Whenever the UFC puts together a fight card featuring a lot of their less-than-marquee talent, the hope is always for definitive results. If fans aren’t going to see the promotional stars shine, then they should be getting a clearer picture of who the future stars might be. And the UFC’s Fresno card definitely gave fans some of that. Brian Ortega picked up the biggest win of his career, submitting Cub Swanson in the main event, and Marlon Moraes announced himself as a real threat at the top of the bantamweight division.
So, what comes next? To figure that out, I’m using the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking model of years past. That means matching winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent against one another. If you’d like to take your own shot at some fight booking magic, drop a comment below, starting with the phrase, “A lot of people don’t know, but I’m trying to get the attention of someone who has a lot of money.” I’ll select one winner from the responses to join me for next week’s card.
This week’s winner is BE reader chowie24:
Hello everyone, my name is Joey, you can find me in the BE message boards @chowie24 and you can find me on twitter @Boats_and_Joes. I’ve been a diehard mma fan since my best friend ordered UFC 100 and introduced me to the magical sport of mixed martial arts. Watching Hendo KO Bisping and Brock smash Frank Mir instantly turned me into a fanboy overnight. I am a student at Arizona State and I aspire to have Zane’s job one day.
Joey – WOW! Brian Ortega is the real deal. His finishes are gorgeous and always seem to come out of nowhere with little setup. This kid is amazing and I hope the UFC gives him a massive push. Dana said after the fight that Frankie is still getting the title fight, so with that being said, he should be booked for a title eliminator to face the winner of that fight. I’d really love to match him up with the Korean zombie, however it seems as though he’s still going to be out for a while. If TKZ isn’t ready then I say match up T-City with Lamas if he beats Emmett. Should Lamas lose then match him up with the winner of Elkins/Michael Johnson.
Zane – It sounds like, despite being next in line, a title shot is probably not the next fight in Brian Ortega’s future. He’s said he’d wait until Frankie Edgar got his, before jumping the queue and has even suggested he might take another fight before the title. Chances are, if he’s willing, the UFC will book him. But there’s not really anyone to book him against in the top 10 at the moment, unless they want to go winner/loser and put him in with Aldo or Yair. They could match him up with Ricardo Lamas (provided he beats Josh Emmett), but if it’s a thrilling stay busy fight that provides the UFC with a surefire fun new contender, I’d say Ortega vs. Yair Rodriguez is the way to go.
Joey – I’ve always been a fan of Cub and his fighting style so I really hope the UFC re-signs him. I would however, like to call into question his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He’s been submitted 6 times now, including a submission to striker Max Holloway. Seems suspect to me. With that aside, Cub’s title aspirations have taken a massive hit. Now seems like the perfect time to book the long overdue rematch between Cub and Jose Aldo. These are two legends and I’ve been waiting for this rematch for a long time now. The days of WEC Aldo seem to be long gone, and I’d love to see how the defensive Aldo fares against the unorthodox aggressive Cub Swanson.
Zane – There’s a solid shot that Swanson’s time in the UFC is over. This was the last fight on his contract and, leading up to it, he didn’t sound terribly enthused about the idea of another UFC deal. Assuming all sides can come together, however, I said before this bout that Swanson needs to fight Jose Aldo whether he won or lost tonight, and I’m 100% sticking to that. Cub Swanson vs. Jose Aldo 2 has been years and years in the making and winning it would put Swanson right back in arms reach of chance for the belt.
Joey – Was it just me or does Gabriel look like a young Diego Sanchez? He even has the tenacity of Diego as well. Gabriel looked sensational, outclassing Jason Knight from start to finish, even overcoming several fouls. His standup looked phenomenal and he deserves a higher ranked opponent after that strong performance. Gabriel Benitez vs the winner of Jeremy Stephens/Korean Superboy is the fight to make. It would pair him with another phenomenal striker on a one fight win streak.
Zane – The thing with Benitez is, re: the ‘Young Diego Sanchez’ idea, is that Sanchez is only six years older than him. It’s great to see Benitez continue to improve and round out his game, but he’s a pretty well developed veteran talent right now, and one who’s already had a couple hard losses in the featherweight division. This knight win is great, but I don’t think the result is necessarily going to be rushing Benitez up among the ranked contenders so much as it is pulling Knight back down toward the middle of the pack. To that end, I’m going to say, throw Benitez at another top prospect who isn’t as young as he is unfamiliar. Alex Volkanovski vs. Garbiel Benitez would be a great test for both men, and the winner starts to have a real argument for being ranked in the division.
Joey – That was one of the nastiest KO’s I’ve ever seen. I was speechless for over 10 minutes. Marlon Moraes is a bad, bad man. If Dillashaw and Mighty Mouse are really going to fight, then Moraes should get the winner of Rivera/Lineker. I doubt Jimmy takes that fight if he wins though, because he sure sounds like he wants to pull a Tyron Woodley and sit and wait until he gets his title shot. If for some reason that is the case then I say match Marlon up with Dominick Cruz. That’s a great contender fight and also the fight I wanted for Marlon since the UFC signed him.
Zane – A statement KO and Moraes is quickly making that debut loss to Raphael Assuncao fade into the distance. He could make an argument for the winner of Rivera vs. Lineker, but the winner of that fight is going to be in line for a title shot – especially if Dillashaw vs. Johnson falls apart again. Assuming that Dillashaw ends up with that fight, then Moraes has a couple of options. He can stay busy and take on Pedro Munhoz or Brett Johns. He can wait for Dominick Cruz or Bryan Caraway to come back from injury. He can wait for the winner of Rob Font vs. Thomas Almeida. Or my personal favorite, go winner/loser and take on Cody Garbrandt. Off this KO, the time is right for Moraes to make a statement. And it’s the kind of action fight that would put Garbrandt immediately in contention if he won it. Cody Garbrandt vs. Marlon Moraes.
Joey – Poor Aljo. That was really hard to watch. That was one of the more gruesome Knockouts I’ve ever seen. Aljo is a young talent with a lot of potential, but a lot of growing to do in the standup department. A good matchup for him is another top prospect who got viciously knocked out by a top contender, and that’s Mathew Lopez. Both are dangerous grapplers in need of a rebound.
Zane – Sterling’s rise to the elite of the bantamweight division has been a bit of a herky-jerky trip. Following back to back close losses, he seemed like he’d really regained his momentum as a top contender, only to be stopped dead in his tracks. Fortunately for him, however, there’s another top flight bantamweight coming off a loss to Marlon Moraes. John Dodson didn’t get KO’d, but he’s having similar trouble going from ‘really very good’ to ‘title contender’ at 135. A win for either man over the other would go a long way erasing some of their recent losses. John Dodson vs. Aljamain Sterling.
Joey – Benito Lopez fights the exact same way I play UFC 2; constant spinning kicks and flying knees and never pressing the block button. I wish there were more fighters like him and I pray the UFC keeps him far away from grapplers. Match him up with guys with flashy striking as well. The perfect matchup for him is a fellow Dana White’s Contender Series winner and lover of spinning kicks and that is Sean O’Malley. I’m foaming at the mouth just thinking about the crazy action from these two rising prospects.
Zane – Color me impressed that Lopez picked up a win against a ‘tougher than his record would indicate’ young talent in Albert Morales. And to that end, I agree that it is time for him to face off against another top newcomer coming off a solid win. But, I don’t think it should be Sean O’Malley just yet. Those two will fight, some day down the line, I don’t doubt. For the moment, however, Ricardo Ramos just got a vicious KO over Aiemann Zahabi. Ramos is a thoroughly dangerous finisher with some big technical gaps in his standup, but just the kind of fighter to give Lopez something to think about while taking a step up in competition. Benito Lopez vs. Ricardo Ramos is the fight I want to see.
Joey – Eryk Anders looks like a future champ in the making. The former Alabama linebacker is the type of athlete that can take over the UFC. His technical skills still need work obviously and he needs more octagon experience as well. He called out Lyoto Machida, and that’d be interesting because Machida could well be over the hill. However, I would like to keep pairing him up with prospects to slowly build him. Eryk Anders vs the winner of Oluwale Bamgbose vs Alessio Di Chirico would be a nice step up for him, especially if Bamgbose wins. Trevin Giles, who scored a knockout on the same card last night would also be a good matchup of two undefeated prospects.
Zane – Powerful prospect with a raw technical game, I give you damage soaking opponent who fights back from adversity. If Anders is going to be the real deal at 185, there are a ton of tough-but-take-able fighters for him to prove that against. The winner of Di Chirico & Bamgbose would be fine, but Ryan Janes just announced himself as a prime prospect gatekeeper and I’d love to see him keep plugging away in that role. How does Anders do when he can’t KO someone quickly, or discourage them from throwing back? And on the flip side, Janes is right there to be hit by any/everything, so if Anders is a real future top shelf talent, he should be able to put him away. Eryk Anders vs. Ryan Janes is a great next fight.
Zane – Somehow, some way, Alexis Davis is one of the winning-est women in the UFC. She’s now 8-3, stretching all the way back to her time in Zuffa-era Strikeforce. Now in a new division, at 125 lbs, she’s got a good chance to make some real noise – given the relative inexperience of many of the newcomers there. A fight with Lauren Murphy wouldn’t be out of line (and might even make more sense than my previous idea of Murphy vs. Lee), but I’ll say she should wait for the winner of Mara Romero Borella vs. Katlyn Chookagian. I think it’d make for a little more interesting matchup and give more new talent a chance to make their name off their veteran counterparts.
Zane – What do you do with a fighter like Alejandro Perez, who keeps winning fights that nobody wants to watch? Outside his TKO of Ian Entwistle, Perez’s whole UFC career has been almost entirely forgettable. But, he’s 5-1-1, and probably on the cusp of being ranked. He could go winner/loser against Eddie Wineland or Matthew Lopez – both of whose own claim to being top-ranked bantamweights is a bit dubious at this point – instead, though, I’m going to say he should take on Russell Doane. Doane has had the opposite problem in his UFC career, of being a thrilling, fun fighter, who has worked himself into close losses. He’s coming off a huge KO over Kwan Ho Kwak, however, and if Doane could beat Perez he’d have some serious momentum behind him. And if Perez wins that fight? Start throwing him at ranked competition.
OTHER BOUTS: Knight vs. Bektic, Holtzman vs. K. Johnson, Horcher vs. Herrera, M. Perez vs. Williams, Morales vs. Grant, Carmouche vs. Rawlings, Soukhamthath vs. Quinonez, Sanders vs. Mendes, Perez vs. J. Sanchez, de Tomas vs. Mokhtarian, Saenz vs. Yahya, Dvalishvili vs. Barcelos, Alcantara vs. Gagnon, D. Ramos vs. Held, Gruetzemacher vs. Gonzalez, Giles vs. Byrd, Braga Neto vs. Wilson
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