The first UFC card of 2017 held up to its pre-disposition as a solid free card on Fox Sports 1. Young stars, old legends and veteran fights alike combined for an exciting night to kick off the 25th year for the world’s largest MMA organization.
The UFC returned to Phoenix, Arizona for the first time since December 2014. In the main event, former champion Junior dos Santos narrowly beat current Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic by a narrow decision. Former champion Rafael dos Anjos and future title challenger Alistair Overeem also picked up wins.
The year is just beginning for what should be a groundbreaking year under new ownership. The winners, and losers, of UFC Fight Night Phoenix, will fight again in 2017. These are the fights fans should look forward too.
Yair Rodriguez vs. Jeremy Stephens
A star has risen! The Mexican star the UFC has been looking took the next step in his superstardom when he beat B.J. Penn in the main event.
The Featherweight division has been all over the place since last December when Conor McGregor shocked the world with his 13 second KO. Big name fighters like Cub Swanson, Dennis Bermudez, Max Holloway, and now Rodriguez, has helped bring the division to the top of the UFC world.
Bringing a star up slowly seems to be a thing of the past. Add ‘El Pantera’ to that list. A fight with Jeremy Stephens, a possible main event for smaller cards, would benefit both guys. A win for Rodriguez puts him in the top 5 and a win for Stephens continues his excellence in the Featherweight division.
BJ Penn vs. Cole Miller
Many are calling for the re-retirement of the legend BJ Penn after returning from a two-and-a-half-year hiatus. This is justified with the results he’s had over the last six years and, more importantly, how he’s looked in that time. I don’t agree with this at all.
A fight that was first expected to be his return fight at UFC 199 in Los Angeles still fits the bill. The timing must be right (a card in Hawaii to be exact) for a fight with TUF 5 alum Cole Miller. The fight would likely take place on the ground and wouldn’t take place where Penn can take massive amounts of punishment.
Joe Lauzon vs. Kevin Lee
When the man himself said, he didn’t win, then take his word for it. Lauzon fought a good fight and squeaked by with a split-decision win over Marcin Held.
Lauzon is years into the fight game with 23 UFC fights. No fighter is off limits for this type of veteran and a win over a Lauzon puts another good win on your record. Kevin Lee, the ‘Motown Phenom’ (Detroit represent!), needs a fight like this to get his name in the mix for a top 15 spot. The fight highlights both guys with a natural grappling aspect to it.
A mid-2017 fight between these two could happen in either guy’s hometown or be slotted in on the main card for a Fight Night card.
Ben Saunders vs. Sean Strickland
After a weird situation that saw him leave the UFC for one fight, ‘Killa B’ returned to pick up a decision win over Court McGee.
Saunders has always been a dangerous fighter that can put it together on any given night. Being a gigantic Welterweight, a fight with another big Welterweight would make the most sense. Bring in Dan Henderson prodigy Sean Strickland.
Strickland is on a three-fight winning streak and 5-1 in the UFC overall. A fight between the two could be a late quarter 1, early quarter 2 fight that would benefit both guys.
Sergio Pettis vs. Ray Borg
The younger Pettis brother got the biggest win of his young career, beating hometown guy John Moraga by decision. Not only was it the biggest win of his career, but also the best performance of his career.
Pettis is a solid Flyweight and is still only 23 years old. Just two weeks ago, another marquee 125-pound matchup between Louis Smolka and Ray Borg started off the main card for UFC 207. Borg picked up the win that night and moves one step closer to trying his hand in a title fight.
The division seems to move left to right rather front and back. A scrap between Pettis and Borg would move one guy forward toward a fight with Demetrious Johnson.
Other Fights to Make
-Marcin Held vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier
-Court McGee vs. Hyun Gyu-Lim
-John Moraga vs. Zach Makovsky
-Drakkar Klose vs. Josh Emmett
-Devin Powell vs. Jordan Rinaldi
-Augusto Mendes vs. Alejandro Perez
-Aleksey Oleinik vs. Roy Nelson
-Viktor Pesta vs. Damien Grabowski
-Tony Martin vs. Charles Rosa
-Alex White vs. Jim Alers
-Nina Ansaroff vs. Jamie Moyle
-Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger vs. Kailin Curran
-Walt Harris vs. Alexander Volkov
-Chase Sherman vs. Konstantin Erokhin
-Joachim Christensen vs. Ion Cutelaba
-Bojan Mihajlovic vs. Josh Stansbury