Rivera’s win over Roop was his fifth straight including three victories in the Octagon. With TKOs in back-to-back triumphs, Rivera is quickly becoming one of most feared bantamweight strikers in the sport based on power, precision, and aggressiveness. He deserves a Top 10 foe at this point to see how he truly stacks up in the division. T.J. Dillashaw and Eddie Wineland would both work in said capacity and neither currently has a fight lined up. Nunes has established herself as a force at bantamweight with a second straight opening round knockout. Throw in the fact it came against respected kickboxer De Randamie and the outcome becomes even more impressive. There aren’t a ton of options out there since the division isn’t very deep but one who stands out in particular is Jessica Eye. She’s a good striker and coming off a big win over Sarah Kaufman. Khabilov has been impressive in all three of his Octagon appearances and his 14-1 record prior to signing with the UFC makes it clear his recent run of success isn’t a fluke. Already known for his grappling (and slams), Khabilov showed off some other skills against the always-game “Gamebred” including an arsenal of kicks and looping strikes. Masvidal was a good test for Khabilov’s potential and one the Russian obviously passed. He deserves a big name in his next bout. Health-permitting, Khabilov is tailor made to take on the winner of upcoming match-ups between Evan Dunham-Donald Cerrone, Gleison Tibau-Michael Johnson, or Edson Barboza-Danny Castillo. He’s not quite ready for the spotlight but should be in 2014. Chiesa’s win over Smith means little from a rankings standpoint and certainly didn’t boost his stock as would have been the case by beating a more impressive opponent. After all, Smith was only 3-2 entering the effort. However, the Ultimate Fighter 15 winner has shown improvement in each of his outings since the show and has plenty of time left for his striking skills to catch up to his grappling ability. Chiesa’s next clash should come against a tough but not necessarily Top 10 opponent, giving him a chance to shine without creating excessive expectations. Since they fought on the same card, Bobby Green or Yancy Medeiros could be worth considering, as is Norman Parke who holds a “TUF winner” distinction as well and is currently available for competition. The clock is ticking on Romero as a 36-year old, though you wouldn’t know it from his ridiculously shredded physique entering the match-up with Markes. He’s 2-0 in the UFC since coming over from Strikeforce with knockouts in both wins and possesses an excellent ground game stemming from his stint as an Olympic medalist in wrestling. He’s not a title-contender by any means and isn’t likely to be in the future, but in the meantime Romero can definitely serve as a tough test for any up-and-comer or established veteran. Derek Brunson, who also saw action at UFC Fight Night 31, would be a solid selection as a similarly explosive grappler. Costa Philippou and Tim Boetsch are also worth giving thought to. Both are available and each owns status as a longtime UFC competitor in need of a win despite some recent success. If champ Ronda Rousey wasn’t already tied up with Miesha Tate and presumably Cat Zingano thereafter (assuming she beats Tate in December), there’s little doubt Davis would have exited her clash with Carmouche as #1 contender. She’s on a four-fight winning streak with all of the victories coming against solid opposition and owns past triumphs over the likes of Shayna Baszler, Julie Kedzie, and Amanda Nunes. Since she needs an opponent to hold her over until the title-picture thins out, there’s only one logical candidate – Sara McMann. She’s 7-0, isn’t currently slated for any showdowns, and has the hype of an Olympic medalist to boot. Or, if the UFC decides Zingano needs a warm-up bout after missing a year due to injury, Davis could easily serve in that capacity as well. It was hard not to smile while watching Kennedy rejoice in front of his fellow soldiers after scoring his impressive finish of Natal. The performance ended a three-fight winning streak for Natal while also serving as Kennedy’s third straight triumph and first knockout in more than five years. Kennedy’s likeability and history as a decorated military veteran make him very marketable so there’s no reason the UFC should hold off on presenting him with some major pairings. He’s headlined a card and isn’t afraid of a challenge, so why not throw Kennedy an adversary along the lines of Francis Carmont, Cung Le, or Michael Bisping? The UFC originally booked him against Lyoto Machida before “The Dragon” served as a stand-in for Bisping against Mark Munoz, so clearly the company isn’t concerned about bringing Kennedy along slowly. Rematches with Luke Rockhold and Ronaldo Souza might also be acceptable since both defeats involved decisions and came in Strikeforce.
Every instance of success in the Octagon is important. However, some wins are arguably more notable than others based on the stakes involved or the manner in which the victory was procured.
was no different in that regard, featuring more than a few fights with results worth singling out. (Photos by USA Today Sports Images) UFC Fight Night 31