Five For Fighting (UFC 168 Edition) – Matchups To Make After Ronda Rousey’s Latest Armbar Win, Anderson Silva’s Leg Break and More

Out of all the guys to break their leg on a kick in MMA, Anderson Silva was the least likely to do so. And yet when he hit Chris Weidman and fell down, screaming in agony, we got to see the worst possible thing happen. Considering what an epic card it had been building to, and what a first rate opening round Weidman/Silva 2 was, this fluke injury robbed us of what could’ve been a great fight.

And it also robbed Chris Weidman of a chance to get a solidifying win over the champion, forever giving a “what if” question to morons who question his credibility as champion.

With that in mind it’s time to play Joe Silva & Sean Shelby to figure out Weidman’s next title defense, among others, as we plot out the next fights for the most intriguing winners and losers.

Winners

Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort – It was announced beforehand that Vitor gets the winner of Weidman/Silva 2 and it makes a ton of sense, as well. Vitor has looked like a killer so far … but Weidman is the truth so far. He looked better in the first round against Silva than he did in the first round of the first fight.

The key thing that is forgotten in the rematch with Silva is going to be that Weidman looked great, despite coming in with a knee injury. He rocked Silva from the clinch and convincingly won the first round. Belfort has been wrecking dudes this year and after putting the lights out on Dan Henderson I think he’s done enough to get another title shot.

Ronda Rousey vs. Sara McMann – It just happens to be on relatively short notice for a title but I like the fight. Rousey has less than six weeks to prepare but she’s in shape, she came out unscathed and she’s young enough that the six weeks or so of camp she’ll need at a minimum are there for her. McMann is incredibly powerful and is the only fighter in the UFC in her division with the athletic credentials to match Rousey’s. It may be “Silver vs. Bronze for the Gold” but let’s face it; this is a better fight to sell the Cormier/Evans. You have two Olympic medal winning athletes, one being a superstar in the making, in Las Vegas on what could’ve been a throwaway PPV that becomes instantly more intriguing with this on top of the card. Cormier/Evans is a headlining fight but one that might not sell a ton of PPVs. This will be a great test of Rousey’s drawing capabilities on top, especially after what should be a very strong buyrate for UFC 168. People know Rousey and she came off like a rockstar at UFC 168; turning around quickly makes a ton of sense.

This is a great MMA fight and is also a nice test of Rousey’s drawing power. We know she’s drawn one big buyrate, against Carmouche, but we don’t know if she can do it when it’s no longer a novelty for women to fight in the UFC. She generated a ton of traffic for this fight but whether or not it’s because of TUF, or because people wanted to buy a PPV because she was on it, is something we don’t know right now. UFC 170 is a nice test for it.

Travis Browne vs. Fabricio Werdum – Browne is an interesting style matchup for anyone because of his length and ability to finish. Stopping Josh Barnett, who hadn’t been stopped with strikes since his first run in the UFC, is something special. I still think Cain Velasquez mauls him … but it’s interesting because Browne’s height make him an interesting matchup for the champion. Werdum is a tough out, as well, and I think Browne/Werdum is punctuated by butt scoots ala Werdum’s rematch with Overeem. BUT if Werdum stands and throws with Browne … it could be a great fight.

Uriah Hall vs. Buddy Roberts – Hall is an interesting spot. He’s someone the UFC had high hopes on, and there’s always the lingering hope he turns into the destroyer of worlds he was on TUF 17, but right now the UFC has to bring Hall into the picture slowly. The book on beating him is written though; put pressure, make him move backward and never let him plant his feet. The excitement will always be when he connects; he throws big time shots that can put the lights out at any point. There’s always the potential for something horrific to happen to his opponent. Hall has that it factor when he fights that makes him compelling on any number of levels.

I think the UFC wants to build him into a contender because of just how incredible his knockouts can potentially be. The buzz on him after TUF 17 was palpable and some people discussed an immediate title shot if he did the same to Kelvin Gastelum. That has since died down, of course, but if he gets a pair of finishes in 2014 he’ll be right back where he was. Roberts hasn’t shown much in the UFC besides being a good guy from the Jackson camp in New Mexico and makes a nice fight for Hall. This is the kind of opponent he should get; someone tough but beatable, one where he can rebuild his career on. A prospect making their debut would work as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if Luke Barnett, the giant Brit from TUF 17, is in this slot as well.

Jim Miller vs. the winner of Adriano Martins/Donald Cerrone – Miller is in a unique spot at lightweight. He’s a Top 10 talent, maybe on the border of being Top 5, but he’ll never be good enough to get a title shot. Miller’s always good for a great scrap, though, and is going to get someone in the Top 10 again for his next fight. The thing with Miller is that he’s been around for so long that getting him a new matchup is a little difficult. Cerrone is new and would be fun. The winner of Diego Sanchez/Khabib Nurmagomadev would could be in this slot, too, but Cerrone fights next month in Chicago and is a fresh matchup for Miller. Both are never dull, either, and Cerrone is still in that “Is he elite … or has he just looked sort of elite” kind of sphere for a significant period of time. A win over Miller puts him back where he was before the Pettis fight a year ago and a win for Miller gets him back to where he was before Healy.

Dustin Poirier vs. Dennis Bermudez – Poirier is on the cusp of a title shot again with a pair of good wins over quality competition. Featherweight is also a stacked division and he needs another win to get back into the title picture. Jose Aldo’s next two title fights are pretty much booked at this point, as he has Ricardo Lamas over Super Bowl weekend and presumably Chad Mendes sometime this spring. Thus Poirier getting into the title picture will mean a win this spring against someone in a similar spot (Bermudez) and then someone in the Top 10 near the same time Aldo/Mendes/Lamas sorts itself out. A rematch with Cub Swanson might make sense, considering Poirier lost that fight very closely and on short notice. Poirier is going to fight for a title, probably several times, it’s just getting him to there is going to take a little while because of the past 12 months or so. Bermudez is in the same spot, a title contender in the making on the come up, and guys stuck in that “not quite a title contender/not quite a prospect” level usually prove it among each other.

Denis Siver vs. the winner of Darren Elkins/Jeremy Stephens – Siver’s in the same spot as Poirier in that he’s another guy who should be in the title mix soon but has a recent loss to Cub Swanson. The winner of Elkins/Stephens will move into the Top 10 in Chicago, most likely, and Siver makes sense for a follow up from there in the spring.

Michael Johnson vs. Pat Healy – Johnson’s a bi-polar fighter. Sometimes he shows up and looks like the world champion in waiting that Rashad Evans and the Blackzilians camp claims he can be. On the other hand he looks like the listless fighter who’s earned a 5-4 record in the cage and owns a bad loss to Myles Jury. Healy’s a tough out and owns a big victory over Jim Miller … but hasn’t looked the same since. Jamie Varner could be here, as well, as Johnson has shown he can be a Top 10 talent but also shown he can be on the undercard of an AXS TV card as well. He needs to find a consistency and Healy’s a good test of that.

Losers

Miesha Tate vs. Amanda Nunes – Tate’s lost twice to Ronda Rousey, the second one far more competitive, but she still has some use. She might’ve become a bigger star following UFC 168 in defeat than going in and she’ll get a main card fight in her next appearance in the UFC. Nunes has notched two wins in the UFC and a third arguably gets her a shot at the Rousey/McMann winner. The UFC will most likely want a trilogy fight sometime down the road with Rousey, as well, based on how much interest there was in the 2nd fight and if Tate can knock out a couple of wins she can get right back opposite Rousey. If the UFC is willing to do Ortiz/Liddell 3 because of how much interest there is, when both fights were one sided finishes, then the UFC is willing to define their W135 division with Tate/Rousey one more time.

Josh Barnett vs. Junior Dos Santos – Barnett got blown out of the water by Browne but he’s by no means far removed from a title shot. But at his age, and the UFC’s general distaste for him, I don’t think he gets put right back into the mix for a title shot. Bigfoot Silva would’ve made sense here but his TRT related shenanigans are going to keep him on the shelf for some time. JDS is in the same spot as Silva, with two losses to Cain Velasquez, and as such he won’t be in the title picture soon. Both guys are elite and you can’t let them pick off title contenders for Cain, either, but you can’t give them meaningless fights as well. JDS/Barnett makes a ton of sense, is a fresh matchup and keeps both busy while they wait. Big Nog could be in this slot, potentially, as well. Depending on how long Barnett is out I could see him waiting for Bigfoot Silva, potentially, as well. Roy Nelson would be an oddball pick but I wouldn’t be shocked either.

Diego Brandao vs. Rony Jason – Both guys are prospects the UFC is high on but have stumbled in profound ways recently. Both are Brazilian and with the UFC wanting to run a plethora of Brazilian cards in 2014 this would be a bankable fight down there.

Retirement

Chris Leben – Leben’s a guy everyone’s loved over the years because he’s a blood and guts brawler. He takes a lot of punishment to throw a lot of punishment and over the years he’s slowed down, relying more on guts than physical talent, as the years of taking abuse have crept up on him. Against Uriah Hall he looked like a shell of the fighter that didn’t want to quit against Mark Munoz and now it’s time for former TUF 1 competitor to walk away. Quitting on your stool, knowing that you can’t take anymore punishment, was a step in the right direction for Leben but it should be the final time he laces up the gloves. He needs to walk away from the sport.

Anderson Silva – As Brett Okamoto of ESPN tweeted before the post fight presser, Anderson was going into surgery Saturday night/Sunday morning as soon as he got to the hospital. Anderson’s 38 and by the time he’s ready to fight again, truly ready, he’ll probably be 40 or close to it. He’ll be out a minimum of a year, my guess, before he can start training again and after an injury that brutal very few athletes in any sport come back. Joe Theismann had a similar injury at a younger age and never played professional football again. It’s the worst possible way for him to go out but Silva coming back after this is probably not realistic. It took Corey Hill a number of years to come back after he suffered the same injury and he was a much younger man at the time. At this point no one will begrudge Silva for taking the check he made from this fight and walking away from MMA forever.

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