If UFC 221 had been a FS1 card… heck maybe even a ‘big FOX’ card, it would have been rock solid. The main card, outside the main event was mostly sloppy but also mostly fun. Li Jingliang vs. Jake Matthews was a legit, good fight, and then main event between Luke Rockhold and Yoel Romero was a contest between two supremely gifted athletes at the top of the sport. It just didn’t feel like a PPV.
Still, there’s a lot of story-lines coming out of the event. Does Yoel still get his title shot? Does Luke Rockhold go to light heavyweight? What’s next for Curtis Blaydes? To answer all that, I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby model of years past. That means booking winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent against one another.
If you’d like to take your own crack at some fantasy fight booking, leave a comment below starting with, “Middleweights, I’m the new dog in the yard. And I just pissed all over this cage.” I’ll pick one person from the replies to join me next time. This week’s winner is BE reader Rickyc123.
Hello fellow Bloody Elbow readers. My name is Rickyc123 aka Rick Nazir to friends and family. I’m from a town in the UK near Manchester called Rochdale (All hail the great town of Rochdale). My big moment of MMA revelation was actually quite weird and obscure. It all started when a friend of mine from college told me his cousin “Martin Stapleton” was a UFC fighter, this was all a lie of course. He was actually just somebody who got eliminated from TUF 9. Anyway as I was watching back in 2009. I found myself hooked on The Ultimate Fighter. And it just so happened that the first PPV after the TUF Finale was UFC 100. Which just so happened to feature Dan Henderson spectacularly KO’ing the Count and Brock Lesnar laying out Frank Mir and just mashing his face up.
You can find me on social media nowhere (I’m more of a quiet kind of guy) but feel free to let me know how you think I’ve done down below in the comments.
Rick – This is probably the easiest fights to make because it is most likely the same for everyone. Yoel Romero looked great in his fight against Rockhold (even though he foolishly missed weight) being able to rebound from a loss in his last fight. Although Romero wasn’t eligible for the Interim title, I’d still book him the same as if he was. I see him more as the number one contender to the title so his next fight should be against Robert Whittaker in a rematch for the title however it is still unknown how long he is going to be out of action for so if he isn’t back in a reasonable time period they should do Jacare Souza Vs Yoel Romero where the winner will face Whittaker in a rematch for the title.
Zane – I’d have zero problem seeing Romero vs. Jacare 2, or Romero vs. Gastelum if Whittaker isn’t back soon. But, by all accounts it seems like the champion is already rehabbing and on his way back. If that’s the case then I guess Romero vs. Whittaker 2 is what we get. It’s almost too bad. The first fight was great, but Whittaker vs. Rockhold had a much more exciting feel ahead of this fight. Can’t undo it, though. Yoel Romero vs. Robert Whittaker 2.
Rick – Has he not learnt his lesson from the Bisping fight. As one of the best wrestlers in MMA you shouldn’t choose to strike with one of the best strikers in MMA. I was uncertain about how good Rockhold would be due to the fact that we didn’t see enough in his fight against Branch to see if the Rockhold we have now is the best Rockhold and this confirmed it wasn’t. In terms of his next fight, a fight against Derek Brunson would be intriguing as both are coming off losses against top contenders. However a better match up in my opinion would be against Kelvin Gastelum. It would be a great fight and we would be able to see if Rockhold was actually at the elite level he was presumed to have been at and for Gastelum we can see if his win against Bisping was just a fluke against an injured man or if he is a top contender.
Zane – If Rockhold is actually interested in moving to 205 like he says he is, then I’d much rather get on booking him there. Bouts against Glover Teixeira, Shogun Rua, and Alexander Gustafsson (that actually might be ugly) all intrigue me. If Rockhold stays at middleweight, then I’d love to see him fight Weidman again… or maybe try the Brunson bout. At the end of the day, however, I’m going to say go ahead to light heavyweight and let’s see Luke Rockhold vs. Glover Teixeira.
Rick – It was great to see how Curtis Blaydes was able to get through almost being knocked out in the first round and how he was able to respond to the first spot of danger he’s been in since the Ngannou fight. In an ideal world I’d love to see Ngannou Vs Blaydes in a rematch. But Blaydes is gonna have to get ranked a little higher before that match up happens. As a realistic and potentially exciting fight I’d like to see Blaydes Vs the winner of Tybura vs Lewis at UFC 225 in Chicago.
Zane – Well, Stipe’s tied up, but Cain Velasquez is looking for a comeback fight in July right? Or is that too much too soon for Blaydes? It might be. The winner of Lewis vs. Tybura is much more Blaydes’ speed right now. Part of me itches to throw him at Alistair Overeem and see what happens and even the Ngannou rematch has intrigue. Still lets not rush one of the only other prospects we have after watching him almost get KO’d early this time out. Curtis Blaydes vs. the Lewis/Tybura winner is rock solid fight booking.
Rick – I hope he doesn’t do what he’s been saying and leaves the UFC after this fight because he will be sorely missed. Mark Hunt just wasn’t able to keep himself off the ground and he gassed out after almost stopping Blaydes in the first round. Next time I see Hunt fight I would rather see him up against another grizzled veteran. I believe the right match up for Mark Hunt is the loser of Andrei Arlovski vs Stefan Struve. You’d have to be mad to not want to watch Struve Vs Hunt 2 and Arlovski vs Hunt is considered a fantasy match.
Zane – JDS’s USADA suspension is really clogging up more potential fun fights at the top of this division. That’s a rematch I really wouldn’t mind seeing right now. But we gotta play the hand we’re dealt. And for Hunt, I think the best hand he can play would be to campaign for a bout between the loser of Fabricio Werdum vs. Alexander Volkov. He could also ask for the winner of Arlovski/Struve, as I think he’s still got a step on both of them at the moment. But, Hunt/Werdum 2 has legit heat to it and Hunt/Volkov feels like an intriguing matchup of strikers.
Rick – Mark Hunt Jr. pulls it off with another first round stoppage. It’s clear to see where the UFC are trying to head with Tuivasa to make him Australia’s next big star as Mark Hunt is nearing the end of his career. I don’t see the UFC giving Tuivasa some tricky opposition anytime soon and he doesn’t have a problem with that either as he stated he doesn’t expect to be ranked until the end of the year. That gives him time to build his record up. It wouldn’t surprise me if they gave him somebody with no wins such as Allen Crowder or Chris De la Rocha in his next fight but I believe if they do go down that route they should at least make it a challenge for him to get a first round knockout and match him up against Luis Henrique (who was able to last 7:53 with Francis Ngannou) at the UFC’s next visit to Australia.
Zane – There are enough guys coming off wins that I don’t think the UFC needs to go winner/loser on Tuivasa just yet. And the division is plenty big enough at this point to keep slow-playing him. If they wanted to smash two of their most promising prospects together, Tuivasa vs Justin Willis would be fascinating. The Godbeer vs. Sosnovskiy winner would be fine too. There’s no great reason to spend the Willis fight now though, and Daniel Spitz is right there, unbooked. Tai Tuivasa vs. Daniel Spitz.
Rick – Every time I see Jake Matthews he seems to surprise me. His performance against the Leech was stellar. He was able to showcase his versatility and show us he could strike as well as wrestle. The problem is, though, you never no which Jake Matthews you’re going to get. The one who just snapped a dangerous fighter’s 4 fight winning streak, or the guy who lost to Andrew Holbrook. I don’t believe he’s shown enough to show that he can hang with ranked competitors. I believe a match up against someone else on the verge of the rankings would be a good fight to make. Sean Strickland and Chad Laprise would make strong opponents both coming off wins however I believe the best choice is Belal Muhammad, who is a fighter that Jake Matthews has called out countless times on Twitter and interviews and I can’t see any reason not to grant Matthews this fight.
Zane – I mean, yeah, if Matthews is out there calling out Belal Muhammad that’s a fight that would work just fine and be a fascinating style clash. I’d also really like to see Jake Matthews vs. Drew Dober, in the battle of bricked-up former lightweights. Vicente Luque and Warlley Alves would also be strong contenders. Basically, welterweight is thick with dudes right around Matthews skill and experience level, all of them with something to prove. At the end of the day, I think the Luque fight is the one I like most. Jake Matthews vs. Vicente Luque.
Rick – Now that was more like the Tyson Pedro that we had all become accustomed to before the Latifi fight. It amazes me just how dynamic and agile Pedro is for somebody in the light heavyweight decision. In terms of who I think he should fight next, I want to see if he learnt his lesson from last time. It is all well and good beating people who are a high risk, but I need to know if he can beat people who don’t take risks and don’t have the ‘knock out or be knocked out’ mentality that his 3 defeated opponents have had. I believe that the Australian should be matched up against the winner of Cummins Vs Anderson. If that isn’t possible, book him against Misha Cirkunov. It gives Pedro the opportunity to fight a higher ranked opponent and Cirkunov the opportunity to rebound from losses against more experienced ones.
Zane – The fact that Pedro is already a ranked light heavyweight says way too much about how bad the light heavyweight rankings are. He looked solid beating Saparbek Safarov, but that should be a baseline requirement to be in the UFC, not to be a top ranked fighter. If Ed Herman hadn’t cut off part of a finger a while ago, I’d love to see Pedro take him on. Jared Cannonier would also be solid, even coming off an ugly loss to Jan Blachowicz. Eventually though, why not throw Pedro at Gian Villante and see if he can get Villante’s timing down while dealing with the Serra-Longo fighter’s power. Should make for a good next step as a prospect. Tyson Pedro vs. Gian Villante.
Rick – This fight against an unbeaten contender was a real eye opener for me about the potential that Volkanovski has. He has been sliding under the radar with his wins all being in rather dominant fashion. After amassing a 4-0 record in the UFC, I believe he is just on the verge of the rankings. Matchups against both Jason Knight and Chas Skelly both seem like matchups that would be entertaining. But seeing as they are both coming off a loss, I think a match up against Enrique Barzola would suit him better against another opponent who has slipped under the radar but amassed a 4-1 record in the UFC. Barzola holds a similar style to Volkanovski, having strong wrestling and striking in his arsenal.
Zane – Myles Jury, Mirsad Bektic, and Calvin Kattar are all hanging around the bottom of the featherweight rankings and all coming off strong wins. Any combination of those and Volkanovski would make for a great fight. I’ll pick one and say the UFC should go with Kattar. Kattar has shocked his opponents in the UFC so far, with a decision over Fili and a KO over Burgos. But his relative newness to the promotion makes me feel he’s the most likely to take a fight with a still somewhat unknown force like Volkanovski. If either guy wins, it’s a huge feather in their caps on their way to top ranked opposition. If they lose, it shouldn’t be that big a setback. Alex Volkanovski vs. Calvin Kattar.
Rick – Another standard victory by Jussier Formiga (rather impressively submitting a potential contender in Ben Nguyen). And due to the lack of depth in the in the Flyweight division, there is only really one real option to face Formiga in my opinion. Most ranked flyweights are already booked or have already fought Formiga; I believe a fight with Matheus Nicolau would be an intriguing match up but I think that would be more of a downgrade in terms of their ranking especially after a victory. I say book Sergio Pettis Vs Jussier Formiga. Both men are on the verge of being at the top of the rankings at 4th and 5th respectively and we need to see who can be up their with the elite.
Zane – If the UFC doesn’t want to replay a fight he’s already had, then Formiga vs. Pettis is the right bout to make. It’d give Sergio a chance to bounce back after a tough loss to Henry Cejudo and make another bid to be the top contender at flyweight. And it would strengthen Formiga’s case as the top contender without avenging any of his losses. The truth is, though, that I want to see Formiga take another crack at Joseph Benavidez. Unfortunately Benavidez blew out his knee and his return may still be a ways away. In absence of that possibility, Formiga vs. Pettis is the fight to make.
OTHER BOUTS: Asker vs. Henrique, Jingliang vs. LaFlare, Safarov vs. Kimball, Dong Hyun vs. Holtzman, Brown vs. Saggo, Adesanya vs. Janes, Wilkinson vs. Perez, Kennedy vs. Burgos, Nguyen vs. Pantoja, Pearson vs. Guida, Hirota vs. Miller, Quinonez vs. Kyung Ho, Ishihara vs. Vera, Jumeau vs. Alhassan, Daichi vs. Bofando
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