All the best, most interesting, and unquestionably coolest fights the UFC has to book following their latest PPV card in Las Vegas, NV.
I started the week defending UFC 219 as a fight card with at least two must see fights at the top of it and what could be a reasonably entertaining card the rest of the way. But, I’m ending the week stepping in line with the consensus. That card was just bad. It wasn’t particularly poorly booked – at least not from a competitive standpoint – but few of the fights (even the ones booked for action) turned toward action. And the most that can really be said is that a couple notable talents reasserted their position at the top of their divisions.
So what’s the UFC going to do moving forward? They need some big fights coming off a lackluster card. To help find them, I’m employing the classic Silva/Shelby method of fight booking. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent against one another. If you’d like to take your own spin at some fantasy matchmaking, leave a comment below starting with, “Now, if UFC give me one hour rest, I can fight with Conor or Tony.” I’ll pick on response to join me next time around.
This week’s winner is BE reader Chrisbrewer51:
What’s up, y’all! I’m Chris from Long Island, New York. Only started really watching MMA since Weidman/Silva 1, but haven’t missed one card since. Seeing the Long Island man pull off the upset KO had me hooked as a fan instantly. My favorites to watch are Tony Ferguson, Stephen Thompson, Kyoji Horiguchi, Justin Gaethje, and Max Holloway.
Chris – Throughout the years, Cyborg has changed so drastically as a fighter, from a non-stop brawler pressure style fighter who would simply overpower her opponents, to a much more technical, composed and patient fighter. She landed several hard shots, but seemed content with pulling out a decision and showing her technical prowess over the former boxer, Holm, who was believed to have an advantage there. This division is an absolute mess, and there are no great options for Cyborg. She called out Megan Anderson for Perth, but I don’t see that being a competitive fights and seems rushed for Anderson. The fight to make is Cyborg vs. Amanda Nunes at 145, as there are no strong contenders in either division, and seems to be the only somewhat competitive fight available for Cyborg.
Zane – There’s only one fight to make and Cris Cyborg has been smart enough to ask for it. As much as I’d love to see her face Amanda Nunes, Nunes doesn’t seem interested. So, Cyborg called out Megan Anderson, Anderson called out Cris Cyborg. The UFC has a PPV card coming up in Perth in a couple of months. Seems like it’s about the easiest math the promotion can do, provided Cyborg is able to put herself into another fight camp quickly. Cris Cyborg vs. Megan Anderson. And maybe hire a couple more featherweights and make a real division, yeah?
Chris – While it was a pretty one-sided decision (48-47 seemed crazy to me), Holly had her moments and gave Cyborg arguably her toughest ever fight. Holly’s toughness is undeniable at this point, and she was outclassed, but was an admirable performance. She’s in a really tough spot, losing 4 out of 5, and shouldn’t be near another title fight without going on some type of run first. I say give her a somewhat easier fight to get her back on the winning side. Fights with Sara McMann and Chookagian make some sense, but I’m going to go with Leslie Smith. I think she would put the pressure on Holm and wouldn’t let it be a boring fight. Would also give Holm an opportunity for another highlight against a pressuring fighter.
Zane – She’s not going to stick around at 145, if for no other reason than that the UFC literally has no one else for her to fight there right now. So the question is, what makes sense at 135? She could rematch Raquel Pennington, or Germaine de Randamie. My bet is she gets a little softer touch though and takes on Sara McMann. McMann was looking like a much improved fighter before Ketlen Vieira rallied and pushed her right back into the classic deer in the headlights problems of old. Still McMann is a notable figure in the division and one with enough pull to make sense for Holm in her career right now. IF that doesn’t work, then Holm could take on the loser of Zingano vs. Vieira, especially if it’s Zingano on the wrong end of it. But Holm vs. McMann is available, so it’s the fight to make.
Chris – Ahh, the annual reminder of how dominant of a fighter Khabib is. Now only wishing that this can become more than an annual occurrence. The fight went as expected, Barboza looked good on the feet for the first minute or two of the fight, until ultimately being taken down which essentially ended the bout. Once Khabib gets a hold of you, there’s no getting away, as he is consistently relentless and showed his positional dominance. No fight for Khabib makes sense that isn’t for a belt. Khabib vs. Ferguson, attempt 4, has the be the fight, and Khabib said he would be ready in April or May, seemingly fitting into Ferguson’s timeline after shoulder surgery. Hopefully, the UFC can do the right thing in stripping the inactive Conor McGregor, and making this highly anticipated fight for the undisputed lightweight belt. #UFCRussia
Zane – The only real question worth asking is, will Conor McGregor fight again anytime soon. If the answer is yes, the McGregor vs. Ferguson gets booked and Khabib should take on Eddie Alvarez. If the answer is no (which feels so much more likely right now) then the UFC has to try and book Nurmagoemdov vs. Ferguson again for the interim lightweight title. It’s one of the best potential fights to book in the world, and one I already feel like I’ve been waiting far too long to see. It also may be cursed, but those two fights are literally the only ones on the table. Khabib vs. Ferguson is THE fight. Khabib vs. Alvarez is the consolation.
Chris – Barboza’s sizable advantage on the feet was well-documented, but those first couple minutes you still had a feeling that he was fighting off the inevitable of Khabib getting a hold of him. Edson still deserves to be among the top of the division as he can cause problems for any other lightweight. He has one of the most viewer-friendly striking games, and I’m not yet ready to give up on title aspirations for him. Logical options for him include Kevin Lee or Michael Chiesa, but I’m going to go with what would be an insane action fight vs. Justin Gaethje. Granted this fight needs to be in the summer at the earliest as both guys need significant time off after taking an abundance of damage in their past fights.
Zane – Edson Barboza vs. Justin Gaethje. This is the mantra we all must chant every day, three times a day, until the UFC books the fight. Barboza vs. Poirier would also be a great winner vs. loser matchup for Poirier as consolation for the Alvarez fight it doesn’t seem like he’s about to get, but Gaethje vs. Barboza is just such a damn good idea. The other acceptable idea is Edson Barboza vs. Kevin Lee. But, say it with me, Edson Barboza vs. Justin Gaethje.
Chris – This was one of those fights where I really didn’t want to see either man lose. Dan Hooker has always been one my favorites as his career path has either been to lose an exciting decision, or win via emphatic finish. This was a relatively slow fight where neither man looked great, until Diakese inexplicably shot for a takedown in the third – after finally having moments on the feet. Hooker reacted quick, snatching the neck and locking up a guillotine. I would watch fights with Charles Oliveira or Jim Miller, but the one I really want to see is vs. David Teymur, on UFC Perth as Hooker requested.
Zane – My first reaction to Hooker’s desire to get on UFC 221 was that the UFC should call Frank Camacho. I want to see Camacho back in the cage ASAP, and the tough veteran who lives closer to Australia than most would be a great opponent for Hooker. However, I’m hearing through the grapevine, that Camacho may already be booked. If that’s the case, then Tiger Muay Thai’s Mairbek Taisumov needs a fight. And with his basecamp in the area, it makes a Perth booking pretty ideal for him. Dan Hooker vs. Mairbek Taisumov. Time to see if Hooker can go on a lightweight run.
Chris – A nice win for Esparza that the judges got right, although not the result that the UFC and I were hoping for. She was getting the better of Calvillo and was holding her own in the scrambles and grappling exchanges. Most were probably overlooking Esparza here, including myself. I don’t see Esparza being able to reclaim a spot into the division’s elite, and think she’ll be in that gatekeeper range for a while. A rematch with Felice Herrig makes sense, but my choice would be Carla Esparza vs. Michelle Waterson.
Zane – I don’t know that it makes sense to call that a career resuscitating win for Esparza, but it is definitely a big win she needed to remind everyone that she is still absolutely one of the better strawweights on the planet. And new prospects trying to run to the title need to be pretty decent to get by her. However, reasserting that means that it’s also time to give Esparza a big challenge again. There are just too many elite fighters at 115 that need bouts. Claudia Gadelha is coming off a loss, but Karolina Kowalkiewicz isn’t. Carla Esparza vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz would be a good shot to see if Esparza can make another run at the belt. If she doesn’t feel like she has that in her, then Tatiana Suarez would be the next prospect needing to prove something.
Chris – As a huge Carlos Condit fan, this was a really depressing performance. He hasn’t looked the same since his war with Robbie Lawler. On the other side, this is probably the best win of Magny’s career. And if he was going to win, this was how I expected it to play out. Magny’s had a strange career, where he has beaten some really good guys to prove his place as a top 10 welterweight (Condit, Gastelum, Lombard), but has looked uninspired and pedestrian in his losses (RDA, Larkin, Maia). Masvidal called his shot, and I think that’s the perfect fight to make, rankings wise, and would also be a fun stylistic matchup, so Magny vs. Masvidal it is.
Zane – Magny’s never been a champion, but much like Esparza, he needed this win to assert his place among the top of the division. Jorge Masvidal called him out afterward, and that’s not a bad option. Even with Masvidal coming off a loss, he’s established himself as a slightly higher level of gatekeeper and a win for Magny over Masvidal would be a path to a couple really big fights for the Coloradoan. If the UFC wants to go winner vs winner, then Magny could stump for Ponzinibbio or Till. Of those, Ponzi seems like the more likely fight to get. If Magny is still willing to fight just about anyone, like he was on the way up, then fights against Jingliang or Taleb would also be solid. Eventually though, I’ll say Neil Magny vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio.
Chris – This wasn’t the most exciting fight, but still a solid win for Jury, who was looked impressive in his two fights since a long layoff. He was moving backwards almost the entire fight, but was successfully countering the plodding Glenn and was winning the majority of the exchanges. Almost all of the ranked featherweights are booked at the moment, but I think he deserves a ranked opponent. Renato Moicano is the best option to me there. Two guys who like to move a lot on the feet, but mainly excel in their ground games, which should be an entertaining matchup. If not him, Yair Rodriguez would be really fun.
Zane – A hell of a performance for Jury as he was essentially able to coast past the ever-tough Rick Glenn. And while part of me wants to see Jury get a shot way up the ranks, it doesn’t feel like he’s fought nearly enough lately to establish his position as a contender. To that end, I’m going to say he should go winner/loser and take on Renato Moicano. Moicano is coming off a tough loss to Brian Ortega, where he largely looked pretty decent before getting subbed late. The winner of that fight would have a real claim to another high caliber booking. Otherwise, bouts against the winner of Johnson/Elkins or Fili/Bermudez would be rock solid options. Among the guys that need a fight right now, though? Moicano vs. Jury looks like the best option. If the UFC wants to see if Josh Emmett is really “for real” then Emmett vs. Jury would be a fine idea too.
Chris – A very impressive and much needed win for the emotional Elliot. He was dominant through the bouts entirety on the ground, ultimately getting the anaconda choke. I’ve always liked Tim Elliot and enjoyed his wild scrambled and unorthodox ground game. Brandon Moreno would have been my pick and is a matchup I eventually want to see between two exciting grapplers, but he was recently booked against Ray Borg. My next best option is John Moraga, who has a plethora of momentum after a stunning knockout of Bibulatov.
Zane – Would love to see Elliott make the move to 135 long term. He looked really healthy there and not at all drawn out. Of course, it helps that he was fighting an under-prepared flyweight sized bantamweight, but he didn’t look like he had an extra ounce of fat on him. At 135, a fight with Pedro Munhoz would be fantastic. If he goes back to 125, then John Moraga seems like a logical next fight. Still, I’m gonna say that he should stay up a division. And if he does, Elliott vs. Munhoz would be fantastic grappling action.
OTHER BOUTS: Diakiese vs. F. Silva, Calvillo vs. Casey, Condit vs. Lawler, Oleksiejczuk vs. D. Reyes, Rountree vs. Clark, Glenn vs. Holobaugh, Vettori vs. Giles, Akhmedov vs. Hermansson, Nicolau vs. Pantoja/Ortiz winner, De La Rosa vs. Yadong