With the rash of injuries that the UFC has experienced time and time again, playing matchmaker for the fighters is an ever-changing drama; Fighter A won't fight Fighter B, teammates refuse to battle even if/unless a title is on the line, and the problem of injuries occuring more often. It would be easy to dump most of the problems on the fact that Zuffa has been/is putting on so many cards compared to recent history, however that is not the path that I will take. With the recent fights as well as the upcoming ones as well, here are some of the more interesting fights that should be made if it was up to me:
This is one of the many fights that I am truly happy about because there is history involved. Everyone complains that the Ultimate Fighter is stale and needs a reboot or possibly a cancellation; however, when you bring into account that for the Ultimate Fighter: Brazil II there really is no better options than Shogun vs Lil' Nog; Chute Box vs Nogueira BJJ, two of the biggest names in all of Brazil. And the best part about it is all of the footage and PRIDE library footage that Zuffa can use to sell this; it will no doubt air on FUEL, and most likely on Globo in Brazil (I'll be honest, I don't know the markets down there). Also, because Shogun/Lil' Nog II has the history on its side, the UFC has a built-in co-main event for its January card (likely with a title fight serving as the main event). The library footage can sell this fight alone, and if promoted properly this one should not disappoint fight fans.
This one was already announced by Dana, but what Zuffa and FOX have to accomplish with their partnership is promoting using big fights on FOX to help build bigger stars for PPV. Because Lyoto Machida has earned the next shot at the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship winner of the Jon Jones and Dan Henderson fight, the next fight for him should be one to showcase and push for a big sell on PPV. What bigger stage than the Saturday night before the NFL Super Bowl in 2013?
Cung Le vs Rich Franklin (UFC on FUEL 6 -- Main Event)
Again, this fight was announced by Dana and for all intensive purposes it works out very well for the UFC. You have a company man in Rich Franklin (who is willing to travel the world and do as Dana asks) taking on martial arts movie star Cung Le in Macau, China's version of Las Vegas. For a FUEL card, this is about as good of a main event as you can get name-wise.
This is a fight that probably doesn't make much sense right now, but could be a very fun one when it's all said and done. First of all, this would sell in Minneapolis because it's Sherk's home state and this could very well be his final fight in the UFC (and his career); Lauzon is the all-time bonus leader and always comes to fight, win or lose. Secondly, it never hurts to add a "former UFC champion" to a card that is lacking one in the first place. Finally, a win over Sherk is great for Lauzon's resume and sets him up for a big 2013, while Sherk can go out and fight potentially his final fight in front of family and friends.
This fight has been called off due to a nasty cut above one the eyes of Rory MacDonald that required more than 40 stitches or so. BJ Penn came back specifically for the fight with MacDonald, and one can wonder if Penn would stay on the UFC 152 Toronto card for a replacement opponent. However, this fight can be rescheduled for a month later and it can be a very solid co-main event under the GSP/Condit title unification -- plus this would push the Hendricks/Kampmann down and make the main card even deeper. This is the fight to prove Tri-Star wrong for Penn, and the launching pad that Rory needs for his career right now; a cut over the eye of Rory will not ruin the fight, it will just reschedule it.
As for Maynard/Pettis, this fight rumor has been talked about for awhile and would be a fantastic fight to fill out a main card; both are very close to earning a title shot, but with the way the current schedule is there really isn't a card for them to get the exposure of a main event that would propel them to that title shot. Instead, this fight would complete a stacked card for Montreal, with GSP/Condit and Penn/Rory and Hendricks/Kampmann already in place, and an impressive victory could determine who gets the next title shot after Nate Diaz in the lightweight division.
Join me after the jump for some other big fights that could be worked out....
Here are some other big name fights that I would love to see booked:
This fight is one that many might shake their heads to, and it's not for who's involved in the fight. Normally the smaller weight classes do not produce big on the big stage (PPV-wise and viewership-wise), but there has been an outcry from fans for Zuffa and the UFC to put another title fight on FOX. It just so happens that UFC on FOX is in early December and the only title that could conceivably be defended on that card would be the Bantamweight Championship; Flyweight, Featherweight, and Light Heavyweight would all be a quick turnaround, Heavyweight is going to be on PPV, Welterweight is in November, and Lightweight in August would leave only 3 months before the event happening. That leaves the Bantamweight Championship, and it should be fantastic.
This fight would have two of the top young fighters in the bantamweight division on primetime television and in the spotlight; think about that for a second. With Dominick Cruz currently sidelined, Barao has said he would fight in the meantime should the UFC ask him to defend his belt. Barao has a very long winning streak that Zuffa can promote, and with both Renan Barao and Michael McDonald both young this could be the title fight that would hit their key demographics for ratings. With the proper promotion throughout the MLB World Series and the NFL regular season games on FOX, this could be the change in direction that the UFC on FOX partnership needs.
Alexander Gustafsson vs Forrest Griffin (UFC on FOX 5 -- Co-Main Event)
As bad as people have made Forrest out to be of late (and you cannot defend his stupidity from UFC 148), the guy still can bring in viewers and has a big name -- a UFC-made name. He's the perfect type of stepping stone for someone like Gustafsson to take on and challenge -- ideally you want Alexander to thrash Griffin and establish himself in a big way on network television. But this gives Alexander Gustafsson the type of exposure that he needs to become marketable in the States -- with a win over Forrest Griffin going a pretty long way to add an established name on his victim list (resume) -- and still protect him as the co-main of the UFC on FOX 5. And if Forrest wins? You now have him at 4-1 in his last 5 fights and likely back "in the mix" should he continue to fight; if he loses, the UFC can put one final fight between Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin as a co-main event for an FX card. Either way, the UFC wins with this fight on this card.
Another fun fight that would ideally be non-stop action for 15 minutes or until someone is finished, and it lines up pretty well; both Barboza and Guida are coming off losses that set themselves back in the division, and both are fighters that aim for the bonuses with their performances. To move up the ladder both are going to have to square off against one another at some point...why not now?
Many don't see the fit here as coaches for TUF (and that includes me), but the fight itself should be a fun heavyweight brawl. The good news: it's a free fight on FX and because of the names involved it should bring in some viewers; the bad news: the public probably does not tune into TUF to make the other matchups on the card/show worthwhile. And let's not forget that Shane Carwin needs to prove that he still belongs in the division and the UFC after coming back from injuries, and if he cannot defeat Roy Nelson then a thin division becomes even thinner. But for a free main event fight on FX, Nelson/Carwin should be more than fine.
While it seems like a mismatch, this would be a fun fight for a few reasons: first Matt Riddle is coming off an impressive submission victory and could benefit from some more exposure on free television; secondly Mike Swick is coming off an equally impressive knockout victory at UFC on FOX 4, but is not quite near the upper-tier of the welterweight ranks; finally both are former TUF alumni, which make them more valuable to a TUF Finale card than putting this fight on the preliminary card of a PPV event. This would be a war, and one that I would have no problem making time for.
Junior Dos Santos vs Alistair Overeem (2012 New Years PPV -- Main Event -- UFC Heavyweight Championship)
This is the biggest fight to be scheduled in 2012 and not happen, and Junior dos Santos apparently wants it badly. Overeem has talked a lot of late, even going as far as saying that JDS is afraid of Overeem's power. As far as the UFC is concerned, ending the year on a high note with a high-grossing Heavyweight Championship title fight is the best possible scenerio at this point for their schedule; and with Junior's english improving day by day, the promos between him and Overeem could really help establish the UFC's newest PPV darling. Finally, Cain will get his rematch at some point, but this fight is the better fight to make now; the only problem is actually getting this fight to go down. Overeem needs to reapply for a license on December 27th -- the first day he's allowed to do so -- and be ready to fight on December 29th, which is no small task. HOWEVER, there's a good chance that if this is the fight that Zuffa wants to book then it will make sure it goes down, no matter how much red tape they would have to walk around and dodge in the process. I personally just want to see JDS take out Overeem in exciting fashion.
It's kind of the perfect co-main event to a JDS/Overeem main event, and it helps Zuffa and the UFC cover their behinds should any shenanigans occur. Cain doesn't really deserve a title shot off of one victory, and Werdum has been looking for a rematch with dos Santos ever since he was embarrased by a debuting JDS at UFC 90. On a year-end card that has a UFC Heavyweight Championship match, it never hurts to have a contender ready on the card just in case something happens; and a win for either Cain or Werdum sets up for a potentially really interesting rematch with JDS should he remain champion.
Admittedly, this fight should have taken place years ago while the WEC was still in full swing; this fight has definitely lost its luster after each has gone through some ups and downs as main event caliber fighters. Now, with Faber and Torres both pretty far away from a title shot, they can finally meet on one of the biggest cards of the year. Slotting this fight underneath JDS/Overeem and Cain/Werdum, it allows each guy to go out and put on a show to see which fighter rises and which one goes tumbling down the ladder in the bantomweight division.
This fight should be a war, that's what would be assumed when you mention Wanderlei and Lombard in the same sentence; but even though Hector asked for a fight with Mark Munoz, he should be happy if this fight is booked. And I'm not going to lie, but the idea of a can-crusher against Wanderlei can make or break Lombard's tenure with the UFC; and it's a fight I would really like to see.
What can I say? This fight makes too much to not make it; Silva doesn't want to fight inferior opponents who don't have the name value that he may possess, wants only big name fights, and just so happens to be arguably the greatest of all time to ever step inside the octagon. If Georges St.-Pierre is not available to fight, then Rashad is a perfect fall back option for marketability of the event. Some ask why Rashad would receive an immediate title shot after dropping down...he's in the same boat as Frankie Edgar would be should he drop to featherweight, where it would make too much sense to not give him an immediate title shot. Should this fight be booked, Rashad can also sell fights very well with his promos and mouth, which is also music to Silva's ears and more money in Silva's bank account.
This is the kind of fight that both of these fighters need in terms of establishing themselves to the casual fans; Weidman has called out Anderson Silva and wants a title shot at the UFC Middleweight Champion, but he doesn't have the mainstream exposure to goad the champion into accepting the fight. Boetsch has been a comeback machine and plays the underdog very well, but he's also a bland fighter that needs a real signature victory in order to secure a title shot. As long as these two are on the same card as Silva, there's a chance that the next contender for the middleweight championship comes from this matchup.
Ben Henderson/Frankie Edgar winner vs Nate Diaz (2013 Super Bowl Saturday PPV -- Co-Main Event -- UFC Lightweight Championship)
Finally, someone will not receive an immediate rematch and the lightweight division can get back to moving with contenders actually receiving a title shot. Nate Diaz earned his title shot, has waited out the mess, and now would have an opportunity on one of the biggest cards in recent history to realize his dream and become a UFC Champion...all he has to do is defeat Bendo or Frankie; even as the co-main event, this fight would be action-packed.
How Joe Silva manages to stay sane is amazing.