Matches to Make After UFC on ESPN 19

By: Brian Knapp
Dec 6, 2020

Marvin Vettori no longer has to toil in relative obscurity.

The Kings MMA representative stepped up his ascent on the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s middleweight ladder with a unanimous decision over Jack Hermansson in the UFC on ESPN 19 main event—it was the Italian’s first headlining assignment—on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Scores were 49-46, 49-46 and 49-45 for Vettori, who expects to slide into the Top 10 at 185 pounds for the first time later this week.

Hermansson was a willing dance partner in defeat despite an inability to match his opponent’s fast-twitch horsepower. The two men combined to set several all-time single fight records in the middleweight division: significant strikes landed (286), significant strikes attempted (680) and total strikes attempted (741). However, the action more often than not favored Vettori, who knocked down and nearly finished the Swede inside the first five minutes, eased off the gas midway through the match and then dipped into his reserves for the championship rounds.

In the aftermath of UFC on ESPN 19 “Hermansson vs. Vettori,” here are four matches that ought to be made:

Marvin Vettori vs. Darren Till: Vettori has emerged as a major player in the 185-pound weight class, having rattled off four consecutive victories since he dropped a split decision to current champion Israel Adesanya in April 2018. The Rafael Cordeiro disciple married powerful standup—sharp and accurate straight lefts tipped his spear, piercing his counterpart’s guard almost at will—with an unwavering desire to keep the fight on his terms, as he denied five of Hermansson’s seven takedown attempts and punished him whenever the action did spill onto the ground. Vettori’s latest and most impressive conquest figures to open doors that were once closed to the onetime Venator Fighting Championship titleholder. Till last competed at UFC on ESPN 14, where he lost a five-round unanimous decision to former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker on July 25.

Jamahal Hill vs. Misha Cirkunov-Ryan Spann winner: No one did more to raise his stock at UFC on ESPN 19 than Hill, who took care of Ovince St. Preux with punches in the second round of their light heavyweight co-feature. St. Preux succumbed to blows 3:37 into Round 2, suffering his first knockout defeat since 2016. Hill probed for openings throughout a somewhat-uneventful first round, then exploited the Knoxville MMA rep’s decision to switch to the orthodox stance in the second. There, he pushed St. Preux to the fence and cut loose with punches until referee Jason Herzog had seen enough to call for a stoppage and prevent the dazed but still-standing “OSP” from absorbing further punishment. Hill, now 8-0, has the look of a potential star at 205 pounds. Cirkunov and Spann were originally scheduled to meet at UFC 183 on Dec. 19, but their match was postponed to a later, unspecified date due to injury.

Gabriel Benitez vs. Alexander Hernandez: The enigmatic Benitez rebounded in resounding fashion from back-to-back losses to Sodiq Yussuf and Omar Morales, as he put away Justin Jaynes with a crushing knee strike to the body and follow-up punches in the first-round of their lightweight showcase. Jaynes bowed out 4:06 into Round 1, giving “The Ultimate Fighter Latin America” semifinalist his first win since 2018. Benitez’s physical tools have never come into question, but the American Kickboxing Academy export’s performance has remained uneven across his 10 appearances inside the Octagon. Perhaps the 32-year-old can finally make his push in the 155-pound weight class. Hernandez cut down Chris Gruetzemacher with punches 1:46 into the first round of their UFC Fight Night 181 encounter on Oct. 31.

Ilia Topuria vs. Cub Swanson-Daniel Pineda winner: The possibilities seem almost limitless with the undefeated Topuria, who knocked out Damon Jackson on the undercard to improve to 10-0 with nine finishes. A former regional champion with a proven track record and a venomous submission game, Jackson met his end 2:38 into Round 1. Topuria, 23, drowned “The Leech” with overwhelming aggression, pressed him into close-quarters combat and sealed his fate with an overhand right that followed a savage left hook to the body. In doing so, he became only the second man—Movlid Khaybulaev was the first—to finish Jackson inside one round. Swanson will confront Pineda at UFC 256 on Dec. 12.
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