Every week in April there’s a UFC fight card, moving from FUEL TV to PPV and hitting all points between. This weekend was an exceptional FUEL card which had its main event changed at the last minute yet managed to have a whole ton of exciting fights and an inordinate amount of finishes. Ryan Frederick did the PBP for us and Fox Sports, so you can read his thoughts live on the event here. Now onto the hardest part of any event: what to do after for the five most intriguing winners and losers.
Gegard Mousasi vs. Alexander Gustafsson – It made sense when it was scheduled the first time and makes even more sense now. It depends on whether or not Mousasi can rebound quickly; he apparently injured his knee before the fight so a recovery time is up in the air. But if he can fight in a couple months it could make for a great summer contest to determine who fights for the title next. The winner of Glover Teixiera vs. James Te Huna could be a fit as could Ryan Bader, as well.
Diego Brandao vs. the winner of Sam Sicilia vs. Maximo Blanco – Brandao has rebounded from the loss to Darren Elkins to find his groove; everyone who trains with him talks about how he’s a potential world champion waiting to happen. He’s also a TUF winner, too, which means he gets brought along slowly. Garza was a great grappler and a style nightmare (or so we thought). Brandao in a firefight with another striker makes sense and the winner of Blanco/Sicilia would be a FUN undercard fight on a PPV.
Conor McGregor vs. the winner of Leonard Garcia vs. Cody McKenzie – McGregor is going to be on the next card in Boston, without a doubt. A bunch of Boston Irish fight fans would LOVE this guy. He had a great win against Brimage this weekend but he still needs some seasoning. He should be brought along slowly, against a tough but beatable veteran. The winner of this fight will have saved their job but will be cannon fodder against a prospect, most likely.
Ross Pearson vs. the winner of Pat Healy vs. Jim Miller – Pearson has looked sublime since he moved back to lightweight and now has two good wins under his belt. The Healy/Miller winner will be in a good place to make a run for a title shot. Pearson is in a similar position and this would make for a great “in the mix” eliminator type matchup.
Matt Mitrione vs. the winner of Soa Palelei vs. Stipe Miocic – Mitrione wants an appropriate matchup and this would be it. Mitrione is a fringe Top 10 guy at best right now and the winner of Palelei/Miocic can claim the same. Match them up and the winner gets someone in the Top 10.
Ryan Couture vs. Takanori Gomi – Couture looked like he belonged in the UFC against Ross Pearson, so there’s that. Plus his last name will probably garner him at least one more shot in the UFC. Gomi is in a similar position; he can coast on being one of the elite lightweight talents in his prime for a while longer.
Mike Easton vs. Bryan Caraway – Easton lost an exceptionally close fight and I’m not sure how much of the Lloyd Irvin rape shenanigans had to do with his prep. He looked on point, even in defeat, but he hasn’t taken that next step into being a Top Five talent just yet. He also has two losses in a row and I think the UFC thinks he can be something special. The guy has talent, and apparently massive knockout power, but hasn’t put it all together in the UFC just yet. Caraway would be a great test and a step down that he probably needs at this point.
Ilir Latifi vs. the loser of Igor Pokrajac vs. Ryan Jimmo – Latifi fought his ass off despite and looked like a UFC caliber fighter despite three days notice against an elite level talent. Mousasi’s a tough out on a full camp, much less short notice, and Latifi didn’t back down. He earned another shot to show what he has in the Octagon and the loser of Pokrajac/Jimmo will be in the “does he belong in the UFC” conversation alongside Latifi.
Pablo Garza vs. Marcus Brimage – Garza’s in a tough spot. He’s 1-3 in his last four fights, retiring Mark Hominick the lone bright spot, but he’s faced some tough guys along the way. Brimage just got thumped by another prospect, as well, and both need a rebound fight with someone on their level. Andy Ogle could be another possibility as well.
Michael Johnson vs. Colin Fletcher – Michael Johnson is in a bad spot right now. He’s just got finished in his last two fights against guys he was supposed to beat. He’s now staring at potentially being out of the UFC but he’s got a ton of supporters who think he could be a world champion. He’s going to take a huge step back in competition to remain in the company and Fletcher would be a winnable but tough fight for him.