We’ve got a few big obvious fights to book this week, what with a belt changing hands and a presumptive no. 1 contender being crowned. For everyone else, things are a little more difficult, but I’ll do my best to navigate the murky waters of the UFC roster to get the best possible available fights for each person on the roster.
As always, I’ll be doing things on the Silva/Shelby model. Winners vs. winners, losers vs. losers, and similarly tenured fighters fighting one another. That should lead to the most UFC-possible fantasy bookings for each fighter. That said, let’s get to the fights!
TYRON WOODLEY: For the big winners on this list, the future feels pretty obvious. Stephen Thompson and Kelvin Gastelum are literally the only top ranked welterweights coming off wins, and Woodley already beat Gastelum. Condit vs. Maia could throw another name into the ring (but of course Woodley beat Condit too), but if the UFC can get Woodley to make a quick turnaround and defend his title this fall, that Wonderboy fight is absolutely the one to make. Tryon Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson for the welterweight title, hopefully at UFC 205.
ROBBIE LAWLER: Of course, with several top welterweights coming off losses, Robbie Lawler has options. He could fight Hendricks again (but that just doesn’t seem right), and of course there’s Matt Brown again, but we’ve seen that, just like we’ve seen Rory MacDonald twice now. I think the best option for Lawler right now is to wait for the loser of Maia vs. Condit. Condit/Lawler I was amazing and controversial, and if Condit somehow beats Maia, then Maia vs. Lawler is a fresh fight we haven’t seen yet between two longtime vets. Robbie Lawler vs. the Condit/Maia loser.
KAROLINA KOWALKIEWICZ: I said this was gonna be easy for the big winners and this one couldn’t be simpler. Kowalkiewicz vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the women’s strawweight title. KK has been calling out JJ since she first set foot in the Octagon. They even have an old history, with JJ choking out KK back in an amateur bout in 2012. It’d be an all-Polish battle perfect for a return to the nation, or (if the UFC can’t make it back there in the next few months) great for the co-main of a PPV in the near future. Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk: book ‘em, Shelby-o.
ROSE NAMAJUNAS: Potentially another wake-up call for Rose Namajunas here. She’s a great young talent with fantastic physical gifts, but she can’t just take the fight wherever she wants whenever she wants. At least not yet. This could be a big opportunity for her to take on Valerie Letourneau, yet another volume striker near the top of the division, but I’d be more in favor of seeing her take a bigger step back. I know she doesn’t have the status of others in the division, but I’ll say Namajunas vs. Juliana Lima. Lima is a seasoned vet with a hard-nosed grinding style who keeps running into a wall at the top of the division. But she’s tough, athletic, and really hard to put away, and should make Namajunas work for a win. Rose Namajunas vs. Juliana Lima next.
JAKE ELLENBERGER: Well, Ellenberger got his chance, and he absolutely made the best out of it. The former top ranked welterweight likely just shot his stock right back into the rankings with a win over Matt Brown. If it weren’t for the whole Win/Loss thing I might say this is the time for Ellenberger vs. Hendricks. Hell it still might be. I’d also be happy to see Ellenberger take on Jorge Masvidal coming off his win. But, mostly I think he’s perfectly placed to be a stepping stone test for a fighter trying to make more of a name for himself. Jake Ellenberger vs. Gunnar Nelson.
MATT BROWN: Part of me says, rankings be damned, lets see Matt Brown vs. Rory MacDonald. But I’m not even sure Rory Mac is in the UFC right now, and I don’t know how long it’ll be before he fights again. So, in the interest of something more realistic, How about Matt Brown vs. Patrick Cote? I’d also be interested in seeing Brown vs. the loser of Cerrone vs. Story. But, taking the free and open fight as first priority, Brown vs. Cote is the fight to book right now. Oh, and Brown vs. Saffiedine could work (if Tarec can stay healthy for two fights in a row).
NIKITA KRYLOV: Niki Thrillz has two sensible fights in front of him right now: Lil’ Nog and Shogun. I honestly think he could win both, but in the interest of stepping him up as slowly as possible and giving him as much time as he can take to start hitting the elite matchups in the division, Krylov vs. Lil’ Nog just makes the most sense.
JORGE MASVIDAL: There’s that Ellenberger idea I mentioned above, but Masvidal is a fight anyone, anywhere, anytime kind of dude, so there really are a ton of potential matchups he could get at any one time. I’d love, for instance, to see him face Dong Hyun Kim when Kim returns from injury, More than that, however (and with more chances of happening, I’d like to see Jorge Masvidal vs. Alan Jouban. Jouban isn’t the most technical striker in the world, but he’s fast and powerful and dynamic and I think he could draw a really fun war out of Masvidal. It’s also a big chance for Jouban to keep making a name for himself and for Masvidal a real chance to keep putting some kind of win streak together. Jorge Masvidal vs. Alan Jouban.
WILSON REIS: So, Demetrious Johnson is already tentatively booked for December 3rd and the TUF 24 Finale, but that’s a long ways off for him to sit on the sidelines without a fight. Assuming his recent injury isn’t so bad that he needs all that time then re-booking Reis fight is too easy and obvious to pass up. If that can’t happen, then Ian McCall could use a fight right about now, I’m guessing. Also Ali Bagautinov and Kyoji Horiguchi are just floating around there, waiting. I’d probably be more in favor of McCall vs. Makovsky, in reality. So Reis vs. Bagautinov would be my next choice. But all those things follow Wilson Reis vs. Demetrious Johnson for importance.
Other Fights: Perez vs. Gagnon, Benoit vs. Sasaki, Serrano vs. Sangcha-an, Herman vs. Lawlor, Pearson vs. Burkman, Hamilton vs. Harris, Sandoval vs. Nguyen, Graves vs. Till, Velickovic vs. Westcott, Brown vs. Franca