Sean Shelby and Joe Silva now have the toughest job in MMA: convince anyone who isn’t from Brazil to fight down there. So far the only guy who has a winning record fighting in Brazil for the UFC is Nick Lentz, who’s 2-0. Everyone else loses; it’s kind of rough. It was a heck of a card for a FUEL TV show, though, and as always it’s time to play that game where we figure out who fights next.
Fabricio Werdum vs. Cain Velasquez – The degree of difficulty of beating Big Nog on the ground is on par with knocking out Mark Hunt with a freakin’ wheel kick. I love the idea of JDS-Cain 3 but I’d rather they wait on that for this reason: Cain just hit his first title defense. The UFC record at heavyweight is two. If Cain defends a second time JDS/Cain 3 would feel significantly bigger; this would now be for history, of course. Werdum certainly earned a title shot here regardless, though, so my guess is he waits again for the winner of JDS/Cain for the belt. He won’t face Cormier, which would be a default title eliminator, because Cormier has restrictions and is most likely going to try to make 205 next. He’s thrashed Roy Nelson already as well; that would be another title eliminator type opponent provided he gets past Stipe Miocic next weekend. So Werdum essentially just has to wait or take someone like the winner of Josh Barnett vs. Frank Mir in the meantime, which would be another great matchup and de facto title eliminator.
Erick Silva vs. Robert Whitaker – Silva took a huge step up in competition against Jon Fitch and came back to Earth. It was almost hilarious how much people thought Jason High was going to win by virtue of him being a wrestler and almost discounting Silva’s considerable talents based on this talent alone. High is admittedly a very likeable guy, thus you can see why so many media types would overrate him going in, but Silva’s a stud and a star in the making. But this time he’s going to be brought along more slowly, hence the High fight to begin with. Whitaker’s coming off a win over Colton Smith in dramatic fashion and this time I think Joe Silva gives him some breathing room, allowing him to get a win streak of 2-3 or so, before moving up to the Top 10 again. Nate Marquardt could be in this spot and don’t discount the loser of Woodley/Shields next weekend either. The good thing is that the fight was quick and he came out probably uninjured, thus he could take a quick turnaround as an injury replacement as well.
Thiago Silva vs. Roger Hollett – Silva looked good but he’s got to win a fight without failing a piss test first. Chael Sonnen suggested Glover Teixiera next and I wouldn’t disagree with that fight, either, but I think Silva needs a couple of wins (and a couple clean urine specimens) before we can call him a Top 10 fighter again. I hate to be “that guy” and be a jerk about it but Silva hasn’t won a fight without failing a post fight urine test since 2009. My guess is he gets someone like Hollett, or Matt Hamill, and rebuilds himself slowly but surely. Silva can’t have any trust from UFC brass right now and won’t get anything resembling a meaningful fight until he can do that on a regular basis.
Leonardo Santos vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio – Ponzinibbio was supposed to be in the final and didn’t because of an injury. Santos won the show mainly because of it; it would make for a great grudge match style fight down in Brazil. Ponzinibbio by all rights should’ve won the show and the UFC probably has high hopes for him, too. It’d be a good main card fight for a Brazil show, probably on FX or Fuel, sometime this fall.
Raphael Assunção vs. The winner of Urijah Faber vs. Yuri Alcantara – Raphael is probably a win away from a title shot. Faber is as well and he’s going to have to go through a murderer’s row to get one final crack at a world title in the UFC. With Eddie Wineland vs. Renan Barao probably rescheduled for later this year my guess is they make this fight sometime in early winter; don’t rule him out as an injury replacement or against someone like T.J Dillashaw, who’s looking Top 10 worthy as well.
Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Mark Hunt – Big Nog looked excellent against Werdum and despite the loss I hardly doubt anyone wouldn’t think of him as still being a Top 10 fighter in the division. But I don’t think he’ll ever be in position to challenge for a title again unless he can get a win or two and become an injury replacement; the time has probably passed for Big Nog to be relevant at the highest levels. But he could be there for a lot of interesting fights; Hunt looked equally impressive against Nogueira’s protégé Junior Dos Santos and won’t be in the title because of similar circumstances. Throw in their shared history and Japan and this could be a great fight for the next show in Asia, for starters.
Jason High vs. the loser of James Head vs. Bobby Voelker – High’s got some talent and has a history of maxing out his talents wherever he goes. High’s not a bad fighter but the Silva fight showed he’s got a long ways before he’ll ever be an elite one. And maybe that won’t happen but you can make a very good living for a long time by being good enough to be in the UFC. What’s High’s ceiling right now? He could be a welterweight C.B Dollaway, a good wrestling based fighter who might never break into anything resembling being a top caliber fighter. The loser of Head vs. Voelker will be in a win or go home type fight and High might be in that same spot too.
Rafael Cavalcante vs. the loser of Anthony Perosh vs. Vinnie Magalhaes – Cavalcante might get a second life, depending on what Thiago Silva’s urine test comes back like, but getting laid out that badly isn’t a good thing. He didn’t look bad but getting knocked out in horrible fashion isn’t a resume builder. Another bad loss and he’s potentially looking at the unemployment line and so will Perosh or Magalhaes depending on the result of their next fight. My guess is this becomes a Facebook fight on a high profile card where it’ll be a de facto “loser leaves town fight.”
Godofredo Pepey vs. Cody McKenzie – Pepey’s got a ton of talent and lost a very good fight. He’s still a talented prospect, if a bit blemished now, and McKenzie’s usually the guy you run out there for a prospect who needs a big win. Marcus Brimage might not be a bad choice here, either, as he’s in a similar spot. Pepey’s going to get someone who’s either had some tarnish on their record or whom the UFC is looking to bounce out with a loss. He’s too good to get someone making their debut, either. My guess is gets a very winnable fight and then back to where he was in the UFC’s plans.
Eddie Mendez vs. Alessio Sakara – Is Mendez good enough to stay in the UFC? I don’t know. Getting train-wrecked like he did by a TUF runner-up doesn’t help his case, of course, and Sakara is on a three fight losing streak where he hasn’t looked like a UFC caliber fighter during it. I’m shocked he hasn’t been cut; he’s really entertaining, though, and his next fight might be his last in the UFC. Makes the most sense unless Mendez gets cut after this fight, which wouldn’t shock me either, as Mendez didn’t show much while he was getting steam-rolled.
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