All the best, most interesting, and unquestionably coolest fights the UFC needs to book following their latest event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Minus any extenuating context, UFC 283 was a pretty good time. Fans got lots of finishes, some big highlight KOs, upsets, dramatic narrative shifts, and the crowning of a new champion along with the changing of the guard (again) for the flyweight belt. Despite all that, though, the vibes were clearly off. Leading into the PPV with Shogun getting put out to pasture set a sour mood. Then both the co-main and main events saw hometown favorites lose hard in fights where they just weren’t terribly competitive. Fans got nasty, the building looked only about 2⁄3 full. A strange night for the UFC all told.

So, is there an immediate title challenger that Jamahal Hill would be clearly favored to beat? Does Brandon Moreno finally get to do something other than rehash old fights? And does the UFC have any options other than Jessica Andrade for the strawweight title?

To answer those questions—and a few other thigns—I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking methodology from the UFC of years past. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent up against one another. Hopefully, by following that model, a few of these bout ideas will actually make it off the page and into the Octagon. Now, let’s get to the fights!

All things considered, this was a hell of a crowning performance from Hill. Teixeira had all the single moments of success he might have hoped to have, given five rounds to work with. He got takedowns, he got back takes, he got mount; the 43-year-old even landed his share of big bombs standing, despite getting out-struck more than 2-to-1. For a man who has made his success in recent years coming back from seemingly fight ending damage to demolish much younger opponents, his performance against Hill wasn’t a remarkable departure. What was remarkable was Hill’s output, his durability, and his ability to stay strong in the face of major momentum shifts. The fact that Hill got taken down and mounted in round 5, and still fought his way back up and won the round is a great testament to that.

As a result of his win, there are three clear contenders awaiting Hill for his first defense: Magomed Ankalaev, Jan Blachowicz, & Jiri Prochazka. If it weren’t for the unknown length of his injury recovery, Prochazka would have to be first in line—but I can’t imagine the UFC wanting to bet on him for a main event in the next six months right now. Instead, I’ll say Hill vs. Ankalaev is the fight to make. Both he and Blachowicz deserve it, but it feels like it makes more sense to go with the younger, fresher challenger.

If there’s a big winner out of Brandon Moreno finally slamming the door on his four fight series against Deiveson Figueiredo, it’s Alexandre Pantoja. ‘The Cannibal’ has been on ice since July of last year when he took a quick submission win over Alex Perez. Really though, from the moment that Moreno laid any claim to some piece of the title, Pantoja has been an obvious challenger. He beat that champ once during Moreno’s first UFC run, and even way back before that, when the two men were both on TUF together. I’m sure Moreno’s not thrilled at the idea of yet another rematch, but he’s got unfinished business right there waiting for him still. Hopefully after that, some new challengers can start to truly separate themselves from the competition. Alexandre Pantoja vs. Brandon Moreno is the clear next title fight.

Kind of a brutally bad fight for the now-former champion. He got caught walking in regularly with overhands. While he was able to initiate plenty of scrambles and hit some solid sweeps, he had no ability at all to control Moreno on the mat. The knuckle that scratched and closed his eye to end the fight felt a bit like a mercy, with Figueiredo pretty likely down three rounds already (unless judges really have a thing for strikes off a fighter’s back from guard), and seemingly unable to find any way to steer momentum in his favor.

After the bout, ‘Deus da Guerra’ announced that he was leaving flyweight for bantamweight moving forward. So where does that leave him? Does he walk into title contention? The top 5? The top 10? Seems like it’d be foolish to throw him lower down the line than that. If he’s gonna be top 10, Dominick Cruz isn’t much older than Figueiredo; two former champs feels like a great intro to 135 to me. Cruz vs. Figueiredo seems like just the welcome to a new division that the former champ needs.

It’s hard to think of many worse matchups for Neil Magny in the top 10 at welterweight than someone like Gilbert Burns, who can hit hard enough to give pause standing, wrestle well enough to take Magny off his feet, and then grapple technically enough to just suck all the life out of him on the mat. That’s pretty much what Burns did, tapping Magny with an arm triangle with less than a minute left in round 1.

After the bout, Burns called out Colby Covington. That fight, or a fight against Jorge Masvidal are exactly the kind of bouts he should be getting, but he may just have to settle for Muhammad or Rakhmonov instead. If Colby Covington is coming back any time soon, then Burns vs. Covington is a great fight. If he’s not, then Burns vs. Muhammad would be a great title eliminator.

This was always going to be an uphill battle for Lauren Murphy. She’s often struggled to keep pace and confidence against top-tier athletes. When Andrade stormed out of the gate with a bevvy of low kicks, it seemed she immediately got deep in Murphy’s head. ‘Lucky’ never did find a way to defend the kicks, and having to think about them opened up more and more combinations up top for ‘Bate Estaca’ as the fight went on. By the time the final bell rang, all anyone seemed to be thinking was “this really should have been stopped a whole lot sooner.” After the bout, Andrade called out Weili Zhang for a strawweight title fight. Will the UFC really give her that coming off a flyweight win? Considering she’s beat Amanda Lemos and we’ve seen Namajunas against Zhang plenty now, an Andrade rematch makes a lot of sense. Not sure if it’s the fight the UFC will book, but Andrade vs. Weili 2 is the best strawweight title fight the UFC can make right now.

This fight seemed destined for shenanigans. Whether it was going to be Johnny Walker diving into Paul Craig’s guard and getting insta-tapped, or Walker landing the kind of detonating shots that would put Craig away in a hurry, the idea that this could make it three full rounds of tidy MMA seemed impossible—which it was. No sooner did Craig catch a kick for a single leg, then he started getting dinged up so badly that he had to turtle up. A quick TKO for Walker, who is once again on some kind of roll. I could argue for a booking against Azamat Murzakanov, but Walker hasn’t fought Volkan Oezdemir yet and that seems like a tragedy if we never get to see it. Walker vs. Oezdemir would be a good time.

Perhaps no fighter improved their stock so dramatically as Brunno Ferreira at UFC 283. The Brazilian came in as a relative complete unknown despite his shiny 9-0 record and quick Contender Series KO win. Matched up against a borderline top-15 talent like Gregory Rodrigues on short notice, it was pretty safely assumed that he was headed for a rough loss in his Octagon debut—from which he could learn from moving forward. Instead (and despite getting pieced up for about 4 minutes) he walked away with a spectacular first round knockout win, and the potential that the UFC will throw him another serious challenge next time out.

Personally, I’d rather see Ferreira get someone around the speed of Denis Tiuliulin or Armen Petrosyan than an Anthony Hernandez or Roman Dolidze, but it’s anyone’s guess what the UFC will do with a win like that. I’ll split the difference and say the UFC should book Brunno Ferreira vs. Abdul Razak Alhassan. Another dangerous, big puncher with noted defensive flaws to keep testing the newcomer’s mettle.

The question with a short-notice opponent like Melquizael Costa wasn’t so much whether this was a fight Moises could win, as much as it was, how well prepared would he be for Costa’s aggression and scrambling. The answer was: very prepared. Moises got in on his takedowns early, and started working over Costa from top control as the 26 year old’s cardio started to fade. lots of heavy GnP, and an aggressive guard passing game did well to force Costa to keep moving and burn energy. The result was a second round submission for the former LFA champ.

That could lead to fights with Drakkar Klose, Nasrat Haqparast, Drew Dober, or Mark O. Madsen. I know it’s winner-loser, but given Madsen’s hopes to make a charge up the division, and his wrestling credentials, that feels like the most interesting matchup here. Madsen vs. Moises would be a great chance for the former Olympian to see if he can bounce back into top competition.

Jailton Almeida’s introduction to the top 15 at heavyweight couldn’t have been easier. He breezed by Shamil Abdourakhimov, who had nothing ready for Almeida’s wrestling attack. The win should set the Brazilian up for a real, high profile heavyweight contest. Fights with the Ivanov/Tybura winner, Alexandr Romanov, or Jairzinho Rozenstruik all seem like reasonable next steps. The obvious answer for me of that bunch is Romanov. The fridge-like Moldovan has built a strong reputation for physical dominance in the cage and seems like he’d be a huge challenge for a smaller heavyweight like Almeida. Given, as well, how much Romanov struggled with someone who could fight off his grappling in Tybura last time around, Almeida could ask questions he needs to answer. Almeida vs. Romanov is a great step up at heavyweight.—Fights-to-make-01-23

For so many fighters, the best thing they can do for their long term success is to take their time getting to the UFC. Ismael Bonfim is another great example of what that kind of longer journey can do for a fighter, hitting the world’s largest MMA promotion with an 18-3 record, accumulated over more than 10 years of fighting on the regionals. Standing a heavy underdog against Terrance McKinney, Bonfim outclassed ‘T-Wrecks’ pretty much everywhere from the opening bell all the way to an electric jump-knee second round KO. Hopefully that kind of win rockets him up into bigger fight conversations. At the very least, action bouts against Matt Frevola, Mike Davis, or Nasrat Haqparast should be on offer. If ‘Beast Boy’ is going to be back in action anytime soon, I’d love to see Bonfim vs. Davis asap.

OTHER BOUTS: Lauren Murphy vs. O’Neil/Maia loser, Paul Craig vs. Dominick Reyes, Ihor Potieria vs. Tafon Nchukwi, Gregory Rodrigues vs. Phil Hawes, Melquizael Costa vs. Michal Figlak, Garbriel Bonfim vs. Rinat Fakhretdinov, Mounir Lazzez vs. Gabriel Green, Shamil Abdourakhimov vs. Tanner Boser, Terrance McKinney vs. Ottman Azaitar, Nicolas Dalby vs. Alex Morono, Warlley Alves vs. Jake Matthews, Josiane Nunes vs. Julia Avila, Zarah Fairn vs. Danyelle Wolf, Daniel Marcos vs. Mana Martinez, Saimon Oliveira vs. Liudvik Sholinian

5 biggest takeaways from UFC 283: Can Deiveson Figueiredo make an impact at 135?

What mattered most at UFC 283 at Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro? Here are a few post-fight musings …

5. Ismael Bonfim’s impeccable debut

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[autotag]Ismael Bonfim[/autotag] became the early clubhouse leader for Knockout of the Year when he flattened the heavily hyped Terrance McKinney with about as violent a flying knee finish as you’ll ever see.

The moment the fight began, it was clear Bonfim (19-3 MMA, 1-0 UFC) wasn’t there to roll over for McKinney, who was more cautious than usual out of respect for the Brazilian newcomer. That allowed Bonfim to settle in and gain confidence, and from there he was off to the races.

As it became clear he was starting to take over going into the second round, cageside commentator Paul Felder noted how amazing Bonfim looked in the fight. The UFC had a picture-and-picture window on the screen with his brother Gabriel (who picked up a thrilling 49-second submission of Mounir Lazzez later on the prelims), then he uncorked the brutal strike that face-planted McKinney and put him to sleep.

It truly doesn’t get much better than that in a debut, and while the result may ultimately raise more questions about where McKinney’s ceiling is at compared Bonfim’s, this was a huge way to make a first impression under the UFC banner.

[autotag]Mauricio Rua[/autotag] had an early moment in his fight with Ihor Potieria that inspired hope he might be able to exit his MMA career with a fairy tale ending. That glimmer of hope quickly was taken away, however, when he was caught with a hard shot then finished at the 4:05 mark of Round 1.

No matter the mixed results late in his career, Rua’s (27-14-1 MMA, 11-12-1 UFC) legacy remains unblemished. He’s an all-time great and one of the most influential fighters in the sport’s history, and the fact he managed to stick around as long as he did is a testament to his natural talent.

Even when “Shogun” joined the UFC in 2007, an argument could be made he wasn’t the same fighter as he was in PRIDE. He’s endured a stretch of serious injuries, largely to the knees, but somehow found a path to become UFC light heavyweight champion. It’s truly remarkable.

Rua’s retirement is legitimately the end of era in the sport of MMA, because he’s the final PRIDE mainstay who was active on the UFC roster. He should be proud of a career that was carried with class, no outside-the-cage controversies and a plethora of memorable moments inside the cage and ring.

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3. Can Deiveson Figueiredo thrive at 135?

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Just moments after he failed to unify the flyweight title with Brandon Moreno and came out on the losing end of their series, [autotag]Deiveson Figueiredo[/autotag] took off his gloves and announced his time fighting at 125 pounds officially was over.

The cuts down to flyweight have been a well-documented struggle for Figueiredo (21-3-1 MMA, 10-3-1 UFC). He never missed weight in his matchups with Moreno, but it was clear he needed to be precise and disciplined in order to hit the contracted limit. Figueiredo’s talent is obvious, but it’s hard not to wonder how much he’s taken away from his own performances by draining himself so much on the scale.

We’ll find out the answer to that question when he makes his debut at bantamweight, but even at his very best, it’s going to be an uphill climb for Figueiredo. The depth of talent at 135 pounds is immense, and there’s no one in the top 15 that looks like it would be a layup of a matchup for the Brazilian.

At 35, Figueiredo automatically becomes one of the older fighters at the top end of the division, and some of the advantages he enjoyed at flyweight from a size, speed and power perspective are going to be minimized. That’s all to say any hopes of a title run are going to come with a major challenge.

There’s a lot of fun fights for Figueiredo on paper in his new weight class, but he’s going to have to prove himself all over again to reach the top.

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2. Glover Teixeira gets his dream exit – kind of

[autotag]Glover Teixeira[/autotag] certainly didn’t draw up leaving UFC 283 with a loss in what’s now his final career fight against Jamahal Hill, but short of the gold, he couldn’t have asked for a more ideal exit from the sport.

The fact Teixeira (33-9 MMA, 16-7 UFC) got to compete in the main event of the UFC’s return to Brazil after the COVID-19 pandemic is a moment that is going to stick with him for the rest of his life, despite not getting the desired result in the octagon.

He didn’t prove to be the better fighter to Hill on the night, but over the course of 25 minutes, Teixeira showed once again why he he’s got as much heart and toughness as anyone we’ve ever seen in this sport. Sure, those aren’t the traits he wants us to peg to his name, and it’s not to diminish his talent, but at 43, his ability to hang at the top level of beyond admirable.

Teixeira’s legacy is one that’s going to age well through the course of MMA history. Not many fighters are going to be able to pull off a run in their 40s like he did, however, and his story will no doubt he an inspiration to the next generation of athletes.

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1. Jamahal Hill’s championship potential

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The chaotic journey of UFC trying to crown a new light heavyweight champion finally came to a conclusion when [autotag]Jamahal Hill[/autotag] delivered a five-round showcase against Teixeira to win a unanimous decision and go home with the vacant belt.

It’s crazy that about six weeks ago, Hill (12-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) was nowhere in the title conversation. He was supposed to fight Anthony Smith in the UFC’s March 11 headliner, but when Magomed Ankalaev and Jan Blachowicz fought to split draw at UFC 282 in December, the landscape of the weight class changed and Hill’s number was called to face Teixeira.

He took advantage of the opportunity, and suddenly Hill is the top dog at 205 pounds. The question is, how long can he stay there?

The interesting part about Hill’s involvement and victory in this title bout is that Teixeira is the first opponent he’s faced inside the top five of the division. It’s not taking away from Hill’s win, but as we spin things forward, there are going to be some people who use Teixeira’s age and career position to question what Hill’s performance really says about his skill level.

No matter how you cut it, there are going to be some hard matchups coming Hill’s way. Names like Jan Blachowicz, Magomed Ankalaev and Jiri Prochazka are all going to be chasing after Hill’s belt, and no matter who gets the first crack at him, we’re going to get more answers when that time comes.

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 283.

UFC 283 results, takeaways: Jamahal Hill proves to be a worthy champion, Glover Teixeira retires right on time

The promotion’s return to Brazil provided some much-needed answers to the flyweight and light heavyweight divisions

In the first card on Brazilian soil in three years, Saturday’s UFC 283 pay-per-view event produced no shortage of fireworks and big-time moments in Rio de Janeiro.

Along with a pair of title bouts atop the marquee, the card also featured 17 different Brazilian-born fighters across 15 fights. Legendary light heavyweight Mauricio “Shogun” Rua also said goodbye after the close of a 21-year career and retired featherweight king Jose Aldo was brought to tears cageside when it was announced he would headline the 2023 UFC Hall of Fame class.

Let’s take a closer look at the biggest takeaways from the action inside the Octagon.

1. Jamahal Hill earned every inch of the UFC light heavyweight title
There was no shortage of criticism for UFC brass after a December draw between Jan Blachowicz and Magomed Ankalaev for the vacant 205-pound title led to president Dana White hastily ordering Glover Teixeira to face the No. 7-ranked Hill for the belt. But the extra miles inside the cage that Hill was forced to go by the former champion Teixeira and his otherworldly level of toughness went a long way in making Hill feel very much the legitimate champion when all was said and done. Hill stayed off his back for the entirety of Round 1 to set a tone that Teixeira wouldn’t be able to manhandle him on the ground. From there, Hill chipped away on the feet with superb boxing and incredible poise throughout while showcasing five-round championship stamina and passing every single test Teixeira had for him.

This was a mature, breakthrough performance for a 31-year-old fighter who was largely unheralded despite an 11-1 record coming in. So many others would’ve buckled in his spot had they not been fully ready for the opportunity because Teixeira simply wouldn’t capitulate even as extreme swelling and blood around his eyes compromised his vision and kept himself seemingly one punch away from rallying the entire fight. Even as Teixeira rallied to take Hill down in Round 5, sliding into full mount for a brief time, Hill never crumbled and broke down emotionally after the final horn once it became clear his dreams had come true, even if many had so vocally counted him out.

2. Glover Teixeira’s post-fight retirement was right on time
Teixeira said it himself after the fight, admitting he’s probably too tough for his own good before he confirmed the unanimous decision loss in his third shot at UFC gold would be his last. For a fighter who already drastically redefined his legacy by upsetting his way to the title at age 42 in 2021, the performance Teixeira saved for last against Hill was as memorable and impressive as any of his 33 pro wins. There was a moment after Round 4, as the cageside doctor examined his badly damaged face, that Teixeira’s corner would’ve been justified in throwing in the towel simply to prevent Teixeira from compromising his own eventual retirement. A noted knockout artist who entered Saturday on a three-fight finishing streak, Hill landed the kind of head kicks and powerful right hands that would’ve finished 99% of the planet, yet Teixeira never stopped pressuring forward in a performance as inspirational as it was insane. Known for his kind heart and demeanor, Teixeira might not get the same acclaim typically reserved for Brazilian MMA heroes like Rua, Aldo, Anderson Silva, Wanderlei Silva or Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, but he belongs at the same table as any of them based upon what’s inside of him. UFC 283 marked a close to one of the most exciting second chapters in MMA history.

3. Brandon Moreno left no doubt as to who won the flyweight title quadrilogy
Despite a chorus of boos and a barrage of trash thrown at him by a pro-Deveison Figueiredo crowd, Moreno successfully brought some closure to his historic, four-fight rivalry and it wasn’t even all that close. Moreno twice escaped legitimate submission attempts from Figueiredo but dominated him in just about every other aspect. Not only did Moreno improve to 2-1-1 against Figueiredo, thus making him the winner of the rivalry, his two victories were both largely one-sided stoppages. Even with a late camp change after trainer Jason Krause was banned by UFC amid a gambling scandal, Moreno kept his poise and was crisp with his striking. A left hook in Round 3 opened a second cut around Figueiredo’s right eye, which swelled shut and caused the cageside doctor to inspect after the round and advise referee Herb Dean to end the fight. Figueiredo announced he’s officially moving up to bantamweight in the post-fight interview allowing Moreno a second chance to build a sustained title reign.

4. Gilbert Burns is still a problem for the welterweight division
Unable to lure Colby Covington or Jorge Masvidal into a big-money fight, Burns chose to stay busy against the always game Neil Magny. And at 36, sporting a youthful set of curls atop his head, Burns looked as if a potential second run at a 170-pound title shot is still within reach after dominating Magny en route to a first-round submission. After brawling for three rounds against Khamzat Chimaev in his last outing in a disputed decision defeat, Burns turned his focus back to his strength of grappling and boldly announced after the win that there isn’t another welterweight alive he couldn’t do the same against. Oh yeah, and “Durinho” also added a mic drop moment to close by calling out Covington once more.