UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Gastelum was a solid barn burner of an event (apart from the usual FS1 pacing problems). Lots of finishes, a couple of comebacks, and some really solid next level performances from rising talent. That means that there’s a lot of good fight booking to be done, afterward. What does Kelvin Gastelum do next? Edson Barboza? Is Ray Borg ready for a title shot? That’s what we’re here to figure out.
I’ll be following the classic Silva/Shelby method to make my bookings, pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured UFC talent against one another as best I can. Helping me this week is BE reader Dylan da Chin. IF you want to take a crack at doing your own matchmaking for the next card, leave a comment below starting, “I'm this era, so I’m like a young dinosaur. I'm an old lion in the midst of this young lion, so I’m enjoying the jungle.” I’ll pick a winner from the comments below. Now, let’s get to the fights.
Hello, Bloody Elbow, I'm Dylan da Chin and I'll be helping Zane with some match making tonight. Before we move on to the meat of the article I'd thought I'd tell you a bit about myself, just in case you were interested. I am a former amateur MMA fighter with a whopping 0-1 record (pretty impressive I know), I've been to one UFC card (UFC 163), and tonight was my traditional watch a UFC card birthday party. Anyways, before we get down to the fights I'd like to give a big shout out to my Utsuri-Ryu Jiu-Jitsu Sensei Jarid Bussemakers who just won the King of the Cage Canada Welterweight title last week.
Dylan - Why call out an ageing legend in Anderson Silva when you just beat the ageing legend Vitor. Doesn't make sense. He should have called out the winner of Weidman vs Mousasi. Gastelum is in a great spot being a young talent in a division that is going to need it when all these contenders in their late 30's decide to call it quits. Kevin is on a fast track to a title shot right now and he should embrace it. Pick: Winner of Weidman vs Mousasi
Zane - Gastelum has so, so many options right now at the top of 185. Jacare and Whittaker are fighting, Mousasi and Weidman are fighting, and Luke Rockhold is going to be making his return shortly. And none of these people are likely to be next in line for a title shot unless GSP and Romero both get injured. The winner of Mousasi/Weidman probably makes the most sense in an either-guy-would-be-a-reasonable-matchup sort of way, but what I really want is Gastelum vs. Whittaker, so I’ll say Gastelum vs. the winner of Jacare vs. Whittaker, on the off chance Whittaker gets the win.
Dylan - I had decided prior to this fight that no matter what happened tonight there was only one thing to do with Vitor, and that is to book the rematch with Anderson Silva. Both of these guys are old and who knows how many fights they have left in them. So I say book the biggest money fight for both of them. Seems like ‘Dad Bod’ Vitor and ‘Can't Pull the Trigger’ Anderson Silva is the fight that everyone has always wanted to see, but didn't realize it till I said it. Pick: Anderson Silva
Zane - Anderson Silva is fine and all, but I still want to see Vitor Belfort vs. Nick Diaz. Diaz probably still has the chin to win, but he hasn’t won a fight since 2011, and his fight with Anderson Silva was a complete carnival. So I think Belfort/Diaz would be primed for weirdness. I’m also not sure Anderson would fight Vitor, with his “no Brazil vs. Brazil” rule in mind. So, with all that said, how about Vitor Belfort vs. Rashad Evans?
Dylan - Who would have thought that in 2017 Shogun would be riding a 3 fight winning streak and be a top 5 LHW (especially if Bader signs with Bellator.) There are 2 things you can do with Shogun; one, the obvious boring option, match him against Jimi Manuwa if he beats Cory Anderson (or I guess a rematch with Anderson if he pulls off the W) or two, the way better option, is to have him fight the winner of DC vs Rumble. I know there are some rumors about a guy named Jon Jones coming back for the belt, but to that I say, Shogun LHW champ 2017! Pick: Winner of DC vs Johnson
Zane - The worst part of that Shogun vs. DC/Johnson winner is that I can see a certain amount of sense in it. I mean, it’s not like we can trust Jon Jones to make it to a fight these days. But, if I’m being real (and I’m trying to be), then lets do Shogun vs. Misha Cirkunov. The Manuwa fight is there and solid and all, but I didn’t see anything out of this fight from Shogun that suggested he should be doing anything more than gatekeeping the top 10 at this point. The UFC running him up the contender ladder doesn’t do anyone many favors. So, book him against Cirkunov now that he’s back to see if the kid can really break through.
Dylan - Isn't it great to watch Barbosa when he's in his zone? I think there is really only one thing to do with this guy right now, interim LW title fight against Tony Ferguson . I think Nurmy blew his chance at interim gold and should have to fight the winner of these 2. Pick: Tony Ferguson
Zane - The top of lightweight is so screwy right now, that a fight with Ferguson just might get made. The Khabib fight has been a nightmare for the UFC to get booked and McGregor is entertaining this Mayweather idea. But I kinda doubt Ferguson has much interest in fighting Barboza again. After all, he already beat him, and he’s got a strong claim to a title shot. If Dustin Poirier beats Eddie Alvarez, then Poirier vs. Barboza is a must book fight. Otherwise, Barboza vs. Chiesa is probably the most realistic thing on the table.
Dylan - Tough night for Beneil, and I'm sure that he's gonna be hurting for a hot minute after that. I don't think there is much to say here, Will Brooks and Charles Oliveira have a fight coming up and I think the loser of that would be a solid booking. Pick: Loser of Brooks vs Oliveira
Zane - Honestly, I might be more willing to book Dariush against the winner of Brooks/Oliveira than the loser. He has a ton more traction and credit in the UFC lightweight division than either of them right now. It’s either that, or face another nearly ranked lightweight coming off a win. Rustam Khabilov would be a solid option. But for the sake of argument, I’ll say the Brooks/Oliveira winner vs. Dariush.
Dylan - How good was that fight? Ray Borg showed some excellent ground work, amazing scrambles and some fast past and clean striking. As far as his next fight, everyone above him besides Joseph Benavidez is booked, and seeing as Jobi is in the traditional Alpha Male position of always being a bridesmaid and never the bride. If Ray Borg could beat him it'd guarantee him a title shot. Pick: Joseph Benavidez
Zane - Borg just picked off a major scalp at 125 and the next step has to be a meaningful one. I agree with Dylan here, book him against Benavidez. Borg probably isn’t ready for DJ yet, but he’s in top contention. If he beats Joe-B on a reasonably big stage (maybe a PPV card slot) that might at least get him enough interest to make it more than just Demetrious Johnson fights a guy, which is what it’d be right now. Borg vs. Benavidez is the fight to book.
Dylan - Jussier fought well, but couldn't finish the fight in the third. Now I know it's a long shot that this fight comes to fruition, but I think they should book a rematch with Ian McCall. These guys fought way back in their Tachi Palace days, and it would be a great battle of relevance in the Flyweight division. Pick: Ian McCall
Zane - I can’t bring myself to book McCall in a fight at this point. I just can’t. A fight with him and Formiga would be infinitely cooler than the Neil Seery matchup, but there’s no way you plan around McCall. Instead, Formiga should get Sergio Pettis, if Pettis loses to Cejudo, or the winner of Tim Elliott vs. Louis Smolka. I’d love to see Elliott vs. Formiga, so I’ll say book Formiga against the Elliott/Smolka winner.
Dylan - Maybe the bitter taste of Thompson vs Woodley is too fresh to talk about an instant rematch after a draw, but honestly, that's what I'd like to see here. Correia could have been a little more aggressive and looked for a finish or at least to do some damage. If she'd done that she may have won the fight. That being said, lets do it again, I think it'd be better the second time around. Pick: Rematch
Zane - The fight we saw play out between Reneau and Correia wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t anything I really feel like I have to see again. Reneau is a much better athlete, capable of bigger moments, and Correia is a better round winner and harder worker minute-to-minute. The fact that we got a draw shows just how much that matchup can cancel itself out. Instead, I’ll say book Bethe Correia against Leslie Smith, coming off Smith’s big win over Irene Aldana.
Zane - So what to do then with Marion Reneau? A fight with Liz Carmouche might be interesting, if Carmouche is going to be back from injury any time soon. And a fight against Cat Zingano wouldn’t be a bad idea either. But, since the UFC seems to be keeping Jessica Eye around then I’ll say that the UFC should book them and see if one of them can turn in a career boosting performance. Marion Reneau vs. Jessica Eye.
Dylan - Oliveria is such a fun fighter to watch, but that loss to Cerrone is too fresh in my mind to let me believe he will be in the Welterweight top 10. I'm not saying that he couldn't do it, but I just don't see it happening. Top 15 is a different story and I think him and Santiago Ponzinibbio should fight it out to decide who truly deserves that #15 ranking. Pick: Santiago Ponzinibbio
Zane - I really like the idea of Alex Oliveira vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio and I don’t see another, better fight for the UFC to book right now. Ryan LaFlare would be fine, but not nearly as fun, and Saffiedine is coming off a pair of losses, and Matt Brown is on an 0-3 skid. The winner of Jake Ellenberger vs. Mike Perry would be fun, but the Ponz is there right now, unbooked. So let’s make Alex Oliveira vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio.
OTHER BOUTS: Villante vs. Herman, Means vs. Saunders, Lee vs. Green/Magomedov winner, Trinaldo vs. Lentz, Moraes vs. Covington, Ramos vs. Hadzovic, Soto vs. I. Alcantara, Yahya vs. Gagnon, Prazeres vs. Felder, Kennedy vs. Glenn, Borrachinha vs. Dongi