UFC 202 is in the books and it was an amazing event. As with any event this big, a lot of great fights means a lot of great narratives being built and a lot of interesting potential matches to make afterward; does McGregor return to 145? Does Nate Diaz go to 155? Does Donald Cerrone? Is everyone just dropping weight classes now? Lots to pick apart as we move forward.
As always, I’ll be following the Silva/Shelby rules as best I can. They’ve loosened up on the winners vs. winners/loseres vs. losers thing, but I’ll still use it as something of a guideline. Apart from that similarly tenured UFC fighters tend to get matched up together, as do similarly ranked fighters. So, let’s get to the potential bouts:
CONOR MCGREGOR: There are several options in front of Conor McGregor depending on the amount of leverage he can exert, the amount the UFC is willing to pay him, and the amount of interest fans have. The most likely and most sporting seems to be that he’ll drop back to featherweight and fight Jose Aldo again. Unfortunately for him, that seems to be the fight he’s least interested in. Otherwise, he could fight Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight title, if the UFC will let him, or he could fight Nate Diaz again, down at lightweight. I’ll vote for the Aldo fight, just because I’d really like to see it again and this feels like the right time to make it. But, if McGregor wants to be difficult and push for another big super fight, I’ll be more than happy to watch that too.
NATE DIAZ: Assuming he’s not staying at 170, but instead heading down to 155, Diaz has a bunch of great options for big fights in front of him. Much of the old guard he came up fighting is gone. In their place are guys like Edson Barbaoza, Michael Chiesa, and Khabib Nurmagomedov (and a bunch of other good, booked fighters). He probably doesn’t duck right into a lightweight title shot, so I’m going to say that Nate Diaz should fight Edson Barboza. It’d be fun as hell, and it could be the kind of big flashy win that puts him in the crowded title picture right away.
Lorenz Larkin talks free agency after UFC 202
ANTHONY JOHNSON: He’s fighting Daniel Cormier, as long as both dudes stay healthy. DC vs. Rumble 2.
GLOVER TEIXEIRA: There’s really only one available fight that makes any sense, and it doesn’t make much sense. That’s Glover vs. Shogun. Outside of that most of the top ranked fighters are booked, or just not good enough to warrant a spot against Glover Teixeira. Ilir Latifi, win or lose against Bader wouldn’t be a bad option, and I wouldn’t even be against seeing Bader vs. Teixeira 2. And while I like Glover vs. Gus a lot win or lose for Gustafsson against Blachowicz (I mean, he’ll win, but whatever), I think Gus is best saved for Jon Jones’ return from suspension. So, I’m left saying Glover vs. Shogun is the best fight to make. Manuwa win or lose would be fine too, but Shogun is the bigger name.
DONALD CERRONE: He too wants to fight Eddie Alvarez. Of course, he’s not under contract at the moment, but that’d be a hell of a fight to make right now. I’d also like to see Cerrone stick around at middleweight and take on Lorenz Larkin right now (one of the rare times I’d like to match winners from the same card), but if he’s dead set on a fight with Alvarez and that keeps him in the UFC, then damn it, why the hell not? Donald Cerrone, take another whack at the 155 belt.
RICK STORY: I’ve been calling for a Story/Hendricks rematch for a while now, even with Hendricks on the decline. But the other fight I’d love to see and feels perfectly set up at this moment is Rick Story vs. Matt Brown. Can Brown survive the body punches long enough to do his work in tight? Both men like to work in the clinch, so Brown would get a lot of the fight he wants, while also giving story an avenue toward his Achilles heel. I say Brown vs. Story is a great fight to book right now, even if it could spell disaster for Brown.
TIM MEANS: Tim Means just bounced back from suspension with a big win over Sabah Homasi, but it’s very clear he needs to be taking on higher caliber fighters. Partially, I feel like Means should be taking on someone like Jake Ellenberger, and in fact I think that’d be a really good solid fight. But, for the sake of argument, and assuming Ellenberger wouldn’t be interested in that bout, lets book Means vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio. The Ponz looked great last time out, beating Zak Cummings and would make an excellent opponent for Means.
CODY GARBRANDT: He wants Dominick Cruz, and honestly I don’t think there’s a better fight for Cruz right now, at least not one with more heat. I’d love to see Cruz/Dillashaw 2, but there doesn’t seem to be any real talk about it as something fans or Cruz wants. And there’s probably no way Cruz gets McGregor or DJ. If Garbrandt can’t get that Cruz fight, then a bout with Brian Caraway is super obvious and easy. Either way, I’m happy to see Garbrandt get back in there, and after a big performance on a big stage, why not make the big fight. Cody Garbrandt vs. Dominick Cruz.
LORENZ LARKIN: So, I’d love to see him face Cerrone right now, but assuming that can’t happen then lets make Larkin vs. Gunnar Nelson. Nelson’s coming off a big win himself and is still in need of more quality wins at the top of the welterweight division. Both men have done a lot to shore up past holes and a fight between them would nicely close the round robin between Tumenov/Larkin/Nelson. Gunnar Nelson vs. Lorenz Larkin is the an awesome fight.
NEIL MAGNY: Assuming Tarec Saffiedine can stay healthy, that’s the fight to make right now. Both men need a win and are battling to stay in the top 15 of their divisions. On the flip side, if Tarec can’t be healthy enough for a fight right now, Magny is a fight anyone, anytime, anywhere kind of dude. And at that point I’d be all for seeing Neil Magny take on Albert Tumenov. Option A is Tarec Saffiedine, but Tumenov is a great backup plan.
OTHER BOUTS: Perry vs. Till, Hyun Gyu vs. Thatch, Homasi vs. Griffin, Mizugaki vs. Eduardo, Pennington vs. McMann, Lobov vs. Knight, Casey vs. Kish, Markos vs. Ansaroff, Covington vs. Strickland, Vettori vs. Morono
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