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Sean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Yair Rodriguez and UFC Fight Night 103's other winning fighters
The main card of the UFC’s return to Phoenix was heavy on decisions. Three of four bouts on Sunday’s UFC Fight Night 103 main card went to the scorecards, with the lone finish coming in the headliner.
Yair Rodriguez (10-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC) capped off the FS1-televised lineup at Talking Stick Resort Arena when he completely dominated UFC Hall of Famer B.J. Penn (16-11-2 MMA, 12-10-2 UFC) for a second-round TKO victory in the featherweight main event.
The winners prior to the main event were decided by the judges. Joe Lauzon (27-12 MMA, 14-9 UFC), Ben Saunders (21-7-2 MMA, 7-4 UFC) and Sergio Pettis (15-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) had their hands raised – some controversially
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After every event, fans wonder whom the winners will be matched up with next. And with another night of UFC action in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward, put on a pair of Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard’s shoes, and play UFC matchmaker for UFC Fight Night 103’s winning fighters.
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Should fight: Jussier Formiga
Why they should fight: Pettis capitalized on the biggest opportunity of his young career when he dismantled and defeated former UFC flyweight title challenger John Moraga for a lopsided unanimous-decision win.
The younger brother of former UFC champ Anthony Pettis is 3-1 since he dropped to the 125-pound division, and at just 23, he’s looking better and better against increasingly difficult competition.
Although some clear shortcomings remain in Pettis’ game, he seems to be evolving with every performance. If that trend continues as he moves further up the ranks, there’s little in the way of a future title shot.
There’s more proving to do for Pettis to get there, though, and he made it clear exactly whom he wants next with a post-fight callout of grappling ace Formiga (19-4 MMA, 5-3 UFC), whom he was originally scheduled to fight on Sunday before the Brazilian suffered an injury.
Formiga has a ground game that would clash with Pettis’ striking-based style and mark a serious test for the prospect. Pettis said he could “expose” Formiga, and if he’s right, it would do wonders for his career.
Should fight: Colby Covington
Why they should fight: Saunders picked up his fifth victory in his past six fights when he narrowly edged fellow UFC veteran Court McGee over the course of three rounds for a unanimous-decision victory.
“Killa B” had his dangerous submission game shut down by the gritty McGee. However, his striking output over the first half of the fight was enough to win over the judges despite a strong late rally from McGee.
Saunders has had ups and downs throughout his multiple UFC stints, but he’s still a tough test for anyone in the welterweight division. His skills are a lot to handle for many opponents, and many rising 170-pounders could use that type of challenge.
Covington (11-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) appears to have as much potential as anyone in his weight class and has gained a lot of traction with a strong record through seven UFC fights. He’s beaten some tough competition, but he’s yet to encounter anyone as unorthodox as Saunders, who would be happy to fight with him on the ground.
Should fight: James Krause
Why they should fight: In a matchup of talented grapplers, Lauzon was awarded a controversial split decision over Marcin Held that even “J-Lau” didn’t think should have gone the other way.
Lauzon had his moments in the lightweight fight, but the flow of the contest saw Held largely outwork and out-position his opponent on the feet and ground. Held seemingly had a clear advantage in at least two of the three rounds, but two judges saw it differently.
Although Lauzon admitted the decision was wrong, he still got his 14th UFC victory and is in an interesting spot. A rematch is warranted, but considering the fight wasn’t the flashiest of affairs, it may not make sense to go in that direction.
Lauzon should move on with his career and take on another 155-pounder who could bring a more exciting fight out of him. Krause (23-7 MMA, 4-3 UFC) fits the description well and could help add another fight-night bonus to Lauzon’s lengthy list.
Should fight: Jeremy Stephens
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Rodriguez should fight Stephens (25-13 MMA, 12-12 UFC) next.