By this time, at the point that you've gone through the other post-fight analysis posts, watched the event, listened to the interviews, you know UFC 203 was weird. In some ways, it was always going to be weird. Following a string of tent-pole-esque events for the promotion, a PPV in Cleveland that included two big heavyweight fights and the debut of a pro-wrestler-turned-fighter had to be a spectacle to have any chance of standing out. And boy was it ever.
But, out of chaos comes order, as Howard Johnson so rightly says in Blazing Saddles. And so out of this chaos, we must bring some sort of order to the UFC's fight booking future. And that is what I am here to do. I'll be giving you the best potential matches to make after UFC 203, using the Silva (while it lasts)/ Shelby method of fight booking. Similarly experienced fighters matched together, with an eye toward winner vs. winner and loser vs. loser. Now, lets get to the fights...
STIPE MIOCIC: Werdum may want this fight badly and, hell, he may even deserve it. But, if I'm the UFC I gotta go with Stipe Miocic vs. Cain Velasquez right now. If beating Travis Browne is going to be a path to the title shot for either man, then Cain did a much more impressive job. And while Werdum has a win over Cain, that Cain vs. Stipe fight is unquestionably the most interesting matchup in the division right now. We haven't seen it before and I'll be damned if I'm 100% certain as to just how it'll play out. Stipe took some big shots from Overeem, shots that, if he gave them to Velasquez, would have a lot of wrestling to follow them up. Either way it'd be a great fight. Lets get Cain Velasquez vs. Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight belt.
ALISTAIR OVEREEM: I said it last week and I'm repeating it this week. Right now, the best fight for Overeem (especially off a loss) is Josh Barnett. If the Reem had won this fight, he'd be champ and it wouldn't make much sense to give Barnett a title shot. But, off a loss Overeem vs. Barnett is another one of those heavyweight bouts that's been 10 years in the making. Barnett looked very hurtable against Arlovski before turning in a big submission win and the way both men are fighting right now it'd be bound to be exciting. If the UFC can't book that, then I suppose the could do Overeem/Browne 2, but that's a very poor second choice. Barnett vs. Overeem is where it's at.
FABRICIO WERDUM: If Werdum doesn't get an immediate title shot, then the UFC has to,HAS TO, book Werdum vs. JDS 2. So, so much has changed since those two men fought 8 years ago, but here they are, both at the top of the heavyweight division, both coming off wins. And given JDS has a win over Miocic in his pocket, Werdum vs. JDS for a title shot would be an awesome fight (although hopefully not one that would lead to JDS as the no. 1 contender for a re-crowned Cain Velasquez). Book JDS vs. Werdum 2 right now and if they can't, then fall back on Werdum vs. Barnett, or maybe even Rothwell.
TRAVIS BROWNE: I keep wanting to match dudes up with Mark Hunt, but it really does feel unlikely that we see Hunt back in the cage soon, given his ongoing war of words with UFC brass. If it happened, Hunt/Browne would be very solid, but I'm not banking on it. In place of that, it's time for Travis Browne to fight Ben Rothwell. A battle of big, beardy dudes for the ages. Rothwell and Browne both have a habit of flirting with title contention without quite grasping hold of a top spot, but a fight between them could set one of them back firmly on a path for the belt. Ben Rothwell vs. Travis Browne, make it so.
MICKEY GALL: Apparently he's going to fight Sage Northcutt. Not sure if it'll be at 155 (which seems like a tough cut for Gall, or 170 (which hasn't been kind to Sage). Either way, it's a solid fight between two very raw project fighters for the UFC. And given the early confidence I've seen in fans talking about both guys being too good for the other, then I gotta think that's a well booked fight. Gall vs. Northcutt it is.
CM PUNK: So, we tried the extreme youthful end of the spectrum, and it went terribly. Maybe that means it's time to go the other way. Bring in an incredibly seasoned veteran at the end of his career, someone who is barely clinging to the sport, and give them a chance to make one last splash by beating CM Punk. To that end, I offer Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett. Punk would have a solid 8 inches of height on him, and only two years in age. Bennett is scheduled to fight at RIZIN 2 on September 25th, his 62nd pro bout. If he wins, he'll be 30-30-2. I mean, if you're gonna go spectacle, go full spectacle right? Otherwise, the UFC would be best served finding another pro-wrestler, anyone know if they could convince John Morrison to take a crack at Punk in the cage?
JIMMIE RIVERA: Garbrandt would be the obvious next step, setting Rivera up as some sort of "Alpha Male Killer" on his way to a title shot. But Garbrandt may already be on his way to being the next contender for Dominick Cruz. Assuming that Garbrandt is on that track, then Rivera doesn't have a whole lot of options for a big fight. The best idea is a matchup with Bryan Caraway. However, Caraway seems notoriously hard to book, preferring to choose opponents himself. Maybe Rivera's win over Faber will make him a hot enough commodity for Caraway to take the chance, maybe not. If not, then Rivera should call out TJ Dillashaw. It's not a fight he's likely to win, but it's the highest profile fight out there and it would make for a fun bout. Laid out in order, Garbrandt would be best, Caraway most reasonable, Dillashaw third. But any of those three would be strong options.
URIJAH FABER: There's not really a singular fight that makes sense for Faber. If he just wants to get paid, then he could take on Aljamain Sterling and see if Sterling can take another step to get himself over. If he wants some sort of legacy veteran matchup, then maybe a bout with Johnny Eduardo would be interesting (but meaningless). Matching him with Norifumi Yamamoto is a fun idea in theory, but I worry it'd still look too much like murder in practice. I'd suggest Pickett if Pickett weren't already booked and clinging to his UFC roster spot... I dunno. Of all these options (and assuming he has to fight again), then Sterling is probably the best one. But there's really no perfect meaningful fight right now for Faber.
JESSICA ANDRADE: The women's strawweight title picture is wide open right now, and Andrade is definitely in the middle of that conversation. If Kowalkiewicz has dibs (and she probably does) then Andrade should take another fight in the meantime, but if the UFC can't book Kowalkiewicz vs. Jedrzejczyk for whatever reason, then Andrade would be a perfectly serviceable title challenger. Assuming that's not the next fight for her, though, then I think a fight with Carla Esparza would be great. Esparza is both a relevant name at the top of the division, and yet feels weirdly far from finding a way back to the belt. If Esparza can beat someone like Andrade, then she's back in the picture at 115. And if Andrade beats her, then she's a shoe in for a shot at the belt. Andrade vs. Gadelha would also be a great fight, but given that Gadelha has already lost twice to the champ, beating Andrade would do less for her right now. Esparza vs. Andrade makes sense.
OTHER BOUTS: Calderwood vs. Torres, Correia vs. Carmouche, Tavares vs. Natal, Magalhaes vs. A. Smith, Lentz vs. Miller, McBride vs. Ricci, Dober vs. Aubin-Mercier, Gonzalez vs. Novelli, Medeiros vs. Sobotta