What in the heck do you do with middleweight today? That's the question that has to be at the forefront of everyone's mind (well, that and who is Brock Lesnar fighting?). Michael Bisping's KO win over Luke Rockhold just blew the doors wide open at 185 and re-ignited title aspirations for the aging veteran crowd, improbably including Vitor Belfort and Dan Henderson. That means I've got some work to do.
I'm here to try and sort through the post-fight possibilities to get you the best potential fights out there. The UFC went ahead and ran with my Werdum/Rothwell and Arlovski/Barnett ideas, so you know I've got to be doing something right. I'm following the Silva/Shelby tried and true method of winner vs. winner, loser vs. loser, and similarly tenured fighters fighting one another. I'll break tempo where I feel I have to, but otherwise, that's the plan.
MICHAEL BISPING: So yeah, what do you do with Michael Bisping right now? The easiest answer is, you put him on the receiving end of Jacare's title shot. Jacare is pretty clearly next in line and he's got a great chance to take the win (although not if mecha-Bisping shows up again). But, it's not like Jacare is the most interest-generating title fight. Does the UFC really waste a better selling PPV featuring either Belfort, Henderson, or Anderson Silva, just to give Jacare his shot? They may have to. Belfort just got TKO'd, Silva's been injured, and Henderson's cold streak is still pretty close in the rear view mirror. Still, if Henderson doesn't retire, I say book that fight. It's dumb and he hasn't earned it, but Bisping has the chance to sell a couple huge rematches and that's one of them. If he beats Hendo, then stick Jacare in there, but make the PPV fight first. Michael Bisping vs. Dan Henderson 2.
LUKE ROCKHOLD: Rockhold losing big frees up two possible options. Do the rematch with Chris Weidman as a no. 1 contenders fight, or Vitor Belfort rematch. I'm really not all that keen on giving Belfort another run back up to the belt (although weirdly I am just down to watch him fight Bisping unearned), so I think this is the time for the UFC to give Rockhold a chance to heal up and then do Rockhold vs. Weidman 2, with a title shot on the line. If that doesn't work, and given my above fight, this would also be a chance to book Rockhold vs. Jacare 2, but it seems cruel to make Jacare jump through more hoops.
DOMINICK CRUZ: He pretty obviously should fight the winner of Assuncao vs. Dillashaw. No other fight makes sense right now. Dominick Cruz vs. Assuncao/Dillashaw winner.
URIJAH FABER: Assuming Faber does stick around just a little bit longer, it's a bit tough to figure out just what exactly to do with him. Honestly, I know the fight doesn't make sense anymore, but if Kid Yamamoto is absolutely set on competing again in the UFC, that was one of those fights that we never got but made sense for years. Still, Faber probably crushes Yamamoto right now. The next best option I have would be a featherweight showcase fight with BJ Penn, if Penn isn't about to be suspended for years on end. either of those would be cool, and give Faber a chance to ride out into the sunset on a big win. I kinda feel like Faber/Penn is more possible so I'm throwing that out there.
MAX HOLLOWAY: If Conor McGregor doesn't return to featherweight in the next few months (and having a new Diaz fight booked makes that seem unlikely), then Holloway should absolutely be fighting the winner of Aldo/Edgar for the interim title or vacant title. If McGregor does return soon to fight the winner of Aldo/Edgar, Holloway can either wait or he can step back and do work on Charles Oliveira to pass the time and actually finish what he started before Oliveira got injured. I'm in favor of waiting here. No reason to pick over old wins when you're this close to a shot and Holloway is young enough to spend a year on the sideline if he has to. Max Holloway vs. Aldo/Edgar winner... or winner of McGregor vs. Aldo/Edgar winner.
RICARDO LAMAS: There's a round robin of fights I wouldn't mind, involving Dennis Siver, Renan Barao, and Ricardo Lamas. Any combo of those would be solid, although I think that Lamas comes out ahead each way. Unfortunately, there's really just not much else for him coming off a loss at the top of 145. Stephens just got a huge win, he already beat Cub Swanson, and got beat by Chad Mendes, and Charles Oliveira is coming off a win too. and he's beat Dennis Bermudez and Hacran Dias. If it's down to creative matchmaking, Lamas vs. Oliveira probably makes the most sense, since Oliveira could use another solid tough matchup right now. Ricardo Lamas vs. Charles Oliveira.
HECTOR LOMBARD: Lombard is a weird fighter in a weird place. An aging powerhouse with a collection of elite skills that just can't win enough in the UFC to justify elite billing anymore. Do you feed him someone young and underprepared, or throw him into another big fight? Probably the latter... Thales Leites just dropped two straight, so how about Hector Lombard vs. Thales Leites?
DUSTIN POIRIER: Lotta people saying Poirier vs. Dariush is the obvious fight to make and... I guess, but I'm not 100% in love with it. Poirier is on a hell of a streak, Dariush is recovering by crushing someone well outside the top 15. Honestly, the title picture at 155 is super unclear. Fights between Barboza/Melendez & Ferguson/Chiesa could both furnish potential no. 1 contenders, so why not put together one more? Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Dustin Poirier. Poirier is a tough dude, why not give him a tough fight. Beating Darrell Horcher after two years off shouldn't make Khabib the instant top guy, even with a win over the champ. So, if they can convince him not to wait, that's the fight I'd like to see. Dustin Poirier vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov.
BOBBY GREEN: Sooner or later Thiago Alves is going to need a debut opponent for 155. Green would be a fantastic option. If that's too soon for Green after getting KO'd then the loser of Pearson vs. Krause would also be fine. But Green vs. Alves is the fight I want.
BRIAN ORTEGA: Ortega is 3-0 and ranked 12, Yair Rodriguez is 4-0 and ranked 14? Time to see which guy can keep his momentum going? It feels like a great fight to me, but if people don't want to see prospect vs. prospect then the winner of Elkins vs. Pepey would also be a great fight. Let's start with Ortega vs. Rodriguez though.
CLAY GUIDA: Clay Guida and Cole Miller need to fight at this point. It just makes sense given both guys recent tendency for hot/cold performances and still strangely limited skill sets. Clay Guida vs. Cole Miller.
BENEIL DARIUSH: Since I'm abandoning the idea of Dariush vs. Poirier right now, it's time for Dariush to get a stiffer test, while still not jumping right back into the top. Leonardo Santos, Maribek Taisumov, Adriano Martins, and Rustam Khabilov all need fights and are all coming off wins. Of all those, I think Santos makes for the most interesting, competitive everywhere fight, but there's no lie Khabilov would be a ton of fun too. Still, lets say Dariush vs. Santos.
JAMES VICK: Both Johnny Case and Chris Wade just got taken for upset losses that stuffed their momentum. Both would be perfect fights for Vick right now. I think Case has fewer tools to trouble Vick directly and would make for a more competitive fight, so James Vick vs. Johnny Case is my choice.
JESSICA ANDRADE: Please make Jessica Andrade fight Tecia Torres. That is all. Andrade vs. Torres. If the UFC is unwilling to go winner loser (Torres barely lost) then Andrade vs. Kowalkiewicz would be fine too.
JESSICA PENNE: Back to back bad setbacks for Penne have put her in a bad position. The fight out there that makes the most sense right now is Juliana Lima, as both a skilled competitive matchup and a fighter that doesn't pose any legit striking threat at all. If the UFC can't get that booked, the Penne vs. Jessica Aguilar would also be good and fit the same bill. Still, Lima isn't injured so she's first in line. Jessica Penne vs. Juliana Lima.
ALEX CACERES: Rony Jason's suspension should be up soon. Caceres vs. Jason would be an awesome action fight. Alex Caceres vs. Rony Jason.
SEAN STRICKLAND: It's not exactly a big step up, but Zak Cummings would make for a fantastically difficult and fun fight. Strickland complained that Breese didn't want to engage with him, I doubt he'd find the same was true of Cummings who looks more and more like a guy out to knock opponents silly. Sean Strickland vs. Zak Cummings.
OTHER BOUTS: Breese vs. Steele, Henrique da Silva vs. Bosse/O'Connell winner, Wilson vs. Jolly, Casey vs. C. Magalhaes, Mutapcic vs. Berish, Reyes vs. Packalen, Dong Hyun vs. Hadzovic