After the Dublin card, the UFC delivered in Europe again with another well-matched night of fights that featured a lot of excitement and finishes, as well as an intriguing main event that didn't get dull despite being a fairly technical bout that went the five round distance.
There were a fair few upsets here, with some prospects not looking quite as formidable as their biggest fans might have told you they were. But how should the fighters that put it all on the line last night be matched going forward?
Let's take a look.
Rick Story - Story is as tough a gatekeeper as they come. But after last night, I think he deserves a chance to take the next step. He doesn't always look super impressive, and sometimes he allows the lead to be taken from him by poor cage IQ (see the Mike Pyle fight) but he always has his moments. You could match him with Jordan Mein, in what would be a tremendous old school boxing match, but again Story would possibly be giving a young man (a veteran ranked higher than him but nonetheless the younger man) a leg up at his own expense. Let's see if 'The Horror' Story can put it all together against Matt Brown, who is coming off a loss but who would make for an incredible fight. If Story can beat Brown he will jump right into contention. If not, then he can go back to being the most dangerous S.O.B outside of the top ten that the prospects will have to answer to on their way to the upper echelons of one of MMA's matinee divisions.
Gunnar Nelson - Nelson still has serious potential, let's not lose sight of that. One fighter who has also seemed to have the raw talent to go far in the sport, but hasn't managed to shore up the holes in his game is Erick Silva. A canny grappler, and a striker that throws everything including the kitchen sink at his opponent, will either force Nelson to up his pace, or consume him. This seems about as fun a match-up of talented guys outside the top ten as you will find, and if it does hit the mat you can guarantee it will be fun.
Max Holloway - Like Rick Story, Max Holloway has paid his dues in the UFC. He's stepped in at short notice, fought hot prospects, and never fails to delivery any less than a good, honest Mixed Martial Arts bout. I can see why some would argue that Holloway should continue to be matched as he has been; He's still young, and is currently getting to demonstrate his improvements against a variety of stylistic challenges without being matched in over his head, and when he has been moved up the ladder he has acquitted himself well. He asked for a top ten or top fifteen fighter after he smashed Akira Corassani, and I think the winner of Darren Elkins-Lucas Martins, which takes place on the undercard of Aldo-Mendes II in a few weeks, is a perfect fit for the young Hawaiian. Elkins is currently ranked no.14 in the official UFC rankings, and if Martins smashes him he likely will be too.
Akira Corassani - This poor dude has been matched tough in his last few fights, and deserves a break to see if he can get back in the win column. Both Jumabieke Tuerxun, who is coming off back-to-back losses, and Mark Eddiva (1-1 in the UFC thus far) will be getting another shot in the UFC at the next Sydney card, and I'd like to see Corassani in with either of those next, whether they win or lose their upcoming bouts. The Swede has been matched horribly as of late, and clearly needs to step down a few levels. EDIT: Another one where I got the weights wrong, as Tuerxun is at 135lbs nowadays. I'd put Corassani in with Ernest Chavez, who was also stopped in the first round on the undercard.
Jan Blachowicz - An impressive stoppage over strongman Ilir Latifi saw KSW light heavyweight champ' Jan Blachowicz announce himself as a quality addition to the wasteland that is the 205lb division. Should Fabio Maldonado come through Hans Stringer in Brazil, then I'd like to see the Polish striker face the Brazilian iron man.
Ilir Latifi - The powerful Swede got caught with the perfect shot, and although he tried to resist going down his will could only hold him up for a few more seconds before he wilted to strikes on the ground. Still, as has already been said, light heavyweight isn't populated with top quality fighters, so he'll have a chance to come again. I'd like to see him in with the loser of Gian Villante and TUF 19 winner Corey Anderson, who are scheduled to face off at UFC 181 in December.
Mike Wilkinson - Mike Wilkonson landed a 'Hail Mary' punch on an overzealous Niklas Backstrom, but deserves credit for bouncing back from a bad year outside the cage and remaining composed under fire. Jim Alers seems a good fit for Wilkinson next time out.
Niklas Backstrom - This will be a sore loss for the talented Swede to take. Seeing as it was such a big step back, perhaps a fighter who is much more highly regarded but also coming off a devastating loss will allow Backstrom to take a step forward and erase the memories of this painful loss? That's why I'm going for Hatsu Hioki, who himself desperately needs a win. Risky? Yes, but Backstrom needs to get back on the horse.
Dennis Siver - The 145lb powerhouse did not look quite his usual self on his first fight back from a positive drug test, but he is still a relevant fighter in the featherweight division. The natural match to make is Siver versus Max Holloway, but I'd like to see Siver take on Nick Lentz, as 'Carny' has seemingly been robbed of a fight that could let him take the next step up the ladder after Charles Oliveira pulled out of their fight sick and was subsequently re-booked to fight Jeremy Stephens. Siver Vs Lentz is a striker vs grappler matchup should be interesting enough.
Magnus Cedenblad - Not the most inspiring performance, but a win over a highly-touted prospect. Let's see if Cedenblad has the minerals, and put him in with one dimensional but gutsy Tom 'Kong' Watson.
Scott Askham - Not a big step back for Askham, but as our very own Zane Simon predicted, he isn't quite ready to jump straight in at the deep end. I'd put him in with a prospect who has shown flashes of brilliance and power as well as having issues with his all-round game, and that is Sam Alvey.
Nico Musoke - The lanky Swede has shown us better than that before, though he got the job done. Alan Jouban provided a lot of excitement in his first UFC bout, and I think these two would match up well, as Musoke often gets hurt and has to fight through it.
Cathal Pendred - Pendred is never going to amount to much in the grand scheme of things, but despite not being the most exciting fighter himself, is in exciting fights due to his sub-bar defence and chin yet being able to come back from knockdowns. Both Josh Samman and Eddie Gordon appear to be much more naturally gifted than Pendred, and after they square off at UFC 181 it'll be interesting to see if they can not only put Pendred down, but keep him down. EDIT: Pendred has dropped back down to 170lbs. So I propose either Kyle Noke or Patrick Cote for Pendred. Sure, they are both coming off losses, but Pendred isn't quite good enough I'd want him to step it up against any of the talented 170lbers currently coming off wins. I'd expect the Irishman to have highly competitive fights with even these two veterans.
This is as far as I'm going to go. What do y'all think of the matches I've proposed? Any thoughts on how to match those I haven't mentioned?
As always, slay me in the comments if you think I'm off base! See you there.