You know how good cards on paper frequently prove to be good shows? That's what happened last night at UFC Fight Night in Connectict. A main card filled with finishes and great action was capped off by a slick guillotine choke by Jacare Souza, who gets revenge on Gegard Mousasi from their first fight back in 2008. The other big fight resulted in yet another loss for Alistair Overeem, whose future is in serious doubt now.
It's time now for some fantasy matchmaking for all of the main card fighters from yesterday's show. The UFC was kind to me by removing two main card fights -- Oliveira vs. Lentz wound up being canceled anyway -- and sticking them on the prelims, so I only have to forecast for 8 fighters instead of the typical 12 for a FS1 show.
Ronaldo Souza. Wow. That might be the best Jacare we've ever seen, and to finish Mousasi is a humongous achievement. Outstanding performance that puts him well in position for a title shot. The difficult thing that Jacare has to deal with is the fact that it's September, Weidman/Belfort is not until December 6th, and he could still be overtaken by Luke Rockhold (who already beat him), should Rockhold get past Michael Bisping in November. I suggest a fight with Lyoto Machida any time in December or January, where a title shot is on the line only for Souza.
Gegard Mousasi. This loss puts Mousasi in a bit of a bind. He probably could contend at 205 lbs, but he's a middleweight for now and is 1-2 in his last 3. Mousasi can't be considered a serious title contender at 185 lbs in the short-term, but I don't want to write him off just yet. The loser of Tim Kennedy/Yoel Romero provides a good measuring stick for where Mousasi really sits in the division, because blasting an arguably shot Mark Munoz is going to hold less and less weight as time moves on.
Ben Rothwell. As Patrick Wyman pointed out this morning, Rothwell is like a heavyweight Tim Boetsch. The fact that he's gone from that turgid showing vs. Mark Hunt to KOs over Schaub, Vera, and Overeem within the past 2 years is one heck of a turnaround. This upset win makes him a top 10 heavyweight (believe it or not), so it's logical to think he'll get a top 10 opponent next. I see him taking on Travis Browne towards the end of the year or early 2015.
Alistair Overeem. Out of the 3 fights Overeem has lost in the UFC, this was far and away the most favorable match-up for him. Antonio Silva and Travis Browne have proven their worth, whereas Ben Rothwell was tapped out by a faded Gabriel Gonzaga just last year. He's 34 years old, has competed professionally since 1999, and has been knocked out or TKO'd a combined 12 (!) times between MMA and kickboxing. That's the sign of someone who should retire, and you're being an enormous hypocrite if you think that Overeem should continue fighting but Minotauro Nogueira should hang up the gloves ASAP. Neither one of them should continue competing -- and going on a tangent here, neither should Frank Mir -- and the only potential fight I see for him in the UFC is against Brendan Schaub. Otherwise? I don't see any good reason to believe he can contend, and calls for him to retire are 100% justifiable.
Matt Mitrione. Good lord that was a violent finish. Mitrione may not be the most skilled fighter out there, but his speed and athleticism alone is good enough to make him at least a gatekeeper. The UFC can either re-book the Stefan Struve fight that was called off at UFC 175 after Struve had suffered a panic attack, or put him higher up the ladder and give him Stipe Miocic.
Derrick Lewis. While I picked Lewis on the chance that his huge power could offset his relative lack of technical ability, that was wiped out when Mitrione clocked him with that sneaky uppercut. It's not a "bad" loss, per se, but it's certainly going to put a halt to his rise up the division. If he isn't cut by now, Lewis could dispose of Ruan Potts for his next fight.
Joe Lauzon. Hot damn that was a fun fight, and we should expect nothing less from anything involving him. It was one of Lauzon's better showings after a bit of a rough stretch. I'm fine with matching him up against anyone at lightweight because whether he wins or loses he's always Grade A entertainment. He'd be a great test for Tony Ferguson.
Michael Chiesa. It's a definite bummer to lose on a cuts stoppage in what proved to be a thrilling contest that lived up to its on-paper prospects. Chiesa has improved significantly from his time on TUF 15, and he's a reliable action fighter who is going to be a tough out for most 155 lbers. When Jamie Varner heals up from his broken ankle I can see Chiesa facing him next.