clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

UFC 189 and TUF 21 Finale analysis: Fights to make for main card fighters

New, comments

International Fight Week is in the books, so what's next for the main card fighters from UFC 189 and The Ultimate Fighter 21 Finale? Mookie Alexander plays fantasy matchmaker in this double-stacked edition of Fights to Make.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

We had a largely fantastic weekend of UFC action as part of International Fight Week. UFC 189 was perhaps the greatest PPV main card ever witnessed, and the night's biggest winners were none other than Conor McGregor and Robbie Lawler. On Sunday, Stephen Thompson wowed fans with a spectacular spinning hook kick KO of Jake Ellenberger in the TUF 21 Finale main event.

With all of that out of the way, it's time to see what's in store for these fighters in a double-event edition of Fights to Make. UFC 189 will feature all main card fighters, while the TUF 21 Finale gets just the main card winners. I will include one preliminary card fighter from each event to cap things off.

UFC 189

Conor McGregor. Well, duh, it's Jose Aldo next. And if he has to actually defend the interim belt due to something happening to Aldo again, then it's probably Frankie Edgar. I cannot wait for Aldo vs. McGregor.

Chad Mendes. Having taken this fight on such short notice, only to lose in dramatic fashion, I wouldn't fault the UFC one bit if they gave Mendes an absolute lay-up for his next fight. In fact, it's something I think that is preferable considering the last 3 opponents Chad has faced. Hacran Dias seems a respectable bounce-back opponent for Mendes.

Robbie Lawler. What more can you say about this man? He's not only won the UFC welterweight title, he's defended it successfully! Down 39-37 on the scorecards, Lawler needed a stoppage, and that's exactly what happened. So who's next for him? It's tough to tell. Johny Hendricks should be the leading candidate, but you also can't discount Carlos Condit even though he's got a losing record in his last 5 fights. I think we'll see the Lawler-Hendricks rubber match at the end of the year.

Rory MacDonald. One would think he's out for awhile as he heals up from his numerous injuries, none more obvious than his fractured nose. It shouldn't take him too many wins to get right back into title contention, and he can start with Dong Hyun Kim.

Jeremy Stephens. Oh if only Stephens had made weight. This was a big win for Jeremy with the potential for three straight losses staring him in the face. Stopping Bermudez is arguably the best achievement he's had at 145 lbs. With the rest of the division either having beaten him before, would likely beat him (Edgar, Mendes), or booked in other fights, I can see Stephens being put in against Clay Guida.

Dennis Bermudez. Needless to say, if he continues to get hit and react badly to getting hit as often as he does, then he's not a legitimate contender in the slightest. A KO loss for him has been a long time coming and Stephens delivered the goods in the 3rd round. It doesn't seem like Darren Elkins has a fight lined up, so that could be a good fight for the New Yorker.

Gunnar Nelson. As impressive as Nelson's win was, I'm not ready to throw him directly back into top 10 competition again when he just lost to Rick Story two fights ago. Keep the slow build going for someone as talented as Gunnar is. Albert Tumenov expressed interest in fighting the Icelandic prospect and I think that's a great fight.

Brandon Thatch. The obvious surprise isn't that Thatch got submitted, it's that Gunnar Nelson knocked him down in the one area where he seemingly had the obvious advantage. The hype machine is likely done for, but he's still a good action fighter regardless of outcome. Someone like Santiago Ponzinibbio or Hyun Gyu Lim could serve as suitable opposition. An easier match-up would be to rebook John Howard.

Thomas Almeida. Good news for Almeida is that he got a sensational KO win against a respected veteran of the sport. The bad news is that he still got knocked down twice and that doesn't bode well for his top 10 prospects any time soon. I've no problem with that, because Aljamain Sterling is the BW prospect with the highest upside in this division. Keep Almeida on a measured rate of progress. I suggest him vs. Anthony Birchak.

Brad Pickett. I hope he doesn't get cut because that would be harsh given how close he was to pulling off one of the biggest upsets (at least in the betting odds) in recent memory. Pickett is 1-4 in his last 5, but he's still quite popular and a consistently reliable source of entertainment, so I think he gets another fight, preferably on a European Fight Pass show. Pickett vs. Henry Briones could be fun.

Matt Brown. Big win for "The Immortal" to break his losing streak and keep himself in the top 10 at welterweight. I'm down to see him fight practically anyone. I've been begging for him vs. Carlos Condit to finally happen, so I won't back out of that now. It must be five rounds, and anything else is unacceptable.

TUF 21 Finale

Stephen Thompson. He survived the early knockdown and put on a striking clinic against Jake Ellenberger, whom he also outmuscled just about everywhere. No doubt now that Thompson has improved vastly into a legitimate talent who is more than just a striker. The winner of Demian Maia/Neil Magny would be a very good next fight for "Wonderboy" before he can start thinking about top contender match-ups.

Kamaru Usman. Bloody Elbow's top-ranked welterweight prospect just completely overpowered Hayder Hassan to win TUF 21 for the Blackzilians. Usman is a strong athlete and he just totally wore out Hassan before choking him out. As they will normally do with TUF winners, they won't throw them into the wolves right away. Usman vs. the winner of Andrew Craig vs. Lyman Good.

Michael Graves. Hardly anything interesting came out of his win over Vicente Luque, but the win was important for him to stay afloat in the UFC and not risk getting cut. Graves vs. Tom Breese could be next for him, but I wouldn't be shocked if he got booked against someone coming off a loss.

Jorge Masvidal. It took Masvidal a weight class switch to finally get his first UFC knockout win. In fact, it's his first KO or TKO since 2009. There are so many great match-ups for him at 170, arguably even more than at 155, and while the Matt Brown call-out was nice, Masvidal vs. Lorenz Larkin seems more appropriate at this stage.

Michelle Waterson. After a somewhat difficult 1st round, "Karate Hottie" really had her way with Angela Magana as most had expected her to. That was the time for an impressive debut, and now the immediate test against the better fighters of the division should come next. How about Waterson vs. Randa Markos?

Maximo Blanco. Early stoppage taken into consideration, Blanco has quietly won 3 straight after it looked like he would bust his way out of the UFC. I will not rest (I will, but you get the idea) until he fights Diego Brandao. The potential for this to be so chaotic is off the charts.

Josh Samman. And we finish up with BE's own Samman, who submitted Caio Magalhaes and then survived the bloody spit of doom aimed at him. He's 3-0 in the UFC and this was arguably his best performance to date, including the TUF fights. I'm in favor of Samman against the winner of Sam Alvey/Derek Brunson.