Three cards in eight days left for a lot of amusing moments between them, including the first handful of fights on this Brazilian card turning into a comedy of errors. It righted itself by the time the main card started, of course, and the main card of Ultimate Fight Night 28 featured a number of big time finishes. Now it’s time to step into the shoes of Sean Shelby and Joe Silva to figure out what’s next for the most intriguing winners (and losers) from last night’s card.
Joseph Benavidez vs. the winner of John Lineker vs. Phil Harris – Benavidez is reticent to call out Demetrious Johnson for the flyweight title for one reason: if he can’t pull it off he’ll need a winning streak of epic proportions to get a third. Considering he was in the same position at bantamweight I can see why Benavidez is taking time between title shots, building up his resume and such. If he can’t win a second time against “Mighty Mouse” he might not get another; thus he’s taking his time, getting together a number of wins, and then challenging again. If he can get four wins in a row he’ll probably want to fight for a title again; that’s about enough time for his line of thinking.
The winner of Lineker vs. Harris will be in line for a title shot, mainly because of the newness of the division, but the key will be Lineker’s weight. The UFC really wants Lineker vs. Johnson but Lineker hasn’t made weight a couple times already. They won’t risk him not making weight for a title fight. Harris won’t be ready for a title shot with a win, either, so my guess is they’ll want Benavidez to get another win, Lineker to make weight twice in a row or Harris to get a win over a contender. In any of those scenarios Benavidez vs. Lineker or Harris makes sense.
Ronald “Jacare” Souza vs. Chris Weidman or Vitor Belfort – If Weidman beats Anderson Silva a second time Souza should get the title shot next. The problem is that Souza is training partners with Silva, thus if Silva regains the title he probably won’t want to challenge his teammate. Souza has said in the past he doesn’t want the Silva fight because they’re teammates and you can’t blame him; sometimes it’s ok to pass on a fight in my mind. If Belfort hadn’t taken the Dan Henderson fight I’d have loved to see Souza/Belfort, especially if it means a title shot for somebody coming out of it. The key will be the rematch between Weidman and Anderson; whoever wins that will determine the pecking order in the middleweight division.
Glover Teixiera vs. the winner of Jon Jones/Alexander Gustafsson – The UFC announced it nearly as soon as Teixiera knocked out Ryan Bader and it makes sense from only one standpoint: Jones has beaten nearly everyone else and needs a fresh matchup. He’s gotten five straight in the UFC, two against guys in the Top 10 (Bader, Rampage) and has finished everyone but the Pride stalwart. I don’t think this’ll be competitive for Jones (assuming he beats “The Mauler”), as Glover didn’t show us anything that indicates he’d have more than a puncher’s chance, but it’s a new matchup.
Lucas Martins vs. Roland Delorme – Martins is now three fights and three weight classes into his UFC career and I think bantamweight is the best weight for him. He looked like a monster Wednesday night and Delorme is another similar prospect on the rise.
Ali Bagautinov vs. the winner of John Dodson vs. Darrell Montague – Bagautinov looked like a wrecking ball last night and with the division being as thin as it is he’s going to get a big step up in competition quickly. The winner of Dodson vs. Montague will be all sorts of interesting; Dodson is coming off a close title loss to the champion and Montague is the best flyweight prospect in the world coming in. Bagautinov was in a similar spot not too long ago, as well, and in a division that’s less than 25 deep there isn’t a lot of time for seasoning. Ian McCall could be in this spot as could Tim Elliott, depending on whether or not he did enough in Milwaukee against Gaudinot to potentially get a title shot. Chris Camus is moving down a weight class, as well, and I could see that fight as well.
Ryan Bader vs. Shogun Rua – Bader is what he is at this point; a very good light heavyweight who’ll never be elite. He’s still among the top 7 or so in the world, I think, but he just doesn’t quite have the talent to become elite. The Teixiera fight put the nail in that coffin; the three best opponents (Lyoto Machida, Jon Jones, Glover) he’s faced all have finished him within two rounds. All three are guys in the Top 5. Bader is a tough out and a great test but he’ll never be elite. Shogun Rua is shot and probably not going to be even Top 10 for that much longer.
Bader didn’t look awful against Glover, he just got caught, but this makes it three times in a row he’s been stopped when he goes to make the jump to elite status. Rua/Bader would be a great style matchup, as well, and a good opening fight on a bigger card.
Yushin Okami vs. the loser of Costa Philippou vs. Francis Carmont – The problem with Yushin Okami is that it’s insanely difficult to find him a fresh matchup. He’s fought almost everyone in the UFC’s middleweight division; he’s been around for so long it’s a bit ridiculous on occasion. The loser of Philippou/Carmont would make for a good style matchup and a rebound fight for both. Don’t rule out Michael Bisping, if he gets past Mark Munoz in Manchester, being next for the Japanese star. The UFC has had a hard-on to try and get Bisping a title shot and wins over Munoz, Okami and Belcher would give them enough justification to perhaps slip Bisping into a title shot in early 2014.
Jussier Formiga vs. Louis Gaudinot – Formiga and Gaudinot were both being counted on as title challengers in the near future and both have lost what could be considered title eliminators. It would make for a great fight, as well, and I can see the UFC doing Benavidez/Elliott and then this as a sort of de facto title challenger tournament of sorts. Flyweight is such an open division right now that it’s incredibly tough to figure out who’ll be next.
Tor Troeng vs. the loser of Lorenz Larkin vs. Chris Camozzi – Troeng showed a lot of heart in his fight on Wednesday and I think he gets a return trip to the UFC for his efforts. The loser of Camozzi/Larkin will be in a similar spot as Troeng, in that another would hasten their departure. I wouldn’t be shocked if Troeng got a similar fight against TUF 17 castmates Urijah Hall or Bubba McDaniel (if he hasn’t been released already).
Tags: Five for Fighting, Mixed Martial Arts, ryan bader, Ultimate Fight Night 28