All the best, most interesting, and unashamedly coolest fights to make for the UFC following their latest card in Sydney, Australia.
UFC Sydney was definitely a card that happened. Of all the events the UFC has put on in 2017, there’s no question that their November 18th card in Australia was one of them. That’s unfortunately the bulk of what can be said after this latest Fight Night, and it means that finding exciting next bouts for a lot of these athletes is going to be a bit of a chore.
So, to help dust the proverbial mantle, I’m stepping up with the classic Joe Silva/Sean Shelby style of matchmaking. That means putting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent against one another. If you’d like to take your own shot at fantasy fight booking glory, leave a comment below starting out, “It’s me again.” I’ll pick one winner from the responses below to join me on next week’s card.
There were no entrants last week, so I’m flying solo this time around.
Werdum’s in a strange position as a former champion who just isn’t going away quietly. He’s already beat Cain Velasquez and Mark Hunt, and he’s lost to Alistair Overeem and Stipe Miocic. Francis Ngannou is currently booked against Overeem for what seems like a probable no. 1 contender’s match. So Werdum either gets a title shot right now, which not many people seem to be clamoring for, or he has to take on someone further down the list. There are two clear fights I can see: Werdum has a 2007 loss to Andrei Arlovski that needs avenging, or the UFC doesn’t really have a sensible fight for Alexander Volkov other than matching Volkov up with Blaydes or Arlovski. With Rothwell, Barnett and JDS all suspended and Hunt in limbo, there’s not even anyone for Werdum to clearly wait for. Fabricio Werdum vs. Alexander Volkov it is.
I don’t know how badly Derrick Lewis is injured or how long he’ll be out for, but if it’s not too long, Derrick Lewis vs. Marcin Tybura is unquestionably the fight to book next. If Tybura doesn’t want to wait, then Stefan Struve works fine. But I think Tybura vs. Lewis is an excellent fight and I’d love to see it happen.
So much of what will be available at flyweight in the immediate future depends on how the TUF 26 finale shakes out, so it’s hard to see a clear next bout for Jessy Jess. Mara Romero Borella is already booked again, and Clark seems unlikely to get a fight with Paige Van Zant. Most likely the best course of action for the UFC is to wait for the winner of Justine Kish vs. Ji Yeon Kim and book her against Clark. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of time before there are plenty of new faces to fight. Jessy Jess vs. the Kish/Ji Yeon winner.
He called out Colby Covington, but with a no. 3 ranking already to his name and a win over Demian Maia under his belt, Muhammad seems like an incredibly unlikely next fight for ‘Chaos.’ More likely, a good bout for ‘Remember the Name’ is another prospect who has taken some time to find his groove at 170. Warlley Alves is coming off a really controlled calculating win and would fit the bill nicely. I could also see Muhammad taking on Sean Strickland in a test of his jab against yet another big rangy welterweight. But, I like the action potential of the Alves bout more. Warlley Alves vs. Belal Muhammad.
They aren’t the prettiest wins, but Theodorou has run up a 6-2 record in the UFC, and in a division like middleweight that makes him something of a rare commodity. He could take on Paulo Henrique Costa, who already has a ranking spot after his destruction of Johny Hendricks. But Costa has a call-out from ‘Mutante’ to deal with. Fights with Antonio Carlos Jr., Anthony Smith, and Tim Boetsch all make some sense. Of all those, I’d be most interested in the dynamics of Theodorou vs. Boetsch, especially given Boetsch’s love of snapping front kicks. If Theodorou can get by the ‘Barbarian’ then he’s earned a spot in the rankings at 185 lbs. Elias Theodorou vs. Tim Boetsch.
A big part of me would love to see Volkanovski take on someone like Ryan Hall or (even more dangerously) Jason Knight, to see if he could work his wrestling and top game against a really venomous guard grappler. But I’m not sure how often Hall is fighting and Knight is booked. There aren’t any real “talkers” at 145, so his desire to take on guys that like to run their mouth is going to be hard to fulfill. Instead, why not book Volkanovski against one of the tougher wrestlers in his division and give him a fight with Gray Maynard. Maynard played spoiler to Teruto Ishihara, if he could shut Volkanovski down that’d be damned impressive. And if he can’t then it’s a big name win for the Aussie’s resume. Alex Volkanovski vs. Gray Maynard.
Not many people thought Nik Lentz would win this fight. It looked like a terrible style matchup on paper, and was playing out as a fairly one-sided striking contest, right up until Will Brooks went for another takedown that put him right into a guillotine. That makes for a great bounce-back win after getting outclassed by Islam Makhachev earlier this year. Following the win, Lentz made $50,000 offer to face any ATT fighter. And as cool as that is, it doesn’t actually leave many options among unbooked UFC lightweights, unless Jorge Masvidal wants to try dropping down again, or Dustin Poirier decides that he wants to take on a lose-lose proposition in hopes of some extra cash. Until the appropriate ATT matchup comes along, I’d be down to see Lentz vs. Trinaldo, Lentz vs. Khabilov, or Lentz vs. Dunham II. Of those, I think a Nik Lentz vs. Francisco Trinaldo fight seems best.
Book Tuivasa vs. Daniel Spitz. Spitz isn’t the kind of technical fighter to challenge Tuivasa more than Coulter did standing, but he’s huge and rangy and very tough. It’d be a good chance to see if Tuivasa can keep KOing guys with decent chins at 265, and if he can’t, a test to see how well he can do in a 15 minute fight. Tai Tuivasa vs. Daniel Spitz.
Camacho lost out on a $50,000 bonus, but won over the crowd after a bad weight cut and against a hometown opponent. After the war he had against Demian Brown, it’s clear the UFC needs to keep booking the ‘Crank’ against other action fighters. Give him dudes that are looking to throw hands, and pretty much nothing but hands. A good option there would be Vinc Pichel, coming off his own electrifying KO win of Damien Brown. Or possibly Dong Hyun ‘Maestro’ Kim. Fights with Kajan Johnson or Drew Dober would also be solid. The Dong Hyun Kim bout seems most likely just because of its book-ability on another Asian card. Frank Camacho vs. ‘Maestro’ Kim.
OTHER BOUTS: Rawlings vs. Murphy/Cachoeira loser, Means vs. McGee, Matthews vs. Zaleski, Velickovic vs. D. Lima, Kelly vs. Lombard, Young vs. Bravo, Benoit vs. Shelton, Mokhtarian vs. R. Sanchez, Brooks vs. Koch, Coulter vs. Willis/Crowder loser, Brown vs. Saggo, Kassem vs. Botelho, Chambers vs. H. Clark, Lausa vs. Beltran, Wieczorek vs. Golm