Germaine de Randamie is making herself impossible to ignore.
Fighting for the second time since she vacated the Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight title in February 2017, de Randamie dispatched the previously undefeated Aspen Ladd in a mere 16 seconds at UFC Fight Night 155 in Sacramento. While debate will rage over whether referee Herb Dean’s stoppage was premature, none of that is de Randamie’s fault, and the blistering right cross with which she floored Ladd had the hyper-aggressive Californian in easily the worst trouble of her career to date.
That de Randamie has not already had a title shot in her first two fights back in the UFC is directly attributable to the manner in which she left; fans and UFC brass alike lambasted “The Iron Lady” for refusing to defend her belt against Cristiane Justino. The UFC’s apparent reluctance to slot de Randamie into another title fight may be due in part to vindictiveness as well as legitimate concern that she might do the same thing again -- though that didn’t stop the promotion from trying to book Brock Lesnar to fight Daniel Cormier. However, with back-to-back wins over a recent title challenger in Raquel Pennington and the purported future of the division in Ladd, de Randamie's case is becoming undeniable.
In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night 155: De Randamie vs. Ladd, here are some matches that ought to be made:
Germaine de Randamie vs. Amanda Nunes: The UFC has options here; it could book this rematch at featherweight, where de Randamie won her belt, or at bantamweight, where the majority of her career has taken place. Nunes needs deserving challengers in both divisions. The “Lioness” made quick work of the Dutch kickboxer in their first meeting in November 2013, blasting her with first-round elbows from mount. However, de Randamie has won five straight fights since then and -- this bears repeating -- never actually lost the belt that Nunes is currently draping over one shoulder. Even if Nunes would be a rightful heavy favorite, it’s difficult to dispute that de Randamie has earned the right to try.
Urijah Faber vs. Raphael Assuncao - Cory Sandhagen winner: Faber’s win at UFC Sacramento was a bit slower than de Randamie’s, clocking in at 46 seconds, but far less controversial, as the 40-year-old “California Kid” knocked rising bantamweight Ricky Simon out with a right hook and follow-up shots on the ground. While Henry Cejudo has been calling out Faber ever since he beat Marlon Moraes to take the vacant bantamweight strap, that fight is difficult to justify given that Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan are available and clearly deserving title challengers. If Faber is going to stick around, what he needs next is a matchup with a Top-10 fighter with name and entertainment value who is not in line for an immediate title shot. (What a shame that John Lineker was let go last month.) Rising contender Sandhagen and Assuncao -- whom Faber defeated almost a decade ago in the little blue cage of World Extreme Cagefighting -- meet at UFC 241 next month.
Josh Emmett vs. Chan Sung Jung: In the first of three first-round knockouts to close out the main card, Emmett dropped Mirsad Bektic with a ramrod jab to the face, then finished with hammerfists and punches from the back. With the win, the brick-fisted wrestler minted himself a legitimate Top-10 featherweight and deserves a legitimate Top-10 opponent. Jung knocked out Renato Carneiro in under a minute at UFC Greenville last month, getting back on track after suffering Sherdog’s 2018 "Knockout of the Year" at the hands of Yair Rodriguez in his previous appearance. While the UFC likely wants to parlay the stardom of “The Korean Zombie” into a title shot if it can, and might therefore be reluctant to match him against a similarly- or lower-ranked fighter in Emmett, the fight would be guaranteed fireworks as well as competitively appropriate.
Karl Roberson vs. Kevin Holland: It might be tempting to match Roberson with Marvin Vettori, who won the fight immediately before Roberson’s, but the two winners came out of their respective fights with very different optics. While Roberson’s split-decision nod over the debuting Wellington Turman was roundly booed by the Sacramento crowd -- and the media -- Vettori notched an emphatic three-round performance over Cezar Ferreira, who happens to have a 2018 first-round stoppage of Roberson on his résumé. Meanwhile, Holland eked out a similarly controversial decision over Alessio Di Chirico at UFC Greenville last month. A match between Roberson and Holland would go a long way toward telling us whether either Dana White's Contender Series alum is a future Top-10 talent.
Marvin Vettori vs. Edmen Shahbazyan: In his first fight back from a year-long USADA suspension, Vettori notched the best win of his career so far over “Mutante,” a fighter who, while inconsistent, can boast of wins over Jack Hermansson, Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos. Now with a better claim to fame than simply “having given Israel Adesanya a really tough fight,” Vettori deserves a chance to prove he's a contender in his own right. Shahbazyan, the 21-year-old wunderkind who moved to 10-0 with a first-round throttling of Jack Marshman at UFC 239 last weekend, would fit the bill, as would Deron Winn, who moved to 6-0 in a three-round barnburner with Eric Spicely at UFC Greenville. At the very least, we know Vettori isn’t intimidated by a gaudy undefeated record.