UFC 133 is in the books, and it’s time to move forward (Dennis Hallman’s penis be damned). So, put on your bald cap and grab your shortest friend, because it’s time to play fantasy match maker!
Rashad Evans vs. the winner of Jon Jones/Quinton Jackson
You might think I’m better than to pick a fight that is already set in stone. I’m not. An Evans/Rampage rematch for the belt will do good business, but the UFC is rooting for Jones here. He’s the Chosen One, and the Evans/Jones grudge match is ripe for all sorts of promotional stuntery (Prime Time, In the Moment, etc.). If Evans is only concerned about winning the belt, he’ll be rooting for Rampage; online books opened Jones as a -525 favorite before Jones’ hand issues. I have a feeling he’s rooting for payback, though.
Tito Ortiz vs. Dan Henderson
Tito is gonna get at least one more fight in the UFC, and given the goodwill he’s bought over the past month, probably more than that. Dan Henderson’s next fight, I assume, will be in the Octagon, and Ortiz is a great way to reintroduce him to UFC fans. It’s a fun legacy fight, but it also has relevance to the division. Plus, the timelines work out great unless Tito plans on taking the next year off.
Rory MacDonald vs. Paulo Thiago? Brian Ebersole? Johny Hendricks? Matt Brown? Charlie Brenneman?
There’s lots of options for MacDonald here, but the important thing is not to rush him. (And Mauro Ranallo’s tweet that UFC match makers were scheduling MacDonald with Jon Fitch gave me pause before I saw his followup.) He’s in a unique situation: only 22 years old in a division with a dominant champ. He already has 13 fights under his belt, and you could theoretically get him close to 20 in the next 2 years without putting him into a title fight. Welterweight isn’t thin in mid-card talent either, so let him slowly work his way up the ladder.
Vitor Belfort vs. the winner of Mark Munoz/Chris Leben
This is more out of necessity of timelines than anything else. The winner of Chael Sonnen/Brian Stann is getting the next title shot, and Joe Silva does not like matching winners with losers. The other option here is the winner of Maia/Santiago, but Munoz and Leben are closer to a title shot.
Chad Mendes vs. the winner of Jose Aldo/Kenny Florian
Mike Chiappetta took to Twitter to suggest that Chad Mendes wasn’t guaranteed a title shot after beating Rani Yahya, citing a conversation he had with a noncommittal Dana White. Who gets that title shot then? Hatsu Hioki isn’t walking into a headlining bout in his UFC debut. The next guy in the Consensus Rankings coming off a win and under contract with Zuffa? Tyson Griffin at #9. Tyson Griffin, who was last seen diving face first into the mat courtesy of Takanori Gomi. Mendes already earned his shot at Aldo. When the champ got hurt, Mendes followed Dana White’s advice to Rashad Evans and took another fight instead of waiting. Seems odd to fail to make good on that promise.
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