night. When the bout was made, many questioned the matchmaking due to Phillips’ place in the rankings. He silenced all those critics and could be just outside the Top 15 next week. Sitting at the #15 spot is Marlon Vera who recently lost to Jose Aldo. If we learned anything from Phillips, it’s that he is ready for the big names. Stylistically it will surely be an action-packed striking display from both men.

Song Yadong – Louis Smolka

The Team Alpha Male product finally suffered his first defeat. The last two controversially went his way, and now has tasted defeat for the first time in the UFC. A step back may be a good idea for the 23-year-old as he continues to grow in the sport. It was also one of the front runners for fight of the night as well. Despite the loss, don’t expect him to drop too far back and he could be looking at another dangerous opponent next time out. Louis Smolka earned a TKO victory back in December over Jose Quinonez. He will be looking to inch closer to a spot in the bantamweight rankings. For him, a victory over Yadong could do just that.

Askar Askarov def. Joseph Benavidez via Unanimous Decision

Askar Askarov – Deiveson Figueiredo / Brandon Moreno winner

There is no question what should be next for Askar Askarov. The Russian has beaten every opponent he has faced with the exception of title challenger, Brandon Moreno. After defeating long-time title threat Joseph Benavidez, Askarov will be next in line for the belt. That title bout is expected to place on June 12 so it will be a while before we see Askarov in the cage. Regardless of who emerges victorious, Askarov should slot in nicely for that belt. With Yan losing his belt on the evening, it will be another opportunity for a belt to go back to Russia.

Joseph Benavidez – David Dvorak / Raulian Paiva winner

Joseph Benavidez was overwhelmed by Askar Askarov on the night. The four-time UFC title challenger has now slid further down the pecking order for a title shot. At 36-years-old, it is unsure what could be next for ‘Joey B’. If he is interested in competing again, there would be some interesting matchups available. Most feel like this could be the end of the road however, If he chooses to compete again, the winner of the David Dvorak / Raulian Paiva fight could be next for him.

Kai Kara-France def. Rogerio Bontorin

Kai Kara-France – Alexandre Pantoja

Kai Kara-France was the lone City kickboxing product to leave with their hand raised at UFC 259. After weathering the submission attempts from Bontorin, the Aussie managed to break free and knockout his opponent. Despite some confusion with the referee, the stoppage was eventually confirmed and Kara-France would earn his first UFC finish. The majority of the division is scheduled to compete already, leaving only one man available for Kara-France. Alexandre Pantoja defeated promotional newcomer Manel Kape a month ago and is looking to extend his winning streak. Whoever emerges victorious between the two men could make a case for a title shot.

Rogerio Bontorin – Tagir Ulanbekov

Rogerio Bontorin will be beating himself up over that recent performance. He was dominating Kara-France on the ground for nearly the entire round. Several submission opportunities were presented, and he failed to capitalize. He has now lost consecutive fights for the first time in his career. He will likely drop out of the Top 10 and will be defending his spot within the rankings. Tagir Ulanbekov earned his first UFC victory in October and will look to continue his rise. He was forced out of his scheduled fight with Matheus Nicolau on March 13. If the timelines work out for both men, this could be the fight to make.

Tim Elliott def. Jordan Espinosa via Unanimous Decision

Tim Elliott – Su Mudaerji

Tim Elliott put on a masterclass on Saturday night. It is arguably the best he has looked in a very long time. It’s hard to believe that only a few months ago Elliott was on the verge of being cut. Since going 2-5 in seven fights, he has raddled off two straight. The guys in front of him all seem to be matched up so it’ll be hard to find an opponent for him. One of the brightest prospects in 2020 was China’s Su Mudaerji. Since making the move down to 125lbs, he has looked like a future contender. For Elliott, it gives him an opportunity to derail the hype train.

Jordan Espinosa – Cody Durden

Jordan Espinosa was overwhelmed on the evening by the veteran. Espinosa will go back to the drawing board for his next fight and will look outside the rankings. Espinosa has lost five of his last six. Cody Durden is also in dire need of a victory after losing his last bout. He is currently out rehabbing from an injury so it is unknown at this time when he will return. At that time, a bout between Espinosa and Durden could be a loser goes home affair.

Kennedy Nzechukwu def. Carlos Ulberg via KO (Punches)

Kennedy Nzechukwu – Dustin Jacoby

Kennedy Nzechukwu has some big shoes to fill being one of four Nigerian athletes on the roster. The other three are Israel Adesanya, Kamaru Usman and Sodiq Yusuff. On Saturday night, he did not disappoint. He weathered the early storm of the Australian and finished him off mid-way through the second round. His lone loss is Paul Craig via submission, and is now on his first UFC winning streak. Dustin Jacoby edged out a narrow victory over Maxim Grishin a few weeks before. The timeline for the two may workout and would make for a fun striking showcase.

Carlos Ulberg – Aleksa Camur

It is very rare for the UFC to offer someone with three fights a UFC contract, but that was the case for Ulberg. Ulberg entered the fight with a ton of hype given his appearance and the fact he is a member of City Kickboxing. Ulberg looked very good early on but as time continued, he began to gas. Ultimately, he fell short but will be given another chance. At only 3-1, he has a ton of room for growth in the sport. Unfortunately for Ulberg, there aren’t many guys with as little experience as he does. Aleksa Camur is 6-1 and is coming off of his first career defeat. A bout between the two may be in order for Ulberg’s next appearance.

Sean Brady def. Jake Matthews via Submission (Arm-Triangle Choke)

Sean Brady – Santiago Ponzinibbio

Sean Brady is becoming a serious problem at 170lbs. One of the biggest problems for Brady is the depth of the division. There are many rising prospects including Shavkat Rakhmonov, Khamzat Chimaev and Miguel Baeza that are also undefeated in the promotion. Brady has now passed all three in terms of victories with the UFC and should be rewarded with a bigger name. He called for a Top 15 opponent which he has likely earned. That being said, at 28-years-old time is on Brady’s hands and the UFC should continue to build him up. He has yet to face a veteran of the game and it would be a huge opportunity for the Philadelphia native. A fight with Tim Means would determine if Brady is ready for the men in the Top 15.

Jake Matthews – Claudio Silva

At only 26-years-old, Matthews is becoming a seasoned veteran of the UFC. This June will be the seventh anniversary of his UFC debut, and that will likely be when we see Matthews next. The Aussie will get back to the drawing board and attempt to get back to his winning ways in his next outing. Another veteran of the organization is 38-year-old Claudio Silva who recently suffered defeat at the hands of James Krause. A win for both men would be massive in terms of staying relevant at 170lbs. Despite being 12 years younger, Matthews has nine more UFC appearances than the Brazilian.

Amanda Lemos def. Livinha Souza via TKO (Punches)

Amanda Lemos – Amanda Ribas

Amanda Lemos has been on a tear since making the move down to 115lbs from Bantamweight. She is now 3-0 in the division and will find herself in the rankings for the first time in her career when those are announced this week. The Brazilian’s only loss is to MMA veteran Leslie Smith. There are not many girls available for her in the rankings. The only exception is fan favorite Amanda Ribas who recently lost to Marina Rodriguez. The two Brazilian ladies would surely put on a fan-friendly contest. The bout would be a nice addition to a fight night card or a pay-per-view.

Lívia Renata Souza – Cory McKenna

‘Livinha’ Souza entered the fight looking to defend her #15 ranking against her Brazilian counterpart. Unfortunately for Souza, she fell short losing TKO in the first round. The strawweight division needs some more depth but there are a few girls available for the Brazilian. Among those girls, Cory McKenna is the first that jumped to my mind. At only 21-years-old, McKenna has a ton of hype surrounding her. She beat Kay Hansen in her UFC debut and is on the verge of breaking into the rankings. A bout between the two would offer both girls a chance to get closer to the rankings.

Uroš Medić def. Aalon Cruz via TKO (Punches)

Uroš Medić – Luigi Vendramini

Uroš Medić made his long-awaited UFC debut, and won in devastating fashion. Very few fighters from Alaska have found success in the UFC, and Medić may be the man to change all of that. The Serbian has now finished all seven of his opponents and will look for a step up in competition. He has bounced around between the 155lb and 170lb weight classes, but expect for him to return at lightweight. Claudio Puelles hasn’t been seen inside the octagon since December of 2019. The ‘Ultimate Fighter’ finalist will look to extend his winning streak to three in the lightweight bout. For Medić, it would be an opportunity to continue his rise in the division.

Aalon Cruz – Justin Jaynes

Aalon Cruz has now fallen victim to two first round TKO’s. This is coming on the heels of earning a UFC contract with a devastating flying knee on the Contender Series. Cruz will likely be given one more opportunity within the promotion. A move back down to his more natural weight class of 145lbs may be in order for the Floridian. Justin Jaynes finds himself in a very similar position losing his last three appearances. Prior to that however, he had a very impressive debut defeating Frank Camacho in the first round. The two would likely be fighting for their UFC careers in the fight.

Trevin Jones def. Mario Bautista via TKO (Punches)

Trevin Jones – John Castañeda

After a comeback win in his debut, Jones’ win was overturned due to a marijuana violation. He chose to quit the drug for this camp, and it appeared to have paid off. Jones is now 1-0-1 within the promotion and has finished both of his opponents (despite the overturned result). He has now put himself in a position to begin calling for bigger names. John Castañeda earned his biggest win to date when he put away long-time UFC veteran Eddie Wineland two weeks ago. Both men love to strike and have knockout power at 135lbs which is rare. This would be a fan-friendly matchup that would surely get UFC fans excited.

Mario Bautista – Gaetano Pirrello

Mario Bautista was the favorite heading into the fight with Trevin Jones. His only loss heading into the fight was to current #1 contender Cory Sandhagen. In retrospect, the loss doesn’t appear too bad on his record. The bout was too close to call in the early goings of the fight. Early in the second, Jones rocked Bautista and was able to put him away. Bautista was on a two-fight winning streak going into the bout and will definitely compete again in the promotion. Gaetano Pirrello recently came up short in his UFC debut and will be looking to get into the win column for the first time. A fight between the two bantamweights would give both gentlemen an opportunity to do that.

Sergio Pineiro

Sergio Pineiro is the Founder of FighterPath.com and host of the Quarantinecast podcast. Based in Canada he is both a sports journalist and MMA enthusiast. He practices the sport but has a passion for the individual stories of training, fighting and living the fighting lifestyle.

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