There’s been a bit of a change lately in the UFC. It’s not just a massive new talent influx, or a shift in the judging criteria, although both those have happened. It’s a shift in matchmaking. For years, the watchword for UFC bookings has been loser vs. loser, winner vs. winner. But lately there seems to have been a bit of a departure from that standard. Perhaps its just the necessity of running so many events. You have to take the fighters who are ready and willing instead of the ones that perfectly fit the standard. Perhaps its just a greater focus on good fights over a formulaic approach. Either way, it’s opening up the game a bit.
With that in mind, here are my latest fantasy bookings for UFC Salt Lake. I’m still matching similarly tenured opponents against one another as much as possible, but maybe getting just a little more free about putting available fighters against one another. Nothing radical, but here are the results…
YAIR RODRIGUEZ: If the UFC wanted to, they could consider rushing Yair way up the ladder into a legit top 10 fight. Put him in against Darren Elkins, or even Jeremy Stephens, see how well his style shows up against someone with a track record of winning at the elite level. But, instead I think this is the time for the UFC to do a little separating at the lower end of the top 15, between rising prospects. Usually I’m against it, but Yair Rodriguez vs. Dooho Choi could be the kind of first-in-a-series battle that would have fans talking for a while. Both kids are top athletes, both have exciting styles, and Dooho has the one-shot kill power to make Yair think twice. Pantera vs. Superboy, let’s see it.
DENNIS BERMUDEZ: He called out Frankie Edgar, and other than the win/loss optics of that fight, it’s a fine idea. It’s especially fun because Bermudez, for all his flaws, is a fantastic power wrestler and might make Edgar work a bit there, if he can keep from getting clocked standing up. Otherwise, there aren’t a lot of fights Bermudez hasn’t already won/lost before at the top. He could Max Holloway again, it’s been years, but Holloway would have to want to risk his spot as top contender/title fight replacement. Swanson is also a possibility, but I say shoot the moon. Dennis Bermudez vs. Frankie Edgar.
THALES LEITES: Leites did a great job affirming his place as a gatekeeper to the top 10, pushing back Camozzi’s own surging hopes for a spot among the elite. That can mean only one thing. It’s time for him to fight Robert Whittaker. Whittaker has been recovering from injury following his win over Rafael Natal, but if he’s expected back soon, that seems like the fight to make. If Whittaker isn’t available, then he can keep the gates again against Cezar Ferreira. But Leites vs. Whittaker is choice no. 1.
SANTIAGO PONZINIBBIO: “The Ponz” is closing in on a spot in the top 15 of the welterweight division coming off a solid, hard fought victory over Zak Cummings. I mean, when Jake Ellenberger is holding the bottom spot, Ponzinibbio definitely has a shot. The question becomes, if I want to break up my idea of a Jorge Masvidal vs. Alan Jouban fight for Santiago Ponzinibbio, which side does Ponz fall on? I’m gonna say Jouban. There are other possible veteran matchups for Masvidal out there, and Alan Jouban vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio would be hot fire.
MARYNA MOROZ: That wasn’t much of a win for Moroz, and even though her 3-1 record pushes her up toward the top of her division, it’s not the kind of thing that has me really hyped for her next possible fight. I could suggest matching her up with the unranked Felice Herrig, or the 14 ranked Randa Markos, but I still like my idea of a Herrig/Markos matchup. Instead, I’m going to say do a winner/loser match of Tecia Torres vs. Maryna Moroz. Torres works in more volume and is much more willing to stay in the pocket than Taylor and it should make for a more exciting fight that could help restore both women’s stock a bit. Moroz vs. Torres is the fight I’d like to see.
MARCIN TYBURA: Part of me says, just give Tybura Gabriel Gonzaga. Tybura looked great, he’s experienced enough at this point, push him into a big fight that could give him a real bump. But, Gonzaga isn’t winning much these days and it feels a little cruel to just throw him at every prospect who wants to make a name. It’s also too bad Struve got booked, because that feels like it could have been a great next step. Instead… Ngannou needs a next step, Tybura just made a statement. Maybe it’s time for Francis Ngannou vs. Marcin Tybura?
TERUTO ISHIHARA: Is it time for Teruto Ishihara to fight Makwan Amirkhani for the keys to my heart? Maybe. I’d also love to see Ishihara fight Luke Sanders or Arnold Allen, or Alex White. All of those would be really fun scraps. Still, Amirkhani is a flashy interesting athlete with a good wrestling game and a tendency to go for highlights, that sounds like it would make a perfect fight for Ishihara. Makwan Amrikhani vs. Teruto Ishihara for maximum swooning.
CUB SWANSON: Cub Swanson just beat Tatsuya Kawajiri and now he doesn’t have that many options. He can wait for Anthony Pettis to beat Charles Oliveira (maybe). Otherwise he’s already fought Holloway, Edgar, Stephens, Oliveira, and Lamas (albeit that Lamas fight was forever ago). The other options are, bet on BJ Penn still wanting to fight at featherweight when he returns, which seems like a bad idea, given BJ’s trouble getting back at all. Or wait for the Korean Zombie’s military service to end, which should happen in October. That’s the fight that would be the most fun. If Cub is willing to wait, I say Korean Zombie vs. Cub Swanson.
OTHER BOUTS: Caceres vs. Jason, Camozzi vs. Boetsch, Cummings vs. Tumenov, Gigliotti vs. Spicely, Taylor vs. Cooper, McGee vs. Moraes, Steele vs. Moontasri, Pesta vs. Grabowski, Teymur vs. Mustafaev, Novelli vs. Rinaldi, Kawajiri vs. Jury, Ledet vs. Milstead, Sherman vs. Mihajlovic
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