Jared Cannonier def. Jack Hermansson
Despite his recent success, Jared Cannonier is a guy that had to earn his respect the hard way. And he did just that at UFC Copenhagen.
Debuting in the UFC in 2015, he suffered through mediocre stints at heavyweight and light heavyweight, before finally finding his home at 185-pounds. His success was instant as he knocked out David Branch in his initial middleweight outing and followed that victory up with one over the legendary Anderson Silva. But Cannonier’s latest triumph is, without a doubt, his most significant.
Jack Hermansson, while of Swedish birth, represents the Norweigian flag as well as any fighter since Joaquim “Hellboy” Hansen. He entered UFC Copenhagen in the midst of his best career run, seemingly within reach of a title fight. Though he was the favorite against Cannonier, Hermansson crumpled in the second round of their fight, falling victim to a well-placed uppercut. If this was a race to a title shot, Hermansson could see the finish line but Cannonier swooped in and took the shine from him.
Cannonier is likely behind Paulo Costa in the pecking order, and while a fight with Kelvin Gastelum could make some sense, Gastelum is coming off a loss and is already booked to face Darren Till. Cannonier could, of course, wait around for a while until the division opens up a bit but it is unlikely that waiting for a title shot will work for him. It’s dangerous and it does not make sense if you only like matching up winners with winners but Yoel Romero has been a top contender for a very long time, despite his recent loss to Costa. If Cannonier truly wants to put a stamp on a title shot, perhaps a win over Romero would be the ticket.
As for Hermansson, this is a brutal blow. He was the favorite and arguably would have been better off not taking the Cannonier fight but he wanted to fight in his home country. He took a risk and paid the price. The middleweight division is not very strong after the top 5 or 6, so it’s possible that he can get another crack at a top contender with just another win or two. Brad Tavares has been a consistent competitor in the UFC for years, he’s ranked in the 12-15 range. It could be a quality win for Hermansson but the matchup would be an excellent opportunity for the Hawaiian as well.
Mark Madsen def. Danilo Belluardo
Mark Madsen might be the hero that Danish MMA fans have hoped for.
With an Olympic caliber background in wrestling, Madsen entered the sport of MMA with a great base. We saw him make his UFC debut on Saturday after a successful stint in Denmark’s regional scene. He defeated his overmatched opponent in just over a minute and firmly established himself as one of the divisions top prospects. While it would not be unlike the UFC to rush Madsen into a fight with a notable opponent, hopefully, they take it slow and allow him to develop over the course of a few fights properly.
Up next, I like a match up with Khama Worthy for Madsen. Worthy gained a bit of notoriety when he defeated Devonte Smith, on short notice, as a massive underdog. While dangerous, overall, he does not present a bad stylistic matchup and he is precisely the type of guy that Madsen should be matched up with at this point.
As for Danilo Belluardo, he is a bit of a question mark. He now sits at 0-2 in the UFC and he has not looked particularly impressive in either bout. If he does get another UFC bout, it will likely be against a relative unknown and he will likely be fighting for his spot on the roster if he hasn’t already lost it.
Gilbert Burns def. Gunnar Nelson
Gilbert Burns vs. Gunnar Nelson is the sort of matchup that makes MMA interesting. While both men have had success on the feet, both are far better known for their ground fighting prowess. But as is often the case, the majority of the fight was spent on the feet aside from the occasional ground exchange.
Burns was the quicker fighter. He appeared stronger and more powerful, and overall he was the better man on Saturday night. As for Burns’ future, things are not so clear. He has won four straight fights but two came at lightweight, so he is on a two-fight win streak as a welterweight. Both wins have been over quality competition. But at 33 years old, Burns will need to start stringing together more wins if he wants to make a legitimate run at the title.
With his BJJ pedigree and his ever-improving boxing skills, he could make for an exciting addition to the top of the division if he can get there. Enter Michael Chiesa…
Chiesa is a guy that’s in somewhat of a similar position. He moved up to welterweight after a good run as a lightweight but so far, he’s mostly been matched up with fighters who are nearing expiration dates. Burns would be the toughest opponent for Chiesa since moving up and a win for either guy could catapult them into the lower end of the top 15, or perhaps into a fight that could get them there.
Nelson did what he could but he was dealt a rough hand. Originally scheduled to face Thiago Alves, it could be argued that Burns was a tougher matchup.
It’s rare for a guy to lose an opponent, only to have that opponent replaced with a more dangerous challenger. Regardless, Nelson did not get the job done. Going forward, he will need to string several wins together if he ever intends to become a contender in the division. He has long since lost his hype, which he rightfully earned on the European regional circuit. But he remains an impressive competitor in the division.
Noted for his BJJ skills, Nelson is also tricky to decipher on the feet but as of late, his best skills have failed him. As mentioned above, Nelson was initially set to face Alves, which would have been a far more reasonable match up for a guy coming off a loss. I don’t see a reason not to re-book that fight.
Ion Cutelaba def. Khalil Rountree Jr.
Ion Cutelaba continues his up and down UFC career. Through seven fights, Cutelaba is 4-3, he’s yet to win more than two in a row but he has several impressive finishes and a memorable pre-fight stare down tactic. He lacks consistency but he seems to have everything else. He stopped Khalil Rountree decisively and will now perhaps look forward towards another crack at a ranked opponent. One just so happens to be available and it is a guy that Cutelaba has a little bit of a history with.
Cutelaba debuted in the UFC in 2016 and he drew a tough opponent right out of the gate. Misha Cirkunov was a problem at the time. He was 2-0 in the UFC, both finishes, and he proved too much for the then twenty-one-year-old Cutelaba. But the occasion for a rematch is appropriate with Cutelaba looking to take the next step and Cirkunov looking to prove that he still belongs. At this point, Cutelaba vs. Cirkunov II makes all the sense in the world; it will serve as a measuring stick for both fighters.
You’ll often hear folks say something about being a nail somedays and a hammer the next. Perhaps that does not apply to anybody as much as it does Rountree.
Rountree was fresh off a devastating and destructive win over Eryk Anders and carried a great deal of hype into the Cutelaba fight. But what looked great in the Anders fight, his Muay Thai, was taken entirely from him.
Going forward, Rountree will likely work to make sure that his ground game is developing as well and as quickly as his stand up game. As for his next opponent, you don’t have to look very far.
Michal Oleksiejczuk made a great first impression in the UFC and he has looked great in each subsequent match up. But he hit a snag in his latest fight against Ovince Saint Preux and faded in the second round after a great start. Oleksiejczuk and Rountree are both young but a fight between the two could help determine which will take another step towards contendership and which one will continue his decent.
Ovince Saint Preux def. Michal Oleksiejczuk
“OSP” has made a career out of getting things done. While his record is not void of losses, he has consistently managed to find success in the Octagon and often in exciting and unique ways.
Not since Bret Hart, has a fighter been so synonymous with a submission, as Saint Preux has become just that with the Von Flue Choke. For the record, I think the “Saint Flue Choke” or the “Von Preux Choke” would be more appropriate at this point.
His latest, the fourth of his career, came in a fight that he seemed to be losing. His opponent in Oleksiejzcuk appeared to win the first round with superior striking, seamlessly closing the distance and landing. “OSP” did not have an answer for the Polish prodigy. But with the second round came a change and with the change came the victory for “OSP.” He controlled the range and ended things mid-way through the round.
With the win, “OSP” remains a player in a relatively thin division. As stated, the division is thin, which makes the next match up for him a bit of a challenge. Most of the fighters are booked or coming off losses. But Paul Craig just so happens to be available and he loves a good fight. “OSP” and Craig are both finishers and while Craig might be a bit further down that ladder, it still makes for a solid matchup. And stringing together a few wins would not be a bad thing for either fighter.
Oleksiejczuk is an exciting fighter to watch. He is relatively small for the division but he has a way of getting inside and landing powerful punches. His methods worked in the early portion of the “OSP” fight but ultimately he faded and lost in the second round. He remains a fun prospect though and his next fight should be worth watching to see if he improves on his mistakes.
I already mentioned above that Rountree Jr. makes for a fair and reasonable opponent at this point. Both guys lost a bit of shine at UFC Copenhagen but both are still very capable and should be on any list consisting of fighters to watch in the light heavyweight division.
Nicolas Dalby def. Alex Oliveira
Nicolas Dalby earned a very close decision win over Alex Oliveria. It was his first fight back with the promotion after his release in 2018. While away from the UFC, Dalby put together an impressive run as a member of the Cage Warriors roster but the ultimate goal was always to get back to the big show. The fight with Oliveira was close and really could have gone either way.
Now with his first UFC win since 2015, Dalby is closer to contendership status than ever before. For now, Dalby is outside of the top 15, and it will take some work to change that. Li Jingliang is eventually going to receive the respect that he deserves but I like the idea of matching him up with Dalby. Jingliang has been on a tear as of late and very well may receive a top 10 opponent for his next bout. But if not, a fight with Dalby should be fun.
I don’t think I was the only person surprised to see Oliveria booked on the UFC Copenhagen card. He was recently accused of some crimes in his native Brazil that many thought would lead to his release. However, he was not released.
Despite a solid effort against Dalby, he came up just short in their fight, and now he is in the midst of a three-fight losing streak. Considering his recent antics outside the Octagon and his salty record, you have to wonder what kind of leash Oliveira is dealing with. But as of now, he is still a member of the UFC roster.
The best bet for Oliveira, assuming he has any say in the matter, would be a step back in competition. He needs a chance to rebuild but this is the UFC and that chance usually is not given. Takashi Sato has had mixed results so far in the UFC but he has shown solid ground and pound and he has had success overall throughout his career. Both guys are looking to get back into the win column but for Oliveira, his next fight will be the biggest of his career, regardless of opponent. He cannot be far from the chopping block.
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The Scrap’s Cole Henry is a small business manager by day and an armchair MMA analyst and combat sports writer by night. Henry is also the co-host a weekly podcast available on iTunes called The MMA Scope and a podcast on Rokfin called #1 Bullshitter. Follow Cole on Twitter (@TheScopeMMA).