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UFC 205: McGregor vs. Alvarez - Fights to make

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A huge event requires a huge ‘Fights to Make’ article, and that’s just what you’re getting with more big fights and big fighters than you can shake a stick at.

MMA: UFC 205-McGregor vs Alvarez Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

With UFC 205 in the books, fantasy matchmaking has rarely felt so important. Sure, much of the MMA world turns on the theoretical fisticuffs drawn up on these pages, but when you’ve had three titles on the line, the lightweight belt changing hands, and a slew of former champions and top contenders throwing down, then you’ve really got to get it right.

As has become the way of things, I’ll be joined by a reader and guest commenter. This week it’s Max Pappin. He won last event’s contest to give his picks for UFC 205. With UFCs Belfast & Sao Paulo just around the corner I’ll need another lucky winner to take on the name fighters from both cards. Start a comment below with “Jiu Jitsu is fun, but it doesn’t work in a street fight,” and I’ll pick a winner from the respondents. I’ll be using the patented (but perhaps coming to an end) Silva/Shelby model of matching winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured fighters against one another. But, if you get the nod, then you can go after it however you want. Now, let’s get to the fight picking:

Hi BE readers, I’m Max Pappin your guest matchmaker for UFC 205. Since seeing Anderson Silva annihilate James Irvin in 2008, I’ve had a penchant for all things combat sports. I’ve been training in Muay Thai and BJJ for seven years now and received my MMA judging accreditation two years ago. MMA journalism has always been of interest to me, so much thanks to Zane for the platform to parlay my writing with my passion for the sport. Without further ado, here are the fights to make.

Conor McGregor/Khabib Nurmagomedov:

Max - Outstanding. Conor McGregor’s vision to capture titles in two weight classes simultaneously came to fruition in flawless fashion last night. With question marks surrounding his future in the featherweight and lightweight divisions, it would appear that McGregor has some decisions to make. I personally believe that McGregor is done with featherweight as there is no need for him to damage his body with severe weight cuts now that he holds a position atop the lightweight division. With that in mind, I feel that Khabib Nurmagomedov is more deserving of a shot at the title than Tony Ferguson, but with McGregor you can never be sure of what’s on the horizon. Conor McGregor vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Zane - Okay, I’m in a bit of a fix. I pushed hard last week for Tony Ferguson to get the next crack at the lightweight title, and I really believe he deserves it. However, Ferguson isn’t asking for a title fight, or at least not in a way that suggests he won’t be happy if he doesn’t get one. He didn’t call anyone out after the fight, and seems like he’s just content to do his own thing until the title shot comes. Usually, if a fighter says they could live without the big fight, they tend not to get it. If that’s how he feels, then who am I to fly in the face of obvious desire and narrative. Conor McGregor vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov is the fight to make.

Eddie Alvarez:

Max - Yikes…poor Eddie Alvarez. The fighter renowned for his back-and-forth wars with Michael Chandler looked completely lost against McGregor, getting dropped three times in round 1 and offering no significant offence against the Irishman. A fight with the potential to remind viewers of Alvarez’s capabilities comes in the form of Nate Diaz, who is also coming off a loss to McGregor. With the potential of a third fight with McGregor following a win, Diaz could be coaxed into the bout. It also doesn’t hurt for marketing that Diaz had a few choice words for Alvarez following the former champ’s split decision win over Gilbert Melendez. Eddie Alvarez vs. Nate Diaz.

Zane - It’s possible that Eddie’s pressure wrestle/grind style could give Nate Diaz trouble and they’re both name fighters coming off a loss to the same guy. There’s the potential for narrative arc and all that jazz. But I gotta say, I’m just not feeling Alvarez vs. Diaz. Michael Johnson is there too, but the fight I’d really like is Eddie Alvarez vs. Edson Barboza. Alvarez has exactly the kind of style that has given Barboza fits, but Barboza has continued to improve and has the kind of striking that would test Eddie’s chin. Of Course, Barboza is coming off a pair of wins, but as the former champ, Alvarez can take a tough opponent on a hot streak. Alvarez vs. Barboza is my top choice, but that Diaz fight looks better all the time.

Tyron Woodley/Stephen Thompson:

Max - What a helluva fight! I, along with two of the judges, scored the fight a draw - though Doug Crosby scored round one 10-8 in favour of Woodley and round four only a 10-9… judging incompetency at its finest. The rematch is the obvious match to make as the bout was both superb and received significant exposure thanks to being the co-main event of a huge PPV. While my heart aches for Maia, who is clearly the number one contender after Thompson, this fight needs to be run back. Tyron Woodley vs Stephen Thompson.

Zane - Definitely need Woodley vs. Thompson part deux. I like Maia, but even as a deserving challenger he’s not an exciting matchup. On the other hand, while Woodley vs. Thompson had its slow points, it left a lot of questions unanswered by the end. Thompson appeared to be piecing up Woodley late, but Woodley also came so so close to finishing this fight. Too much left on the table not to do it one more time. Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson II.

Joanna Jedrzejczyk:

Max - Joanna continues to exemplify just how far ahead she is in comparison to the other women in the strawweight division. While Karolina did provide a scare in the fourth round, Joanna dominated every other moment against her fellow countrywoman. With many of the top strawweight contenders already having losses to Joanna, the clear number one contender is Jessica Andrade, who is coming off of stoppage victories in her first two strawweight bouts. Andrade’s size and bullying style has potential to create a classic with Joanna’s volume-oriented aggressiveness. Joanna Jedrzejczyk. vs. Jessica Andrade.

Zane - Not only is Andrade the sole contender for the UFC strawweight title, but she also doesn’t have a fight booked. Paige VanZant is the only other woman in the area code and she’s got a fight booked and has been wisely reluctant to get pushed into a title shot early. Andrade makes for an interesting fight, because while she’s less diverse than someone like Kowalkiewicz, she’s also a much much better finisher. Even if she doesn’t come close to beating Joanna, it’ll be a fun action fight while it lasts. Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Jessica Andrade is the title fight to make.

Karolina Kowalkiewicz:

Max - Karolina is tough! She absorbed a ton of punishment from Joanna and even managed to rock the champion in the fourth round, courtesy of a perfectly time right hand - the most precarious moment of Joanna’s UFC career. Fights with either Tecia Torres or Joanne Calderwood would be acceptable for Karolina’s next fight as both have recently suffered defeats to top contenders in the division. I’ll choose the Scotswoman because of her proclivity to engage in entertaining striking battles. Karolina Kowalkiewicz. vs. Joanne Calderwood.

Zane - Calderwood is definitely there for an awsome scrap if the UFC wants to go that route, but I’d rather see Kowalkiewicz fighting someone that can really push her athletically again in some of the same ways Jedrzejczyk did. And as also suggested, the best fit available for that fight, to my mind is Tecia Torres. Torres isn’t the clinch fighter that Calderwood or JJ are, but she’s a very very solid volume striker with some decent pop and she’s got enough of a takedown and grappling game to potentially make Kowalkiewicz wary. Add in that she’s a top shelf athlete and it’d make for a very fun fight. Tecia Torres vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz it is.

Chris Weidman:

Max - You can’t help but feel bad for Weidman. He spent years helping the UFC in lobbying for the legalization of MMA in New York state. He entered Madison Square Garden as the most notable New York fighter on the card and got starched in absolutely brutal fashion. Now riding a two fight skid, Weidman finds himself on the brink of irrelevance in the title picture. While I could see the UFC offering a fresh pairing between Weidman and Jacare, I see the Rockhold rematch as the most likely scenario. Both are bound to be shelved for the near future due to Rockhold’s injury and Weidman’s newly received concussion. Chris Weidman vs. Luke Rockhold 2.

Zane - I really do want to see Chris Weidman vs. Luke Rockhold 2 at some point, but I’m not sure the time is now. Rockhold has a much better case for a title shot than Weidman (especially if Romero wins), so I’m not sure that taking on Weidman makes since, when the next challenger after Romero is going to be Rockhold or Jacare by default. Give Weidman some time to heal up, and then put him in against the loser of Mousasi vs. Hall. Sure it’s a step back, but after two KO losses, weidman has something to prove and Mousasi and Hall both seem to be fighting at their best right now. Chris Weidman vs. the Mousasi/Hall loser.

Yoel Romero:

Max - Yoel Romero is officially the king of the third round. Romero is undefeated in eight UFC appearances and five of those victories have been finished in the third round. Yesterday's destruction of the former champion, Chris Weidman, solidified that even at 39 years old Romero has the athleticism and skills to contend for the world title. Two middle fingers later and we have ourselves a marketable title fight. Michael Bisping should be scared. Yoel Romero vs. Michael Bisping.

Zane - The UFC’s done my work for me here. With Rockhold injured, Jacare being avoided, and Weidman getting is dome cracked, it’s time for Yoel Romero vs. Michael Bisping.

Raquel Pennington:

Max - Raquel Pennington became just the second fighter to defeat their former TUF coach when she overcame Miesha Tate last night. Pennington looked dominant in just about every facet of the fight, even applying a front choke that forced Tate to go airborne. Pennington now finds herself vaulted into the top of the division with four victories in a row. I believe that after the Nunes/Rousey match, the next title shot will be given to Julianna Pena - who is undefeated in both the UFC and her run on TUF (7-0 total). The subsequent contender can be determined if Pennington is matched up with Valentina Shevchenko, who is also coming off a victory over a former champion. Raquel Pennington vs. Valentina Shevchenko.

Zane - There are now three potential title contenders in the women’s bantamweight division. Julianna Pena, Valentina Shevchenko, and Raquel Pennington. Pena and Shevchenko are most likely to get the next title shot, which means the other one’s gotta fight Pennington. It seems like Pena is making the most noise to get her chance at the belt, so if she gets her fight, the it’s gotta be Pennington vs. Shevchenko. However, if Rousey wins and then fights Cyborg or Holm and neither Pena nor Shevchenko get their shot, then Pennington should fight Germaine de Randamie while Shevchenko and Pena duke it out.

Frankie Edgar:

Max - Edgar pulled off a convincing decision against the hard-hitting Jeremy Stephens, but Stephens did not make it easy for him - flooring Edgar in the second round with a head kick. Whether it was the sheer size of Stephens or the dwindling of Edgar’s prime fighting years, Edgar did not strike me as a championship caliber fighter in the featherweight division. Therefore, I think a move to the bantamweight division is in Edgar’s best interest. Fights with either Jimmie Rivera or Bryan Caraway, who are both unbooked and highly ranked, would serve as a solid welcome for the former lightweight champion. Let’s give Caraway his first legitimate high-profile opponent - Frankie Edgar vs. Bryan Caraway.

Zane - Unfortunately for Max’s pick, rumor has it that Caraway and Rivera are actually fighting each other, potentially on the Phoenix card early next year. Otherwise, I don’t have nearly the same reservations about Edgar at 145. He can’t beat Aldo, and might not beat McGregor, but Aldo might retire and McGregor may never come back. At that point, it’s just Max Holloway and Ricardo Lamas standing in his way along with a fresh batch of young contenders. Speaking of which, Lamas just got a big win. How about Frankie Edgar vs. Ricardo Lamas?

Other Bouts: Stephens vs. Pettis w/loss or Choi w/win, Johnson vs. Dariush 2, Boetsch vs. Marquardt, Natal vs. Alvey, Luque vs. Edwards, Muhammad vs. Roberts, Miller vs. Dunham, Alves vs. Lauzon, Carmouche vs. Correia, Chookagian vs. Lansberg