What a night of fights, for free even, on Fox am I right? Anyone who complained about last night’s fights is either a disappointed super fan of some fighter, directly in some fighter’s camp who lost or be the type thought that the only thing short of Jesus Christ coming back and entering the cage to face Benson Henderson himself instead of Nate Diaz would satisfy. But now, especially with two more events this next weekend to help push things forward, it’s time to play Joe Silva and figure out who the five most intriguing winners (and losers) face next.
Benson Henderson vs. winner of Donald Cerrone vs. Anthony Pettis
If the UFC wants to continue to build on Fox as a way of establishing the divisions underneath 170 this would be a great follow up fight to Henderson’s shellacking of Nate Diaz Saturday night. Both fighters have extensive history with Bendo as well; Cerrone had the fight of the year with him in the WEC and Pettis pulled off a Sportscenter highlight with the “Showtime Kick” that gave him a close round to win an even closer fight of the year on the WEC’s final card. Both potential fights have insane amounts of chemistry to them
Alexander Gustafsson vs. winner of Dan Henderson vs. Lyoto Machida
Gustafsson looked great against Shogun but one thing stuck in my craw. He looked like Chris Weidman when he torched Mark Munoz, like a prospect about to become a contender but just needs a dash more seasoning to really be ready to face the champ. I don’t think AG will be waiting for the winner of Jon Jones/Chael Sonnen until the end part of 2013, either, and thus this is a fight that makes sense. I can see AG waiting for the LHW division to sort itself out as well; promised title shots aren’t guarantees though.
Denis Siver vs. winner of Hatsu Hioki vs. Clay Guida
Guida is a Top 10 lightweight moving down to featherweight after a loss to a Top five lightweight, much like Siver did after the loss to Donald Cerrone. Jose Aldo is also potentially transitioning out of the division sooner than later; Siver could be fighting for the title with another win over a top tier opponent if/when Aldo leaves. The winner of Guida/Hioki will be closer to a title shot sooner than later and that winner vs. Siver makes for a good title eliminator. Siver mentioned the Korean Zombie as well which could be another title eliminator type fight.
Matt Brown vs. Dan Hardy
Matt Brown is probably never going to contend for a title but he’s never dull. Dan Hardy did fight for a title once, too, and probably won’t either. If you can’t make meaningful fights for someone’s career then make ones that’ll be exciting.
Rory MacDonald vs. Jake Ellenberger
MacDonald has asked for Carlos Condit, and Dana seems to be inclined to make it, but Damon Martin from MMA Weekly suggested this last night and it seems like the best fight. Both guys are also close to being in the title hunt as well and it’d make for a great matchup. My guess is that rematching Condit would be something Zuffa does, if only because you can sell it in Canada quite well.
Nate Diaz vs. Diego Sanchez
Nate is going to fight for the lightweight title again at some point; he just needs to get a couple of wins under his belt against name competition to get back in the mix. Sanchez is returning to lightweight and his fight against the older Diaz brother was a barnburner and close. Joe Lauzon could be another one to be in this spot as well; he’s a Top Three lightweight right now. Nate’s going to get a Top 10 guy again but the thing is that he’s faced a TON of guys who are currently on top right now, so a fresh matchup will be something to look for. If Anthony Pettis loses to Donald Cerrone this could be another interesting matchup as well.
Shogun Rua vs. Phil Davis
Rua lost but didn’t lose badly to Alexander Gustafsson. It wasn’t a bad loss, just a loss, but now Rua’s peak seems to have come and gone. But he’s still a Top 10 fighter … he’s just probably not going to put together a streak enough to get another shot at the title. So why not feed him to someone who could use a signature win like Phil Davis, arguably in the same spot as Gustafsson was before the Rua fight?
Mike Easton vs. Vaughn Lee
Easton has been spoken of as a potential title contender for some time but hasn’t had a signature win to really put him above just another undercard fighter status. I think he takes a big step back after getting close and gets a beatable fighter in Lee; Easton is still young and has tons of potential.
John Albert vs. the loser of Hugo Viana vs. Reuben Duran
John Albert hasn’t had a lot of luck in the UFC but his opponent caliber has been fairly stellar so far. He’s talented enough to be there, despite his current losing streak, and my guess is that they put him in a much more winnable fight for once.
Henry Martinez vs. Takanori Gomi
Martinez hasn’t really looked like a UFC caliber fighter; just inordinately tough. Gomi is now more name than fighter at this point. Why not have some fun with it?