UFC 164 didn’t sell out, and it didn’t draw a great gate. I think it’s going to be a pay-per-view bomb as well. But the people that decided not to show up or tune in missed a pretty good night of fights. Most of the PPV fights delivered, and most opened up a bevy of matchmaking opportunities. Unfortunately for the fighters that chose to call out prospective opponents, their first option doesn’t look like the most logical one. But I’ll explain all that below. Let’s try to figure out who each of the main card fighters should meet in their next bout.
Anthony Pettis – He wants to fight Jose Aldo. The fans want him to fight Jose Aldo. Who doesn’t want him to fight Jose Aldo? The entire lightweight division. And me. This is not the time for one of the champs to move up or down to face off, and according to rumors, Aldo’s manager is already saying Pettis needs to come to 145 if they’re gonna go at it. He just won the belt, he should be defending it against 155ers in my opinion. It depends how severe Pettis’ knee injury is, but I believe that T.J. Grant should get the first shot at Showtime, not a 145er.
Ben Henderson – He has fought most of the top competition in the division since he came over from the WEC. One guy he didn’t fight though would make a lot of sense – Gray Maynard. Henderson lost a title fight, Maynard lost a number one contenders matchup. They match up very well stylistically, and it keeps Henderson busy outside of the title picture. As with Pettis though, the extent of Henderson’s arm injury might decide his next fight more than anything.
Josh Barnett – There’s one obvious name that jumps out at me as an ideal next opponent for Barnett – Fabricio Werdum. Their styles would make for an excellent bout on the feet or on the ground, and if they’re serious about Barnett as a contender, this is the fight to make. The only thing holding it back might be Werdum – it’s been said that he’s sitting out to wait for the outcome of Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos 3 because he wants the winner. Could they make Werdum vs. Barnett a number one contender’s fight though? I sure hope so.
Frank Mir – Three losses in a row are going to damage his drawing power (if he had any to begin with). Purely from a matchmaking standpoint, Alistair Overeem is probably the guy that makes the most sense to meet Mir next. But I really doubt that happens. They’ll put Overeem in with a striker, and Mir won’t want to face someone else that can just push him around. The problem is there’s no one else that’s an ideal fit to fight Mir. Antonio Silva? Probably not. Maybe the loser of the Brendan Schaub vs. Matt Mitrione fight? That sounds like the closest thing to a solution to me.
Chad Mendes -Like Pettis, he wants to fight Jose Aldo. The problem for him is that he was knocked out by Aldo when they fought the first time. Dana White is notoriously resistant to booking a second title fight for a challenger that’s been finished by the champ (he said exactly that about Henderson last night, and says the same about Vitor Belfort). So he might have to keep fighting contenders. A lot of people would like to see him face Frankie Edgar, but I think they have a bigger fight for Frankie. So I’d like to see Mendes meet Ricardo Lamas next.
Clay Guida -The loss was a huge setback, but he’s still only 1-1 at featherweight so it’s not like it killed his career or anything. They desperately need a good fight out of him though, and that potential opponent has to be able to stop takedowns so they can avoid getting smothered. The best candidate would probably be the loser of the Nik Lentz vs. Dennis Bernudez fight at UFC Fight Night 31. Or Dennis Siver. Siver’s probably the best choice.
Ben Rothwell -He wants to fight Travis Browne? Really? Browne’s coming off a win over Overeem. Rothwell beat Vera. One thing is not like the other. If the UFC believes that he deserves a step up in competition, Stipe Miocic would make a lot more sense. I know beating Nelson was impressive as well, but it’s not the same as beating Overeem in the eyes of the fans. Miocic is still fringe top-10, which makes sense for Rothwell.
Brandon Vera – His next fight might not even come in the UFC. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him in Bellator or World Series of Fighting next time out. But if he does stay in the UFC, the only heavyweights they could give him are debuting fighters or guys without a UFC win. Shane del Rosario would fit the bill.
Dustin Poirier – Yet another fighter that asked for an unobtainable matchup – this time, it was Cub Swanson. Swanson/Poirier was a good fight, and yes, Poirier took it on short notice. But Cub has won five in a row and is right in the thick of the title chase. He’s not going to step down from that to rematch Poirier, and the UFC wouldn’t book it anyway. What does make sense? The winner of the Lentz/Bermudez fight makes the most sense to me.
Erik Koch – Koch didn’t lose much steam with that loss, but he’s now on a two-fight losing streak. That means he should get a winnable but exciting fight next. Charles Oliveira would be an interesting next opponent, as he is coming off a loss (to Frankie Edgar) where he looked pretty decent as well. That’d be a fight of the night candidate for sure.
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