All the best, most interesting, and unashamedly coolest fights the UFC has to book following their latest event in Gdansk, Poland.
The UFC’s second trip to Poland mostly muddled along as a mixed bag of mid-level action fights and complete slogs. At least that was up until the last three fights, where a few fighters really got things going. Jan Blachowicz reasserted his place in the UFC light heavyweight division with a crazy submission over Devin Clark. Karolina Kowalkiewicz put a one sided beating on Jodie Esquibel for three rounds. And Darren Till announced that he’s on his way to title contention sometime in the not-too-distant future with a quick TKO of Donald Cerrone.
The only question now is: What comes next? To find the answer, I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking style of old. That means winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent against one another. If you’d like to take your own crack at some fantasy matchmaking, leave a comment below starting with, “Maybe I’ll have one month off, get blathered a few times, and we’ll see what the new year brings,” in the subject line. I’ll pick one response from the comment section to join me for the next UFC card. This week’s winner is BE commenter I_want_BJ’s_belt!.
Hey all! This is Ryan, aka “I_want_BJ’s_belt!” This is my first time getting to write my suggestions for fights to make. I am a fan of typically pairing winners up against other winners and vice versa, and I’m not a huge fan of jumping up too far in the rankings in most cases. If you hate my picks and want to tell me how bad they are, hit me up on Twitter @ryjommaba. On to the picks!
Ryan – Wow…like Masvidal, Till made it look very easy against an incredibly talented fighter. This is a case where I am a fan of jumping up in the rankings. Better still, he and Mike Perry potentially made this an easy pick. I say give him the winner of Ponzinibbio/Perry. I think either fight is a good test, and both potential fights should be hot fire on the feet.
Zane – The division is Darren Till’s oyster after that win and there aren’t many fights that fans won’t be happy to see him in. As Ryan pointed out, Till vs. the winner of Ponz/Perry is a bout that practically books itself, especially if Perry wins. But a fight against the winner of Magny/Condit, Oliveira/Medeiros, or Covington/Maia would be no less appropriate. If the UFC is smart they’ll keep him far away from Covington/Maia for now and focus more on the possibilities of Perry/Condit/Oliveira. Till says he’s likely going to wait until next year to fight again, but if he decides to fight sooner and not wait for the top of the division to sort itself, I’d love to see him take on Thiago Alves when Alves is ready to go again.
Ryan – It’s tough to say where Cowboy goes from here. He still likely beats most guys at 170 or 155, but he’s also not sniffing a title shot again in his career (barring a late minute, short notice replacement scenario). I personally find it hard to see his losses, as he’s a favorite of mine and his losses are often in pretty devastating fashion. I’d love to see him face the loser of Maia/Covington, as I doubt that fight ends with him getting his lights turned off, but the prospect of him fighting a returning Carlos Condit is too tempting to pass up for me. Win, lose, or draw, against Magny, I want to see Condit vs. Cerrone next.
Zane – I’ll admit, I really really like the idea of Cerrone vs. Condit. But as they’re both longtime Jackson-Wink fighters I’m not sure they’d take that bout. And I’m also interested to know what the UFC was trying to put together with Cerrone for UFC 219. It could be Thiago Alves? In fact, Alves is kind of the only available name that would really make sense, unless it was going to be a complete curve ball. Instead, I’m going to suggest booking Cerrone vs. Jouban. A different action guaranteed fight between two guys who are both going to be in bad need of a good win.
Ryan – That was an incredible performance against a tough out. KK looked great and dominated every phase of the game. She did all the work in the post-fight speech as well. Let’s see her take on Andrade in a battle of two fighters that seem to always push forward. Please and thank you.
Zane – With Tecia Torres and Michelle Waterson now booked, there really is only one fight that makes sense. Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Jessica Andrade is probably the best next step to rebuilding either woman as a title contender in the near future. They may still get passed by for someone like the Torres/Waterson winner or even Calvillo on a hot streak, but it would be much harder to deny either woman a second chance at UFC gold with a win over the other one. Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Jessica Andrade.
Ryan – It may have taken a few tries, but Held finally got that first UFC victory. The organization could look to book him against Thibault Gouti again, or may look to pair him against any number of younger prospects on a European card. Personally though, I love the thought of him fighting Guida next, should he get past J-Lau. Held’s aggressive attempts for takedowns may be able to bring out the relentless version of “The Carpenter” that was a fan favorite years ago. Actually, since it’s more of a fun grappling match than a match based on divisional relevance, I like Held/Guida next whether Guida wins or loses to Lauzon.
Zane – Held vs. Guida has some curbside appeal, and heck we already saw Held/Lauzon and it was fun and repeatable given its controversial end, but I really feel like, if the UFC is going to get anything out of Held it’s going to have to keep some of the pressure off for a bit. A fight with the winner of Davi Ramos vs. Chris Gruetzemacher would be good, or maybe Jordan Rinaldi off his recent win. I think the best option would be Danny Henry, as the Scotsman is loves to grapple and had a fantastic comeback to win his UFC debut. Marcin Held vs. Danny Henry.
Ryan – Kelleher and Stasiak put on a fun scrap. Kelleher’s request of a top 15 opponent next seems warranted, especially since I don’t see him getting his rematch with Vera any time soon. There are a few options, but I like the idea of him fighting the Font/Munhoz winner next.
Zane – I’m not sure a win over Damian Stasiak should be a ticket to the top, although that submission of Iuri Alcantara is still pretty sweet. Instead, I think there are two great action fight options staring Kelleher in the face. Option one would be recent prospect killer Cody Stamann, option two would be veteran action fighter Russell Doane. I like the Doane fight a little more for the Hawaiian’s extreme violence potential matched against Kelleher’s constant aggression. Brian Kelleher vs. Russell Doane.
Ryan – Short notice replacement or not, that was a very impressive performance by Emeev. For all the criticism about his lack of output, Alvey is a very tough out, and Emeev made it look pretty easy. I think a bout with Anthony Smith could be a fun scrap, but I ultimately think pairing him up with the winner of the Santos/Hermansson fight is a better match at this time.
Zane – Emeev has left the UFC in a weird spot. As a 30-year-old veteran with 8-years of pro experience, he really is in position to fight at the top of the division immediately. But this performance was grinding-ly slow and ugly and could make him a tough sell. Smith would be a fun fight that likely guarantees some action, but Smith may be headed to light heavyweight. If the UFC really does want to fast track him, Tim Boetsch and Brad Tavares are the best options, between the two, Boetsch is the most guaranteed fun. Ramazan Emeev vs. Tim Boetsch.
Ryan – This may have been Fili’s best performance in the UFC. Artem may get a lot of hate, but he has shown durability and some skill against UFC caliber fighters in the past. After a dominant performance like that, I’d love to see Fili tested against someone like Shane Burgos. He could face the winner of Bandenay/Volkanovski as well…but I ultimately like the thought of a stand-up battle with Hurricane Shane. Fili/Burgos is my pick.
Zane – I do like the feel of Fili vs. Burgos, it seems like just the right step up after Godofredo Pepey for the ‘Hurricane.’ He’s also one of the few un-booked featherweights coming off a win and in position to take another bout in the near future. Given all that and that it would make a great matchup, Shane Burgos vs. Andre Fili seems like the fight to make.
Ryan – It may not have been the dominant (re: first round guillotine choke) finish many were expecting, but Alves fought his fight and beat someone he was supposed to beat. It was nice to see him show a little more restraint, as his propensity for gassing and giving up the second half of fights has cost him in the past against fighters he had more talent than. Alves is honestly the hardest fighter to pair up. He has shown the ability to beat top fighters in the division, but he’s nowhere near ready for the upper tier. I could see him fighting the likes of Omari Akhmedov or the winner of the Griffin/dos Santos fight, but I think the Aliev/Taleb winner is a likely a better next opponent.
Zane – There are so many fights for Alves in the welterweight division right now, I don’t think there’s any reason for him to wait for someone else to win or lose. Guys like Petere Sobotta, Leon Edwards, Zak Cummings, Danny Roberts, and Alberto Mina are all un-booked off wins. Out of all of those, I think Roberts would be the most fun and competitive back-and-forth fight. Warlley Alves vs. Danny Roberts, book it.
Ryan – The first round wasn’t the prettiest, but Ladd was able to get the second round finish and prove she belongs in the UFC. Ladd has a lot of potential, but at only 22 years old, the organization should be cautious with her so she can fully develop. I could see them pairing her with Katlyn Chookagian next. However, Chookagian is a prospect in her own right and I don’t think pairing them up would be wise at this time. It may not be a major jump up in competition, but I think Moras may be the next best pairing for her. She showed against Evans-Smith that she can be tricky, but she shouldn’t be too stern a test for Ladd at this point.
Zane – Slowplaying Ladd is definitely a must. For all her ferocious fighting ability from top position, far too much of her striking game is built around wading forward behind robotic arm punches. Lansberg was tuning Ladd up for stretches of this fight, and that’s likely success others will replicate. Unfortunately, most of the division at the lower end is coming off losses. The best options for Ladd would likely be newcomer Lauren Mueller, or either Sarah Moras or Lucie Pudilova. Moras seems like the most interesting matchup in a grappler vs. grappler battle, especially after her strong upset of Ashlee Evans-Smith. Aspen Ladd vs. Sarah Moras.
OTHER BOUTS: Esquibel vs. Moyle, Blachowciz vs. Dollaway, Clark vs. Craig, Piechota vs. Byrd, Wilson vs. Wilkinson, Haqparast vs. Powell, Stasiak vs. Saenz, Alvey vs. Cedenblad, Lobov vs. Hirota, Touahri vs. A. Reyes, Lansberg vs. Evans-Smith, Emmett vs. Kattar, Arantes vs. Ishihara