UFC on ESPN 21: Brunson vs Holland Prelim Matchmaking

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Macy Chiasson def. Marion Reneau via Unanimous Decision

Macy Chiasson – Irene Aldana

Macy Chiasson made an emphatic return to the cage for the first time in a year. Despite not getting the stoppage, she earned a hard-fought victory over a true gatekeeper of the division. With the win, Chiasson will find herself in the mix at 135lbs. With Amanda Nunes beating just about everyone at the top of the division, a new face is nice to see. Chiasson could be two wins away from a title shot if all goes well. A fight with Irene Aldana should be next for The Ultimate Fighter Season 28 winner. The Mexican recently suffered a loss to Holly Holm in her last outing. For Aldana, it is a chance to show that she belongs at the top of the division.

Marion Reneau – Nicco Montaño

Marion Reneau entered the bout as the oldest active fighter on the UFC roster at the age of 43. It has not been a great year for veterans, with aging fighters like Andrei Arlovski, Alistair Overeem and Aleksei Oleinik all suffering defeats. She is now on a four-fight losing streak bringing her record to 9-7-1. Reneau will likely be contemplating retirement after this performance. She is still a tough out for anyone and has never been finished in her career. If she chooses to continue, a fight with an unranked opponent may be next. A fight with former Women’s Flyweight Champion Nicco Montaño could be next for Reneau. Montaño has only competed once since winning the belt over three years ago.

Grant Dawson def. Leonardo Santos via KO (Punches)

Grant Dawson – Thiago Moises

In just about any interview with anyone from Factory X, Dawson’s name is mentioned. The entire team view him as the brightest prospect they have seen. Dawson was on the fringe of a Top 15 position at 145lbs which made the timing of a move to lightweight very interesting. With one second left in the fight, Dawson knocked out Leonardo Santos to prove any doubters wrong. Dawson is every bit of talented as his teammates say he is. At 27-years-old, Dawson still has a few years to reach his prime. He called out Clay Guida after the fight which shows he isn’t in any rush to move up the rankings. That being said, I feel he deserves someone sitting just outside the rankings as well. Thiago Moises just earned a huge victory over Alexander Hernandez that leaves him just outside the rankings. A fight between Dawson and Moises would determine who should be the next lightweight to enter the rankings.

Leonardo Santos – Bobby Green

Leonardo Santos’ UFC career is going to be one remembered by his injury spells. He was 7-0-1 heading into the Dawson fight with only two fights since 2016. He owns stoppage victories over Kevin Lee and Anthony Rocco Martin which shows you the skillset of the 41-year-old. Many felt he would have one the fight if he managed to survive till the bell. Unfortunately for Santos, this setback may send him back a ways in the deep lightweight division. Hopefully he manages to get healthy because three fights every five years will not get you into the rankings anytime soon. Another veteran of this sport is Bobby Green. The American had a breakthrough year in 2020 and was considered a nominee for fighter of the year by many media outlets. A fight between the two would keep one of the two men relevant in rankings discussions.

Trevin Giles def. Roman Dolidze via Unanimous Decision

Trevin Giles – Ian Heinisch

Since suffering back-to-back third round submission defeats, Giles has looked like a brand-new fighter. He is now on a three-fight win streak which includes wins over James Krause, Bevon Lewis and Roman Dolidze. Although Giles may not be ready for the Top 15 yet, he deserves a step up in competition. To be able to string together three straight wins is very impressive and he deserves to be rewarded. Ian Heinisch recently lost his bout to Kelvin Gastelum which dropped him out of the rankings. Despite his recent slump, Heinisch is one of the hardest hitters in the division. A bout between Giles and Heinisch will determine who deserves to be ranked at 185lbs.

Roman Dolidze – Dustin Stoltzfus

Roman Dolidze was one of the fighters to watch heading into 2021. Despite a lackluster performance in his previous bout, the Georgian was one of the faces of the success of Georgian fighters last year. He was also undefeated at 185lbs which is becoming harder to find in 2021. He had his moments against Giles, but ultimately came up short against the American. The move down to middleweight may be beneficial for Dolidze in the long term. He is undersized at the 205lb weight class so would be a better fit for middleweight. We haven’t seen Dustin Stoltzfus since his defeat at the hands of Kyle Daukaus. Both Daukaus and Dolidze will be looking to rebound from a unanimous decision defeat in their next bout. A fight between the two gentlemen would get one a much-needed victory.

Montel Jackson def. Jesse Strader via TKO (Punches)

Montel Jackson – Aiemann Zahabi

Montel Jackson has quietly put up one of the better resumes in the 135lb division. Despite being 4-2 in the promotion, his two losses were decision losses to Ricky Simon and Brett Johns. Jackson is likely a few wins away from the rankings but is in a very good position. On the heels of a victory, it is much easier to call out opponents that you like than when you’re on a loss. Aiemann Zahabi recently had a breakthrough performance when he knocked out Drako Rodriguez to pick up his first UFC stoppage. Both men emerged unscathed from their fights so would be able to have quick turnarounds. If both men are down, this fight would be a fun striking fight.

Jesse Strader – Vince Morales

Jesse Strader wasn’t on anyone’s radar when the UFC signed him to compete this weekend. With that being said, he is a human highlight reel. He has many impressive finishes on his resume. Despite the loss, expect to see Strader at least one more time inside the UFC octagon. Another exciting bantamweight on the UFC roster is Vince Morales. The Syndicate MMA fighter has been sidelined since suffering an achilles injury against Chris Gutierrez. His return should be a few months away and is ready for all comers. Both men are exciting on the feet, and this one has the makings for fight of the night.

Bruno Silva def. JP Buys via TKO (Punch)

Bruno Silva – Tyson Nam

Bruno Silva was in a very dangerous position heading into UFC on ESPN 21. With his back against the wall, the Brazilian picked up his first UFC victory. In his first two flyweight bouts for the promotion, he performed very admirably against David Dvorak and Tagir Ulanbekov. He managed to finish off Buys with a counter right in the second round. The win won’t be enough to earn him a spot in the rankings but will surely get him one step closer. Tyson Nam recently lost a very close split decision to Matt Schnell. The defeat removed him from the rankings at 125lbs. However, Nam still remains one of the toughest men in the division. A win for either man will see them enter the Top 15 at 125lbs.

JP Buys – Jerome Rivera

Heading into Saturday night, all eyes were on the Buys family. Both Cheyanne and JP were looking to make history by being the first married coupe to win on the same night. It wasn’t meant to be and both tasted defeat on the night. It will be back to the drawing board for JP as he falls to 9-3. Despite the lack of depth in the division, there are still a few fights available for the South African. Jerome Rivera has been fighting anyone who will sign the dotted line. He has fought across three different divisions in his first three UFC fights. A return to his natural 125lb weight class could see him pitted against Buys. Both men were finished in their last fights so will likely be looking at a layoff. Hopefully, we can see this fight in the summer of 2021.

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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