May 11, 2016

UFC Fight Night 87: New Contenders Emerge After Big Wins In Rotterdam

By Adam Martin

It was ‘just another’ Fight Night card, but UFC Rotterdam saw the emergence of new contenders in several weight classes.

Obviously the big one happened in the main event, where Alistair Overeem knocked out Andrei Arlovski with a front kick and punches to put his stamp on #1 contendership in the heavyweight division. The current heavyweight champion, Fabricio Werdum, fights this weekend against
Stipe Miocic in the main event of UFC 198, and considering the timing, it makes all the sense in the world for Overeem to fight the Werdum-Miocic winner for the title later this year. With four straight wins in the heavyweight division, one of the shallowest weight classes in the sport, it makes all the sense in the world for Overeem to get that next title shot.

But Overeem wasn’t the only possible title contender who broke through this past Sunday.
In the opening main card bout, Poland’s Karolina Kowalkiewicz won her second-straight fight in the UFC with a unanimous decision win over Heather Jo Clark. Like heavyweight, the strawweight division is quite shallow, so any time a fighter puts on an impressive performance, it gets noticed. Kowalkiewicz, a former champion in KSW, is undefeated in her MMA career at 9-0, and with a 2-0 record in the UFC, she is pretty close to the title picture. Considering the division’s champion is a fellow Pole in Joanna Jedrzejczyk, should Double J defeat Claudia Gadelha this summer in their rematch for the strawweight title, it could open the door for Kowalkiewicz to step in and fight for the belt in what would seem like a huge fight if the UFC wanted to do it in Poland.

Also on the main card, Nikita Krylov submitted Francimar Barroso in the second round for his fourth-straight win inside the Octagon. Krylov, who is only 24, has the benefit in fighting in the light heavyweight division where new contenders are barren. Obviously Krylov isn’t going to beat Jon Jones or Daniel Cormier, but he is a fresh face, and in a division that badly needs new blood coming through its ranks, his 5-1 record in the light heavyweight division sure looks good right now. Krylov is a top-15 fighter now, and with a few more wins, he could be fighting in a title eliminator. Yes it sounds crazy, but Krylov has proven he finishes fights, and in a division that needs new contenders, this is exactly what the UFC matchmakers want to see.

In addition, Germaine de Randamie brutally finished Anna Elmose in the first round with strikes to improve to 2-1 in the UFC. GDR is one of the top female strikers in the sport, and in the women’s bantamweight division, a few impressive wins shoots a fighter into the upper echelon of the weight class. Considering GDR’s only loss in the division is to Amanda Nunes, who is the #1 contender right now to Miesha Tate’s belt, GDR is in a good spot. There have already been calls for her to fight Cris Cyborg should she get by Leslie Smith at UFC 198, and if GDR does fight Cyborg and wins, then it would be really hard to deny her a title shot. Considering she has been floundering on preliminary cards to start her UFC career, it was important for GDR to get a win in her UFC main card debut, and she did so in spectacular fashion.

Finally, in the Fight Pass headliner, Kyoji Horiguchi defeated Neil Seery in one of the better fights on the cards. Horiguchi is only 25, and while he did lose to the champion Demetrious Johnson already, there have been numerous other fighters who have been afforded the opportunity of a rematch with the flyweight champion. Horiguchi is now 2-0 since losing to DJ and 6-1 overall in the UFC, and now training at American Top Team, the future is still very bright for him. And if “Mighty Mouse” eventually does decide to move up to 135 lbs, that opens up the door even wider for Horiguchi. In a division that badly needs exciting fighters, Horiguchi really stands out.

There are some divisions in the UFC, like welterweight and lightweight, where there are so many contenders for the belt that not all of them will get their shot at the title. But in divisions like heavyweight and strawweight, the UFC is looking for new fighters to contend for the belts, and at UFC Fight Night 87, we saw a few of them emerge. Now let’s wait and see how the UFC decides to book their remaining fights in 2016.


UFC Fight Night 87: Overeem vs. Arlovski took place on May 8, 2016 at Ahoy Rotterdam in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

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