Five For Fighting – Matchups To Make After Anthony Pettis Snatches the UFC Lightweight Title Along With Benson Henderson’s Arm In Submission Win

Benson Henderson had his chance to make history Saturday night, as a win would’ve broken BJ Penn’s record for lightweight title defenses in the UFC. But after four title defenses where only one was a clear victory for the champion it was bound to happen; Henderson’s luck ran out as Anthony Pettis pulled off a brilliant armbar from guard. It was fascinating to watch the adjustments the two were making as Pettis rolled for it. Benson defended it well and was doing everything he could to get away and Pettis matched him, minor adjustment to minor adjustment, until Henderson’s arm gave and he verbally tapped.

Two cards in four days can be a lot for some, in retrospect. I could go for another card on Wednesday if it was there. And since it is I’m happier than a pig in slop, honestly, but until Wednesday’s Ultimate Fight Night 28 we can play Joe Silva with the most intriguing winners (and losers) from Saturday night’s PPV card.

Winners

Anthony Pettis vs. T.J Grant – Pettis did a lot of good things during his fight against Henderson but the best thing he did afterward: he acknowledged that he got the shot because Grant was hurt and that Grant deserves the next shot. I’m totally on board with that one. Grant didn’t lose his title shot; he just got hurt. Grant/Pettis will make for a great fight, too.

A fight with Jose Aldo will be bandied about by some, mainly because it was on the books before Pettis hurt his knee, but with Pettis apparently injuring his knee Saturday night during the fight it might be a while before we see him fight again. So the UFC isn’t going to schedule a fight between them again, especially since Pettis just won one title and hasn’t done enough at lightweight (yet) to get the super fight.

Josh Barnett vs. the winner of Matt Mitrione vs. Brendan Schaub – I’ll eat some crow; I though Barnett was overrated by a ton of people and that Mir would hand him his lunch. Barnett came out and fought a great fight against a game opponent and finished him in brutal fashion. It wasn’t an early stoppage; he was right by the press side of the cage and the lights were out for Mir. But Barnett isn’t going to get a title shot, not this soon anyway, and probably needs a couple of wins against credible opponents first.

Outside of Mir his last four wins have been over Geronimo Dos Santos, Sergei Kharitonov, Nandor Guelmino and Brett Rogers. Not exactly a murderer’s row of talent. Mir was a good start and if Barnett wants to be in the title hunt sooner than later he’ll need wins over names besides Mir. Roy Nelson would be another good matchup and Stipe Miocic might find his way against Barnett as well. Barnett is a Top 10 fighter but he’s not as known as a lot of fighters; he needs a couple of good wins to get a shot at reclaiming the UFC title he juiced his way to winning eons ago.

Ben Rothwell vs. Travis Browne – Rothwell called him out after the fight and oddly enough it makes more sense than anyone else. Rothwell looked like an athlete for once … in press row the thoughts among the guys I was chatting with were that this is the best he’s looked since the IFL. He didn’t look like a slim Roy Nelson in this fight; he looked like an athlete. Browne has a massive win over Overeem but he won’t get a title shot without at least one more win.

Magnus Cedenblad vs. Dylan Andrews – The Swede called out the Australian after Pappy Abedi was stopped by the TUF 17 product in brutal fashion. Considering both guys are really new in their careers I can see this happening. The one downside is that Andrews separated his shoulder and doesn’t have a clear timetable to return just yet. If not Andrews I could see him getting someone else from that TUF cast; Josh Samman would make for probably the best matchup of the ones who haven’t had a fight since the show’s finale.

Chad Mendes vs. Jose Aldo – Mendes has stormed through featherweight ever since losing to Jose Aldo. He has looked like an absolute wrecking ball and just stopped Clay Guida, who hadn’t been knocked out before, in brutal fashion. He did it right against the cage, press row, and it was violently awesome. Chad Mendes is a scary, scary dude and the rematch makes sense now. Lamas has been on the bench for a while now and Mendes has just kept winning. I think he’s done enough for the title shot.

Losers

Erik Koch vs. Clay Guida – Koch had a heckuva fight with Dustin Poirier last night. Guida looked good … but Chad Mendes is still the best featherweight in the world not named Jose Aldo. You can’t really ding Koch for losing an insanely close fight to one of the best featherweights in the world; this fight reminded me of Edgar/Maynard 1. You knew back then that both of those guys would rematch for a title and I got that same feeling from Koch/Poirier 1. In the next three years we’ll have a trilogy between them that’ll be amazing, at least one of which will be for a title.

Frank Mir vs. Nikita Krylov – Krylov looked awful and Mir just suffered loss #3. Mir’s days as a title contender are probably done Krylov looked like the awful at MMA fighter he really is. Let Mir get an easy win, rebuild for one final run, and clear some dead wood at the same time. Mir is either going to cut or retire after a fourth loss and he’s never discussed it before; I don’t think he’s going to discuss it anytime soon, either.

Mir has done everything you can in MMA and in the UFC; he’s been in the biggest fight in MMA history and has fought almost everyone who’s mattered. My guess is he is thinking of retirement he’ll want to go out on a win, not brutally knocked out for the second time in three fights. Mir still has value but now he’s going to get someone who isn’t near his league. Okami got Buddy Roberts, after all, so there is precedent for this obviously bad match up. Okami is now poised to be a fresh contender for Weidman (if he bests Silva again) with another win and Mir, if rebuilt with a couple of wins, can be poised to be back in the hunt a year from now.

Louis Gaudinot vs. the loser of Joseph Benavidez vs. Jussier Formiga – Gaudinot seems undersized at flyweight when it comes to the elite fighters; anyone with a reach advantage will make him pay. He’s still an elite flyweight and a tough out for anyone. The loser of Formiga vs. Benavidez keeps the division rolling and creates an emergency contender if needed.

Benson Henderson vs. Gray Maynard – Henderson is in a bad spot; he’s got two losses to Anthony Pettis and the second one was a first round loss. If he had been tapped in the first fight, and then lost to the “Showtime Kick” Saturday night, then he could make a case for a trilogy fight. Unfortunately for him Pettis has the second win and it’ll take a murderer’s row of wins over elite competition to get back there. He’s to the back of the line and it’ll be a long way back. Maynard is in a similar spot, as well, and this has been one of those UFC/WEC lightweight dream fights that had been discussed back when both promotions had the same division. Another fight with Cerrone could make sense, too, and if Diego Sanchez loses to Gilbert Melendez I could see that as well.

Jamie Varner vs. Donald Cerrone – Both are coming off losses that have cooled the jets on them becoming contenders soon. And neither of them like one another, either, and have a storied WEC rivalry to boot. The series has been great fights and I can see a third being another great fight.

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