Fight Week isn't over yet, we've still got UFC 200 to go. But, that doesn't mean I can't scribble down a few notes in the margains between events and put forth some ideas for next bouts for the UFC Vegas and TUF 23 Finale fighters. We've seen 24 bouts worth of action in the last two days, which means plenty of new winners and losers looking for that next step.
I'll do my best to plot out a path for all the big names on each card, following in the Silva/Shelby model. That means winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured fighters facing off against one another. When I have to, I'll break form, but if I can find a way to stick to the model I'm going to do my best to try to. After all, I want to predict the future, not create pure fiction.
EDDIE ALVAREZ: Honestly, with Ferguson already booked, it feels like Khabib Nurmagomedov is the fight that just makes sense. Sure a McGregor fight would be cool, or Will Brooks down the line, but Nurmagomedov is the unbooked challenger right this minute. Make that fight and then see what follows later. Alvarez vs. Nurmy is the best fight right now.
RAFAEL DOS ANJOS: No reason to give Dos Anjos a soft touch next time out, he deserves the best available fighter he can get coming off a loss. The loser of Barboza vs. Melendez would be a great place to start. That's an awesome fight and neither guy has taken on RDA yet. I'm picking RDA vs. the Barboza/Melendez loser next.
DERRICK LEWIS: The world is suddenly Lewis' oyster. now standing at 7-2 in the UFC and having passed the gatekeeper to the top 10, he's in the rarefied air of "Heavyweights the UFC tends to keep around forever". I mean, guys like Struve, Gonzaga, Mir, Antonio Silva. You can go on some bad losing streaks and still stay at heavyweight once you pass a test like this. On that note, I say push Lewis onward and upward. He might legit murder Struve, even though Struve is the one top heavyweight free off a win right now, so how about Mark Hunt if Hunt beats Lesnar. If Hunt doesn't then the winner of Arlovski/Barnett or Magomedov once he's healthy would be fine. But Derrick Lewis vs. Mark Hunt off a win would be awesome.
ALAN JOUBAN: Jouban really is one hell of a welterweight action fighter. Win or lose he's exciting even if he's rarely as dominant as you might hope he would be. Since he's free and coming off his own big win right now, I'd love to see Jouban vs. Lorenz Larkin. That fight would be all kinds of fun. If that can't happen, then they should just re-book the Nordine Taleb fight to keep Jouban busy. But Jouban vs. Larkin is option A.
JOE DUFFY: Not sure this win says much about Duffy we didn't already know. He's pretty obviously a near elite talent and he should get stiff tests. I'd love to see Duffy fight Adriano Martins, but it doesn't seem like Martins is getting booked lately for whatever reason. If Martins is out due to injury, then how about Abel Trujillo. Even if I think it's a great style matchup for Duffy, it's guaranteed to be an action fight. Duffy vs. Trujillo would be great right now. If Duffy is willing to wait, I'd really be happy with him fighting James Krause too. Hell, even Rashid Magomedov would be awesome. Basically, there are a bunch of injured dudes I'd love to see Duffy fight, but I'm picking Trujillo because he might be ready to go sooner.
TUF 23 Finale
JOANNA JEDRZEJCZYK: There are three good choices for Joanna right now. Choice one is the winner of Kowalkiewicz vs. Namajunas. Choice two is Joanne Calderwood, and choice 3 is Jessica Andrade. Andrade is probably the most guaranteed bananas fight, but I feel like the narrative arc is best behind the Namajunas/Kowalkiewicz winner. Don't think either woman is ready for Joanna, but fans have been talking about Namajunas for a while now and Kowalkiewicz has been calling out Joanna since she got a foot in the door. Easy sell. Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Kowalkiewicz/Namajunas winner.
CLAUDIA GADELHA: Much like RDA, I really don't see a reason to give Gadelha a soft bounceback fight. She's obviously just a hair off the belt. That said she may want a while off just to heal up. Once she does come back though, I'd put her in with Tecia Torres. Torres barely lost to Namajunas last time out, and has been looking great lately and it'd make for a hell of a fun fight. I'd say Letourneau would be great too (and it would) but if Letourneau lost that'd be 3 straight for her so she may need a softer fight. If everyone is on board, Gadelha vs. Letourneau would be choice one, but Gadelha vs. Torres is a great second.
WILL BROOKS: A solid opening UFC bout for Brooks, but hardly the kind of "immediate title contention" material that some may have expected. He edged out a tough fight with a seasoned vet. No shame in that, getting the win is important. Next up, I say continue the theme and give him Evan Dunham, once Dunham returns from injury. If that's too far off, then I'd also be cool seeing him fight the winner of Trinaldo vs. Felder. If the UFC really wants to slow play him, then they could always try him on Magomed Mustafaev, but Brooks seems to high profile for that. Brooks vs. Dunham sounds like the right next fight.
ROSS PEARSON: Another win-loss run for Pearson, who just can't seem to string success together. If Thiago Alves loses to Al Iaquinta I'd love to see Pearson fight him next. I'd also be pretty cool with a Ross Pearson vs. Bobby Green fight. Hard to decide between the two, as I think they'd both be great fun. I'll say Bobby Green, since he's currently not booked and Alves is. Ross Pearson vs. Bobby Green.
DOOHO CHOI: Superboy is charging up the roster. Question is, does the UFC put prospect against prospect and match him against Mirsad Bektic or Yair Rodriguez? I think the fight I'd really love is Dooho Choi vs. Brian Ortega. Ortega's complete willingness to stand and trade would put him in extreme danger, but he's another slick as hell grappler who could really test Choi's ground game more, if he gets Choi down. Choi vs. Ortega is the fight I want. Mike de la Torre would be a fine stand in if Ortega won't work.
GRAY MAYNARD: Meaningful? Not really. But, when a fighter as notable as Maynard gets a win, you've got to do something with him. My proposal? Gray Maynard vs. BJ Penn, assuming Penn doesn't go back to lightweight... And considering Penn's unreliability, that's probably a terrible plan. Instead, how about Gray Maynard vs. Maximo Blanco. Both guys are completely action oriented and totally untrustworthy. That's a great fight, even if Blanco is coming off a loss. Maynard vs. Blanco because it makes as much sense as anything.
MATHIAS NICOLAU: Nicolau just beat the 6th ranked UFC flyweight in his second fight for the promotion. Forget that the fight sucked, Moraga has only lost to three guys before this: Johnson, Dodson, and Benavidez. So, what the hell do you do with a kid who's barely got his feet wet and is now potentially top 10? The best bet is to have him fight the winner of Louis Smolka vs. Ben Nguyen. Both guys are ranked, both have looked good, and the winner of that would feel a lot more established as a top guy than Nicolau off this alone. Nicolau vs. the Nguyen/Smolka winner.
Other UFC Vegas bouts: Nelson vs. Gonzaga, Muhammad vs. Meunier, Clarke vs. Tuck, Mina vs. Barberena, Makdessi vs. Lee, Birchak vs. A. Perez, Lopes vs. Entwistle, Munhoz vs. Gagnon, Arantes vs. Soto, Burns vs. Aubin-Mercier, Beltran vs. Tanaka, Vieira vs. Gomez, Luque vs. Fabinski, Herrera vs. Brown
Other TUF 23 Bouts: Sanchez vs. Askham/Hermansson winner, Rountree vs. Nicholson/Clark loser, Suarez vs. Seohee, Cooper vs. Botelho, Tavares vs. C. Miller , J. Silva vs. Packalen, Holbrook vs. Franca, Bruno vs. Hirota, Moraga vs. Makovsky, Stansbury vs. LH da Silva, Ferreira vs. Casey, Smith vs. McCrory, Matthews vs. Wade, Jingliang vs. Edwards