UFC 217 is over by the adrenaline is still coursing through my veins. A card like that, with the kind of drama, the finishes, and the changing of the guard witnessed; it blows the doors wide open in terms of matchmaking possibilities down the line. Who does GSP fight next? At what weight class? Do we play back Rose Namajunas vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk immediately? Does Demetrious Johnson bite on the Dillashaw fight this time around?
To answer these questions, I’m employing the classic Silva/Shelby UFC fight booking model of old. That means winners generally fight winners, losers fight losers, and similarly tenured talents face off against one another. If you’d like to take your own crack at some fantasy matchmaking for the next UFC card, leave a comment below with “This belt don't mean nothin' man. Just be a good person, that's it,” as the subject line. I’ll pick one response as the winner.
Joining me this time is BE reader Romowasntbuiltinoneday.
Hello BloodyElbow family, my name is Smail Metovic (aka Romowasntbuiltinoneday). As you can tell by the username and picture, huge Romo and Cowboys fan. Through my fantastic experience with bloggingtheboys SB Nation sister site, I went in search for a SB Nation MMA site. Came across bloodyelbow, and have been addicted ever since. My foray into MMA started in 2007, when my roommates in college all trained. First fight that I was exposed to was the Serra GSP upset, but my first fight I sought out was the Silva v Henderson match. It’s nice to have this article bring me full circle since then. Follow me on twitter @baebllr408.
Smail - I’ll be honest, I did not see this fight ending this fashion. I really wanted to stand by my initial argument that Bisping has the best “pure” boxing in MMA, and I honestly wasn’t sure that GSP had much more than a “great jab.” This fight really showed what being one of the greatest means. Always working hard, and always willing to learn. I must admit, I was impressed with his performance given that he jumped to middleweight, in a championship fight, and won, after four years off. However, I do think that a move to welterweight is ultimately what needs to happen. Given how much disarray this division seems to be in, my hope is that GSP does stick around and does a fight that allows us to unify the belt. Figure everything else out afterwards. GSP v Robert Whittaker.
Zane - Supposedly the UFC has gone ahead and taken this one out of my hands (where is the faith?). GSP revealed back in August that if he wins the title he has to defend it. And Robert Whittaker is as close to a mandatory no. 1 contender as the UFC can make anyone, having already picked up the interim middleweight strap. So technically we should be getting GSP vs. Whittaker next. But I’ll believe that when I see it. So I’m also thinking there’s a good chance GSP goes back to welterweight to take on Woodley or dare I say it Conor McGregor. Contracts are great and all, but money talks and if the UFC wants to change things up they’ll find a way.
Smail - Frankly, I was a bit disappointed in Michael Bisping tonight. The whole time I kept screaming “1-2, 1-1-2.” He seemed be having some success with that, but for whatever reason Bisping stopped doubling up, and started relying on one shot at a time. He fell into GSP’s game. Perhaps, the tentativeness to commit was an attempt avoid takedowns, but I felt he had one of the most underrated wrestling defense in all of MMA; so I find it hard to justify his approach. Personally, I expected Bisping to sit on the outside, throw some stinging shots, and wear out GSP with point fighting. I think this loss is really crippling for Bisping at this point in his career; especially given his controversial title reign. Given all that, there is one fight out there that just so happens to have the buildup, genuine distain, and oozing with drama. Bisping v Romero.
Zane - Well, it sounds like he’s not retiring, and there are no lack of people floating around 185 that wouldn’t like to get a piece of the ‘Count’ these days. Anderson Silva would probably like a rematch if Kelvin Gastelum doesn’t turn his lights out, and you know Luke Rockhold wants that trilogy fight like nothing else. Not to mention Jacare, Weidman, and Romero who have all spent the last year gunning for Bisping. If Rockhold is willing to wait for Bisping to return, then that’s the fight to make. If he’s not, then go ahead and book Bisping vs. Romero to make that promised title fight that never happened.
Smail - I really expected this fight to mirror the Stephen Thompson, Jorge Masvidal fight. TJ using his movement to get in and out, and avoiding standing with Cody. He got flat footed on a few occasions, and it almost cost him the fight. In the end it worked out in his favor (this time), but if you play with fire too many times, you’re bound to get burned. While Cruz v Rivera would be the most logical choice, the UFC in 2017 is looking for the money choice. There can be an argument made as to why the logical choice is the money choice, I would venture to say that given how much Dillashaw has wanted Mighty Mouse, he might finally have the leverage to get that fight. Dillashaw v Mighty Mouse.
Zane - He called out Demetrious Johnson. Obviously they could run back this Garbrandt fight again, and Dominick Cruz vs. Jimmie Rivera is set to potentially crown another top contender. But, he called out Demetrious Johnson again and I want that fight. I loved the idea the first time and was sad it didn’t come together. DJ got his title defense record and did it the most emphatically cool way he possibly could, and I just want to see something more than DJ vs. another flyweight. The UFC needs to open their pocket book and find a way to make this happen. TJ Dillashaw vs. Demetrious Johnson, maybe do it at 130 lbs. Just book the thing.
Smail - I have to think that this is the fight that Cody wanted. Obviously the result was not, but he got TJ to stand in front of him and trade shots. I think TJ was just a little quicker and that’s what cost him the fight. Given that I believe Dillashaw fights Mighty Mouse, I think the winner of Cruz v Rivera would be the direction I go. If the winner wants to wait for TJ to come back from the Mighty Mouse fight, then I would make Cody v loser. Cody v. Loser of Cruz/Rivera.
Zane - Bantamweight is pretty thoroughly booked right now. If Garbrandt wants a top ranked opponent ASAP then John Lineker is the only dude in the top 5 without a full dance card. But Garbrandt also just got slept, so a little time off to wait for some dust to settle wouldn’t hurt. My instinct is to say book him against the loser of Cruz vs. Rivera, but there’s no guarantee that’s not Cruz and that fight doesn’t make a ton of sense to run back right away. Instead, I’m going to say Cody Garbrandt should get the loser of John Dodson vs. Marlon Moraes. It’d be a surefire, speed-chess action fight no matter what the matchup is.
Smail - I was a fan of Rose from her time on TUF, so it’s pretty amazing to see how much she’s grown. Not to mention, this is probably something the UFC secretly hoped for. It’s a redeeming moment for that season of TUF. Literally it has come full circle. Esparza beat Rose in the Finale, Joanna beat Esparza, and now Rose has beat Joanna. I know a lot people are really behind Jessica Andrade, but she’s only fight removed from her loss to Joanna. However, Tecia Torres on the other hand is on a two fight win streak, and if Rose can get a shot at title with a win over Michelle Waterson, Tecia Torres could get one two. Most other women in the division are 1-1. Additionally, Cynthia Calvillo v Carla Esparza, and the winner would be on 3 and 2 fight win streak respectively. My gut tells me that Waterson beats Torres. Rose v winner of Calvillo v. Esparza.
Zane - This is one the UFC almost certainly just does over again, but I think there could actually be more value in moving on. I’d like to see Joanna make the jump to 125, which she’s talked about for a while now. And that means that there’s room for Jessica Andrade back in the title picture again. I’m fascinated by the potential of an Andrade vs. Namajunas matchup, just because I’m not at all certain that Rose can play matador nearly as well as Joanna did, and I think Andrade is more durable than the now-former champion. Let Joanna go do other things, and book Namajunas vs. Jessica Andrade for the strawweight title.
Smail - There isn’t much to be said here. She came out weak, and looked like Holly Holm v Schevenko; jabbing and swing in air, knowing they weren’t going to connect. She was outclassed at her own game. As Joe Rogan, alluded to…. I am not as against immediate rematches as some people are, but for me, there has to be some extenuating circumstances. One of those is a close or controversial decision. That was not the case here. This fight was a brutal finish, and if the ref wasn’t going to stop it, Joanna was tapping to strikes. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that she needs to go to the back of the line, but definitely no immediate rematch, even if she was dominant previously. Joanna v Tecia Torres/Michelle Waterson Loser.
Zane - So in my they-don’t-immediately-do-Namajunas-Jedrzejczyk-II fantasy world, that leaves Joanna free to start her flyweight run. Paige VanZant tweeted out some absurd (and quickly denied) news that she was going to be the default no.1 contender for the new flyweight title after TUF 26... But instead what if we got Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Valentina Shevchenko in a top contender fight (and honestly real championship fight) at flyweight to face whoever comes out of the Ultimate Fighter? That sounds like the perfect fight right now. Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Valentina Shevchenko at flyweight.
Smail - Fight started off with Thompson moving forward, and was a bit more assertive than I thought he’d be, but my goodness, does he have that nice leaping 1-2. Even when you know its coming he’s so quick in and out, its fun to see. Really reminds me of Lyoto Machida in his prime. I know a lot of people are really behind Darren Till at the moment, and I am one of them, but I would like to see him get one more win before getting a top 3 fighter. In that case, I say Stephen Thompson v winner of Condit v Magny.
Zane - Thompson has 3 easy options at the moment. He can wait for the winner of Rafael Dos Anjos vs. Robbie Lawler (and hope that the UFC doesn’t give that guy the title shot instead), or he can fight Colby Covington or Darren Till. I’m not sure which of these ideas thrills me more, but I have an idea of which would be the most technically fascinating on paper. I kind of wanted to see Till face the Magny/Condit winner, as a clearer path to title contention than having to deal with an elite gatekeeper like Thompson right now. But if MMA history teaches us anything, it’s don’t pass up the cool fight when you can make it. On that note, it’s time to make Darren Till vs. Stephen Thompson.
Smail - It really surprised how much Masvidal was moving backwards in this fight. As the fight unfolded, Thompson got more comfortable, and it seems that Masvidal kept getting more flustered and frustrated. I even scored that second round 10-8 given the knockdown. I think he really should have threatened with a take down more than he did. I think that’s what made Thompson so hesitant in the Woodley fight. Also, just as a side note, I understand some fighters think that raising your hand after a fight might sway a close fight, but its a pet peeve of mine when I see them do it after a fight like this, where in my opinion, outside of a close round, Masvidal did close to nothing. Masvidal v RDA/ Lawler loser.
Zane - Rough point for Masvidal. A win over Thompson would have put him as close to a title shot as he’s been since his Strikeforce days, and he just couldn’t pull it off. That doesn’t mean that welterweight still isn’t full of great potential fights for the man. If it weren’t for their both being ATT fighters I’d say Thiago Alves, but in reality if Carlos Condit doesn’t get slept by Neil Magny, then Condit vs. Masvidal would be a great fight no matter if Condit wins or loses next time out. Or, if Robbie Lawler beats Rafael dos Anjos, then book RDA vs. Masvidal. Either way you’ve got two great potential matchups to make.
Smail - Maybe it’s just me, but he really reminds me of a taller, lankier Donald Cerrone. I anticipated that Duffy would be able to dictate the pace, and that Vick would have to be coming forward more in order to try and neutralize Duffy, forcing him to stand in the pocket. Well, Duffy seemed to have slowed a bit, and right before the end of the round, Vick ends it in stunning fashion. I think Cerrone should be moving back to 155, and is still a big enough name for Vick, if he were to beat him, launch him up the rankings. James Vick v. Donald Cerrone
Zane - I’d be pretty surprised if Cerrone did drop down, and it just seems a little cruel to give him another huge, rangy fighter looking to make a name – especially off that stoppage loss. In reality, with the chip James Vick has on his shoulder about being passed over, I think this is the time for him to get a little revenge. Beneil Dariush is coming off a fun draw where he faded down the stretch against Evan Dunham, but he’s a ranked lightweight and the only man to take a win off Vick. Run it back, give Vick a second chance and the ranked opponent he wants, and let Dariush see if he can jump-start his career a bit with another thrilling stoppage. James Vick vs. Beneil Dariush II.
OTHER BOUTS: Costa vs. Kelly/Theodorou winner, Duffy vs. T. Martin, Godbeer vs. Milstead, Harris vs. Ledet, St. Preux vs. Gustafsson, Anderson vs. Clark, Brown vs. Abe, Gall vs. A. Reyes, Blaydes vs. Volkov, Oliynyk vs. Struve, Ramos vs. Quinonez, Zahabi vs. Duquesnoy