MMA’s Biggest Winners: November 19

kamaru-usman2With three big MMA events on Saturday, November 19, there were many noteworthy performances which saw many fighters stock rise. Jay Primetown takes a look at the key performers and what’s next for them.   Michael Chandler Overview: Perhaps no bigger winner from Saturday’s mixed martial arts schedule was Bellator Lightweight Champion Michael Chandler. With Eddie Alvarez’s move to the UFC, Chandler lost his dance partner and was stuck in Bellator against inferior competition. Former UFC Lightweight champion Ben Henderson signing with Bellator was the best thing that could happen to Chandler. It took some time, but Bellator finally matched Chandler and Henderson together. It was a real opportunity for Chandler to show his level of ability against one of the most respected fighters in the sport. Chandler dominated the first round and then out wrestled Henderson for large portions of the fight to hold on for a split decision win. It’s a win that keeps Chandler on people’s radar and gives Bellator a fighter that many think is on par with the UFC’s best in the weight class. What’s Next: Outside of a potential rematch with Henderson, veteran Josh Thomson seems to be the next best option for a winter 2017 defense of the lightweight title. Assuming a victory, undefeated prospects Carrington Banks and Adam Piccolotti are intriguing options down the line. Krzysztof Jotko Overview: In a prospect vs. longtime veteran matchup, this was built as a sink or swim matchup for Poland’s Krzysztof Jotko. The 15th ranked middleweight not only landed the better strikes on the feet, but he out grappled a tremendous jiu jitsu practitioner. He made Leites look old and overwhelmed with aggression and a relentless approach not allow Leites time.  This was the biggest win of Jotko’s career. What’s Next: Expect a significant jump in the middleweight rankings from Jotko when the new rankings come out prior to Thanksgiving. He’s only one of two only two fighters under the age of 30 currently ranked in the division’s top 15. The division has many older fighters and Jotko will rise into the top 10 within the next few years as those older fighters begin to fade. A matchup with Tim Boetsch makes a lot of sense for Jotko next. Another ranked middleweight, but this time someone with real knockout power. If he wins again, look for him to face a top ten ranked fighter after that. Kevin Lee Overview: Make no bones about it, Kevin Lee was charged with facing a very difficult opponent in Magomed Mustafaev. His Russian opponent is an excellent striker with fight ending power. Lee’s wrestling never looked better as he was able to take down Mustafaev at will. His top pressure was excellent tiring out the Russian before submitting him in the second round. What’s Next: With this big victory, Lee is on the cusp of being in the division’s top 15. He has now rattled off three straight victories and won seven of his last eight bouts. He’s definitely growing in confidence and believes he’s the best MMA wrestler in the division; even calling out Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov. That’s definitely a little bold, but realistically matchups with Brazilian Gleison Tibau or Francisco Trinaldo would be solid options. He needs a win over a legitimate veteran as his gateway into the rankings and potential top ten opponents. Kamaru Usman Overview: Last but not least is the fighter mentioned that I believe has the biggest upside of any discussed in this piece. Usman was scheduled to fight a very dangerous opponent, Brazil’s Warlley Alves. Usman could have easily made this a grappling match from the start, but he wanted to prove a point to show that he can strike with opponents that are creative and have big power. Not only did Usman do that, but he out struck Alves throughout the bout. After doing that for a round and a half, he put Alves to the mat and beat him badly to the point where I was shocked the referee didn’t stop it. Usman is without a doubt the brightest prospect in the welterweight division. What’s Next: Usman is now 4-0 in the UFC and continues to show improvements in every fight. He’s physically imposing and his work rate is simply outstanding given his size and strength. His improved striking combined with his high level wrestling game make me believe panelists will put him into the welterweight top 15 next week. In my mind, he’s already a top ten welterweight. The winner of Dong Hyun Kim and Tarec Saffiedine at UFC 207 would be a nice next step for the on the rise welterweight.

Written by Jay Primetown

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