Matches to Make After UFC Fight Night 129

By Brian Knapp May 19, 2018


Kamaru Usman followed the blueprint for beating Demian Maia, much like Tyron Woodley and Colby Covington before him.

“The Ultimate Fighter 21” winner shut off Maia’s takedowns, forced the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt to engage him on the feet and picked him apart with punches, as he moved one step closer to title contention in the Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight division with a unanimous decision in the UFC Fight Night 129 headliner on Saturday at the Movistar Arena in Santiago, Chile. All three cageside judges struck scorecards in Usman’s favor: 50-45, 49-46 and 49-46.

Maia misfired on all 15 of his takedown attempts, according to preliminary FightMetric data. It continues a troubling trend for the decorated grappler. During his current three-fight losing streak, Maia has gone 0-for-49 on takedowns against Woodley, Covington and Usman, depleting his gas tank and leaving him as little more than a sitting duck. Usman capitalized, as he outperformed the Brazilian in terms of significant strikes landed (66-27) and total strikes landed (97-33).

In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night “Maia vs. Usman,” here are five matches that ought to be made:

Kamaru Usman vs. Stephen Thompson-Darren Till winner: No one can rationally deny Usman as a legitimate threat to the welterweight throne. The Hard Knocks 365 representative has rattled off 12 straight wins, pairing six finishes with six unanimous decisions in an extended run of dominance. Defeating a two-time title contender like Maia, even at 40, affords Usman much-needed leverage at 170 pounds and pushes his stellar UFC record to 8-0. Thompson and Till will tangle in the UFC Fight Night 130 main event on May 27 in Liverpool, England.

Tatiana Suarez vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz: Few strawweights have the skills necessary to deal with Suarez on the ground, and Alexa Grasso was not among them. “The Ultimate Fighter 23” winner submitted Grasso with a rear-naked choke in the first round of their co-main event at 115 pounds. The undefeated Suarez, 27, has now beaten Grasso, Viviane Pereira and Amanda Bobby Cooper in succession since arriving in the UFC a little less than two years ago. One of the pillars of the women’s strawweight division, Kowalkiewicz last competed at UFC 223 on April 7, when she took a split decision from Felice Herrig.

Dominick Reyes vs. Ovince St. Preux-Tyson Pedro winner: The unbeaten Reyes once again showed off the speed-power combination that has made him one of the most intriguing light heavyweight prospects in the sport, as he disposed of Jared Cannonier with first-round punches. Cannonier was rescued by referee Marc Goddard 2:55 into Round 1, the former Alaska Fighting Championship titleholder having been irreparably damaged by a pair of left uppercuts. The 28-year-old Reyes has finished his last six opponents inside one round. St. Preux and Pedro will face off at UFC Fight Night 132 on June 23 in Singapore.

Alexandre Pantoja vs. John Moraga: An overlooked piece of the puzzle at 125 pounds, Pantoja was virtually flawless as a short-notice substitute for Ray Borg. The former Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion carved up Brandon Moreno with efficient standup across three rounds and exited the cage with a tidy unanimous decision. Scores were 30-26, 30-26 and 30-27. Pantoja, aka “The Cannibal,” has won 12 of his last 13 bouts, a decision defeat to Dustin Ortiz the only misstep. The resurgent Moraga finds himself on a three-fight winning streak after outpointing Wilson Reis at UFC on Fox 29 in April.

Vicente Luque vs. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos: Luque has begun to establish himself as one of the best-kept secrets in the welterweight division. The 26-year-old Brazilian improved to 6-2 -- all six of his victories have resulted in finishes -- in eight UFC starts, as he cut down “The Ultimate Fighter Nations” winner Chad Laprise with a left hook and follow-up punches in their featured encounter at 170 pounds. Since losing a decision to Leon Edwards in March 2017, Luque has stopped Laprise and Niko Price in back-to-back appearances. Dos Santos extended his winning streak to five fights at UFC 224, where he short-circuited Sean Strickland with a spinning wheel kick and punches on May 12 in Rio de Janeiro.

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