How exciting was UFC Fight Night 32? Come to think of it, how exciting was last night's show coupled with the Wednesday "Fight For The Troops" card? Dating back to the Bellator 106 main event between Michael Chandler and Eddie Alvarez, MMA fans have been treated to some excellent fights and finishes over the past week, and we have a big PPV coming up next week in UFC 167.
After every UFC event, Tim Burke puts on his fantasy matchmaking hat and looks at what's in store for the main card fighters. He's currently in Portland, Oregon right now, so I'll be guiding you through today's edition. There were 12 men on last night's main card, 1 has been essentially guaranteed a title shot, while the end of the line could be on the horizon for a few others.
Vitor Belfort. Three straight knockouts, all three involving a head kick against top 10 fighters in two different weight classes. Dana White did the work for me on this one, so it's a title shot vs. the Anderson Silva/Chris Weidman winner.
Dan Henderson. This is a tough situation for Henderson. I can't think of any top 10 fighter he can beat right now, and there's really no point in feeding him mid-level guys like Ryan Jimmo, Cyrille Diabate, or Anthony Perosh. Could he re-match Shogun or Lil' Nog (who is hardly ever healthy)? I guess, but that seems to be matchmaking based more on PRIDE nostalgia than anything else. His contract is up, and at 43 he's finally suffered his first KO loss and it was in brutal fashion. At 3 losses in a row, it might be time for Hendo to hang up those gloves.
Cezar Ferreira. I wasn't impressed with either Ferreira or Sarafian last night, and frankly TUF Brazil 1 looks just as uninspiring as any US edition of TUF within the last 5 years. He's 3-0 in the UFC but was hurt multiple times against Sergio Moraes and was definitely dinged in the 2nd round against Sarafian. Give him TUF 17's Luke Barnatt next.
Daniel Sarafian. He looked two weight classes smaller than Ferreira, and probably is better off at welterweight anyway. His one win in the UFC is against Eddie Mendez (who?), who was bounced after one fight. If he chooses to stay at middleweight, then have him fight Andrew Craig. If he drops to welterweight, then do a fight with Jordan Mein.
Rafael Cavalcante. Much better showing from "Feijao" after that dismal debut against Thiago Silva. Feijao vs. Jimi Manuwa would've been a great fight, but Manuwa is competing against Alexander Gustafsson instead. Light heavyweight is such a weak division that the pickings are slim, so I'll go with Ovince St. Preux on a PPV prelim or an FS1 main card.
Igor Pokrajac. 76 second loss, and if not for Joey Beltran's failed drug test, he'd be 0-4 in his last 4. Two of his last four opponents have been cut. Time to clean out your cubicle and head to Bellator, Mr. Pokrajac.
Brandon Thatch. Another 1st round finish for Mr. Thatch. He is an absolute menace with his knees in the clinch, and he's clearly a talented striker. My immediate thought is Thatch vs. Adlan Amagov, but given the UFC's historical hesitancy to match prospect against prospect, I believe Thatch will instead be tested against someone like Sean Pierson, who has won 3 in a row.
Paulo Thiago. He's 2-5 in his last 7 and peaked as a fighter three years ago. Thiago has been thrashed in his last 3 losses and tapped to strikes after Thatch drilled him with a knee to the body. I don't really see any justifiable reason to keep him around, so I think last night was Paulo's last fight in the UFC.
Ryan LaFlare. I like LaFlare as a prospect in this division, and outside of that 3rd round knockdown (which might have been more of a push than an actual clean punch), he dominated Ponzinibbio. New Jersey's Ring of Combat promotion has seen the likes of Jim Miller, Frankie Edgar, and Chris Weidman fight for them and become top UFC fighters, and LaFlare could be another one in the making. I see LaFlare getting the Rick Story/Brian Ebersole winner.
Santiago Ponzinibbio. His body took a massive beating last night, and the Argentine was outclassed on the ground. I guess he'll be staying on Brazil shows, but on the prelims against someone like Ildemar Alcantara.
Jeremy Stephens. That's the first time I've ever seen Stephens KO someone with anything but a punch, and it's been 2 years since he won by KO. He's 2-0 at featherweight and has not been troubled once in either fight. I wouldn't jump on his bandwagon since he has historically proven to be an inconsistent fighter, but he definitely should get a step up in competition. Dare I say it, how about Stephens vs. Conor McGregor?
Rony Jason. Ouch. I was a tad concerned that Jason's less-than-stellar striking defense would be tested, but I didn't see a 40 second KO in his sights. That's his first loss in the UFC, and he's still quite popular in Brazil given his TUF background. He'll probably get a highly winnable fight next year on one of these Brazil shows, perhaps against Daniel Pineda.