The Shogun-Henderson II card may not have packed much in the way of divisional relevance, but it certainly delivered on the action. Underdogs went 9-1-1, the highest win rate I or just about anybody else involved with MMA wagering can remember, including one of the biggest upsets (Thiago Santos over Ronny Markes at +600) in the recent past. While the card might not have featured many highly-ranked fighters outside of the main event, it did include a number of talented young guys working their way up the ranks of the division. Let’s take a look at where they go from here.
Dan Henderson: Assuming he wants to keep fighting, and it certainly sounds like he does, it’s hard to find a fight that really makes sense for Hendo at this point. They might try to slot him back into title contention with a bout against Daniel Cormier or the Davis-Johnson winner, a course of action of which I’m not a fan; they could put him in with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, assuming he’s still fighting, though that’s a big question mark; or, and this would be my personal favorite, they could book Henderson against Anderson Silva when he makes his return from the leg injury he suffered at UFC 168 in the retirement fight for one or both men.
Shogun Rua: If it’s hard to plot Hendo’s next move, it’s nearly impossible for Shogun. Assuming Jones handles Glover Teixeira, they might try to make that fight again; it’s been one they’ve wanted to put together for at least two years. Otherwise, Jimi Manuwa makes sense from a rankings perspective. In any case, he’s going to be out for a while recovering from that broken nose.
CB Dollaway: Dollaway would be on a four-fight winning streak if the Texas judges had done their job at UFC 166. He’s quietly developed into a solid and well-rounded fighter who’s capable of winning fights on the feet and on the ground, and he’s earned a step up in competition. I’d say the winner of Romero-Tavares next month would be just about right; alternatively, the Larkin-Philippou winner would also make sense.
Cezar Ferreira: Well, that was a pretty bad performance, but the UFC seems pretty set in building Ferreira as a star. I wouldn’t be surprised if he got a debuting middleweight, but otherwise I’d like to see him fight Ronny Markes. That would be an interesting stylistic matchup and a solid main-card fight for a Brazilian card.
Norman Parke: Barring the ridiculous point deduction, Parke won that fight. He’s a promising and talented young fighter, and there are a lot of options for him in a stacked division. Elias Silverio would be about right rankings-wise, as would Yui Chul Nam, but at lightweight it seems to depend more on who’s available at any given moment than a truly defined hierarchy. That’s one of the benefits of a deep division, I suppose.
Leonardo Santos: Same deal for Leo Santos. He looked pretty solid in the first round, and then couldn’t get anything going with his wrestling or clinch game afterward. If Jesse Ronson is still on the roster, and it looks like he is, that’d be a good fight for Santos to show that he belongs in the UFC. Mairbek Taisumov would also be a good opponent.
Fabio Maldonado: My dream matchup for Maldonado is Melvin Manhoef as the opening bout of a Fox card, but unfortunately the UFC doesn’t book fights according to my fantasies. Ovince St. Preux would make a lot of sense from a rankings perspective, but if they’re looking to put Maldonado in an action fight, Rafael Cavalcante would be my pick.
Gian Villante: Given the thinness of the UFC’s light heavyweight division, it’s tough to find a good matchup. Luckily, Francimar Barroso also lost on this card. Put them together in a loser-leaves-town bout.
Michel Prazeres: He looked fantastic against Taisumov, point deductions or no. Alan Patrick would be a fine opponent for a Brazilian card; otherwise, the Dariush-Nijem winner would make a lot of sense.
Mairbek Taisumov: Like I pointed out above, Leo Santos is also coming off a loss on this card, and that would be a solid fight. Ivan Jorge is also around the right spot from the rankings perspective.
Rony Jason: Tom Niinimaki would be a great matchup, but I think they’ll be inclined to give Jason a higher-profile fight. Hatsu Hioki would fit that bill, and so would Conor McGregor if for whatever reason the fight with Cole Miller doesn’t come together.
Steven Siler: Siler is settling nicely into the role of exciting, mid-level gatekeeper in the UFC’s featherweight division. If Hacran Dias is planning on fighting in the near future, that would be a sensible matchup, as would the Holloway-Fili loser.
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