UFC Fight Night in Sacramento, California, on Saturday featured the return of the ageless "California Kid" in Urijah Faber, as well as the reemergence of former featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie and several first-round finishes from the city's own Team Alpha Male.
What's next for Faber, de Randamie, Aspen Ladd and the other top names from this weekend? Here's ESPN's take.
Germaine de Randamie, bantamweight
Result: Defeated Aspen Ladd via first-round TKO
Next: Amanda Nunes
This is the fight de Randamie has wanted for years -- and she deserves it. Even when she moved up to 145 pounds to fight for the UFC's inaugural title in 2017, she always said she wanted to be back at 135 at some point, fighting Amanda Nunes. The two met in 2013. Nunes won via first-round knockout.
Set aside whatever criticisms you may have of how de Randamie handled that whole "featherweight, Cris Cyborg" situation and just look at the facts. She's won five in a row. She's surpassed Brazilian contender Ketlen Vieira in the rankings. She's dangerous on the feet, enough to pose a threat to the double champ. She's next in line.
Aspen Ladd, bantamweight
Result: Lost to Germaine de Randamie via first-round TKO
Next: Marion Reneau
The stoppage was early, but so was the opportunity in general for the 24-year-old Ladd. It's easy to say this now, but for the record, I said it before the fight as well. This was too much, too soon. De Randamie has been fighting for nearly 20 years. Ladd's ceiling is high, but she's still learning. You can't learn on the fly, against a seasoned kickboxer, under the pressure of a UFC main event. It was a recipe for a loss.
All good, though. Ladd is still young and mature for her age. It appears she'll handle the loss well. She faced the media. She was gracious towards de Randamie and referee Herb Dean. Reel her back a bit. Book her against a ranked, but much more manageable opponent, in Marion Reneau next. She'll be back.
Faber challenges Cejudo after Simon KO
Urijah Faber reflects on his knockout victory vs. Ricky Simon in Faber's hometown of Sacramento, and he challenges Henry Cejudo. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc
Urijah Faber, bantamweight
I've been covering MMA for more than 10 years, and Faber's win over Ricky Simon is a moment that will forever stand out to me. Unbelievable.
This isn't supposed to happen. A 40-year-old pioneer of the sport isn't supposed to return from a 2½-year layoff and starch a rising 26-year-old prospect in the first round. We're used to seeing this situation go the other way. As an objective journalist, I don't know if I'm supposed to say this ... but I'm gonna say it anyway. I was genuinely happy for Faber. The whole night was fantastic to watch.
All that said, you're crazy if you think Faber should jump the bantamweight line and fight defending double champion Henry Cejudo. Cejudo needs to defend not just one, but two belts right now. He has many challengers waiting on him. I understand Cejudo wants (and deserves) the biggest fights possible ... and I certainly don't blame Faber for calling his shot ... but that matchup makes no sense. If Faber is serious about making a run, then make it. Climb the ranks. Rob Font in October in Boston is the play.
Emmett knocks down Bektic, stunts with backflip
Josh Emmett knocks Mirsad Bektic down with a left-handed jab, then he unleashes a flurry of hammerfists. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc
Josh Emmett, featherweight
Apparently, Josh Emmett woke up feeling dangerous on Saturday. He has clearly established himself as one of, if not the, heaviest hitters in the division -- but what I love most about what Emmett is doing is he's not just going out there head hunting. He dropped Bektic with a jab in this fight. He's using feints and footwork to set up his power, and we know he's a strong wrestler on top of that, due to that collegiate background.
The UFC is heading to Moscow on Nov. 9. Word is, Zabit Magomedsharipov is in consideration to headline. Who's he gonna fight? As much as I think he's ready for a title shot now, Alex Volkanovski is still ahead of him and that card is not a pay-per-view. I want to see Magomedsharipov against an opponent who can introduce him to adversity in the form of a single punch. And that's Emmett.
Andre Fili, featherweight
I'm not ready to anoint Fili the next featherweight champion, but this is a guy you want to keep an eye on right now. He signed with the UFC in 2013 under a good amount of fanfare. There have been a lot of people high on Fili's potential for a long time. It's taken him a minute to realize it. He comes from an unstable background, and he had some growing up to do, even after he signed with the UFC. It appears as if he's done it.
Team Alpha Male is extremely high on Fili right now. Guys like Faber and wrestling coach Danny Castillo rave about his work ethic. He used to be the type to skip practice. Now he's the first one there. His confidence is high. He's a talented striker with the strong, TAM trademarked ability to scramble. I'd like to see him against another featherweight I'm extremely high on: Shane Burgos.
Julianna Peña, bantamweight
Result: Defeated Nicco Montaño via unanimous decision
Next: Ketlen Vieira
Peña got off to a slow start in her first fight in 2½ years, as she badly lost the opening round to Nicco Montaño. It was pretty much vintage Peña after that, though. Yes, she's been gone the last couple years, but I don't see why Peña wouldn't pick up where she left off in terms of rankings. She was right there for a title shot when she took her break. Her only UFC loss came at the hands of flyweight champ Valentina Shevchenko.
Vieira hasn't fought since March 2018, but she remains highly ranked. She's undefeated. It already feels like Nunes is halfway through cleaning out the division. She's a champion in need of challengers. De Randamie fits that description to me. And if Peña and Vieira were to fight, whoever wins would fit that description as well.
Ryan Hall, featherweight
Result: Defeated Darren Elkins via unanimous decision
Next: Jeremy Stephens
It's not easy finding Hall fights. We've known that since he won The Ultimate Fighter in 2015. Since then, he's only fought three times due to a combination of potential opponents turning him down and what type of opponent Hall is willing to accept. Hall is never going to be that guy who just jumps into the featherweight pool and accepts any fight offered. He believes he's world class and now he's looking for a top 10 opponent.
And if it were up to me, I'd give it to him. Love or hate his fighting style (personally, I'm very intrigued by it), Hall has looked a class above the competition he has fought thus far. He wants to fight on the UFC Fight Night event scheduled on Dec. 9 in Washington, D.C. That makes it a little harder to come up with an opponent now, since it's still five months away, but Jeremy Stephens seems reasonable to me. Stephens has been around the UFC since 2007. He's fought everyone. He's fought multiple generations of fighters at this point. And he's still somehow only 33 and ranked in the top 10. But he's also coming off a pair of losses. I think there would be something to be gained for both in this matchup.