Five for Fighting (UFC on Fox 9 Edition) – Matchups to Make After Mighty Mouse Starches Joseph Benavidez, Urijah Faber Chokes out a non-champion and more

It wasn’t a great card … but it wasn’t a horrible one, either.  UFC on Fox 9 was a perfectly acceptable free card, giving us exactly what it was supposed to.  It felt like a WEC card, from the plethora of lower level weights and Team Alpha Male members on the card.  Now it’s time to step into Joe Silva’s shoes and figure out what’s next for the most intriguing winners (and losers) from Saturday night’s card.

Winners

Demetrious Johnson vs. the winner of John Lineker vs. Ali Bagautinov – Johnson is in the same spot as Jon Jones in that he’s defeated the top four ranked contenders definitively.  He’s cleaning out the division quickly and right now the UFC is going to have to work to set up compelling rematches.  Lineker was going to be set up for Johnson after the Benavidez fight but couldn’t make weight.  He’ll have to make weight for this fight, too, to get a title shot but his power makes him a compelling matchup.  It’s the only fight that makes sense for Johnson right now.

Urijah Faber vs. the winner of Renan Barao/Dominick Cruz – Faber’s finished three of his last four fights against Top 10 ranked opponents.  He may get a ton of title shots, especially considering the UFC would LOVE to have a title on the most charismatic person under 155 not named Jose Aldo, but no one can seriously argue he hasn’t earned it.

Chad Mendes vs. the winner of Jose Aldo/Ricardo Lamas – Mendes may not have looked brilliant against Nik Lentz but let’s be fair.  Lentz is a tough out for anyone.  No one looks good against that guy.  Mendes has done enough to earn his title shot.

Joe Lauzon vs. Bobby Green – Lauzon and Green are both talented guys who probably don’t have that extra gear to get into the Top 10 and do something.  If you can’t do something to get to a title, do something to have a good fight I suppose.  Lauzon’s main downside right now is that he’s fought nearly everyone on the UFC roster.  Rustam Khabilov could be in this slot, too, a he’s a good prospect who needs a veteran challenge from someone like Lauzon.  I could see Gray Maynard in this slot, perhaps, as well.  Lauzon is reaching that point where he’s in the Stephan Bonner level of match-making: he’s going to get guys making their debut, prospects on the rise and whatnot and needs 2-3 wins before getting anyone with longevity in the UFC.

Zach Makovsky vs. Jussier Formiga – Jorgensen coming down to 125 was designed by “Young Guns” to get into title contention sooner than later.  He was almost by default a Top 10 fighter and a win at UFC on Fox 9 puts would’ve put him into title contention quickly because “Mighty Mouse” is quickly cleaning out the division.  “Fun Size” looked elite against Jorgensen and Formiga is another guy who was supposed to be an immediate title challenger and hasn’t quite panned out yet.  This could quickly become a title eliminator, as well, as neither guy has had a shot against Johnson yet.

Losers

Joseph Benavidez vs. Louis Gaudinot – Benavidez is doubly screwed at this point.  He’s lost twice to two champions in two weight divisions.  There isn’t anywhere else for him to cut and he’d be way too small to fight at 145.  He’s the second best fighter in the world at 125 and one of the top four at 135 but he’s not quite good enough to hold a title at either division.  He’s too good to not be on the roster, of course, and he’s not good enough to get a title contender in the near future.  Gaudinot is a gatekeeper to the Top 10, nothing more, and I think his career ceiling is that.  He’s also a fun fighter, as is Benavidez, and thus it makes a lot of sense.

Michael McDonald vs. Eddie Wineland – Both guys have lost in devastating fashion to elite guys and are still good enough to be elite as well.  This is provided Wineland gets past Yves Jabouin at the next Fox event in Chicago, of course, but let’s assume that for a moment.  It’s a fresh matchup and with the way bantamweight is going it won’t take more than another win or two after this to be right back in the mix.  Both guys are also gritty sluggers, too, and this has “violent brawl’ written all over it.  Ivan Menjivar could be in this slot, potentially, as could George Roop.  McDonald is someone the UFC likes, is young and has the look of being elite for a long time from now.  He’s just got two losses to two guys who are also elite, which is never a bad thing.  McDonald is young enough to learn from these fights and come back and be a perennial title challenger for some time to come.

Mac Danzig vs. Colton Smith – Danzig is probably on his way out of the UFC … but he’s a TUF winner from the golden era of the show.  Thus he probably gets one more shot in the Octagon.  Smith is the embodiment of how awful the talent pool the show has to choose from these days.  The UFC is good at letting TUF winners decide who’s good enough to stay, and good enough to go, and Danzig’s been in this slot before against Joe Stevenson.

Pat Healy vs. Evan Dunham – Both of these guys are always on the cusp of looking like they’ll make a run and not quite pulling it off.  Both are big grinders with good gas tanks, as well, so there’s some use to them.  I think we’ve seen the ceiling on both these guys and it’s about the same place: good enough to stay in the UFC for a while but lacking the athletic potential to be elite.

Cody McKenzie vs. Al Iaquinta – Cody McKenzie is the ultimate guy that makes you think you could be a fighter.  He’s not a great athlete, doesn’t look like he trains hard and has one trick that somehow works regularly enough to keep him in the UFC.  I hate to trash the guy, because he seems like a decent human being, but the fact that he has a roster spot and Ben Askren doesn’t should embarrass the UFC to no end.  He’s awful at MMA and the fact that he forgot his shorts at the hotel before his fight is doubly baffling.  It’s like he doesn’t want to fight anymore but doesn’t want to retire, either.  Iaquinta would make for a nice solution to that quandary.

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