The UFC made its second stop in Portland, Ore., with UFC Fight Night 96, which took place Saturday at Moda Center. The FS1-televised main card featured four fights, with two ending via split decision and two with stoppages.
In the main event, John Lineker (29-7 MMA, 10-2 UFC) continued to establish himself as one of the UFC’s most exciting properties when he edged two-time UFC title challenger John Dodson (18-8 MMA, 7-3 UFC) via split decision on the scorecards for his sixth consecutive UFC victory.
The co-main event saw Alex Oliveira (15-3-1 MMA, 5-2 UFC) knock out former Bellator champ Will Brooks (18-2 MMA, 1-1 UFC), and promotional newcomers Zak Ottow (14-3 MMA, 1-0 UFC) and Brandon Moreno (12-3 MMA, 1-0 UFC) picked up upset wins in their respective debuts.
After every event, fans wonder whom the winners will be matched up with next. And with another night of UFC action in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward, put on a pair of Joe Silva and Sean Shelby’s shoes, and play UFC matchmaker for UFC Fight Night 96’s winning fighters.
Should fight: Sergio Pettis
Why they should fight: Moreno came up short of a huge upset while he was the No. 16 seed in the 16-man field on the current 24th season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” In his official UFC debut, however, he got the job done in spectacular fashion by submitting flyweight contender Louis Smolka. Moreno was the biggest underdog on the card.
Moreno wasted little time taking advantage of Smolka. He found an opening during a grappling exchange and locked in a tight guillotine choke that was only released when Smolka went unconscious a little more than two minutes into the opening round.
The win immediately morphed Moreno into a 125-pound contender, meaning more notable fights are in his future. “The Assassin Baby” was actually a replacement for Pettis (14-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) on the card after accepting the fight on just eight days’ notice after “The Phenom” pulled out with what his coach described as a “minor injury.”
The younger brother of former UFC champ Anthony Pettis should be ready for a return to competition soon, though, and a matchup with fellow youngster Moreno would have huge ramifications for the future of both 125-pound prospects.
Should fight: Jordan Mein
Why they should fight: It wasn’t the flashiest of performances, but UFC newcomer Ottow did what was necessary to beat noted MMA veteran Josh Burkman with a split decision after taking the fight as an injury replacement on just 22 days’ notice.
Ottow simply outworked Burkman over the course of three rounds and got the edge on the scorecards to earn his most relevant win to date. “The Barbarian” put himself in good position to get another noteworthy name in the UFC, and more than 100 welterweights signed to the roster, there’s no shortage of options.
Mein (29-10 MMA, 3-2 UFC) hasn’t competed since he retired from the sport following a second-round knockout loss to Thiago Alves at UFC 183 in January 2013. “Young Gun” recently declared his intention to resume his career, though, and is seeking a UFC return in the coming months. Mein has only lost to Alves, Matt Brown and Tyron Woodley in the past six years, so he is no step down from Burkman for Ottow’s second UFC bout.
Should fight: Patrick Cote
Why they should fight: The biggest victory of Oliveira’s career against was almost entirely overshadowed by the fact he missed weight by 5.5 pounds – and then taunted Brooks after his third-round TKO win.
Although he put away a ranked fighter at 155 pounds, “Cowboy” clearly has no future in that division. Moreover, his complete disregard for he rules and basic acts of professional courtesy almost surely won’t advance his career too far at welterweight.
Despite the controversy, it’s clear seven fights into his UFC career that Oliveira is a talented fighter. He needs a tough test, and Cote (23-10 MMA, 10-10 UFC) is among the toughest at 170 pounds. The durability and well-roundedness of “The Predator” makes him a challenge for anyone, and the French-Canadian would surely push Oliveira near his limit, especially if the vet gets the fight on his home soil at December’s UFC 206 event in Toronto.
Should fight: Bryan Caraway
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Lineker should fight Caraway (21-7 MMA, 6-2 UFC) next after his main event victory.
For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 96, check out the UFC Events section of the site.