UFC on Fox 12 was another great show in a month chock-full of tremendous cards and fights. Robbie Lawler and Matt Brown delivered on action (but not an emphatic finish as many had predicted), Bobby Green scored a division-shaking upset, while Dennis Bermudez and Anthony Johnson absolutely demolished their respective opponents. There were only 3 finishes on the card out of 12 fights, but there was plenty of action throughout the night and San Jose was once again treated to another excellent main event.
With all of that behind us, it's time now to do some matchmaking for all of the main card fighters, as well as the preliminary card headliners Jorge Masvidal and Daron Cruickshank.
Robbie Lawler. Well I don't really need to do any work here because everyone knew what was at stake. He earned his title shot and now we get to see a highly anticipated rematch with Johny Hendricks sometime towards the end of the year or early next year.
Matt Brown. I equated Matt Brown's winning streak with that of Mark Hunt's. They were both on the precipice of a UFC release before reeling off a series of unexpected and exciting wins en route to a #1 contender fight. Hunt was clearly on his way to losing to Junior dos Santos before he was KO'd, but he was competitive enough. Brown lost a clear decision, but he had much better moments against Lawler than Hunt did against JDS. Matt Brown still hasn't beaten a top 10 fighter, but his skills are clearly that of a top 10 fighter based on last night's performance. I see him being re-booked against Carlos Condit, a fight they tried to make last December before Brown pulled out with an injury.
Anthony Johnson. Whoo boy. Johnson is probably the most powerful striker in the division and I include Alexander Gustafsson and Glover Teixeira in the argument. Nogueira landed 0 strikes so this was essentially a flawless victory combined with a fatality finish. He's been absolutely spectacular in his UFC return, but I need to see him against a high-caliber striker who clearly isn't in decline. We know his takedown defense is outstanding, his offense is lethal, but no one at LHW has really been able to check his chin. I advocate fighting Glover Teixeira, preferably in a Fox or Fox Sports 1 main event.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. I really don't care to see him or his brother fight again. It's not that Lil' Nog has been inflicted with an insane amount of punishment like Big Nog over the course of his UFC career, but his repeated injury problems combined with his age (38) and this non-competitive massacre at the hands of Anthony Johnson basically makes his options super limited. They won't waste his name value fighting the likes of Gian Villante, and even acknowledging that he actually beat Rashad Evans last year, he really shouldn't be facing top 10 guys anymore. Absolute last resort type of fight aside from retirement is
Rafael Cavalcante. (Writer's note: I forgot that they train together, so I've got nothing. Nogueira should retire.)
Dennis Bermudez. Another convincing win for Bermudez should confirm his status as a top 10 featherweight. The Long Island native has some wicked knee strikes, powerful hands, terrific takedown defense, and is just generally very strong. Submitting Clay Guida has only been done by two other UFC fighters (Kenny Florian and Roger Huerta), and in those instances Guida was badly hurt seconds before the finish. Bermudez had Guida hurt in the 1st round, but the rear-naked choke came off of a takedown right after he'd been tagged with a right hand. That was no doubt an impressive performance, and a matchup with Ricardo Lamas would be dynamite.
Clay Guida. He's 32, he's been hit a lot, had several wars over his career, has competed in the sport for a long time, and is in one of the UFC's deepest divisions. Guida's striking has actually improved marginally, but his weaknesses are too easy for established contenders to exploit and it's become even easier as his chin has eroded and his speed advantage has gone. it's clear that he's well past his best and fighting top 10 fighters. A logical next fight for Guida would be Darren Elkins, who is on the fringes of the top 10 but was bumped off after he lost to Jeremy Stephens.
Bobby Green. What else can you say about this man? He's been an underdog in all of his UFC fights and he continues to win, and now he's got a victory over an established top 5 lightweight. Considering that this bout was rushed together and the outcome itself was razor-thin, it's quite possible the UFC won't rush him into another fight with a top 5 fighter, but instead someone like Michael Johnson (the man he replaced vs. Thomson). Personally? I vouch for the winner of Ben Henderson/Rafael dos Anjos (August 23rd) as Green's next opponent. He's more than earned the right to be considered a serious title contender.
Josh Thomson. Facts are facts - Josh Thomson is 2-3 in his last 5. Yes, you could very well argue that he should be 5-0 with his split decision losses to Melendez, Ben Henderson, and Bobby Green, but this was a devastating setback against a short notice opponent. Combine the split decision losses with his missed title shot after Anthony Pettis injured his knee just add to his misfortunes. At 35 years old and now on a losing streak, Thomson's chance at fighting for a UFC title may have just gone by the wayside for good last night. Put him against another fighter who now straddles the line between contender and high-level gatekeeper in Jim Miller.
Jorge Masvidal. If you want to be concerned about something with Masvidal, it's the fact that he's been knocked down in 3 of his last 4 fights. However, his recovery skills are amazing and once he shook off the cobwebs against Cruickshank he imposed his underrated wrestling and grappling to get another win. Originally I was dead-set on him fighting Edson Barboza, but if he wants to fight Donald Cerrone, who lost his original UFC 178 opponent Khabib Nurmagomedov to a knee injury, then I'm all for it ... provided that it's a five-round fight, because why would you NOT want that fight to be five rounds?
Daron Cruickshank. There's a clear and positive development in Daron Cruickshank's striking. The punch he dropped Masvidal with probably knocks out 90% of the division, and just on that alone he can at least be competitive with many of lightweight's top 15 fighters. Unfortunately, his clear deficiencies on the ground really limit his ceiling. He's definitely a great action fighter who can be used on Fox or FS1 on a regular basis, and I think his next fight should be against the loser of Ross Pearson/Abel Trujillo (August 16th).