Five for Fighting – Fights To Make After UFC 149 (Renan Barao vs. Urijah Faber)

It was a great undercard and a horrible main card; there’s no way around it. Dana White felt like it was UFC 33 again and it was hard to argue otherwise. Hector Lombard looked like a lion outside Zuffa and looked tentative in it. Shawn Jordan made history by committing a foul on Cheick Kongo without it being retaliatory in nature. Now it’s time to look to the future and figure out where the five most intriguing winners and losers from this card would go from here.

You can check out Will Cooling’s PBP right here.

Winners

Renan Barao vs. Mike Easton – Michael MacDonald would be in this spot but he couldn’t take this fight because of a hand injury. No severity has been stipulated to it but the fact remains that he’s probably a good while away from being recovered. Easton is a perfectly acceptable fight in the meantime to defend that interim bantamweight title; MacDonald’s hand will be a huge to do about Barao’s next opponent. If he’s healthy to go he could get the call to face Barao. If not Easton is perfectly acceptable in that regard to face Barao because of how long Cruz is going to be out. He still has 3-4 months before he’ll be ready to train. It’ll be probably close to a year before he’s ready to get back in a cage without rushing it. Barao probably has one or two defenses in him before Cruz is ready to unify the belts.

Ryan Jimmo vs. Forrest Griffin – Griffin is on his way out of the sport and Jimmo just debuted with some violence. He may be insanely boring as a fighter but Griffin rarely is a boring fighter. It’d be a nice test for Jimmo, as well, and if Griffin looks as poorly as he did against Tito in their trilogy fight then his descent out of the sport will happen sooner than later. Jimmo would be a good test for Griffin; it’d be a winnable fight but not a cakewalk, either. Jimmo has oodles of potential and could be a big name for the Canadian market; a win over someone like Griffin helps grow his name. He’s a tremendous prospect and has been around long enough that moving up in competition quickly is something that could happen. He’s polished and ready, like Glover Teixiera, and someone on the fringe Top 10 would be worthwhile. Stephan Bonner would be another interesting fight but I’m not sure Bonner would take it.

Cheick Kongo vs. Antonio “Big Foot” Silva – Silva is coming off a thumping by Cain Velasquez. Before that it was by Cain’s teammate Daniel Cormier. Right now we need to know whether or not Silva is anywhere near a Top 10 talent, much less elite like many had pegged him after he destroyed Fedor. Kongo would be an interesting fight for him but it’s rare to see winners and losers face off against one another. The problem with Kongo is that he’s had so many fights in the UFC that it’s hard to find matchups he hasn’t had already. The winner of Stipe Miocic vs. Stefan Struve would be another good shot and probably what will be booked for him.

Matthew Riddle vs. Dan Miller – Riddle isn’t going to get Dan Hardy at this point, like he stated in a fairly humorous post fight press conference, but Dan Miller feels appropriate. I was genuinely surprised that Riddle actually stuck to a game plan and took opportunities to finish the fight on the ground with his wrestling & grappling as opposed to just “stand and bang” for the mouth-breathing “just bleed” types. Miller, who just came down from middleweight, would be a solid test for Riddle and has a similar crowd-pleasing style.

Tim Boetsch vs. Alan Belcher – Boetsch is in the same spot that Chris Weidman is in; he needs a signature win. Belcher lost in the “I want to punch Michael Bisping in the face” sweepstakes but Boetsch would be a nice stylistic matchup for Belcher and a good consolation. Plus both guys are in the 1-2 fights away from a title shot phase, alongside Chris Weidman, and I’d love to see a mini-tournament with the winner of this facing the winner of Belfort/Weidman for a title shot. Bisping is probably the next challenger if he defeats Brian Stann in dramatic fashion and so I could see them needing time to get another challenger ready.

Losers

Urijah Faber vs. Miguel Torres – Faber has lost convincingly to Jose Aldo and Renan Barao. He also has a loss to Dominick Cruz. Needless to say he’ll be at the back of the line for a while; he’s in the Rich Franklin level of fighter in that it’ll take some time for him to be considered for a shot again. So in the meantime this is the interesting matchup phase for him. Torres/Faber was always something people wanted to see when both were at their peak and now it’d be a fun main card fight. Ivan Menjivar would be ideal in this slot as well.

Shawn Jordan vs. Mike Russow – Russow just got knocked out of potentially being a couple fights away from a title shot. Jordan with a win would’ve been in that category as well. Both guys also fought terribly, as well, and Jordan/Russow would make an awful lot of sense. It’s hard to gauge Jordan’s potential upside right now after the Kongo fight and this would be a good matchup for him. Out of left field I could see Jordan going to Strikeforce and doing the UFC a solid against Josh Barnett, perhaps, but I’m not sure if he’d be ready for an even bigger step up in competition after losing to Kongo. The key right now is that he’s going to be kept away from other prospects, which probably rules out a fight with Dave Herman, and he’ll get someone in the Kongo level of ability but not quite as accomplished. Russow would be somebody to look for, Christian Morecraft is another and don’t rule out someone like Pat Barry either.

Hector Lombard vs. Mark Munoz – What a letdown for Lombard and for a guy with that pedigree they aren’t going to give him a patsy in his next fight either. Munoz would make sense, considering both have expressed interest in fighting one another, and it’s an interesting matchup as well. Wanderlei Silva could be put in this slot as could Chael Sonnen or the loser of Stann/Bisping as well. Yushin Okami might be placed in this spot as could Rousimar Palhares. Lombard is getting a contender, again, because they brought him in to be a top guy ala Akiyama.

Court McGee vs. Chris Leben – Leben’s suspension is up fairly soon, I believe. McGee and Leben would be an interesting matchup of guys who made their bones in “The Ultimate Fighter” but didn’t have as high a ceiling as we thought. McGee has a great story and all the physical tools, it seems, but his talent level doesn’t seem to have increased as he got experience in the UFC. I think McGee’s ceiling will be as a solid journeyman in the division, getting good fights out of guys and never out of it but never quite able to make that leap from middle of the pack guy to contender. Leben’s the same way; he’s got a lot of good wins on his resume but when he takes that next step up he gets wrecked. Anderson Silva announced his arrival into the UFC by destroying him and Brian Stann did the same thing when Leben appeared to be making that next step up. So did Mark Munoz.

Brian Ebersole vs. Spencer Fisher – Ebersole has been talking about dropping to lightweight and if there ever was a fight that screamed for him to do so it was last night against James Head. He looked like a lightweight fighting up instead of as a welterweight, like he did when he debuted against Chris Lytle a year ago or so. He’s been getting smaller, muscular wise, to make a run at 155 and 155 is a weight that he could make and excel at now. He looked skinny and Head looked like a monster in comparison; if he stays at welterweight he’ll need to add that muscle back on. I don’t think he will and lightweight makes better sense if he can get down to 155. Fisher would be a nice introductory fight for him at that weight.

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