UFC Stockholm couldn’t help but over-perform. A night with little name value and few really meaningful fights had nowhere to go but up. By the end, it was a decent, not great night of action, but that’s a lot lot better than just being bad. And it gave at least one fighter some serious momentum. No, not Alexander Gustafsson (although he did well), but Volkan Oezdemir, who now is primed for another big fight after KOing Misha Cirkunov.
I’ll be using the old-school Silva/Shelby model from years past to plot out a next step for all the fighters on the UFC Stockholm card. That means winners vs. winners, losers vs. losers, and similarly tenured talent facing off against one another. Making selections with me this week is BE reader Ales. If you’d like a shot at picking matchups for next week’s card, leave a comment below starting out with “THIS IS SPARTA!” and I’ll pick a winner from the respondents. Now, lets get to the match-ups...
Hi all, my name is Ales but I’m lurking in the BE discussions as Ulrik. I’ve watch MMA for a few years and although PRIDE never dies the way fighters have evolved in last two years has been great. Still, I’m a big fan of good old Josh Barnett, along with Dominick Cruz, and Beneil Dariush. Right now I’m mourning relegation of my football team. Outside of MMA I have degree in Middle-East politics and history, but my job is game journalist. Yeah, it’s great but no, it isn’t just playing games. The UFC Stockholm was in my opinion solid, with some nice fights, simply another “not bad European card.”
Ales - I liked his gameplan. I didn’t like all that running with his back to Glover, but it worked. Mauler looked looked like toreador, picking Glover apart one round after another. From such a dominant performance there is only one way to go: winner of DC – Jones title fight.
Zane - Gustafsson has already said he wouldn’t fight Jimi Manuwa again, which means any kind of title eliminator (or backup match) booked alongside the DC/Jones fight is out of the question. That said, with Manuwa having faced neither Jones nor Cormier, giving him a shot at the belt first may not be a bad idea. Still, as limited as options are, Manuwa feels like a better fight for Oezdemir right now, while Gus waits for the DC/Jones winner, especially if that winner is Jon Jones.
Ales - Oh my, unless you rip his head off with thousand punches (or one big if you are Rumble), Glover is still coming for you. We can say that despite being 37 years old, his chin is made of steel. But, his dream of title shot is probably gone and so he deserves atop 10 opponent, just not as much of a beast as Gus. This story writes itself, doesn’t it? Give him Oezdemir. Because…
Zane - Teixeira would be a legit test of Oezdemir’s instant title hopes, but coming off that KO loss, I think it would also be an especially unflashy way to snuff them out. A Glover win doesn’t put him back in contention, it just derails Oezdemir’s climb. Ilir Latifi just lost his opponent for Oklahoma City, if he wants to wait a fight with Glover would be an interesting one. However, that seems unlikely. Instead Glover should wait to see if DC loses to Jones, giving Glover a chance to fight Cormier. If that doesn’t shake out then what about a fight against Shogun Rua? Dana White infamously claimed Shogun would “rather be cut” than have to fight him... suggesting Shogun was afraid of him. Sounds like the basis of some decent fight promotion.
Ales - …because I do not think anybody expected Volkan to smash Cirkunov in such way. After beating a fading OSP and this short fight, it is still difficult to measure his true skill. Against Glover Teixeira he can show his whole arsenal and maybe his magic/ skill will hold. If not, losing to a fighter of Teixeira’s stature won’t hurt his stock much, he is just 27 years old. I do not see him in top 5 (yet), but in the Glover fight he can prove me wrong. Oezdemir asked for Manuwa, but in my opinion Jimi deserves loser from title fight (or to replace one of them).
Zane - I think that Manuwa fight makes too much sense right now to pass it up. DC/Jones 2 has been years in the making now. Booking Manuwa against Oezdemir alongside it is a nice way to make sure Manuwa is in camp, ready to step in. And otherwise it gives fans a hell of a scrap to look forward to on the same card. Either guy wins and he’d likely come away with a big KO seen by a lot of people. Manuwa vs. Oezdemir is the best contender fight the UFC can make right now.
Ales - Poor Misha, this loss must be tough to swallow. There is nothing to gain from it. I don’t think you can give him a higher ranked opponent. Logical step would be pit him against Corey Anderson, but in such shallow division I’m against prospects fighting between themselves. My first pick, Cummins, has rendezvous with Villante, so it makes sense to book a fight with OSP, despite the fact that he will probably jump over him in the rankings.
Zane - I really wouldn’t mind giving Cirkunov a big step back, all the way to someone like Marcos Rogerio de Lima off a loss like this. Lima is another super dangerous power striker, but with an amazingly limited arsenal and tendency to shut all the way down under pressure. The other option would be Ilir Latifi, which makes tons of ranking sense and pits power punching wrestlers against one another. But I don’t think Cirkunov is ready for THA GAWD after that loss. So, Cirkunov vs. Pezao is the fight to make.
Ales - I really like Sobotta. His style is constantly developing and he really eliminated Killa B in all aspects of his game. So, give him top 15 opponent. Leon Edwards has solid run and his style would make interesting matchup.
Zane - If nothing else, Sobotta is definitely proving himself better than the rank and file of WW. He’s finishing fights in a way that he never would have years ago. I’m still not sure if he’s an elite enough athlete to make a real run at the top of the division, but he’s become a dangerous action fighter with a complete game. A definite challenge for all comers. The dude most set to test that and meet Sobotta on equal footing everywhere? Zak Cummings. Cummings vs Sobota would be the welterweight battle for average looking dudes that can really throw down.
Ales - That was solid performance. Munhoz is slowly getting better and better. His main problem now is to find solid matchup with most of the top 15 in his division booked. Still, bantamweight is much larger than LHW so I can make a winner-winner match. John Dodson will be a big leap but I can see Young Punisher make the fight competitive.
Zane - Munhoz’s habit of eating all the punches is going to make climbing the rankings really rough for him. A fight with someone like Dodson would be super fun on the mats, but standing, Dodson would probably take his lunch money. If the UFC wanted to go winner/loser a bout with Eddie Wineland would be interesting. Munhoz would be an open target, but it’s probably his best matchup ahead of him other than Caraway. I doubt he could get the winner of Sterling/Barao. The most realistic option here is probably a bout with heavy hitter Rob Font.
Ales - Can we just forget the fight? OK, Smith used the most effective tactic, but it was hard to watch. So give him Bradley Scott. The Englishman has solid takedown defense so there won’t be another “take down and smother“ 15 minutes.
Zane - Smith has worked his way into the “veterans who are nearly top 15 but not quite top 15” class of middleweights. Where guys like Rafael Natal, Tim Boetsch, Brad Tavares, Cezar Ferreira and others hang out, forever battling for momentary spots in the rankings. A fight with someone like Scott wouldn’t be bad, but I feel like the UFC can use Smith for bigger tests. It could be another chance for Anthony Smith to show his improvements, but I think a win/loss bout against Cezar Ferreira after Ferreira’s razor thin fight with Theodorou would be more interesting.
Ales - That was confident performance and one-sided victory. Another Spartan (Elias Theodorou) is already booked, so what about Sam Alvey? Yeah, he is coming from a loss against Leites, but his counter-punching style should click with Hermansson’s toolset.
Zane - Nicholson wasn’t much of a test for Hermansson and I’d rather see “The Joker” work his way up the division than get catapulted into a more veteran fight off this win. Instead, I think this is the perfect spot for Brad Scott. Scott has developed a decent striking game over the years and is a tough guy to out-work, but he’s not any kind of dynamic fighter. Another chance to see if Hermansson can present a solid plan to out work a tough opponent who will hang around all three rounds.
Ales - It wasn’t perfect, but the guy is only 24 years old. The power and precision are there, but his inactivity during the fight and questionable defense from Muay Thai stance raises questions. I’m not sure about his takedown defense and Sultan Aliev should provide sufficient test.
Zane - Aliev is one of those guys I practically forget is on the roster these days. He’d definitely be the right test to see if Till cracks under pressure when he can’t get a KO (unless of course he knocks him out). Part of me wants to see Till against power stirking BJJ ace Alberto Mina, that would be a more exciting fight. But... Aliev is probably the fight he needs more. Darren Till vs. Sultan Aliev.
OTHER BOUTS: Saunders vs. Musoke, Akhmedov vs. Mina, Alhassan vs. B. Camozzi, Taleb vs. Moraes, Enkamp vs. Morono, Stasiak vs. A. Mendes, J. Silva vs. Holtzman, Madadi vs. Trujillo, Velickovic vs. Laprise, Ayari vs. R. Brown, Hadzovic vs. Gonzalez