3 fights that should be booked following UFC Vegas 26

Alex Morono (left), Marina Rodriguez (center), Gregor Gillespie (right)
Alex Morono (left), Marina Rodriguez (center), Gregor Gillespie (right)

Another UFC card has passed us by and with it comes a host of possibilities moving forward for both the victors and the unfortunate fighters who were defeated.

The UFC was once again back at the Apex facility for this card, which came after a strong few weeks for the promotion. Despite having to follow a blockbuster PPV in front of a full crowd and a brutal spinning elbow knockout from Jiri Prochazka at last week's event, UFC Vegas 26 provided entertainment throughout.

Despite only containing three bouts, the prelim fights started the night on the right foot. Guyana's Carlston Harris opened the card with an impressive debut. He sent Christian Aguilera to sleep in the first round with an anaconda choke. In the other matchups, Jun Yong Park became the first blemish on the record of Tafon Nchukwi and in a great featured prelim, Mike Trizano returned after two years away from the cage and secured a decision win over Slovakia's Ludovit Klein.

Despite losing the Angela Hill vs. Amanda Ribas fight, the main card delivered. Gregor Gillespie rebounded from his last fight in style. In an entertaining fight with technical grappling and transitions, Gillespie earned a stoppage with some grueling ground and pound. In one of the highlight moments of the card, Alex Morono secured the biggest win of his career on just one week's notice. A perfect overhand right was the beginning of the end for Donald Cerrone.

Many were disappointed to see the originally scheduled main event return for TJ Dillashaw against Cory Sandhagen pulled from the card, but their replacement provided a fantastic watch. Across five rounds, Marina Rodriguez and Michelle Waterson threw hard and left everything in the cage. Although the Brazilian walked away with the victory, both women's UFC stocks rose at the weekend.

So, what are the next steps we should see after some of those results? Here are three fights that should be booked following the events at UFC Vegas 26.

#3 Marina Rodriguez vs. Claudia Gadelha - UFC women's strawweight

Marina Rodriguez (left) and Claudia Gadelha (right)
Marina Rodriguez (left) and Claudia Gadelha (right)

If Marina Rodriguez's name hadn't already been established in the strawweight division and with the fanbase, it certainly is now. In a short-notice main event against Michelle Waterson, a woman who's fought the likes of Carla Esparza, Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Rose Namajunas, the Brazilian secured a huge win.

The 25-minute fight, which was fought at 125-pounds, saw both women throw hard and give their all. It was a memorable watch after an already-solid set of main card bouts. After a split decision defeat to Carla Esparza in 2020 saw her suffer her first loss in MMA, Rodriguez has bounced back with impressive wins over Amanda Ribas and now 'The Karate Hottie'.

Although she's clearly keen to fight Joanna Jedrzejczyk, I think Mackenzie Dern is the Pole's likely next opponent if she is to fight again before a UFC championship bout. With Yan Xiaonan set to face Carla Esparza later this month, the only high-ranked name without a fight that I think makes sense for Marina Rodriguez is Claudia Gadelha.

Having fought some of the best, Gadelha will offer fresh challenges for her compatriot. With 'Claudinha' currently sitting just outside the UFC's strawweight top-5, a win for Rodriguez would elevate her into the group of top 115-pound contenders.

Having lost to Yan Xiaonan last time out, this matchup would also give Gadelha the chance to prove she still belongs in the same conversation as the division's elite.

#2 Alex Morono vs. Nicolas Dalby - UFC welterweight

Alex Morono (left) and Nicolas Dalby (right)
Alex Morono (left) and Nicolas Dalby (right)

At UFC Vegas 26, Alex Morono put in the biggest performance of his career on less than a week's notice. Against Donald Cerrone, a UFC legend who has fought some of the best in the promotion, Morono made a statement.

A perfectly placed overhand right and some fast and furious shots after 'Cowboy' became hurt led to the fight being stopped inside the opening round. Morono needed to rebound after a loss to Anthony Pettis last December and he did exactly that. It was a seriously impressive display from 'The Great White'

In order to keep his momentum going after the co-main win, you'd imagine Morono will be keen to enter the octagon again soon. There are several potential opponents for the 30-year-old, but based on style and availability, a matchup with Nicolas Dalby is an exciting prospect.

'Lokomotivo' boasts an impressive 19-3-1 record and hasn't been defeated in his last seven fights, dating back to 2018. Against the highly-regarded Daniel Rodriguez in his last fight, the Danish welterweight secured a decision victory. A fight against last weekend's co-main winner will give Dalby the opportunity to make a push for a place in the UFC's 170-pound rankings.

#1 Gregor Gillespie vs. Rafael Dos Anjos - UFC lightweight

Gregor Gillespie (left) and Rafael Dos Anjos (right)
Gregor Gillespie (left) and Rafael Dos Anjos (right)

Gregor Gillespie's name was in the spotlight at UFC Vegas 26. 'The Gift' made his first walk to the octagon since his unforgettable knockout loss to Kevin Lee in 2019.

Whether it's the roar of the Madison Square Garden crowd, the reactions of Jon Anik and Joe Rogan or Megan Olivi’s shocked expression as the lifeless body crashed into the cage in front of her, we all remember the first professional setback for ‘The Gift’.

But against the dangerous Diego Ferreira, Gillespie returned to the form that had brought him to a 13-0 record after his first six UFC fights. Showing his immense grappling skills during what was a technical fight, Gillespie won the battle of the transitions and earned a stoppage with some brutal ground and pound.

Having been ranked a place below Ferreira in 13th, Gillespie will find himself either inside the lightweight top-10 or a place or two outside of it come the next update. With his intentions of fighting someone ranked above him, a matchup with Rafael Dos Anjos makes sense.

The former UFC lightweight champion had been scheduled to fight Islam Makhachev last year so the fact Gillespie is ranked lower than him shouldn't be an issue. Given the skill both men have on the mat, this matchup could be a mouth-watering prospect for grappling enthusiasts.

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Edited by Harvey Leonard
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