In case that opening line was a little vague, it's me. I'm the new fight booking gunslinger (Jedi?) on the block and I'm here to see to it that Luke Skywaker and Darth Vader face off at least twice. If that wasn't all clear enough, this is an article where I'll play fantasy matchmaker with the fighters from last night's main card (and maybe a few from the undercard) to try and figure out just who they should fight next. It's a harrowing task that requires great mental fortitude and intestinal fortitude and other types of fortitude.
I'll be following the Silva/Shelby model for the most part, because I like to try and guess at the future more than I want to try and create a reality all my own. I live in my own reality, it's not that marketable. To that end, I'll largely be matching winners against winners and losers against losers and I'll try and put similarly tenured UFC fighters together. Those are the rules as the UFC has made them. Now let's get this party moving:
Stephen Thompson: I get it, we all loved Lawler vs. Condit. I loved it, you loved it, we could stand to see a lot more of it. But, this would be a shiny new fight, filled with unknown possibilities. Stephen Thompson is exactly the kind of fresh title challenger that makes for a really compelling fight. He's not just winning his way up the division, he's dominating. Johny Hendricks has a very legit case to make that he is still the UFC champion (there are also cases to make that he shouldn't have won a few of the fights that got him there), but still. He is as close to king of the mountain as a fighter gets. And Wonderboy just beat the brakes off him. If the UFC decides not to go the Thompson vs. Lawler route (and they may not, just to keep Condit around for one more fight), then an eliminator with Tyron Woodley makes sense.
Johny Hendricks: Usually I'd recommend some time off, but I'm not entirely convinced that many other welterweights out there could do anything like what Thompson just did to him. If Demian Maia somehow lost to Matt Brown, then Maia vs. Hendricks is so obviously the fight to make. Otherwise, why not keep the wheel spinning at the top of 170 and make Hendricks vs. Rory Mac? They haven't fought, they're both coming off losses and it would breath a lot of life back into one of them. With the potential loser of Magny vs. Lombard out there too, Hendricks really has a lot of options at the moment.
Roy Nelson: He won, so more Roy Nelson fights are just something we all get as a result. This was an ugly showing but it will keep him ranked (and might even move him up a spot). If Gabriel Gonzaga manages to beat Ruslan Magomedov (unlikely) then Nelson vs. Gonazaga makes sense. They've never fought, despite being in the division together forever. Otherwise, I say Nelson vs. Derrick Lewis. Lewis is in need of an entry fight to the top 15, and Nelson seems like he'd be the perfect guy to give it to him. Nelson has always had a great chin, and Lewis still has questions about his ability to win without getting a KO. That's a fight I'd love to see.
Jared Rosholt: There's a chance the UFC takes a severe disliking to him and just cuts him despite his 6-2 record. It wouldn't be fair, or nice, but he has a style that is almost sure to breed front office animosity. Assuming they don't and assuming Bigfoot Silva wants to keep fighting, then that's the fight to book. If they can't make that happen, then Rosholt vs. Todd Duffee seems like a good way to answer questions about both men.
Ovince Saint Preux: He needs to get whatever's going on with his leg healed up, obviously, but once that's done, OSP is in prime position
for the winner of Rashad Evans vs. Shogun Rua (I forgot that OSP already beat Rua) Rashad Evans if Rashad beats Shogun. If Rashad is too big a name for the UFC to book him against OSP, then OSP will have to wait for a few more fights to fall into place. Maybe take on Latifi if he beats Villante.
Joseph Benavidez: Well, he's not getting his title shot, unless he waits for DJ vs. Cejudo to be done... and even then it's kind of a hard sell (kind of). I said last week that I wanted to see Reis fight Ian McCall, but Reis vs. Benavidez would also be cool. Otherwise, I suppose you can't protect Kyoji Horiguchi from everyone. Might as well throw him back in the deep end and see if he's still advancing. Beyond that, there really aren't any meaningful fights for Joe-B outside getting another crack at the belt.
Zach Makovsky: Because flyweight is stuck for challengers and has a lot of guys just milling around fighting one another, Makovsky is in a good place to get another solid booking. One guy right near the top in Makovsky's position is John Moraga. Makvosky and Moraga haven't fought yet. Now's the time.
Misha Cirkunov: Cirkunov is almost certainly headed for the top 15 and likely the top 10 at LHW (a division where Lil' Nog is still ranked). But I'd like to see him keep building at a nice reasonable pace. The sensible, if ugly, fight would be against Francimar Barroso, who has been something of a gatekeeper monolith at the bottom of 205. It'd be a good way to see if Cirkunov can implement his game against an opponent who at least has a few of the necessary tools to deal with it.
Mike Pyle: Pyle vs. Noke. Make it happen. I know Noke is coming off a loss, but it was pretty widely regarded as a poor decision. If it absolutely has to be a winner, Court McGee.
Joshua Burkman: "The People's Warrior" finally got another elusive UFC victory and now he needs a solid fight to book him in. Anyone know where Matt Wiman's injury recovery is? That seems like a fight that makes good sense right now. Otherwise, there's always the Brazilian Josh Burkman, Leandro Silva. MIRROR MATCH! Book it.
Derrick Lewis: See above. Or Magomedov if he beats Gonzaga.
Justin Scoggins: Sergio Pettis vs. Justin Scoggins would be a great fight right now. Mostly because I think it would help Scoggins build some real name momentum on his way up the division. Louis Smolka would also be a fun fight, but less notable.
Other Bouts: Nicholson vs. Jolly, Spencer vs. Sobotta, Grabowski vs. de la Rocha, Borg vs. Martinez, Gall vs. Punk, White vs. Rosa