The UFC made history this past weekend with its inaugural trip to Zagreb, Croatia, offering up a rare Sunday afternoon card to Croatian fans.

The Zagreb Arena — we’ll give you a dollar if you can guess where it’s located — played host to Fight Night 86, which saw Junior “Cigano” Dos Santos put on a boxing clinic in his decision win over “Big” Ben Rothwell in the night’s headliner.

In the co-main event, the appropriately terrifying “Black Beast”, Derrick Lewis, made short work of Gabreil “Napao” Gonzaga, KOing the Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt in the closing seconds of the first round.

With the headlining heavyweight tilts in the books, it’s time to take a look at the future fight paths of the literal and figurative big winners of the night.

Cigano returns to form

How do you solve a problem like Cigano?

After opening his UFC career with nine straight wins, Junior Dos Santos has alternated wins and losses over his past six outings. When he wins, he looks damn good; when he loses, he looks like a fighter nearing the end of his career.

Unfortunately for Ben Rothwell, the winning Cigano showed up on Sunday.

From the outset of their main event fight, Cigano put his technical boxing on display and exhibited a significant speed advantage.  This became more pronounced over the course of the five rounds, as he battered Rothwell’s body and face, leaving his right eye nearly swollen shut.

The Fight Night 86 win puts Dos Santos back on the winning track after a disappointing TKO loss to Alistair Overeem at UFC on Fox 17, back in December 2015. Despite the recent peaks and valleys, Dos Santos is still widely considered a top five fighter, and his next opponent will reflect his position in the heavyweight pecking order.

One fighter looking to pump the brakes on Cigano’s return is New Zealand heavyweight and fan-favorite fighter, Mark Hunt.  After getting news of Dos Santos’ win in Croatia, “The Super Samoan” wasted no time calling out the Brazilian via Twitter, tweeting at UFC President Dana White and directly to JDS, “[L]et’s do it Dana would love a rematch”.

Dos Santos famously KO’d the normally iron-chinned Hunt with a spinning hook kick way back at UFC 160 in May 2013. Hunt is currently on a two-fight win streak, and has notably never lost a rematch.

From a rankings perspective, the fight makes sense. And from a fan perspective, well, let’s just say nobody would be sad if the UFC decided to give Hunt a chance to avenge the loss.

Lewis goes “Black Beast”-mode on Gonzaga

Lewis celebrates his victory in Zagreb, Croatia // Source: Per Haljestam, USA TODAY Sports

Lewis celebrates his victory in Zagreb, Croatia // Source: Per Haljestam, USA TODAY Sports

Talking about fighter nicknames is MMA navel gazing at its most trivial. However, when it comes to Derrick Lewis, it’s hard to argue that “The Black Beast” has earned his nickname several times over.

He starched Gabriel Gonzaga in the first round of their UFN 86 co-main event, which puts him on a three fight win streak, all of which have come by KO/TKO. In fact, all six of Lewis’ UFC wins have come inside the distance courtesy of those lunch boxes he commonly calls hands.

The Gonzaga KO is certainly Lewis’ biggest win to date and he has been rewarded with a13th place berth in the official UFC heavyweight rankings.

For his next fight, Lewis will look to build on the momentum of three consecutive finishes. To do that, he’s taking aim at fellow heavy-handed and heavy-bodied fighter, Roy “Big Country” Nelson.

Nelson recently got back on the winning track with a somewhat underwhelming performance versus Jared Rosholt at Fight Night 82 back in February. The rotund UFC veteran is 2-5 in his past seven fights, but all of his losses have come against a who’s who of the UFC heavyweight division, including Stipe Miocic, Mark Hunt, and Alistair Overeem.

Moreover, Nelson is a top ten heavyweight and a BJJ black belt with serious KO power in his hands and a nearly indestructible chin underneath his patented hobo-beard.

Pairing the surging Lewis with the always-dangerous Nelson makes perfect sense within the heavyweight division and is almost guaranteed to end with one man being violently separated from his consciousness. Sounds like a win-win situation, right?

 

What say you? Should Cigano take the Hunt rematch? And who will the UFC feed to the Black Beast next?