Friday and Saturday night fights!? It felt like too much heading into the weekend of December 10th, but the end result was something glorious. Apart from a lackluster main event for the UFC’s Albany card, the UFC delivered two great nights of action fights back to back. And, of course, left a whole mess of fights to book in its wake.
As always, I’ll be trying to clear a path through this matchmaking jungle, and I’ll be using the Silva/Shelby method to do it. That means booking winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent against one another. That system has got a little loose over recent months, but it’s just a guideline, after all. Joining me this week is BE community member Sean Robinson. If you want to get your own shot at the all important job of fantasy fight booker, leave a comment below starting “Stitch Duran was never my friend.” And I’ll pick one lucky winner for the next event.
On that note, let’s get to some fight booking!
Hi folks! As a Canadian national, I was a natural choice for fantasy booking fights this week. While tempting to predict that every single fighter will miss weight, get hurt, or pee hot before their next fight, or to consider the possibility that fights booked after the onset of the Trump presidency will be subject to whomsoever is able to enter the Thunderdome that day, I will do my best (and not just say that every fighter should refuse fights as part of a massive work stoppage in pursuit of better employment conditions). You can follow me @SChaChaRobinson, particularly if you like dad jokes issued at nearly a once a month clip.
Sean - No viewer, no matter the weight of their sins, deserves to again be threatened by the previously signed Lewis-Tybura fight, even if Lewis had to come from behind purely due to poor decision-making against Shamil. That being said, it is hard to argue with Lewis’ admission that he didn’t win himself a showcase fight. Rothwell and Browne are both coming off of losses, but I’d like to see how weird Lewis and Barnett might get. Derrick Lewis vs. Josh Barnett
Zane - I gotta admit, that Josh Barnett fight has some crazy magic to it. Most notably, Barnett is still tough as hell and absolutely will not back down from anyone. However, I’m also not sure if Barnett is exactly out looking for a fight right now, or if he’d take one with someone like Lewis who is all danger and very little gain. Instead of pushing Lewis into something like a JDS fight however, or rushing N’gannou further up the ladder, I say book Lewis vs. Volkov. Volkov may be new to the UFC, but he’s got a ton of experience, and he’s got a light on his feet kicking game that could give Lewis’ plodding, wining punch style trouble. Derrick Lewis vs. Alexander Volkov is my pick.
Sean - Conversely, the Predator impressed by quickly dispatching Hamilton and deserves some shine in his next fight. A main or co-main event slot on a European Fight Pass card against Arlovski or preferably Struve makes sense. I can’t imagine anyone is going to be lining up to face him after Albany though. Francis Ngannou vs. Stefan Struve or Andrei Arlovski
Zane - We all love Francis N’gannou, but can we just be happy to watch him get some more cage time and wreck a few more big dudes before we push him into contention? My first thought was N’gannou vs. Lewis, but that’s just the kind of spoiled thinking that comes from actually having more than one interesting heavyweight on the rise at a time. Struve and Arlovski are fun choices, mostly because they’ve both been defined by their ability to get absolutely wrecked by power punchers. But I’m going to go with Timothy Johnson instead. His loss to Volkov could have just as easily been a win. He’s absolutely tough as hell, and he’s another big guy who won’t be easy to manhandle. If N’gannou can run him over, great. He needs all the experience he can get. Francis N’gannou vs. Timothy Johnson is the fight to book.
Sean - Fellow TUF champions Elias Theodorou or Cezar Mutante would be natural opponents for Sanchez, but they are already meeting up with each other in February. Amongst the vast middleweight hordes, Dan Kelly offers an appropriate if unexciting choice. How about Dongi Yang? He had a fight on the cancelled Philippine card and it would at least accurately represent the randomness of the division. Andrew Sanchez vs. Dan Kelly or Dongi Yang
Zane - Was it an amazing fight? Perhaps not. But in my eyes, beating Trevor Smith is a seriously good win. Dongi Yang would be a fine step forward. Another big, tough, durable athlete in the division, but I’m going to go with Anthony Smith instead. Smith is a very good gameplanning test. A power muay thai fighter with real knockout ability, but a lacking ground and wrestling game. It’d be an interesting test to see how much Sanchez’s wrestling is based on his ability to work his range striking, and of how fast he can blitz up the division. I want to see Andrew Sanchez vs. Anthony Smith.
Sean - Well, this is easy: Holloway, the new interim Featherweight Champion, will take on Anderson Silva at 170 . Holloway/Aldo is a truly fascinating match up and I am going into an induced coma until they are in a cage facing each other because I can’t wait. Max Holloway vs. José Aldo
Zane - What Sean said. Aldo vs. Holloway is a must see fight. If Aldo won’t do it for whatever reason, then book Holloway Edgar. I realzie it sets up a dreaded possibility of Edgar winning the interim belt with Aldo as champ, but Holloway is down to fight anyone and that’s one of the few top 145 bouts he hasn’t had yet. Max Holloway vs. Jose Aldo is choice no. 1.
Sean - While he was competitive with Holloway, this had to have been a real crudtastic fight for Pettis, and now he is forced to slink back to 155 where he hasn’t had a win in three fights and nurse another injury. Honestly, I think the guy needs some serious time away from sport, but if not, Michael Johnson also has to be in soul search mode after getting merked by Khabib, so why not a Lost and Tormented showcase fight? Anthony Pettis vs. Michael Johnson
Zane - I’m really not sure that Pettis’ weight cut problem had as much to do with 145 as it had to do with him screwing up the process. And I’m not sure that he wouldn’t be well served to stay at 145 for his next bout. I mean, hell, we could see Anthony Pettis vs. Renan Barao! Who doesn’t want that fight? If Pettis does go back to lightweight, then I’m all in for a fight between him and Thiago Alves, but Pettis vs. Barao is my first choice.
Sean - With the title held up with the Woodley-Thompson draw, Maia firmly in front of him in line, and Larkin a free agent, I think that Lawler needs to be induced into what would be a nice heat check/contender eliminator. And oh, what glorious violence it would bring! Donald Cerrone vs. Robbie Lawler
Zane - Assuming that Woodley vs. Thompson 2 is still the near future plan, and if it isn’t that Demian Maia is ahead in line for a title shot, I’m not going to call outright for Cerrone vs. Woodley or Thompson (even if Cerrone vs. Thompson is exactly what I want). If the UFC can re-sign Lorenz Larkin then they should absolutely make that fight ASAP. If they can’t, then I agree with Sean, Lawler/Cerrone is the best possible solution. Still, I’ll hold out hope for Larkin/Cerrone first.
Sean - Even though it was a very competitive fight, getting finished a third straight time presents an existential threat to Brown’s Immortality. If Saffiedine falls to Stun Gun, they could try again for that fight, but I am sickly fascinated by the astonishing fact that Brown and Côté have never fought despite their combined 80 million fights in the octagon. Matt Brown vs. Patrick Côté
Zane - Hopefully this isn’t the end of Brown’s UFC run. He’s a dude that brings a lot of excitement with every fight and makes for a great addition to any card. Three straight stoppage losses are a concern though, and this time he got stopped cold. A Brown vs. Cote fight would be a strong next step for both guys coming off Cerrone losses, but I’m going to say instead that the UFC should book Brown vs. Siyar Bahardurzada once he’s ready to fight again. Bahadurzada hasn’t been active much, but he’s an action-packed vet with a lot to prove. Brown vs. Bahadurzada, or Cote if that’s the easier fight to book.
Sean - Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahaa, what a fight! Swanson earned himself a chance to redeem his loss to Lamas in 2011 in a contender eliminator to meet the Aldo/Holloway winner. Cub Swanson vs. Ricardo Lamas
Zane - What do you do with Swanson after a killer win like that? I was starting to get the feeling that his ranking way up the division was more based off past accomplishment than present skill, but Swanson proved a ton in this fight. Still, having already had bouts with Stephens, Edgar, Aldo, Lamas, Oliveira, Holloway, and eve Mendes (not that that matters right now), there just aren’t a ton of fresh options out there. He could fight Brian Ortega, when Ortega is back from injury, but I think he deserves a more established action vet. To that end, I say Swanson should fight the winner of Bermudez vs. Chan Sung. We’ve never had a Korean Zombie vs. Swanson showdown somehow, and Bermudez has managed to miss Cub during their shared time at the top of 145.
Sean - The Korean Superboy certainly earned a high profile match up with a featherweight top-tenner coming off a loss, like Stephens or Oliveira (if Da Bronx is even a featherweight anymore). I’d like to see him get a softer booking though and get a chance to work on his game and build momentum for another run. Hacran Dias is coming of a loss to Andre Fili, so he fits the bill. Dooho Choi vs. Hacran Dias
Zane - There are a ton of kick ass fights for Dooho Choi, and I’m not sure that Hacran Dias is one of them. It’s certainly a bout Dooho should win, but as an action featherweight, I want to see him in action fights. Mike De La Torre is tough, well rounded and coming off a sub loss to Godofredo Pepey. A fight with Dooho is guaranteed fireworks. If not him, how about Rony Jason? Either guy would provide a stiff test and a ton of excitement. Superboy vs. MDLT.
Sean - Even with his absolutely fantastic performance in finishing Kennedy, Gastelum is going to be an large underdog against any member of the top half of the middleweight top ten. I ain’t even going to fake book him back as a welterweight though, so lets put him up against Whittaker and hope it gives the victor some momentum as they enter the morass at the top of the division. Kevin Gastelum vs. Robert Whittaker
Zane - My current hope is to see Whittaker vs. Mousasi right now, and I don’t want to spoil that. But, Gastelum definitely needs a good opponent next. So, why not Krzysztof Jotko? Jotko just put a clinic on Thales Leites and doesn’t seem to be plagued by the same kind of cardio issues that Kennedy ended up with. Jotko has also been a pretty fun/creative striker in the past. I hate to halt either fighter’s rise right now, but that seems like the best available match. If the UFC can’t make Mousasi vs. Whittaker, however, Gastelum would be a fine opponent for either of them.
Sean - Now on a two fight losing streak, with his victory over Bisping in April 2014 fading in the rear-view mirror, Kennedy faces a great deal of uncertainty over his career, particular if there is pushback against his MMAAA participation by the UFC monopsony. While it is a vaguely insulting fight that Kennedy would be highly reluctant to take, a match up with fellow Gastelum-victim Uriah Hall makes some sick sense. Tim Kennedy vs. Uriah Hall
Zane - Obviously the biggest question here is, does Tim Kennedy ever even take another fight. He suggested that his career would be pretty much over if he lost his next bout (or even if he won and didn’t get an immediate path to title contention. And... he didn’t win. I want to say that a match with Brunson makes great sense as two similarly styled fighters, but they’re both Jackson-Wink guys, so that’s probably out. Instead, how about Vitor Belfort? That would be an ideal fight for both men at this point in their careers. Even re-booking the Rashad match isn’t a bad idea, but Kennedy vs. Belfort is the fight to book.
Sean - On a two fight skid, Ortiz may have needed this win over Markovsky just to ensure he got another UFC fight. His first fight with McCall was outside of the UFC – unlike his numerous previous fights with other members of the division – and a previous attempt at a rematch last year fell through, so another go around with Uncle Creepy could work. Signing a contract to fight McCall and actually seeing him in the cage is not the same thing however, so… ugh, Ali Bagautinov is a fresh opponent, at least. Dustin Ortiz vs. Ian McCall or probably Ali Bagautinov
Zane - Ortiz is in that funky spot of already having faced a lot of the top flyweights while still remaining firmly not a contender. Does a matchup with Kyoji Horiguchi make sense? Not really, unless Benavidez is getting the next title shot and Horiguchi just needs someone to fight. If Sergio Pettis beats Jussier Formiga (which seems unlikely) that would be a fine matchup for Ortiz. Otherwise, just to keep the wheels turning, maybe a fight with Henry Cejudo? Cejudo needs a step back to work on rounding out his game and it’d be a huge opportunity for Ortiz to make a splash in the top 5 again. Even Ben Nguyen is out there off a win and in need of a fight. Through all of this, I’m going to say Horiguchi is probably option A, since I can easily see the UFC making Benavidez vs. Johnson 3 and Horiguchi needing someone to fight. Otherwise my pick would be Henry Cejudo.
OTHER BOUTS: Abdurakhimov vs. Oliynyk, Hamilton vs. Blaydes/Milstead loser, Anderson vs. Cirkunov, Villante vs. Bosse, Safarov vs. Rountree, Kish vs. ABC, Yoder vs. Aldrich, R. Brown vs. Luque, B. Camozzi vs. Ward, Meerschaert vs. Di Chirico, T. Smith vs. C. Camozzi, Burgos vs. Knight, Trator vs. Ishihara, Diakiese vs. Holbrook, Perez vs. DHK jr., Janes vs. Spicely, Lima vs. Namajunas, Meek vs. Griffin, Mein vs. Tumenov, Krylov vs. Latifi, OAM vs. Prazeres, Dober vs. Martins, Pereira vs. Taylor, Letourneau vs. Casey, Lopez vs. Quinonez, Gagnon vs. Arantes, Vannata vs. Ray, Makdessi vs. Pearson, Khabilov vs. Lee, Saggo vs. Wade, Makovsky vs. Bagautinov