What an epic card last night! It was easy to forget about that the undercard was kind of sucking up until Renan Barao thumped Eddie Wineland in the co-main. Jones/Gustafsson reminded me a lot of UFC 154 in a lot of ways; it was an amazing fight that capped off a fairly lackluster night of fights. This might be the greatest fight in UFC history and we’ve written about this a ton in the past 24 hours. Now it’s time to figure out what’s next for the most intriguing winners (and losers) from Saturday night’s card.
Jon Jones vs. Glover “Not Alexander Gustafsson” Teixiera – I hate immediate rematches because they put a belt on hold. And while Gustafsson lost an exceptionally close fight, one I gave to Jones, I would rather see them wait a fight or two apiece before doing the rematch. The UFC putting in Glover is another tough match, another camp for Jones to work on his hands (which he needs to work on significantly), and let the matchup stew for a hwile. Let Alex get a win or two, let Jones get a healthy foot and let’s see some new challengers get in the mix. Rematches mean more when there’s time for people to lick their wounds, etc, and while I would agree with my co-worker Ryan Frederick that a rematch could be warranted I think we might be expecting too much from an immediate rematch. Let Glover get his chance, give Gustafsson a top guy, and let the division move forward.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Rafael Dos Anjos – What a star making moment for this kid, no? That Matt Hughes-esque slam was something ridiculous. The UFC thinks very highly of him and I think he’ll be in the mix for a title shot next. Rafael Dos Anjos makes a ton of sense; both guys are a fight away from a title shot and there can be only one. The winner of Diego Sanchez/Gilbert Melendez would be a good matchup as well. What Nurmagomedov needs next is someone who, with a win over, the only reasonable thing left to do is give him a title shot. I would be shocked if they give someone who’s had a recent title shot, like Nate Diaz or Benson Henderson. Nurmagomedov is going to get someone fresh and this will be a true title eliminator.
Francis Carmont vs. Ronaldo Souza – Jacare may have earned a title shot with his thrashing of Yushin Okami but he’s in an awkward spot. His training partner is Anderson Silva and his other training partner is Lyoto Machida. Thus Souza needs to wait until the result of Weidman/Silva 2 before figuring out whether he wants to challenge for the middleweight title or move up to light heavyweight and make a run there. It all depends on whether or not Weidman retains. If Weidman retains I think he gets another fight before a title shot. Carmont technically is in a title eliminator right now; he’s got six wins in a row and just dominated someone who was looked at as being one win from a title fight of his own. This was the first fight in a while where we saw Carmont definitively beat somebody. Souza would be an intriguing style matchup at 185 for Carmont and you could put the winner in a title shot immediately thereafter. Heck you could probably do it on the Weidman/Silva 2 card depending on injuries. Don’t rule out the winner of Munoz/Bisping in Britain, as well. Carmont can’t keep winning and not get into the title picture or face someone elite without it becoming a farce.
Myles Jury vs. Gleison Tibau – Jury won a boring, boring snooze fest from a guy who’s camp specializes in them. He looked good, when Mike Ricci wasn’t trying to bore it up, and I think he’s earned a shot at someone near the Top 10. Tibau would be an interesting test for him. Jury is slowly but surely making his way into becoming an elite fighter; he was clearly shaking off ring rust going into his season of TUF. Al Iaquinta would’ve worked here if he hadn’t jumped onto the Manchester card, as well. Jury is in a unique spot; he’s a great talent and on the cusp of becoming a top 10 talent but hasn’t quite gotten there yet. He needs some seasoning … but he won’t be getting someone to beat up on, either. Tibau, or another Top 10 fringe guy, makes perfect sense for him.
Renan Barao vs. Dominick Cruz – When we last saw Dominick Cruz he was fighting on Versus against Demetrious Johnson. Many new fans only know him as an analyst, and a damn fine one, and now it’s time for either Cruz to come back and fight or give up the belt. I’d prefer him to come back and take some tune up fights, work his way back into a title fight, and potentially make a ton more money than potentially getting blown out of Barao while shaking off two years of accumulated ring rust. The winner of Michael MacDonald vs. Urijah Faber would make sense if Cruz can’t go, as well.
Stephen Thompson vs. the winner of Rousimar Palhares vs. Mike Pierce – Thompson wants Matt Brown next but he’s got some work to do to get that fight. The winner of Pierce/Palhares won’t be near a title shot, or anyone of note, in some time either. Palhares is new to the division and Pierce is a dull, boring personality who also happens to fight in a dull, boring manner. Think about it; Mike Pierce only has three UFC losses and all three many scored for him. They were to Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck and Johny Hendricks. He should be considered a legitimate Top 10 fighter but because of his style he probably won’t get anywhere near a title shot unless he starts finishing guys. Thompson is low enough on the totem pole that Pierce’s grinding style could be an interesting undercard matchup.
Brendan Schaub vs. Stipe Miocic – Dana White hinted that Schaub could be thrown into a fight that was about to fall apart, of course, but until then I’m assuming he’s going to get someone tough. Miocic was in talks for Travis Browne but Browne got Josh Barnett instead. Miocic would make for an interesting style matchup to Schaub. If Shawn Jordan gets past Gabriel Gonzaga that would make for a good matchup as well. Let’s see what happens with the “mystery fight” first, I’d imagine, before we can be definitive about it.
Alexander Gustafsson vs. Ryan Bader – I didn’t give Gustafsson the win, but he earned every accolade he ever received Saturday night. He made Jon Jones reach into the darkest part of his soul and leave everything he had in the cage. That means a ton. Potentially he could be the Joe Frazier to Jones’ Ali. With all the talk of immediate rematch I don’t think it happens. I think Jones gets Glover and Gustafsson gets a nice rebound with Ryan Bader. The loser of Vitor Belfort/Dan Henderson could be here, as well, as could the loser of Rashad Evans/Chael Sonnen. Gustafsson gets a name next that isn’t Jon Jones. The UFC is going to handle Jones/Gustafsson like they did Cain/JDS: keep them just far enough to make the mouth water but let them fight enough times to keep the appetite yearning for more.
Eddie Wineland vs. the loser of Michael MacDonald vs. Urijah Faber – Wineland may have protested the finish but he was going to get hurt if he continued to take punishment. He was done and it was the right call. But he looked great in the fight and his bonafides as an elite fighter were proven. He took a round off Renan Barao, not an easy thing to do, and was looking good in the second. The loser of Faber/MacDonald makes a ton of sense in this scenario.
Costa Philippou vs. the loser of Michael Bisping vs. Mark Munoz – Philippou wasn’t all that impressive beating Tim Boetsch and got massively overrated because of it. Carmont beating him was a minor upset and puts him in fairly substantial territory. Philippou has that win over Boetsch and that’ll get him someone probably way above his paygrade again. The loser of Bisping/Munoz would make for a fun matchup with Philippou. The UFC’s thoughts on the former Team Serra-Longo product will be profoundly expressed by who he gets in his next fight. If he gets someone high up they think of him as still a potential title contender. If not, then there you go.
Pat Healy vs. the loser of Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez – Losing to Khabib isn’t a slight on his record. He’s a tough out and Healy was a game fighter the whole fight. He looked like a Top 10 fighter … fighting a Top 5 fighter. He was supposed to fight Melendez in Strikeforce before Melendez kept mysteriously getting injured. I could see if Melendez loses to Diego that they’d give him that matchup. It’d make for an interesting pre fight package, as Healy could do the whole “he ducked me” bit and Gilbert could respond with the usual bluster of a Team Cesar Gracie fighter. Healy gets someone in the Top 10 again in his next fight; don’t discount either Donald Cerrone or Jamie Varner in this slot as well.
Tags: Five for Fighting, Mixed Martial Arts, UFC 165