Stephen Thompson and Rory Macdonald capped off a great night of fights with a technical battle that saw Thompson shut down his foe’s grappling attempts and out point him at a distance. Let’s take a look at some of the key moments and what’s next for the main and co-main event fighters, the main card winners and notable prelim results.
Stephen Thompson: This win gives Thompson the de facto claim to the next title shot. With seven straight victories, Thompson holds the longest streak in the division. His wins are also over the highest quality of competition, setting him apart from contenders like Damien Maia and Neil Magny. As he said after the fight, he will probably end up across the cage from Lawler, as the champion is a 2-1 favorite over the challenger Tyrone Woodley at UFC 201; he suggested UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden. Lawler vs Thompson would certainly be a compelling co-main event for that mega-show, presumably headlined by a superstar like Jon Jones or Ronda Rousey. Regardless of where it takes place, one has to think the UFC gives him the next title shot.
Rory Macdonald: The Red King enters free agency status off of a loss, which has to be what the UFC hoped for when booking him against “Wonderboy”. However, his value is still unquestionable. Thompson is only the third person he has lost to in his career, and he came out looking better than anyone else Stephen has bested. Moreover, he remains one of the only marketable Canadian stars the company has, and Macdonald is only 26 years old. As long as the UFC pays up to keep him, I would love to see him against the loser of Hendricks-Gastelum, or a surging action fighter like Neil Magny.
Donald Cerrone: Cowboy has never looked this dangerous. His boxing combinations in the pocket looked lethal as he put down a former light-heavyweight three times, and handed one of the most durable men in the UFC his first TKO loss. I would still like to see him go back to lightweight, but if he wants to stay at welterweight, he looks good there too and doesn’t seem to be giving up any size. I would love to see him fight Gunnar Nelson if he stays at welterweight, or even Rick Story. If he drops back to lightweight, the long-planned bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov would be a good scrap. Cowboy has a lot of options. Here’s hoping to him also getting the pay he wants.
Patrick Cote: The veteran should probably take some time off after this latest loss to recover and contemplate his career. Cote has been in the sport for a long time, and now that his chin has finally cracked he might want to consider moving on. If he does take another fight, it will be with someone in the middle of the welterweight pack, perhaps a recently derailed prospect like Albert Tumenov or Warley Alves.
Steve Bosse: The former hockey enforcer came out of retirement for this fight, and it was something else. He and Sean O’Connell repeatedly blasted each other in the skull in a light-heavyweight brawl worthy of the gods. Nothing he can do will top this. He should take his post-fight bonus and retire, again, with whatever brain cells he has left.
Sean O’Connell: Technically, he lost, but a fight like that can only be good for his reputation. I would love to see him fight Tim Boetsch next.
Joanne Calderwood: This win puts Jo-Jo back on track. It’s unfortunate for her that she didn’t get a performance bonus, because apparently she is broke, but also because she rightfully stopped that fight multiple times before the ref stepped in. It was an awesome but weird stoppage, as Valerie seemed not to realize that she needed to keep fighting after being kicked in the body. Calderwood has found a good place in her life again and a good camp for her at Tri-Star, and it shows. Her spinning back fist was awesome, as was her jump switch front kick to the body that first hurt Létourneau. If she drops back to strawweight, she should get a top contender bout, or they could re-book the Paige VanZant fight at UFC 202. That’s probably the highest profile matchup she could take, and the one I would be aiming for if I were her. Hopefully, she can convince the UFC to pay her enough so that she doesn’t have to take time off to work and save money just to continue her fighting career.
Joe Soto had the feel-good moment of the card, coming back from the edge of defeat to snatch his first UFC win after dropping three in a row. Hopefully, he gets another winnable fight in his next outing, like Manny Gamburyan.
Jotko and Cirkunov picked up momentum wins in two of the more shallow divisions, middleweight and light-heavyweight divisions. They are both in great positions to break into the rankings with another win or two.
This event was a great example of a card that was so-so on paper, but in reality, delivered on the action. There were technical masterclasses, wild finishes and straight up wars. It set a record for the most third-round stoppages on a UFC card, six in all, and was an entertaining debut for the UFC in Ottowa.