What a weekend of fights! An FX card and then a lightly regarded pay per view gave us a lot to talk about at least in the short term immediately future of both the UFC and MMA. And as always it’s time to figure out what to do next with the five most intriguing winners and losers of the past two nights of fights. And since its two full cards we’re going to go over the five fighter limit mainly because I’m too lazy to break this up into two separate pieces (Monday Morning Critic takes time, folks).
Gray Maynard vs. Anthony Pettis – Pettis and Maynard are kind of stuck until the Henderson/Edgar/Diaz title picture works itself out. Maynard needs anyone but Edgar to win. Pettis is a fresh matchup for all three and a new one for Maynard as well. Only one of these guys can have a title shot and I think Maynard has to win at least one more fight to get back into the title mix (depending on who has the title by the time Nate Diaz gets his title shot). These guys are in the same spot that Martin Kampmann and Jonny Hendricks are in; fortunately they have a healthy championship picture moving forward and my guess is that this is the fight that gets made.
Ricardo Lamas vs. Dustin Poirier – Lamas pulled off a remarkable upset against Hioki and in a division without a ton of depth he can move into title contention with a win. Poirier is coming off a tough loss BUT still is a top fighter in the division. I can see the UFC matching them up.
Steven Siler vs. Mike Brown – Siler looks like such a stud after some remarkable wins coming off a lackluster showing on the “The Ultimate Fighter.” He might end up being the best guy to come off that show when all is said and done, weirdly enough. He has three tremendous wins so far and in a shallow division and a step up seems to be the thing to do. Brown is a former title holder in the WEC and would make for a compelling matchup.
Cub Swanson vs. Korean Zombie – KZ doesn’t have a fight. Swanson needs one. With Jose Aldo hurt, and Eric Koch waiting for him to get healthy, this could be a potential #1 contender fight. KZ apparently has a shoulder injury he’s recovering from so this might not work BUT at this point KZ needs a fight (most likely) before a title shot. Swanson has two devastating knockout victories over George Roop and Ross Pearson. If he adds the Korean Zombie to that list it makes for a compelling matchup in the rematch. Aldo was a young gun when they first fought and now Swanson will have three big wins under his belt in the comeback trail. The winner of Eddie Yagin/Dennis Siver would be another matchup to make, potentially, for Swanson, and my guess is that’s the more likely matchup.
Matt Brown vs. winner of Dan Hardy/Amir Sadollah – What a shocking run Brown has gone on since he hit the brink of losing his job with the UFC. A couple wins in a row now and he’s looked quite good doing so as well. I’d love to see Sadollah or Hardy, scheduled for the Nottingham card, as the man to take on Brown next.
Sam Stout vs. Michael Johnson – Stout and Johnson are both heavy handed strikers that aren’t quite prospects and not quite contenders in the lightweight division either. At some point one or the other is going to need a scalp of a guy like this on their resume and it would be an exciting matchup considering Stout’s use of wrestling against Fisher. Could he get someone who is significantly more athletic and better at wrestling like Johnson to the ground? That’s a question without an answer yet. Stout against Brian Ebersole, who has stated he was going to cut to lightweight after UFC on FX 4, would make for a compelling matchup as well.
Fabricio Werdum vs. winner of Cain Velasquez/Junior Dos Santos – Werdum looked sensational against Mike Russow and Roy Nelson. He has the pedigree of a title contender and in the heavyweight division two to three wins over top competition can put you into contention. Shane Carwin in his comeback fight this fall might be a possibility as well.
Rich Franklin vs. Michael Bisping – Franklin may not have looked like a top guy in the division against Silva but he has name value as a middleweight. Much more so than as a light heavyweight. He’s a good style matchup for a lot of fighters and a fight with Bisping would be one I’d be very keen on seeing. Bisping wants Chael Sonnen and if Sonnen has the middleweight title in two weeks that’d be an interesting matchup. The problem is that you can’t justify a title shot for someone to the guy they lost to when they haven’t done anything in the meantime. A win over Franklin for Bisping gives him a nice feather in his cap and if he does so in devastating fashion the Sonnen rematch, or a match with Anderson Silva, becomes an interesting one. If Franklin wants to get back into the title mix again he’s going to have to take on a contender. Bisping would make for a good fight as would the winner of Mark Munoz/Chris Weidman.
Cezar Mutante vs. Daniel Sarafin – Mutante may be technically the TUF Brazil winner but he didn’t beat Sarafin, who rightfully should’ve been in the finals but had to withdraw due to injury. It was a great fight but I think Mutante has unfinished business with Sarafin; the UFC could promote it on a fall Brazilian show, too.
Clay Guida vs. Jim Miller – I think we’ve officially found out the bar for Guida’s abilities in his last two fights with Benson Henderson and Gray Maynard. He’ll work hard enough to beat 90% of the division but when it comes to the truly elite fighters at lightweight he doesn’t have that final gear to pull it off. Miller is just a bigger version of him; it’s why his only losses to date have been to Frankie Edgar, Maynard, Henderson and Nate Diaz. Against the true elite he falters but he’s the elite gatekeeper in the division. Beat him and odds are you’ll be fighting for the title. I’d love to see Guida down at featherweight, where he doesn’t have such a size disadvantage, but if he stays at lightweight (and I suspect he will) Miller/Guida makes a ton of sense.
Hatsu Hioki vs. Diego Brandao – Brandao and Hioki came in to the UFC with fairly high expectations: Hioki to be a contender to Jose Aldo’s throne and Brandao to be this heavy handed wrecking machine. Brandao’s gas tank issues popped up in his debut and Hioki has looked below average in two of three fights.
Dustin Pague vs. Miguel Torres – Pague did the UFC a solid in fighting twice over a two week span, the latter on extremely short notice. The decision against Ken Stone was close, too, and I can see Pague getting someone of note in his next fight for doing the UFC a solid. Torres is on the downside of a career and Pague would give us a good idea of where he stands in the future. If he has enough to beat a low level prospect like Pague then he could potentially still remain a high level gatekeeper.
Spencer Fisher vs. Tony Ferguson – Fisher didn’t look like a spent fighter against Sam Stout and a lot of people thought he won the fight against him. I don’t think he has what it takes to get into the top 10 in the division but he’s always up for a fun brawl. Ferguson is progressing but had a setback against Michael Johnson on the last UFC on Fox.
Wanderlei Silva vs. Vitor Belfort – Wanderlei didn’t look like a killer but he equated himself admirably over five rounds with Rich Franklin. Belfort/Silva would still be a great fight on a Brazilian card and with the UFC wanting to go back there in the near future the fight makes sense to book again.
Mike Russow vs. Mark Hunt – Eventually Hunt is going to have to face a wrestler on his win streak. Russow is tough but Werdum showed the way to use striking to neutralize his wrestling game. Russow is going to learn from that fight and most likely come back better. Hunt, depending on his injury, would be an interesting welcome back fight. I can see Shane Carwin, returning off a long term injury of his own, being another matchup for Russow as would maybe Roy Nelson or Dave Herman.
Tags: Five for Fighting, Mixed Martial Arts, UFC 147