UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. Smith was the kind of fight card that the UFC always teases ‘you need to see,’ because you never know when a lackluster event is going to turn into an all time great one. Unfortunately, just as often, a lackluster event turns into… well… a lackluster event.
The promotion’s sixth trip to Germany set the record for most consecutive decisions in a UFC card with nine, as well as tying the record for most decisions overall with ten. Of the three finishes – out of thirteen bouts – two were on the Fight Pass prelims. Over the FS1 portion of the card, only the main event ended (mercifully) before the final bell. And unlike last week, when even mid-card action bouts had a deeper feel of meaning, much of Hamburg just felt like filler. All except the light heavyweight division, which got a solid shakeup.
So, what’s next for Anthony Smith & Corey Anderson? What about Shogun Rua & Glover Teixeira? And who wants a piece of Aleksandar Rakic right now?
To answer all those questions and more, I’m employing the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking model of years past. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent against one another. If you’d like to take your own shot at some fantasy fight-making, leave a comment below starting with, “Neil Magny, I see your ass and I’m not impressed at all.” I’ll pick one winner from the responses to join me next time.
This week, nobody entered, so there was no winner.
He called out Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 227, which is a great idea, frankly. As it’s a fight he wasn’t that likely to get except on short notice, and one where a win could catapult him into the title picture. Unfortunately Gustafsson is out of the card with a ‘minor injury.’ The UFC tried to steer Smith into a fight with Jimi Manuwa immediately following his victory and, all things considered, that may be his best idea at this point. It’s likely the highest profile bout Smith could get quickly. If all that doesn’t manage to fall into place, then stick him in there against Ovince St. Preux and see if he can pass the division’s funkiest power-punching test. Smith vs. Manuwa is a fine first choice, however.
That was one hell of an ugly loss for Shogun, and pretty highly reminiscent of his last loss, against OSP, back in 2014. There were multiple reports of a possible injury heading into the bout, so maybe that was why things went south as quick as they did, but there’s also the simple truth that Rua is looking old. Still, if you’re going to be a crafty, weathered power-puncher, there are worse places to do it than light heavyweight. Would it be too much to suggest Gokhan Saki coming off his similarly brutal KO loss to Khalil Rountree. It seems like a fight that both men would want, and a guaranteed action bout. Otherwise Patrick Cummins would be the best bet. But, why waste one of the few potential thrillers out there for Shogun right now. Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua vs. Gokhan Saki.
A very big, and very necessary win for Anderson if he’s going to move into contender status as the prime of his career approaches. Unfortunately, with a few losses on his record – and a grinding fight style – he’s in that Ryan Bader spot of ‘guys the UFC would probably do anything to avoid putting in a title fight.’ That’s gonna be a tough label to shake, but a battle against Ilir Latifi when Latifi returns from injury seems like the best step forward as he continues to try. Latifi vs. Anderson would be the right next fight for both men right now.
Teixeira has been a remarkable fixture in the light heavyweight division since making his UFC debut six years ago. Despite not making it back to a title shot after his 2014 loss to Jon Jones, Glover has consistently kept himself among the top contenders. A loss to Anderson suggests, at 38-years-old, that time may be coming to an end. Still, the book on his career hasn’t been finished yet, and in a division as thin as 205, there’s always a chance to come back. On that note, I’ll go winner/loser and say give the Brazilian Jan Blachowicz. After a rough start to his UFC career, the Pole has been streaking his way into the top 5. A win over Teixeira solidifies his spot in the division’s elite, a loss sends him back to the mid-divisional churn. Teixeira vs. Blachowicz, book it.
If Tybura had really put the stamp on Struve here, bigger things might be just around the corner. Instead, a wrestling heavy drag of a decision, where he got cracked and hurt a few times standing, likely doesn’t have anyone screaming to see him face the likes of JDS or Overeem. Instead, how about a Blagoy Ivanov fight. It’s a little more high profile for Ivanov than my Walt Harris suggestion, and a chance for Tybura to assert his game over a less awkwardly sized opponent than Struve. A bout against the Oleksiy Oliynyk win or lose against Hunt would also be fine. But, Tybura vs. Ivanov just feels right.
It’s too bad Roberts had to have what may be the most fun fight of his career on a card that will likely swallow all memory of the bout whole. He and Zawada went back and forth for 15 straight minutes and his victory was almost entirely a testament to heart and willpower. The win also puts him at an impressive 5-2 in the welterweight division. Which I’d say lines him up pretty perfectly for a fight against another scrappy, go-anywhere opponent in Tony Martin. Bouts with Warlley Alves or Niko Price would also be solid options. Roberts vs. Martin is my top choice.
Two fights in the UFC, two brutally tough match-ups, but this couldn’t have gone better for Haqparast. He took on a dynamic, diverse threat in Marc Diakiese and absolutely shut him down with persistent pressure and accuracy. Davi Ramos is coming off a good win over Nick Hein, he and Haqparast could put on a hell of a fight. If Ramos won’t work, then I’d be 100% down to see him take on ‘Maestro’ Kim. Davi Ramos vs. Nasrat Haqparast is must see stuff.
I figured this would be a fairly competitive and difficult style matchup standing for Rakic. So, even though I picked him to win, I was totally blown away by the sheer, unrelenting dominance he showed in victory. Rakic beat the brakes off Justin Ledet for 15 minutes, posting some of most lopsided stats in UFC history along the way. Off a win like that I’m salivating to see him take on Dominick Reyes or Khalil Rountree. Rountree seems like the best fit given his recent attention grabbing win over Saki, so I’ll lean that way. But, get this kid in more action fights, stat. Aleksandar Rakic vs. Khalil Rountree.
If I had questions about Bermudez’s striking on the way into this fight, he went out of his way to start answering them. That right hand he dropped Grant with was a thing of beauty. And on the mat, he’s still the sort of grappler that should be giving the rest of his division pause around the idea of taking him down. 135 is packed with top talent he could face next. So, even though his call-out, Benito Lopez, is already booked, Petr Yan, Nathaniel Wood, Yadong Song, and Sean O’Malley all aren’t. The UFC likely has bigger things in mind for O’Malley, and I have bigger things in mind for Yadong and Yan, so how about Nathaniel Wood vs. Manny Bermudez. Action striker vs. action grappler, and see who can keep their early UFC career momentum rolling.
OTHER BOUTS: Azaitar vs. Meerschaert, Miranda vs. Kelly, Struve vs. Albini, Zawada vs. White, Diakiese vs. Gonzalez, Hadzovic vs. Green, Hein vs. Ray, Fabinski vs. Emeev, Meek vs. Chagas, Narimani vs. Ige, Taha vs. Mitchell, Ledet vs. Fortuna, Grant vs. Soukhamthath, Stosic vs. Craig, Pingyuan vs. Pilarte, Stasiak vs. Soto