UFC 207 was a huge event when it comes to storyline development. Ronda Rousey didn’t just lose her comeback fight, but she lost more definitively and less competitively than in her bout against Holly Holm. And while Nunes putting the stamp on Rousey may have been the night’s big narrative, Cody Garbrandt defeating Dominick Cruz was even more impressive. Off wins like that, there’s a lot of planning to be done, a lot of cool fights to be booked.
I’m making my fantasy fight booking using the classic Shelby method (since we’re done with Silva now) of putting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured fighters against one another. This week, to help me in that planning, I’m joined by BE reader Yourroleandyou. If you want to join in for the next event and make your own picks, start a comment below with “HEAD MOVEMENT! HEAD MOVEMENT! HEAD MOVEMENT!” I’ll pick one lucky winner to make fight picks from the comments below. Now, let’s get to the fights!
Roley – Well. A dominant, spectacular performance against one of the biggest stars in UFC history. Maybe Holm doing it first took some of the shine off her win, but from the reactions I saw at the bar and in the media, it couldn't have been that much. They already have a #1 contender's fight between Valentina Shevchenko and Julianna Pena lined up at the UFC on Fox in a month's time, so let's roll with Amanda Nunes vs. Shevchenko/Pena winner.
Zane – This is a good easy one as Roley set up above. Shevchenko vs. Pena was the no. 1 contender fight to book as long as Rousey was taking the title shot first. Rousey got her shot, Pena and Shevchenko are fighting soon, the idea of a 145 vs. 135 belt should be firmly in the rear view mirror. So, let’s get Nunes vs. the Shevchenko/Pena winner.
Roley – Ronda is unquestionably the most dominant and most important figure in WMMA history, but she is done. In many ways, she's like Mark Coleman. They had a style that nobody could counter and that brought them unprecedented success at the top levels of the sport, but they found somebody who trained specifically to beat them in one of the biggest upsets ever, and after that the decline was swift and brutal. Maybe in a few years Ronda will come back and kick around the upper echelons of the division as well, but for now, she's off to Hollywood and WWE. I could bore you with a fantasy booking excursus, but for now let's just say Ronda Rousey vs. Stephanie McMahon
Zane – Well, I will bore you with at least one fantasy booking, but only one… Well, maybe two. If the UFC was really willing to throw some money at them both, there’s a lot to be said about the possibility of booking Rousey vs. Tate III right now. Tate’s already retired and Rousey is probably on her way out the door, but that fight still has good heat, especially now that Rousey’s dominance is no longer a factor. If, somehow, Rousey decides not to retire and take bookings with the WWE, Hollywood, and some ranch in Idaho, then I’d suggest a rematch with Liz Carmouche. Carmouche has improved since their first fight, which was a massively important bout for Ronda’s career and the UFC. Doing it again right now is probably the best bout the promotion could put together. Although, if Julianna Pena loses to Valentina Shevchenko, Rousey/Pena would be a new fight and one that has some history building up to it.
Roley – "TJ Dillashaw, come try me motherfucker." Cody Garbrandt vs. TJ Dillashaw
Zane – It’s always nice when there’s a super obvious title challenger right there waiting. Cody Garbrandt vs. TJ Dillashaw.
Roley – I guess all my actual analysis for the fight goes here. It was a shocking upset and a huge night for Cody, to be sure, but it also seems like a fight that will go down as much more one-sided than it actually was, a la Jones/Cormier and Nate Diaz/Michael Johnson. Cruz clearly took two rounds, and it's possible the accidental headbutt rattled him as well (it certainly cut him wide open). In any event, he'll take a step back here but still face a top competition, and the best way I can think of to split that difference is by taking on the winner of the Jimmie Rivera/Bryan Caraway fight at the very next UFC event. Dom Cruz vs. Rivera/Caraway winner.
Zane – If Rivera wins that bout against Caraway, he’s probably more likely to be next in line for a title shot (after Dillashaw) than he would be to fight Cruz. And in general, I don’t think the UFC should be running potential near title challengers through Cruz if they can help it. To that extent I think there are two obvious fights right now, one that I really really want. The first is John Lineker, just for the fun action potential, but really honestly, the fight I want is Dominick Cruz vs. John Dodson. Dodson is still a force at 135 and he’s a longtime veteran talent suited to big, if not always necessarily meaningful fights. A bout between he and Cruz would be perfect right now.
Roley – I am torn on who Lineker should fight next. The part of my brain that screams FACEPUNCH FACEPUNCH FACEPUNCH says Thomas Almeida, but the part that makes fights on a somewhat more logical basis says to give him the Raphael Assuncao vs. Aljamain Sterling winner. This whole setup also means you could just run Cruz/Lineker and the winners of the two fights next month against each other, but now I'm talking myself into a conundrum and I'll just say John Lineker vs. Assuncao/Sterling winner.
Zane – See, even Roley eventually falls into the Cruz/Lineker trap, but I do like his Assuncao/Sterling winner pick as both fighters still have something left to prove if they’re going to be in line for a title shot. Hell, he could even fight the loser of that bout. But, I’ll say he should fight the Caraway/Rivera loser. If Rivera loses, Lineker/Rivera is one hell of a hot bout. And if Caraway loses, then that’s exactly the kind of matchup that can keep testing whether Lineker can maintain his status as an elite action fighter, even more so than AlJo could.
DONG HYUN KIM:
Roley – An uninspiring performance (one that I personally scored for Saffediene), but a win's a win. He had a fight scheduled with Neil Magny, who also eked out a close win on this card, at UFC 202, and it seems like the logical fight to book is that one. Two guys on the fringes of the top ten, both lanky guys with wild striking and interesting grappling, let's do it. Dong Hyun Kim vs. Neil Magny
Zane – DHK vs. Magny is such an obvious right fight to make. It’s hard to argue against it. So, I’m going to try. Looking at the un-booked welterweights right now, I think the best option is for DHK to wait for Gunnar Nelson to come back from injury and make that fight. It’d be a great grappling battle, and likely a super weird striking battle too. There’s also a good potential scrap with Alan Jouban… Anything to keep from the ‘two slightly underwhelming top tier WWs’ bout that would be Magny vs. DHK. Nelson vs. DHK is pick one for me, but Jouban would be a solid second.
Zane – So, Roley picked Magny vs. DHK, and I gave my feelings on that. On my end, I’d also be interested in seeing Magny vs. Jouban. Since Magny is willing to fight all the time, you can really just say Magny vs. whoever, whenever. And if that’s the ethos, how about Magny vs. the winner of Cerrone vs. Masvidal for the ‘guys who will fight anyone, anytime’ trifecta?
Roley – We were supposed to pick the winner of this fight, and it was a no contest but probably should have been a DQ. Means was winning the fight prior to the knees and ended the fight standing tall, so I guess I'll take him as the winner. I threw out Means vs. Alan Jouban after Jouban took apart Mike Perry at UFC on Fox two weeks ago, which will be a spectacularly violent affair. Tim Means vs. Alan Jouban
Zane – I see a trend here, and it’s mostly that any fight with Alan Jouban in it ends up looking like a pretty cool fight. So yeah, Means/Jouban would definitely be cool. But, since I’ve fully explored the Alan Jouban options already, let’s see Tim Means vs. Rick Story. Story’s coming off a loss, but Means didn’t exactly get a win, and it’d be a great battle of two dudes who want to fight in the clinch as much as possible, but with totally different styles there. Otherwise, I’d also be up for Tim Means vs. Yancy Medeiros, when Medeiros comes back from injury. But, Means will probably want to fight sooner than that. Means vs. Story is my fight.
OTHER BOUTS: Tarec Saffiedine vs. Erick Silva, Ray Borg vs. Brandon Moreno, Louis Smolka vs. Zach Makovsky, Johny Hendricks vs. Lyoto Machida, Antonio Carlos Jr. vs. Andrew Sanchez, Marvin Vettori vs. Oluwale Bamgbose, Alex Garcia vs. Peter Sobotta, Niko Price vs. Razak Alhassan, Alex Oliveira vs. Colby Covington