It’s a well known fact that one of the most demanding jobs in MMA media is fantasy matchmaking. Lesser men may wilt from the task, but a true dedicated pro like myself will always step forward and dive into the theoretical hellscape that is the UFC roster.
This week I’m looking at the fallout from UFC Vancouver: Maia vs. Condit and the best possible fights to make coming out of the event. I’m trying my best to follow the Silva/Shelby methodology of similarly tenured opponents and (somewhat) winners vs. winners and losers vs. losers. Given those loose guidelines, here are my favorite fantasy matchups:
DEMIAN MAIA: If I’m Demian Maia right now, I’d just go ahead and wait for a title shot. He’s earned it, and he’s far enough in his career that if he’s been smart he shouldn’t “have” to fight right now. So sit on the sidelines. If the UFC goes with Woodley vs. Thompson first, that’s fine. But why jeopardize your shot at the belt to take a fight you don’t need. If he absolutely can’t stop himself from fighting, then I’d love to see him take on Cerrone. But my best advice is wait for a chance at the belt.
CARLOS CONDIT: Is he retiring? I wouldn’t mind if he did, he’s been doing this forever. Not a bad idea to step away. However, if he wants to keep fighting, then a second fight with Robbie Lawler has to be next. Their first fight was amazing and left some real unfinished business. I can’t see that a second fight would be any less awesome. It’s also the kind of thing that could headline a small card or co-main a big one. Lawler vs. Condit 2 is the fight to make.
ANTHONY PETTIS: Pettis won his featherweight debut, and he looked dangerous, but he didn’t necessarily look “great.” Oliveira plunked him with a lot of hard shots as Pettis’ gas tank faded fairly quickly. Pettis was able to win this fight with his grappling, which is ultra impressive, but it doesn’t quite make him an immediate superstar at 145. If Renan Barao beats Phillipe Nover (and he should), then Pettis vs. Barao would be a great/weird 135 vs. 155 superfight. Otherwise, I wouldn’t mind seeing Pettis take on Ricardo Lamas once Lamas is done doing bad things to BJ Penn. Or if Penn somehow wins, Pettis vs. Penn would be a real fun fight. Otherwise, fights with Cub Swanson (who is now a semi-teammate) Frankie Edgar, Jeremy Stephens, and Max Holloway are all out there. Maybe, since Barao and Lamas are already booked, the best idea right now is to book Anthony Pettis vs. Frankie Edgar.
CHARLES OLIVEIRA: Kind of a funky loss for “Do Bronx” I don’t think many people expected him to get out-grappled over and over again and eventually submitted, but there you have it. Even though it’s a winner vs. loser matchup, I’m gonna say this is the time to do Dennis Bermudez vs. Charles Oliveira. It’s a fight that favors Oliveira, but should be a fun action contest no matter what, and despite both guys having been around a while, they have yet to fight each other. Cub Swanson would also be a fun fight right now, but I think Bermudez makes more sense because we haven’t already seen it.
PAIGE VANZANT: Paige is in a weird place right now, she’s a promising upcoming face in the UFC, in a thin division. Which means it’s going to be very hard for them not to keep rushing her into contention. Especially since her 4-1 strawweight record makes her the second winning-est fighter at 115 (Joanna being no. 1). She could face someone like Courtney Casey, another good bullying athlete trying to become a more technical fighter, but I think Maryna Moroz is the best next step. Moroz is tall and fast and a good striker, but she can be bullied and would be a good test for VanZant’s ability to press her physical game on an opponent that has a deeper striking game than Rawlings, but not a ton of stopping power. VanZant vs. Moroz is the way to go right now.
JIM MILLER: Erik Koch needs to heal up from injury, but he’s another fighter floating at the edges of the top 15 at lightweight, with a lot of high level experience. A fight against Koch would make for a great action bout for Miller, and give him a chance to really regain footing as an elite lightweight. If Koch isn’t going to be ready soon, then James Krause is out there too. And if the UFC really wants to give him a tough fight, they could do Miller vs. Chiesa. Still, I think Miller vs. Koch is the right fight to book.
JOE LAUZON: Similarly for Lauzon, fights with guys like James Krause are what he should be looking for right now. Guys near the top 15, who have a lot of time in as vets at this level. I think the best option among those out there is John Makdessi. Makdessi is coming off a split decision win, but he’s really had trouble putting together a really dominant string of performances. And I think Makdessi makes for a fun style matchup. Makdessi switches a lot, but he’s most comfortable as a right handed fighter, which should keep Lauzon from just getting handled. And I think Makdessi’s better striking, but lack of wrestling/grappling would create a fun dynamic for the fight. So Lauzon vs. Makdessi is a fight I really like.
Sam Alvey: It’s a little too bad that Thiago Santos is already booked against Eric Spicely, because I’d much rather see Alvey vs. Santos. But with Alvey is at the point where he seems to want to fight often enough and he’s got enough experience under his belt that he should really just face whoever. Tim Boetsch would be a great fight for Alvey, also Chris Camozzi, even Trevor Smith, depending on who’s ready in a hurry. I’d also be interested to see him face Magnus Cedenblad with his new striking focus. Eventually I think the fight with Boetsch makes the most sense coming off Boetsch’s big win over Josh Samman.
OTHER BOUTS: Rawlings vs. Markos, Bochniak vs. Knight, Barzola vs. Collard, Di Chirico vs. Janes, F. Silva vs. Packalen, Laprise vs. Mustafaev, Kennedy vs. Gruetzemacher, Ricci vs. Novelli