All the best, most interesting, and unreservedly coolest fights the UFC can book following their latest PPV event in Anaheim, CA.
UFC 214 was everything fans could have hoped for (along with a couple things they feared). Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier put on a great performance for the ages, Cris Cyborg finally got Dana White to put a belt around her waist, and Tyron Woodley put on an absolutely dreadful fight against Demian Maia, while still clearly winning. Oh and Robbie Lawler vs. Donald Cerrone needed an infinite number of rounds.
The result, however, is that there are a whole bunch of bouts the UFC needs to make happen. They went big on this card and the results leave a lot to be considered. Who’s the next LHW title challenger? Welterweight title challenger? FW person willing to fight Cyborg?
To find all these answers (and more) I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby model of years passed: Winners vs. winners, losers vs. losers, similarly tenured opponents against one another. If you want to join me for your own chance at fight picking glory, leave a comment below starting, “I don’t want to sit up here and say I’m a saint, because I’m a wild MFer at the end of the day. But I can try to do things better.” I’ll pick one response from the comments to participate in next weeks’ column. This week’s winner is BE reader Charliezard.
Hi fellow Elbowers, My name is Charlie, Charliezard or Chuck Lizard (thanks Phil).
I’m 23 and hadn’t heard of the UFC 5 years ago. My friends at university made me watch The Ultimate Fighter and before very long at all I was far more into the sport than any of them. Fights like Weidman-Silva 1, GSP-Hendricks, Barao-Dillashaw 1 and Jones-Gustaffson got me hooked for life. I love the community on this site, the only place with other people odd enough to love this sport as much as I do.
Thanks Zane and on to the match making!
Charlie – And now… and… again! (thanks Buffer) Light Heavyweight Champion. Jon Bones Jones with snot coming out of his nose came out victorious. Cormier came out swinging and once again gave Jones all he could handle throughout the first two rounds. I think there was some “challenger bias” for Cormier personally though, the crowd and commentators went wild for every Cormier shot and Jones out landed Cormier with a bunch of hard shots of his own. Jones cements himself as the GOAT of LHW and IMO has one of the two greatest resume’s in the sports history alongside GSP (I may do an in depth comparison of the two for a fanpost, shameless plug) he called out Brock Lesnar and if there’s ever a time for a freakshow fight like that for Jones it’s honestly right now. I don’t think i could stomach Jones vs Oezdemir before Volkan legitimately beats a fighter without using black magic. Let Oezdemir fight Gus for a title shot and give us Bones vs Brock. If the suspension is too long then make Bones vs Gustaffson 2, we don’t know how long it will be until Jones self sabotages again and that’s the fight I really need to see.
Zane – Frankly, I think this is the right time to be boring. I mean, I would LOVE to see Jon Jones vs. Brock Lesnar, but Lesnar apparently hasn’t re-entered the testing pool (despite multiple reports to the contrary) and would be 5 months out from returning once he did. Maybe he jumps on that train and makes it happen, but relying on another Lesnar comeback in order to make a good fight just feels foolish, especially when it’s a fight that can’t be booked quickly. Alexander Gustafsson is coming off a win, there’s a set narrative there to work with, make that fight now. Unless Jones can be convinced to take on more heavyweights than just Brock. If he can, Jones at 265 against nearly anyone is must see stuff.
Charlie – Man do i feel bad for DC. In those first two rounds he put on the best performance that anyone has versus Jones other than Gustaffson and buzzed him a few times. It’s genuinely a fight I’m more than happy to watch a third time with a win or two from DC. If he’s happy to carry on, let’s do DC vs Manuwa. Cormier is on a timeline, there’s no sense in building him back up slowly and he really should still be a huge favorite in that fight.
Zane – DC has a few options at the top of 205 right now. There’s Jimi Manuwa, Corey Anderson, the Shogun/OSP winner. Plenty of people in light heavyweight that he hasn’t fought before. The principal among them that I’d like to see however, and the fight that feels like it has the most limited shelf life to get made, is Daniel Cormier vs. Glover Texieira. Teixiera is 37 and in the twilight of a long career, but he’s still at the top of the division and had a relatively competitive fight with Gustaffson before getting KO’d, which is more than we can say of Manuwa vs. Oezdemir.
Charlie – If it helps anyone, I thought this fight was significantly easier to watch than Woodley-Wonderboy 2… not a high bar of course. I’ve done my fair share of defending Tyron and i do believe it was a really risky fight for him to really go for broke, but he has now put on two of the least entertaining title defenses in UFC history, in a row. Tyron will need a fight that gives him more freedom to perform. He mentioned he’d be fighting GSP next and as much as I have my doubts considering the potential Bisping fight, it may honestly be the best time to make Woodley vs GSP. It’s the current champ versus the GOAT and it’s far easier to justify than the MW nonsense. If the UFC has other plans for Georges then i think the only other option is Woodley vs Lawler, it’s the last great performance Tyron put on and many will still suspect Robbie may have a late advantage if he survives early. Give Tyron GSP or Lawler for the belt.
Zane – This is a little tougher than it honestly should be. With Carlos Condit going AWOL, Cerrone dropping a couple, Masvidal coming off a loss, Magny booked, and Wonderboy having fought for the belt twice in two ugly fights, Lawler is currently the only UFC welterweight in position for a title shot. For how brutally the first one ended for him, it feels weird to see him get a second chance so soon. But, what else is the UFC going to do. Woodley took himself out of the fan interest spectrum for a possibly GSP fight. There’s basically no way the UFC books GSP against him, even if GSP returns to welterweight. So, Woodley vs. Lawler 2 it is.
Charlie – Maia has little to be ashamed of, he fought valiantly in an awful stylistic match up for him and IMO has already solidified himself as the MMA grappling GOAT as well as one of the greatest fighters to never win a major MMA title. It’s hard to match Maia right now, he’s beaten half of the UFC top 15 and the others are coming off of a win. A Cerrone loser vs loser match up would make sense, but I think a step down could be good for Maia now so let’s give him Dong Hyun Kim in a match up between well known veterans close to the end of their careers.
Zane – Gotta disagree with giving Maia a step down. He just beat Jorge Masvidal before this, and while his Woodley fight sucked, nothing about it suggested he needed an emotional bounce-back. A fight with Donald Cerrone, or Wonderboy would both be fine to me. I want to see Wonderboy against Masvidal though, and the more I think about it, there are better fights for Cerrone off two losses than Maia. It’s winner vs. loser, but Colby Covington is calling him out. Make that fight happen, Colby Covington vs. Demian Maia.
Charlie – A completely dominant showing here for the possible WMMA GOAT. It feels really good to finally see her as the FW champion and with the knowledge that we’ll carry on seeing her defend her title against at least decent competition on the biggest stage. A lot of Cyborg detractors will probably see reason to take away from her performance but honestly there is reason to be higher on Cyborg than ever.
Her cardio is clearly not the concern some believe it to be, she’s far more technical than the brawling image most have of her, she’s a technical pressure fighter with great counters and a nightmare for everyone in and around her weight class. The three main options for her next performance seem to be Megan Anderson, Cat Zingano or Holly Holm. Even with a 4-3 UFC record and only one win after her 3 fight skid Holm is the biggest money fight for Cyborg, the division and WMMA. It’s also honestly a more intriguing match up than the others until Anderson is less green. It goes against the way I usually match make, but I’d honestly make Cyborg vs Holm for the belt on Fox or PPV especially with the (somewhat weak) argument that Holm’s loss to GDR was a bad call.
Zane – I know there’s been some talk from the Holm camp, that for the right price they’d fight Cyborg, but I don’t really believe it. Or more to the point, I believe that their right price is probably something the UFC wouldn’t pay. Holm kinda laid her cards on the table during buildup to her GDR fight, telling reporters she doesn’t look ahead when asked about Cyborg, but then expressing definite interest in any other fight talked about. Anderson and Zingano both seem to want the fight, and since the UFC signed Anderson expressly for the bout, my guess is she’s got next. Cris Cyborg vs. Megan Anderson.
Charlie – Tonya gave a great showing of herself in this fight. She landed, took Cyborg down and survived longer than almost every other opponent in Cyborg’s legendary career. She’s remarkably tough, relentless and well rounded enough to have earned the widespread opinion that she is firmly a top 10 WBW outside of the UFC. So, i think we should capitalize on this positive momentum and throw Evinger right in there with the top ten as well as capitalizing on the narrative they could build by giving her Germaine De Randamie. They both lost to Cyborg but one of them was tough enough to do it in the cage and a win could give Evinger a fight with a top 5 opponent. Evinger versus De Randamie is the fight to make.
Zane – That would be a fascinating bout, especially given GDR’s now messy history at 145, unfortunately GDR is booked against Marion Reneau right now, a fight she’s pretty likely to win. I think the UFC would be smart to slow-play Tonya just a little. Give her a couple fights she should really be able to win clearly, before marching her into the superior athletes up top. Alexis Davis has two wins over Tonya Evinger, which would make for an interesting grudge match (although maybe not one Davis wants), And of course, Bethe Correia has become the poster-woman for try-hard MMA. And a fight with Leslie Smith just feels like it needs to happen at some point. Of all those, Correia is likely the highest profile while being the most winnable. Tonya Evinger vs. Bethe Correia.
Charlie – An awesome, close fight with Cerrone just like we all expected it to be. His new corner seemed to have him re focused on his pressure and his kicking game which is a good sign after some questionable strategy in his last couple of performances. Lawler is really lucky that the division is full of guys who have won and lost to each other right now because he may actually be the best option to get straight back in there for a title shot. When you pair that with how late Lawler is in his career, I believe the smartest decision from the UFC is to do just that. Give Lawler a rematch with Tyron Woodley if GSP isn’t getting that title shot. An awesome match up with Ponzinibbio is my back up plan.
Zane – I really don’t see that GSP fight ever happening. So Lawler vs. Woodely II it is.
Charlie – I think there is an argument to be made that Cerrone may have actually won this one. Either way i think it’s one of the best performances he’s ever put on in a really big spot. He didn’t fall apart in the big fight the way he has done in the past. He’s in a weird spot. This was a great and competitive performance that shows him to be still one of the very best WW’s in the UFC but he’s also on a 2 fight skid. If Neil Magny loses to RDA he would be a good fight for Cerrone, Maia could make sense if you want to keep pushing Cerrone right to the top of the division, but for me the best match up is Gunnar Nelson off of his loss to the Ponz. Cerrone is hurtable and will be in trouble on his back but he’s also a much better than advertised take down defender and if he manages to avoid a knockdown from Gunnar’s lightning quick straight punches could chew Nelson up on the feet in the following rounds. Give me Cerrone vs Nelson and make it a 5 rounder please.
Zane – They’re longtime Jackson-Wink training partners, so I doubt that Condit would fight Cerrone, but man do I wish that fight would happen. A fight with Wonderboy would also be fascinating, although I’m still holding out for that aforementioned Masvidal bout. A fight against Gunni would be solid, but this feels like the point where what Cerrone needs is another string of fun action fights that don’t necessarily prove a lot, other than that he can put on good fun fights regularly. To that end, book Donald Cerrone vs. Tim Means.
Charlie – I’m not sure what to say about this one really. I’ve still not really been convinced that Volkan is that good of a fighter at any point in his UFC career, but he does seem to be some kind of dark magician. He’s able to land weird, equilibrium destroying punches in unlikely positions. You can’t argue against his UFC resume, 3-0 against ranked fighters with 2 first minute KO’s. In an already poor division where half of the top 15 are currently plying their trade outside of the UFC, Volkan is legitimately a potential title challenger. As I said before my own bias makes it difficult to look forward to a match up between Volkan and Jones so have him fight Gustaffson as a FOX main event and make a truly legitimate title challenger either way, if Gus gets the title shot Shogun is the only other option in a much more depressing affair.
Zane – Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaan. The idea of Volkan vs. Shogun just is too depressing. Fortunately, Shogun’s booked (against OSP again, god knows why), so that’s not happening. In the mean time, there’s no reason Volkan can’t slow it down a half tick. My thoughts would be that Gus can challenge next and Volkan afterward if he’s willing to wait and if that Brock stuff doesn’t appear, and if Jones stays at 205. But that’s a lot of ifs. So, if Volkan doesn’t want to wait too long, give him a fight with Jared Cannonier just to pass the time and thrill fans in the meantime.
Charlie – Lamas was arguably losing from top position before capitalizing on a huge defensive lapse from Knight during the stand up. The finishing sequence was vicious and beautiful. He’s an elite and highly ranked FW who can’t reasonably be expected to stay at the top for too much longer at 35. In my opinion he’s going to have to hold the gates a couple more times before another title shot. A rematch with Swanson makes a lot of sense, but for me a match up with the other elite guard player in the division Brian Ortega, off of his big win over Moicano, is the best way to go in a division with a bunch of talented prospects needing a chance to advance up the rankings.
Zane – I really do like the idea of Lamas vs. Ortega, as two highly opportunistic fighters at featherweight. I also worry about giving Lamas too many prospects to pick off. Does it serve the UFC well to have Ortega lose to Ricardo Lamas (who is likely nowhere near title contention? Not really. And, with Cub Swanson right there and without much claim to fighting Max Holloway, Swanson vs. Lamas is one of the best high ranked fights the UFC can make at 145. Let Ortega make an end run to contender-ship and put Lamas vs. Swanson back in the cage together.
OTHER BOUTS: Manuwa vs. Latifi/Pedro winner, Knight vs. Pepey, Sterling vs. Dodson, Barao vs. Alcantara, Ortega vs. Elkins, Moicano vs. Bektic, Kattar vs. Volkanovski, Fili vs. Skelly, Albu vs. Ansaroff, Brooks vs. Figueiredo, Shelton vs. Lausa/Inoue loser, Dober vs. L. Santos