Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) staged its final event on “Fight Island” as UFC on ESPN 14 took place last night (Sat., July 25, 2020) inside Flash Forum on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. In the main event, Robert Whittaker defeated Darren Till via unanimous decision in a pivotal Middleweight bout (highlights). In the co-headlining act, Mauricio Rua defeated Antonio Rogerio Nogueira via split decision to sweep the trilogy between the two legends (recap).
Winner: Robert Whittaker
Who He Should Face Next: Jack Hermansson
Look, I won’t be too mad if Whittaker gets a shot at the title against the winner of Israel Adesanya vs Paulo Costa, but I would prefer to see him win one more. Because the fact remains, “The Reaper” never defended his title once and there are several other top contenders who have put in work to get consideration. Jared Cannonier looked to be in prime position before an injury set him back some. Jack Hermansson has looked great as of late, and he has won five of his last six including making quick work of Kelvin Gastelum just last week. If the promotion wants to put Whittaker on standby in case something happens to Costa or Adesanya, that’s fine, but if it wants to see who truly deserves to fight for the title next, book this fight instead. Because I’m almost certain that had Gastelum defeated “The Joker,” UFC would’ve been quick to re-book him against Whittaker.
Winner: Mauricio Rua
Who He Should Fight Next: Volkan Oezdemir
I didn’t realize Rua wasn’t ranked in the top 15 and frankly, I’m a bit baffled. “Shogun” is 5-1-1 since 2015, and was actually in consideration for a title shot before getting knocked out by Anthony Smith during that run. Yet we have Misha Cirkunov (2-3 in his last five) and Nikita Krylov (3-2 in his last five) taking up a couple spots. And let’s not forget the utter ridiculousness of putting Jiri Prochazka at No. 8 after only one fight and win inside the Octagon. That said, last night’s win over Antonio Rogerio Nogueria wasn’t the most thrilling or convincing, and Rua did look a bit slower than usual. But that’s what comes with age and years in the hurt business. Oezdemir and Rua were booked to fight a couple of times in 2018 but the bout never came to be for one reason or another. “No Time” is coming off a devastating loss to the aforementioned Jiri Prochazka, so it’s probably now or never to make this fight happen.
Winner: Fabricio Werdum
Who He He Should Fight Next: ???
At this point there is no telling what Werdum will do. He looks set on bolting elsewhere, preferably to Bellator MMA to fight Fedor Emelianenko again. He could re-sign with UFC which leaves him with some options, but not as many as he would like right away since I don’t see the promotion giving him anyone in the Top 10 next. For now we will just take a wait-and-see approach.
Winner: Carla Esparza
Who She Should Fight Next: Joanna Jedrzejczyk rematch
Esparza won her fourth straight by defeating Marina Rodriguez, putting her right on track to make a move at a title shot. Unfortunately for “Cookie Monster” there are others ahead of her at the moment, including Rose Namajunas and Tatiana Suarez. Jedrzejczyk is still hanging around at the top and is coming off a loss to division queen, Weili Zhang. Joanna knocked out Esparza at UFC 185, dethroning her from the top of the 115-pound division in the process. I’d like to see a rematch between these two just to see if Esparza can make the changes necessary to exact her revenge. A win puts her in prime position to try and reclaim her title.
Winner: Paul Craig
Who He Should Fight Next: Gokhan Saki
Over his last four fights, Craig is 3-1-1, with his latest winning coming last night against Gadzhimurad Antigulov, whom he defeated via submission in the very first round. Saki’s UFC tenure thus far has been pretty bland after initially coming in with tons of excitement. After making good on his debut with a win over Henrique da Silva, he was knocked out by Khalil Rountree in his sophomore effort in 2018. And he hasn’t been heard from since because injuries have kept him on the sidelines. It seems as if the former kickboxing champion is primed to make his return soon so a matchup against “Bearjew” seems fitting.
Winner (s) Alex Oliveira and Khamzat Chimaev
Who They Should Fight Next: Each other
Oliveira picked up his second straight win after defeating Peter Sobatta, while Chimaev also won his second in a row — in the span of 10 days — with a dominant win over Rhys McKee in Abu Dhabi. They hype is strong with Chimaev who will once again make a quick turnaround to fight on Aug. 15 in Las Vegas, Nevada. For my money, I would love for UFC to convince “Cowboy” to agree to do the same in order to throw down with Khamzat. Oliveria is as experienced as they come, though he is a long way out from the Top 15. A win over Chimaev would not only put him in there but give him a big shot of confidence moving forward. For Chimaev it’s his chance to prove he’s not just a flash in the pan “can crusher” and that all of the excitement surrounding him is warranted.
For complete UFC on ESPN 14 results and coverage click here.