It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for. No, not the fights. I mean, yeah, those are good and all, but what are they in comparison to a really good fight booking article? Pretty shabby, I’d say. And this is going to be a really awesome fight booking article. You know this. I’m here to play fantasy matchmaker to all the main card talent on UFC on Fox 18, and maybe just a little bit of the undercard talent as well. So, join me for what is almost assuredly going to be the highlight of your weekend.
Well… don’t join me, I’m writing this and you’re reading it, so technically we can’t be doing both together, at the same time. But you know what I mean, damn it.
Just for the record, I’ll be trying to follow the Joe Silva/Sean Shelby methodology as close as I possibly can. Matching winners with winners and losers with losers and pitting similarly tenured UFC talents against one another. So, lets get to it!
Anthony Johnson: There’s really only one good option for Rumble right now, and that’s to wait. If Jones beats DC (as seems likely), then Johnson vs. Jones is easily the best fight the UFC can put together at light heavyweight. It promises to be surefire action, and almost certainly a title fight that will end in a stoppage loss for somebody. For all Jones’ great success, he’s very willing to eat a lot of heavy shots in order to wear down his opponent. Gus cracked him, DC landed a lot of shots in tight, and even Glover got his licks in. If Johnson gets the opportunity to land a few hard bombs, things could get real interesting.
Ryan Bader: There are two obvious outcomes Bader should be angling for right now. The most obvious is a fight with Alexander Gustafsson when the former title contender is ready for another bout. It’s the biggest fight Bader could get right now, and even if it’s not one he’s incredibly likely to win, it’s his best path to sticking around the top of the division and returning to something like potential title contention. If he wants a softer landing in a smaller fight, then he could fight Shogun once he loses to Rashad Evans at UFC on Fox 19. That wouldn’t be half as compelling, but it’d be a fresh fight for Bader against someone with some name value left.
Ben Rothwell: Unfortunately for Rothwell, he may feel like a title contender right now, but there’s a line ahead of him and it is slow moving. He’s already beat Overeem, even though the Dutchman is ranked ahead of him, so his best bet is to angle for a fight with Stipe Miocic, but that could be a very hard sell to Stipe if Miocic is of the belief that he’ll get a title shot if he waits long enough. Rothwell’s likely best option is a bout with Travis Browne. It’s not the sexiest big fight, but it’s probably the one that makes the most sense immediately.
Josh Barnett: Fortunately for Barnett this loss sets him up for a perfect top heavyweight bout. Josh Barnett vs. Andrei Arlovski. Somehow Arlovski and Barnett have never fought and with them both coming off losses right now (it’d be better if they were both coming off wins obviously) it’s the fight to make. Both guys have question marks, both guys are solidly top 10. Book it!
Jimmie Rivera: He passed his “get into the top 15” test with a win over Iuri Alcantara, unfortunately his next step is a bit less clear. Most of the rest of the 10-15 ranked fighters are either already booked, or coming off a loss. With Caraway and Almeida gunning to fight one another that seems like it could tie up just about everyone at the top of the division. But, it leaves one awesome option. Jimmie Rivera vs. Michael McDonald. That fight would be bananas and super fun. And while McDonald is ranked 6, his performance against Masanori Kanehara doesn’t inspire me to believe that he’s solid in that spot. If the UFC isn’t willing to give him that big a bump up, then he could fight a veteran gatekeeper like Rani Yahya or Felipe Arantes.
Iuri Alcantara: That’s probably an end to his current run in the top 15, but I”m not sure that it’s absolutely the end. There are a few other hangers-on in that division that aren’t winning but have managed to keep a spot in the rankings. Fights against Takeya Mizugaki, Eddie Wineland, or Johnny Eduardo all look really good right now. I think I’d like to see Mizu fight Frankie Saenz more so I’d put Iuri Alcantara against Eddie Wineland if Wineland is still determined to keep his fighting career going.
Tarec Saffiedine: Saffiedine didn’t look amazing in his bout against Ellenberger, but he looked as good as he needed to to get a win. The road ahead gets more difficult, though. Most of the top ranked welterweights are not fading as fast as Ellenberger has been and have a lot more to offer a low powered volume striker. The fight I think would be most interesting and should offer an interesting skill clash would be Dong Hyun Kim, his huge frame and powerful Judo could be a really interesting test (along with his flaily striking) to see if Saffiedine can consistently beat big tough welterweights, especially ones that can offer a lot of diverse offense.
Rafael Natal: I had a bunch of other ideas as to what might make the best fight for Natal right now, but it’s pretty obvious. Nate Marquardt just got a big win and wants to keep going, throw Natal at him. It’ll be ugly, but it’s the best option out there at the moment.
Wilson Reis: Reis just put on the performance of his career in a win over Dustin Ortiz. As such, this is the time to rush him up the ladder. Despite what Rogan says, a 9-year vet in his 30s is not a “prospect.” He’s the best fighter he’s likely going to be and we’re seeing it right now. Unfortunately, with the way that division is right now, there are almost no good options. Reis just lost to Formiga, Joe-B and Makovsky are booked, Ali-B is coming off a loss and so is Moraga. The simplest fight is with Kyoji Horiguchi, that would be nuts, but if Horiguchi loses that pushes back one of the divisions best young fighters just a bit further. Honestly, I’d say give Reis a fight with Ian McCall, even with McCall coming off a loss, he’s been out for a while, he’s top ranked, and if Reis wins, it builds a new title challenger without sacrificing a new face.
Sage Northcutt: Horacio Gutierrez would be a good idea right now.
Other Bouts: Barberena vs. Steele, OAM vs. Madadi, Ortiz vs. Bagautinov, Caceres vs. Miller, Brown vs. Herrera, Makashvili vs. Alers, Jackson vs. Knight, Martin vs. Erosa
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