1 – Kevin Lee
Sure, a lot of the talk about Kevin Lee’s main event victory over Michael Chiesa will focus on the controversial stoppage by referee Mario Yamasaki. But let’s remove that from the equation because, as Lee noted after the fight, Chiesa looked like he was about a second or two away from going to sleep from the rear naked choke, and Yamasaki had nothing to do with Lee getting that position and sinking that choke in. In other words, this was an impressive victory for “The Motown Phenom” and there are even bigger fights on the horizon for him. Will he get Khabib Nurmagomedov later this year? I’m guessing there are a lot of moving pieces that have to fall into place for that to happen, including champion Conor McGregor’s availability after his August boxing match with Floyd Mayweather and the unfinished business with Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson. If it happens, I’d love to see it. If it doesn’t, there are a lot of other quality matchups for Lee in the meantime.
2 – Tim Boetsch
Tim Boetsch is one of the good guys of the sport, so you always hate to see him with his back against the wall, seemingly fighting for his spot on the roster after a key loss or two. But the thing is, when times seem most desperate, that’s when Boetsch delivers big. Sunday night’s win was another example. After a February loss to “Jacare” Souza put Boetsch at 2-4 in his last six, he was put alongside Johny Hendricks in OKC. And not only did Boetsch look sharp from the start, but then he delivered a knockout win that gave him his first Performance of the Night bonus since 2014. That’s a nice start to the summer for “The Barbarian” and another positive jolt to his career.
3 – Felice Herrig
It’s unfortunate that in combat sports, a fighter is often judged by the worst night of their professional life. That was certainly the case for strawweight veteran Felice Herrig, who was written off by many after she lost a 2015 bout to Paige VanZant. Yet in the subsequent two years, Herrig has slowly but surely silenced those critics, with Sunday’s win over previously unbeaten Justine Kish the most impressive of the bunch. Whether standing or on the mat, Herrig was a dynamo, and with her current ranking of 13 likely to rise this week, she deserves a shot against a top 10 or top 5 opponent.
4 – Clay Guida
Speaking of getting written off, Clay Guida was buried countless times during his featherweight run, and after going 3-4 during that run, with all losses coming by knockout or submission, that was understandable. So when it was announced that “The Carpenter” was moving back to the lightweight division, it was seen as a last ditch effort to resurrect his career. And maybe it was, but it worked, as Guida looked better than he has in years in defeating a dangerous Erik Koch. Whether it was his aggressive pace or swarming ground game, the Guida of old returned last night, and it will be interesting to see what’s next for him at 155 pounds.
5 – Tony Martin
Tony Martin isn’t a fighter who makes a lot of noise. He trains, he fights, wins more often than not, and then it’s back to the gym. But when faced with an opponent in Johnny Case that he’s wanted to fight for years, Martin got a little more vocal, and when you do that, the risk is as great as the reward. And Martin got that reward with an impressive win over Case in a fight that may have fans looking at him in a different way moving forward. And that’s a good thing for this lightweight on the rise.