The first of three cards in less than two weeks, the UFC’s Fight for the Troops 3 card delivered about what it should. It had a great crowd and Tim Kennedy finished the night with an epic knockout; it was about the bare minimum you can expect for a card of this magnitude. No one’s going to be raving about much of this card but it was solid for mid-week MMA.
Now it’s time to play Joe Silva and Sean Shelby, figuring out what to do with the winners (and losers) from Wednesday’s card.
Tim Kennedy vs. Lyoto Machida – If Vitor Belfort wins on Saturday I think he gets the winner of Anderson Silva/Chris Weidman 2 for the middleweight belt. There’s a lack of middleweight contenders who’ve earned a shot thereafter not named Ronald “Jacare” Souza, as well, and this matchup that was supposed to happen on FFTT 3 still makes sense.
It all depends on how bad Kennedy’s quad really is; he claims he had a tear in it and depending on his recovery his next fight could be a long time away. If he can recover quickly this makes sense as a title eliminator. A fight against Souza makes equal amounts of sense, too, as a title eliminator depending on the Weidman/Silva 2 winner as well as Belfort/Henderson.
Yoel Romero vs. Tim Boetsch – Romero is going to get thrown into the deeper waters sooner than later because of his age and pedigree. He’s got an Olympic medal in wrestling and exceptional athletic ability … but he’s also closer to 40. If the UFC is going to try and get him into the mix it’ll be sooner than later. Plus he’s had two spectacular knockouts in both of his UFC fights; finishers move faster up the ranks.
I wouldn’t be shocked if Romero got Brad Tavares either; Tavares makes a lot of sense and the winner of Thales Leites/Ed Herman could be here as well. It all depends on how far from someone like Michael Bisping (or someone in the Top 5-7 of the division, if you don’t like that example) they feel Romero is.
Michael Chiesa vs. James Vick – Vick and Cheisa were on TUF 15 and both are great prospects looking to rise up. Vick’s never dull, and neither is Chiesa. Mac Danzig could be here, the loser of Healy/Varner as well. Chiesa is being brought along slowly so far and he’ll either get another prospect or a veteran on the way out next.
His ceiling is starting to come into focus but so far he looks like he could peak as a fringe contender. But we don’t know that officially yet; Chiesa is still young enough in his career that trying to figure out how good he can be is still a ways off.
Rustam Khabilov vs. Al Iaquinta – The train to join the Khabilov Fan Club slowed down as Jorge Masvidal gave him tons of fits with good takedown defense, preventing Masvidal from joining the RK High Altitude Club for 15 minutes. RK needs a step back in competition as he’s not quite ready for someone in the Top 10.
Iaquinta is in the same spot, on the cusp of being ready to compete with the elite (but not quite there yet). Myles Jury would be another matchup I’d make as well. Look for RK to get another high level prospect, maybe even Tony Ferguson or Michael Johnson, as a final test before he gets someone in the Top 10 of the division.
Derek Brunson vs. the winner of Cezar Ferreira/Daniel Sarafian – Brunson looked great after completely gassing against Chris Leben in a short notice fight. This is the great prospect we’d been waiting for and he came through in emphatic fashion. The winner of the two first season TUF: Brazil fighters is going to be brought along slowly as well. The first step after a pair of wins in the UFC is to take on another prospect with a pair of wins in a moving forward fight. Makes sense here.
Rafael Natal vs. the loser of Caio Magalhaes/Nick Ring – Natal just got KTFO by a guy who doesn’t normally do that to guys. That’s become part of his signature; losing in emphatic fashion. This was a fight that should’ve determined if he could find a spot in the Top 10 and he flunked it … flunked it very poorly. Now Natal has to go to the back of the line and the winner of Magalhaes/Ring will be in the exact same spot.
Liz Carmouche vs. Sarah Kaufman – The problem with the women’s division is that it’s not terribly deep. Thus you’re going to get a bunch of rematches because most of the women have fought one another already. It’s a lot like flyweight in that regard; you can get to a title shot sooner with a win or two because there’s not a lot of depth in it. Carmouche and Kaufman are both miles away from another shot at Rousey, though, having tapped to her already. They had a great fight in Strikeforce and a rematch would keep both busy.
Steven Siler vs. Max Holloway – Siler takes two steps forward … and then a step back. Right when it look s like he should be moving towards the Top 10 he loses to someone already en route. Siler’s a heck of a prospect, though, but his ceiling is starting to come into focus. He appears to be a guy who’ll probably inhabit the fringe of the division for some time, never quite getting to the Top 10 but remaining a useful barometer of someone’s progress. Holloway is a tough out and looking to be in a similar spot.
Colton Smith vs. Cristiano Marcello – Colton Smith so far looks like he could pick up the mantle of “Worst TUF Winner Ever” from Efrain Escudero sooner than later. He’s fought two fellow TUF winners and has been finished both times. I think winning the show earns him a third shot in the UFC but I wouldn’t be surprised if the UFC cut him, either. Marcello came into the live season of TUF with the most experience and so far has looked like he won’t be long for the company either.
If you’re looking to see if Smith can rebound or if he’s dead weight about to get lopped off putting him against someone in a similar spot makes insane amounts of sense. I wouldn’t be shocked if he got a prospect debuting in the UFC, either. If the UFC is looking to cut him don’t be surprised if he gets the loser of Evan Dunham/Donald Cerrone, either. It’d be a mismatch but they once matched up Chad Mendes and Cody McKenzie, for what it’s worth.
Yves Edwards vs. the loser of Gray Maynard/Nate Diaz – This was his third straight loss and Edwards is nearing the end of his career. I would be shocked if he didn’t get cut, honestly, but he still has tons of value for one more fight. Edwards has been around long enough that I think Zuffa will give him one more shot in the UFC. Edwards will get another high profile vet on the down slope, as well, if he manages to be in position for a fourth straight loss.
Tags: Five for Fighting, Mixed Martial Arts