Fighters on the UFC Fight Night in Chicago main card did not disappoint on Saturday as all four winners positioned themselves to take big steps in their respective careers.
Women’s bantamweight Valentina Shevchenko won the biggest fight of her mixed martial arts career with her unanimous decision over Holly Holm while lightweight stud Edson Barboza picked apart former Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez over three rounds.
The rest of the card was filled with excited finishes and impressive performances, so let’s look at four fights to make after an exciting night in Chicago.
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Amanda Nunes
Things are already starting to heat up between Shevchenko and Amanda Nunes as the current champ shot down the Chicago winner’s request for a rematch. At the post-fight press conference, “Bullet” said that Nunes response showed that she was “scared to fight.”
The pair of top women’s bantamweights squared off in a closely contest three-round fight at UFC 196 in which Nunes walked away with a unanimous decision. Shevchenko showed, however, against former champion Holm that she is ready for primetime. And the time to make that rematch is now.
Edson Barboza vs. Rafael dos Anjos
Barboza knows that his win over Melendez puts him that much closer to a shot at the UFC title. He also knows that he still needs one more emphatic win to achieve his goal.
While speaking with Joe Rogan following the win, he said he’d be open to fighting any of the three guys in front of him, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Tony Ferguson and Rafael dos Anjos. Ferguson already has a win over Barboza, and like Nurmagomedov, is coming off a win over a short-notice replacement. There’s also a chance Ferguson and Nurmagomedov could be matched up again for the third time.
That leaves former champion and fellow Brazilian Rafael dos Anjos.
Barboza and RDA are both known for their dynamic striking. They differ in their methods, however, as dos Anjos is a more smothering in his attack while Barboza is more strategic.
This is a great fight for both guys and will help clear of some of the congestion at the top of the lightweight standings.
Francis Ngannou vs. Shawn Jordan
Heavyweight Francis Ngannou proved he needed tougher competition Saturday night when he finished Bojan Mhajlovic with punches in the first round of their main card bout.
Shawn Jordan is a five-year UFC veteran and sits just outside the heavyweight top 15. Ngannou deserves a real test inside the Octagon and Jordan’s heavy hands provides that.
Felice Herrig vs. Randa Markos
With her second submission win under the UFC banner, Herrig is ready to tackle the strawweight top 15. Sitting at No. 14 in the rankings is fellow Ultimate Fighter season 20 alum Randa Markos, who ended Herrig’s run to the title on the show.
Since the fights on the show are considered “exhibition” fights, so let’s square them up once more, this time on the books.