MMA Ratings Podcast

January 28, 2020

Michael Chiesa Can Make Waves At Welterweight

By Raphael Garcia

Reinventing oneself is an idea that famous celebrities embrace when they hit challenging points in their careers. Mixed martial artits face similar challenges in their respective careers, and one way they reinvent themselves is moving into a new weight class. Michael Chiesa is one of the latest names to make a move -- in his case, from lightweight to welterweight -- and while this isn’t his first run at 170, it’s a change for fans that have seen him compete in the UFC. So far, the results have been positive, and one wonders how far he can go in this division.

Three fights into his move up to welterweight, Chiesa picked up his biggest career win this past weekend at UFC Raleigh when he was able to secure a decision victory over a former lightweight champion and welterweight title challenger in Rafael dos Anjos. At 155 pounds, Chiesa was never able to defeat a ranked opponent, but he was able to defeat a Top 10 welterweight, and this week, he should find himself listed in those rankings.

Immediately after getting the win, Chiesa made the right call in the Octagon when faced with questions about his next steps at welterweight. Instead of staying silent or giving a vague answer, he made it a point to call out the former interim welterweight champion and title challenger, Colby Covington.

“I want to be a world champion. There is no doubt in my mind that I can crack the Top 5 and beat these guys. No disrespect to Colby Covington. I just know how tough he is, and I want to be where he is. He just fought for a title and I know he will bring out the best in me. I want to fight him in July during International Fight Week and then fight for a title by the end of the year.”

Covington has been eerily silent since getting stopped by Kamaru Usman back at UFC 245. He fought a great battle for the belt, and even though he came up short, he remains relevant within the division. There's a long list of fighters that would love to use Covington’s name to elevate theirs, but while Chiesa is one of the more interesting names to come up, it’s hard to see him get slotted into that position this soon.

But if not Covington, then who? That is where the fun game of matchmaking comes into play. At first glance at the current welterweight rankings, four names jump off the page: Geoff Neal, Demian Maia, Gilbert Burns, and Robbie Lawler. Neal may be the most unlikely of that group, since he’s a prospect in his own right. The UFC has a perpetual need for fresh names in every divisional mix. Having Chiesa or Neal eliminate the other from title contention would hurt the process of developing new challengers for whoever holds the belt. However, the other three are interesting options with name value in the division, value that Chiesa could siphon off with a win.

Burns and Maia are two of the best grapplers in MMA today. The ADCC medalists are scheduled to face each other at UFC Brasilia in March. Jiu Jitsu practitioners around the world are paying attention to this match, but Chiesa should as well. Maia has challenged for two UFC titles, and Burns is riding a four-fight win streak. Plus, Chiesa prides himself on being able to match anyone on the ground; both Maia and Burns would be up to that challenge.

Then there’s Lawler. Lawler is a former UFC Welterweight Champion who has partaken in some of the best and most brutal bouts to ever occur in the Octagon. But at 37 years old, he’s on the downside of his career, having lost three straight fights. However, Lawler still gets fans interested in his bouts due to his hard-hitting, no-nonsense style. A win over Lawler still has cachet, even though it’s been three years since he’s won a fight. Lawler was supposed to fight Santiago Ponzinibbio back at UFC 245, but that bout did not occur. So if Chiesa is healthy, the schedule would work.

Michael Chiesa made the most of his mic time on Saturday with his callout of Colby Covington after defeating Rafael Dos Anjos. It’s always more difficult to look toward next steps for fighters who don’t voice their preferences. And while the UFC most likely won't give him that fight, there are still a wealth of other opportunities for Chiesa in his new weight class, fights that can help him move up the divisional rankings in quick fashion. If he's looking to reinvent himself as a contender at 170 pounds, he's well on his way.

UFC Fight Night Raleigh
Michael Chiesa vs. Rafael dos Anjos: Michael Chiesa def. Rafael dos Anjos via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28).

UFC Fight Night Raleigh: Blaydes vs. Dos Santos took place January 25, 2020 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Click HERE for more UFC Fight Night Raleigh Post-Fight Analysis

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