The UFC and Fox Sports 1 opened up with a really good for the debut of the latest competitor to the ESPN networks. It was a really good card and I dug the presentation; it was interesting to see the views from the floor, et al. Overall it was a nice start to what should be a new wrinkle in the Fox/Zuffa relationship.
Now it’s time to play Joe Silva and figure out what happens next for the most intriguing winners (and losers) from this weekend’s cards.
Chael Sonnen vs. Vitor Belfort, Wanderlei Silva or Lyoto Machida – Apparently if you’re a prominent Brazilian fighter it’s en vogue to call out “The American Gangster” for a fight. Phil Davis got in the mix as well, calling out Sonnen for the honor of Brazil, but I think one of the three Brazilians gets the fight. Wanderlei vs. Sonnen would make a great undercard fight on Weidman/Anderson, as would Machida. Vitor is an interesting case … but I think he holds out and gets the winner of Anderson/Weidman for the middleweight title. Sonnen, on the other hand, is going to get Wanderlei or Lyoto. He’d make a great foil for Lyoto at 185 in Machida’s potential middleweight debut and his rivalry with the Pride stalwart goes back some time. Chael’s in the “interesting matchups” phase of his career and potentially anyone is on the table for him.
Travis Browne vs. Stipe Miocic – Miocic put such a thumping on Roy Nelson he immediately got back into the title hunt. Browne finished Overeem in emphatic fashion, thus placing him a win away from the winner of Cain/JDS. Fabricio Werdum is now the default #1 contender … but I could see the winner of Browne/Miocic having next. Don’t be surprised if Browne/Werdum is made for the NYE card, as well, with a title shot in the balance. The winner of Barnett/Mir could be in this slot as well.
Michael McDonald vs. Urijah Faber – McDonald is going to need another win or two before he gets another title shot; he’s probably going to have to wait for Barao/Cruz to sort itself out as well. McDonald was up on a lot of scorecards on Barao 29-28 before he got finished in the fourth; there’s a great trilogy (and maybe more) between the two waiting to happen. He and Cruz is going to happen, too, and it’ll be a great fight as well. The difference between Barao and McDonald isn’t significant and McDonald will probably hold UFC gold sometime in his career. Faber keeps beating anyone who isn’t a UFC champion, and lost an insanely close fight to Cruz for the title. McDonald/Faber makes sense, the winner getting a title shot, and seeing if McDonald’s power puts down Faber will be a heck of a taste.
Mike Brown vs. the winner of Carlos Condit vs. Martin Kampmann – Brown loves to throw and either of these guys is going to oblige him. So far the UFC has demonstrated good matchmaking in keeping Brown away from anyone with anything resembling a strong wrestling game. Robbie Lawler or Rory MacDonald would be a nice fit here, as well, but those two are apparently going to be facing one another sometime in the near future.
Michael Johnson vs. the winner of Jamie Varner vs. Gleison Tibau – Johnson looked like a stud Saturday night, dismantling Joe Lauzon so badly that Johnson looked like the future world champion many have thought him to be. He looked fantastic in victory … which is amusing because he looked so bad in his two fights prior to this. The winner of Varner/Tibau will be in a similar spot that Johnson is now, I think, and the matchup makes an awful lot of sense. Don’t be surprised if someone like James Krause gets Johnson next, either, as Johnson still is a couple wins away from being in the spot he was before both of his losses, en route to cracking the Top 10 sooner than later.
Conor McGregor vs. Andy Ogle – McGregor looked dominant and versatile … but he didn’t look ready to jump into the deep end of featherweight next. Ogle was set to face McGregor and it makes sense to do try to make it again. The loser of Guida/Mendes could be here, as well, depending on how quickly the UFC wants to rush him into things. The key will be how healthy his knee is; if he needs surgery he could be on the shelf for a while. Akira Corassani could be in this slot as well as potentially Darren Elkins. Whomever McGregor gets next will go a long way in determining where the UFC sees him (and his standing in the division) currently in terms of ability.
Diego Brandao vs. Manny Gamburyan – Brandao will never be a champion unless he can get his head into the game better than he’s doing now. For as quickly as it seems he progresses in keeping his emotions, and his energy exertion, under check he has a fight like he did Saturday and takes a couple steps back. He won the fight but didn’t look impressive doing so; Gamburyan was nearly the same way.
Shogun Rua vs. the loser of Thiago Silva vs. Matt Hamill – Shogun probably won’t fight for a UFC title ever again; he looks shopworn. A good comparison would be to Joe Stevenson about two fights before he was released from the UFC; the end is coming but we don’t know when. Just that it’s coming soon. The Shogun of Pride is gone, forever, but he still has some value. The loser of Hamill/Silva will be in the same spot and could make for a fun fight.
Alistair Overeem vs. Roy Nelson – If Overeem sticks around in the UFC, and I can see him still being on the roster despite two straight KO losses, I could see the UFC putting him against “Big Country.” The visuals alone would be hilarious, even funnier than Cheick Kongo vs. Nelson was, and would make for a fun brawl that winds up with “The Demolition Man” potentially getting knocked out a third straight time. The loser of Mir/Barnett could work in this slot, as well, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Overeem got someone like Shawn Jordan or Todd Duffee either.
Urijah Hall vs. Buddy Roberts - Hall is another loss away from being Jamaican for “Philippe Nover” it seems. I don’t think he gets cut with the very close loss to Howard … but I wouldn’t be shocked if he did. If he sticks around he’s going to get someone like Roberts, who didn’t show much in getting rolled over by Yushin Okami. Expect a fight like this, on a Facebook prelim, if Hall sticks around the UFC.
Brad Pickett vs. Scott Jorgensen – Pickett took an insane amount of punishment from Michael McDonald in defeat; McDonald would’ve put the lights out on nearly anyone else but Pickett. He’s a tough out for anyone and always up for an exciting fight, it seems. Scott Jorgensen would make for a nice style matchup for “One Punch” on the undercard of a bigger fight card. The loser of “Kid” Yamamato and Ivan Menjivar wouldn’t be a bad pick, either.
Joe Lauzon vs. Gray Maynard – Lauzon was off Saturday night; the Miller bloodbath might’ve taken part of his fighting soul with him, perhaps. Johnson looked really good, don’t kid yourself, but Lauzon looked equally bad. I wouldn’t be shocked if it came out that he fought hurt, or sick, and wanted to be on the Boston card so badly he fought through it. Maynard got equally tanked by TJ Grant and this fight was supposed to happen last year; nothing wrong with trying to get it one more time. Mac Danzig could be next, as could the loser of Diego Sanchez vs. Gilbert Melendez as well.