We had a great night of fights this past weekend (Sat. July 20, 2019). Though the first nine went to a decision, the next three in a row were stopped in less than one round’s time combined. Then, we had a five-round main event between two of the sport’s elite. Leon “Rocky” Edwards nullified really everything Rafael dos Anjos attempted and won 50-45, 49-46, and 49-46 against the former UFC lightweight champion.
Dana White said he uses “RDA” as a gauge to see how good guys are, and Edwards passed with flying colors. At just 27-years-old, Edwards is really coming into his own. His striking is so technically sound, as well as tactically efficient. Just think, how good is he going to be when he’s 30 to 31-years-old?
We had a couple of outcomes we didn’t expect, like Andrei Arlovski winning all three rounds against “Big” Ben Rothwell. Arlovski looked incredible, like a completely reinvented version of himself. He started fighting more technically after losing five fights in a row, being finished in four of them, but in this fight, he really put it all together.
At one point we thought Arlovski was done. His chin was gone (so we thought) and everyone assumed he should retire. He proved all his doubters wrong. His last three knockout losses came against Francis Ngannou, Alistair Overeem, and Stipe Miocic; three of the best in the world who knock out most of their opponents. Arlovski is continuing to put his game together at 40-years-old. Aside from those three, he hasn’t been knocked out since 2011.
As for the next matchups to make, we’ve made five that may pique your interest. Where do the winners go from here? Where do the losers go from here? Continue reading to see an in-depth breakdown of the fights on Saturday, and who these elite fighters could possibly be matched up with next.
Alex Caceres (15-12) 1 NC vs. Sean O’Malley (10-0)
Alex “Bruce Leeroy” Caceres had a very good performance Saturday night. His striking has always been kind of wacky, but he has now fine-tuned it and added some real beautiful footwork. It was a real work of art to watch. His performance could be described as what looked like a mix between Dominick Cruz and Sean O’Malley.
The latter just so happens to be the fight that makes sense. “Sugar” was pulled from his most recent matchup once again by USADA for a tainted supplement, which is incredibly unfortunate because watching him fight Marlon Vera would’ve been great to see. Of course, Caceres would have to drop back down to bantamweight, where he hasn’t fought since 2015.
However, he did have success in that division, and even handed Sergio Pettis his first defeat via submission (rear-naked choke) at the end of their back-and-fourth three-round battle. You may be thinking, why make this fight? “Bruce Leeroy” is 15-12 and O’Malley is 10-0. People thought the same thing when Caceres was 9-5 going in to fight the 10-0 Pettis. The way these two fight would coincide so well.
Their footwork, the upper body movement, striking ability, elusiveness, and each of their abilities on the feet. Caceres also fought to a five-round split decision against lethal striker and Taekwondo black belt Yair Rodriguez. A fight many thought he could’ve won. Don’t let his record fool you. Caceres is also very good on the ground. He’s better offensively than defensively, but this fight would be very interesting no matter where it goes.
Dan Hooker (19-8) vs. Charles Oliveira (27-8) 1 NC
Dan Hooker looked amazing last night, as usual, as he KO’d “The Texecutioner” James Vick in round one. “The Hangman” is really starting to come into his own as well, and has for a while now. He’s a straight-up finisher! It’s insane that he used to make the featherweight limit, and never missed weight. At 6′ with a 75” reach, he’s even big for a lightweight, he could probably do well at welterweight in all seriousness.
“The Hangman” has some serious power too, and has knockout wins in the UFC with a head kick (Hatsu Hioki), knee (Ross Pearson and Jim Miller), elbow (Ian Entwistle), and punches (Gilbert Burns and James Vick), only one of which was a TKO. All five others were stone-cold knockouts. Hooker also has a great ground game, as he’s showcased twice in the UFC thus far, winning two fights via submission (guillotine). He holds a 9-1-3 record in kickboxing and was a four-time MMA champion before joining the UFC.
In the beginning of Hooker’s UFC career, he went 3-3 at featherweight. Since returning to lightweight, “The Hangman” has gone 5-1 with four KO’s and a guillotine choke to his credit, with that lone loss being to 25-3 professional kickboxer Edson Barboza; a fight he took immense amounts of damage in and showed off his toughness, before being stopped halfway through round three. That’s what happens when you try to strike with Barboza.
Charles Oliveira would be a great test to see where each guy is at. Hooker just KO’d the No. 15-ranked lightweight in the world, he will surely be a top 15 guy now, and “Du Bronx” is ranked at No. 11. Both guys are approaching their prime at 29-years-old. Oliveira is on his first-ever five-fight win streak inside the UFC.
He’d won four in a row before, but not until his last fight had he been on a five-fight win streak, which he did by scoring his first knockout win inside the Octagon at UFC Rochester over Nik Lentz. Oliveira’s dimensions are similar to Hooker. He’s a couple of inches shorter with a 74” reach, and has some beautiful Muay Thai of his own. This fight would be absolute fireworks, and one of them would almost certainly get finished.
Hooker only has one decision win, which was in 2011. Oliveira only has two decision wins, the last of which was in 2014.
Greg Hardy (5-1) vs. Walt Harris (13-7) 1 NC
This fight is very exciting for many reasons. Greg Hardy got his fifth professional MMA victory last night over a skilled wrestler with good striking, who’s every bit as big as himself, Juan Adams. The fight started out with the two trading stiff jabs. Before too long, Adams shot for a takedown, Hardy stuffed it and just threw tons of shots to the side of Adams’ head. Adams didn’t move when instructed to do so after several warnings, thus resulting in the fight being stopped.
Some had an issue with the stoppage. However, had Adams complied with the referee, it’d make for a valid argument. But he didn’t after being warned more than once. Hardy is coming into his own in front of us all. He quickly assumed a 3-0 amateur record from the end of 2017 to early 2018, and before the end of 2018 assumed a 3-0 professional record. The “Prince of War” has gone 2-1 inside the UFC thus far, with his only loss via DQ in his UFC debut. Since then, he’s gone 2-0 with two first-round knockouts.
A fight with Walt Harris would be awesome because, well, they’re both incredible athletes that were very successful in their sport of choice. Not to mention they’re both huge. Hardy is 6’5” with an 80” reach, and Harris is 6’5” with an 81” reach. The NBA asked Harris to come out for tryouts, but he declined in order to focus on an MMA career. “The Big Ticket” had a good start to his MMA career, but a very rocky start to his UFC career. He assumed a 6-1 record with his only loss via decision in just his second fight to Chris Barnett, who was 6-1 at the time.
Harris lost his UFC debut via unanimous decision, and lost his next one via TKO before being released from the promotion. He got a win in Titan FC right after, and before the end of the year was back in the UFC. Harris was now 7-3, looking for his first UFC victory. He would again lose under the bright lights. The UFC decided to give him another chance, despite being 0-3 in the promotion, and it was the right choice.
We got to see Harris get his first octagon victory over Cody East. The excitement of the win wouldn’t last long, however, as he lost his next fight, falling to 8-5. Harris was now 1-4 in the UFC, and it wasn’t looking too great for him. The UFC didn’t cut him though, and he racked up back-to-back knockouts to improve his record to 10-5. Derrick Lewis was supposed to fight Fabricio Werdum at UFC 216, however, on the day of the event, Lewis was forced out of the bout with a back injury. Harris was scheduled to fight Mark Godbeer that night and was asked to step in to fight Werdum, rather than Godbeer.
He jumped on the opportunity and lost the fight early in round one via submission (armbar). The fight with Godbeer was rescheduled, and they fought less than a month later at UFC 217. Harris was looking great in the fight, which he was certainly winning, but then got disqualified toward the end of round one. The Big Ticket” has since looked better than ever, he’s 4-0 in his last four, though one of those wins was overturned to a No Contest considering a failed drug test, which was a split decision win over Andrei Arlovski.
This would’ve been the biggest win of Harris’ career if it hadn’t been overturned. It was an uneventful fight, but nonetheless is a great name to have on your resume. His last two wins were a combined minute and two seconds, and he was awarded Performance Of The Night in those last two outings. Both of these guys are incredible athletes. They’re strong, powerful, and they can move very well, especially considering how big they are.
An interesting fact, as professionals, they have a combined 18 wins, all 18 are knockouts. The only reason this fight wouldn’t be perfect right now is because of Harris’ experience over Hardy, but that doesn’t mean he’d beat the ex-NFL star. Harris and Hardy’s wins Saturday night together were a combined 57 seconds. This would be a great fight, fingers crossed it gets signed!
Tyron Woodley (19-4-1) vs. Rafael dos Anjos (29-12)
Both of these guys lost their last fights over the course of five round battles, and pretty convincingly too. Woodley hasn’t fought since he lost his belt to Kamaru Usman at UFC 235, dos Anjos has fought twice since then, going 1-1. The former UFC lightweight champion was coming off a submission win over Kevin Lee going into his fight with Leon Edwards, but didn’t do quite as well Saturday night.
Edwards was too long and rangy, and too technical for dos Anjos. The pace of dos Anjos could pose some threats to the former UFC welterweight champion, as Woodley’s always had some issues with guys that can smother him, and that’s what “RDA” does best. However, Woodley can land that bomb on anyone on any given night, and it’s all over. With as much as dos Anjos comes forward, throwing all eight limbs, that’s certainly a possibility.
Woodley wants a title shot when he comes back, but with the way welterweight is, that’s not going to happen. We already have Jorge Masvidal in line, as well as Leon Edwards now, and not to mention Colby Covington if he gets past Robbie Lawler. This fight could be the main event to a fight night or an ESPN card like dos Anjos’ last three fights.
The 3rd degree BJJ black belt in dos Anjos and the NCAA Division I wrestling of Woodley, mixed up with Woodley’s one-punch power, and dos Anjos’ volume and striking ability, would be a very interesting fight.
Jorge Masvidal (34-13) vs. Leon Edwards (18-3)
I think we all hope it’s only a matter of time before this fight gets signed. Of course, Masvidal said he won’t fight anyone aside from Conor McGregor or the champion (Kamaru Usman), but why not make this fight for a No. 1 contender? Let’s wait and see what happens with Covington versus Lawler. If Covington wins, he gets the next title shot considering he was the UFC interim welterweight champion and never lost the title. If Lawler beats Covington, give Masvidal the shot.
If not, set up Masvidal versus Edwards for a title eliminator. It makes all the sense in the world. Both are knocking on the door for a title shot. But there’s still someone in front of them both, and there’s an interesting, sellable history between the two. Edwards picked dos Anjos apart for the entire fight last night, but would he be able to do the same to Masvidal? “Gamebred” is three inches shorter than “Rocky”, but has the same reach at 74”. Both of these guys are very well-versed mixed martial artists that prefer to strike.
Masvidal is certainly more dangerous, but that doesn’t mean he’s the better fighter. Edwards may be able to outpoint him like he’s done to just about everyone he’s fought. We’ve seen from guys like Georges St-Pierre and Kamaru Usman how effective winning rounds dominantly and consistently is. With the way Masvidal’s been fighting, it’d be great to see him at his best for at least a couple more years.
As far as Edwards goes, we have a while before we see what he’ll entirely be capable of, as he gets better and better each fight. Hopefully, the UFC makes this fight happen, no matter what they have to do to talk Masvidal into it. Or, perhaps, maybe Masvidal does end up getting the title shot, and wins the belt, and defends it against Edwards? There are so many things that are possible in the months and years to come, that’s one of the many things that makes MMA so great.