Last night continued the streak of quirky but good UFC cards on cable television. Now it’s time to get down to the brass tacks and play UFC matchmaker Joe Silva to see where the five most intriguing winners and losers from this card go next.
Bigfoot Silva vs. Stefan Struve – Bigfoot is in a unique spot: he’s not elite but he’s not a bum either. He’s a Top 10 heavyweight in the world but the #2 and #3 ranked guys have given him beatings that #1 and #4 will probably duplicate. He’s essentially a gigantic Frank Mir at this point; good enough to stay in the UFC, and good enough to get high profile fights, but not going to be wearing UFC gold at any point. And his presence sets up a couple of big fights in the near future. The one I like is last week’s other main event heavyweight winner Stefan Struve.
Struve is a fight away from a title shot, roughly, and is right behind Daniel Cormier and Alistair Overeem in the pecking order. Silva has only lost to Cormier and Cain Velasquez but he didn’t look elite against Browne. He did look good, though, like a fighter ranked between five to eight in the division and Browne hasn’t been finished that emphatically ever. You can talk about the knee all you want but Silva caught him and pounded him out; that takes power and talent. Struve is probably going to have to wait for some time and this make sense for a Super Bowl card feature fight. It would make a nice addition underneath a Jon Jones title defense and another high profile fight for a Super Bowl weekend card.
Silva is Portuguese for “Frank Mir” at this point, career wise.
If it’s not Struve I could see maybe Mark Hunt, depending on his health, or the winner of Roy Nelson/Shane Carwin as well. I could also see Silva/Mir being rescheduled, as that fight was broken up after Overeem/JDS fell apart. Fabricio Werdum would be another guy that could get this slot but don’t expect it; that’s a rematch and the UFC tends to go with fresh matchups instead. Silva is in a nice spot right now in that he’s going to get a big fight with implications within the division next.
John Dodson vs. Demetrious Johnson – John Dodson finally delivered in a high profile flyweight fight. He looked like a top tier flyweight and delivered against the guy many thought, including myself, would be getting the first flyweight title shot.
Jacob Volkmann vs. Diego Sanchez – Did Jacob Volkmann trade fight styles with early Damian Maia or something? He came out looking for the kill from day one and as soon the fight went to the ground he was going for the submission. It was so out of place to see Volkmann decide to do his Joe Lauzon impression as he was just on fire to go get a finish and get it quickly. It was almost as if Volkmann was desperate; something got him to go from zero to 60 quickly. His striking looked crisp and he wasn’t just going to get the takedown and grind a win out; this was like a bad action film.
It was like current MMA villain de jour Greg Jackson kidnapped his wife and said “if you don’t end this fight in five minutes she’s going to die” like this is the MMA version of The Fan.
His striking looked crisp; he was using it more than his usual just enough to set up a takedown. It set up the finish, too, and I think it gets him a higher profile fight on a main card. Dana White seemed impressed and I could see Diego Sanchez getting this spot. Sanchez is moving back down to lightweight and is never dull. Volkmann wasn’t dull for the first time … ever … I think. Volkmann was one triangle by Paul Sass away from title contention and Sanchez is a former title contender. This could be a real scrap punctuated by the fact that both guys are also kind of nutty.
It would make for an interesting fight, to say the least, and the words going into it will also be really bizarre between Sanchez’s Jesus Crazy inflections and Volkmann’s “political” humor. The winner of George Sotiropoulos/Ross Pearson could be in this spot, as well, depending on Volkmann’s physical state after the fight. If he came out relatively healthy I could see him sneaking another fight in with Sanchez by the end of 2012, even, though it feels like an opening fight on the Super Bowl card.
Michael Johnson vs. Yves Edwards – Being called by someone like Rashad Evans a “future world champion” can raise the bar very high. And for the opening round Michael Johnson made the former light heavyweight champion look like he was overhyping him to an absurd degree. But he came back with a monster comeback to get the KO, never a bad sign, and now it’s time to take another step up. Edwards didn’t have a fight on the card because of Jeremy Stephens and his legal difficulties and, if Johnson didn’t get hurt, you could do it right away. This would be a nice addition to the November PPV undercard headlined by GSP/Condit, if possible.
Diego Nunes vs. Clay Guida – Nunes looked all sorts of special against Bart Palaszewski on Friday night. Clay Guida isn’t going to be that far from the top of the featherweight pecking order. Nunes will bring the fight out of the Carpenter, for sure. Dustin Poirier could be a fit for this pot as could the Korean Zombie, depending on his availability. Nunes has earned someone who is a fight or two away from Jose Aldo most likely.
Travis Browne vs. Stipe Miocic – Two prospects who’ve fallen, and fallen hard, can rebound with one another. The severity of Browne’s knee injury isn’t known yet, of course, so depending on how badly he screwed it up this might not be possible. If not then we’re going to be waiting a while but if it’s something that can heal quickly look for him to get Miocic, potentially. Don’t rule out Shawn Jordan in this spot, as well, and potentially the Shane Carwin/Roy Nelson loser either. It all depends on how severe the hamstring tear is; if he needs surgery he’s going to have a while to recover. If he needs a month or two he could be on a March card fairly easily.
Jay Hieron vs. the loser of Jon Fitch/Erick Silva – He may have lost the battle but Jay Hieron did one thing a lot of people weren’t sure he could do: Heiron proved he could belong in the UFC. Against a top 10 welterweight he more than held his own, even in a decisive decision loss, but losing to Jake Ellenberger isn’t a bad thing. He proved he could belong in the UFC and I think one final run isn’t out of the cards for him.
I think he gets a high profile loser in his next fight; he came in fighting for his career and looked really good. Hieron looked like he belonged in the UFC and I think he gets someone with a name in his next fight. DeMarques Johnson could be another name in the mix, as another loss for him or Hieron leads back to the regional fighting circuit, and the loser of Damian Maia/Rick Story would be another good fit.
Hieron did enough to get more than a TUF reject or a prospect but it’ll be off the main card this time around.
Jussier da Silva vs. Chris Cariaso – Formiga didn’t look bad tonight; John Dodson kept it standing and da Silva looked like his striking still needs a lot of work. I think the UFC has big plans for Formiga as a potential contender for the flyweight title in the near future. Josh Ferguson would’ve been an ideal matchup if they hadn’t cut him a short while ago, as well.
Josh Neer vs. Aaron Simpson – Both guys are running out of time in the UFC; it’s a dual Cinderella story and the time clock is ticking right now, inching closer towards midnight. Neer’s time clock is mainly due to the volume of fights he’s had, as he’s starting to look shopworn, and Simpson is hitting the 40 year mark in life.
Phil Harris vs. Ulysses Gomez – Both guys came into the UFC with very high expectations. Harris was the best flyweight on the European circuit and Gomez was expected to contend for the title sooner than later. The loser of Lineker/Urushitani could be in this slot as well.
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