UFC 215 is done and dusted. It wasn’t the best card, it wasn’t the worst card, it was just a card. In the McGregor era, that almost certainly means it’s going to bomb and bomb hard. However, it also means that there are a bunch of new and meaningful fights to make. What does the UFC do with Amanda Nunes now? Who does Valentina Shevchenko fight? Is Cejudo ready for another title shot? Is anyone in front of Rafael dos Anjos in line at 170?
To answer these questions, I’ll be using the old-school Silva/Shelby fight booking method. That means matching losers against losers, winners against winners, and similarly tenured talent against one another. If you want to take your own shot at some fantasy fight booking, leave a comment below starting with “Look at her face. Her nose is red from my punches.” I’ll pick one winner from the responses below to join me for the next fight card.
Joining me this time around is BE reader Radon Rose.
I will do the opposite of what Zane usually does. I take a good look at the rankings before UFC 215, and have winners face someone higher up the rankings for their next fight. This mostly puts winners against losers, but taking into consideration fight styles and fight history, anything can happen. As we go higher on the rankings, fight style becomes more important, slowly becoming the number one factor once we go into championship fights or #1 contender fight territory.
One last thing: like most people, I hate split decisions. I feel the urge to make things right, so when the rankings and the results help, I will always propose a rematch.
Radon - Julianna Pena comes off a loss against Valentina Shevchenko. Holly Holm's last win against a top ranked contender happened 2 years ago, when she beat then champion, Ronda Rousey. Rousey comes from two losses, a wedding, and a lot of rumors about retirement. That leaves us with Raquel Pennington. Nothing is to be taken away from Rocky, but I don't think she's ready. And, to be honest, I don't even think she's cut to be a UFC Champion. But fair is fair, Raquel should be on Nunes' schedule before anything else.
Zane - The worst part about the prospect of a Pennington title fight is that it kinda feels like she’s just waited out any other potential challenger. She’s on a four fight win streak, and that win over Tate gives her the top name win to be a challenger, but it’s been nearly a year since she stepped in the cage. I wouldn’t be that surprised if the UFC considered giving Holm a shot at the belt instead, especially if Nunes doesn’t make a quick turnaround and gives Holm time to get another win. Either way, I think Holm vs. Nunes is the easier fight to sell to fans, so I’ll throw it out ahead of Pennington, even if Pennington has the win streak right now.
Radon - As I said before, I hate split decisions. But Valentina is now 0-2 against Nunes. I wouldn't be surprised if a third fight comes later in their careers, but it's not what should happen right now. She has a split decision against free agent Sara Kaufman as well, but after seeing how well Tonya Evinger fared against a larger Cris Cyborg, I'd like to put her to the test against a the smaller Valentina, in a bantamweight match.
Zane - Evinger vs. Shevchenko would be interesting. My gut says it’s a brutal matchup for Evinger, but that round 5 headlock throw says it may not be the worst idea. Otherwise there are a few other good matchup opportunities out there. A fight against Cat Zingano would be great to see, as would a bout against Germaine de Randamie or Liz Carmouche when either woman returns from injury. Eventually I want to see her at 125 against Joanna, but off a loss seems like the wrong time to make that fight. At the moment, I think a bout with Cat Zingano would be the best option, assuming ZIngano returns sometime soon.
RAFAEL DOS ANJOS
Radon - RDA and Carlos Condit are now fighting in the same weight class. With RDA leaping up the rankings, and Condit having accumulated losses to champions and championship contenders, this fight can only benefit both fighters. But, let's be honest, any welterweight matchup proposition in 2017 should include Nick Diaz.
Zane - Welterweight is suffering from a severe lack of challengers right now, and I’d like to see Tyron Woodley vs. Rafael Dos Anjos. However, I don’t know that the solution to their lack of challengers is pushing for another un-hyped Woodley fight so soon after the last one. Instead. Robbie Lawler got a big win over Donald Cerrone recently. And, well... Robbie Lawler vs. RDA would just make me all sorts of incredibly happy. Winner gets a title shot.
Radon - The numbers seem to do all the work again. Magny is 4-3 in his last 7 fights and coming out of a loss, same as Gunnar Nelson. I like flirting with the idea of Magny going against his former TUF teammate, Sam Alvey, but Magny-Nelson seems a perfect match that’s made itself.
Zane - Neil Magny against another ace grappler just feels a bit cruel, even if it’s a perfectly sensible fight given the rankings. I wouldn’t mind seeing him against Tarec Saffiedine, butthat’s not a fight with any curbside appeal at all. Eventually, Magny’s body of work says: Make the Gunnar Nelson fight. He has wins over Kelvin Gastelum, Johny Hendricks, and Hector Lombard, it doesn’t make sense to send him way back down the line to avoid other top competition. Neil Magny vs. Gunnar Nelson it is.
Radon - Easy one. Cejudo has a split loss to Joseph Benavidez, in which he was deducted a point. Cejudo is #2 and 0-1 against Demetrious Johnson, and Benavidez is #1 but 0-2 against the champion. Cejudo should fight Benavidez again.
Zane - Joe B. is gonna be on the sidelines until next spring with a blown ACL unfortunately, so Cejudo has to find something else to do. A fight with DJ could be next, but it seems like DJ is happy to re-book against Borg, and if he doesn’t I assume he wants Pettis next. If the UFC does re-book Borg/Johnson, then I would love to see Henry Cejudo fight Sergio Pettis in a top contender bout. Yeah it burns one potential title fight, but none of these options are making fans’ mouths water, might as well make some more cool fights happen in the division and see if it gets people talking. Henry Cejudo vs. Sergio Pettis.
Radon - Every match-making algorithm would suggest Brandon Moreno. Whether it's their rankings, the loser vs loser, or their hunt for submissions, this seems like an expectable match. What I would like to see more, though, is Wilson Reis taking on the undefeated Magomed Bibulatov, if the later can overcome #10 ranked John Moraga later this year.
Zane - I can see the sense in a fight like Bibulatov at this point. Reis is more of a gatekeeper to the elite than he is fighter to test other elite talent. That Brandon Moreno fight, as you mentioned is right there. A chance for Moreno to show he’s grown since his bout against Pettis. But, I think the fight that really makes the most sense is the loser of Tim Elliott vs. Justin Scoggins. Two energetic fighters who don’t tend to be finishing strikers but both have good wrestling games. Scoggins especially interests me, with his history of giving up submission losses.
Radon - Let's just take a look around his ranking. Ovince St Preux is fighting Mauricio Rua, and Patrick Cummins is fighting Corey Anderson later this year. Any of those four could have a very interesting match with Latifi, but a leap up the rankings to fight Jimi Manuwa seems more interesting to me, because of their tendency to finish people early in a fight.
Zane - The UFC could try bouncing another new prospect off Latifi, someone like Abdul-Kerim Edilov or Dominick Reyes, but truthfully, that Manuwa fight just makes all kinds of sense. Manuwa has climbed a lot higher in his 9 UFC bouts (both men are 6-3) than Latifi, but the brutality with which he lost his last bout leaves him with questions to answer. For Latifi it’s a chance to prove that he can win bouts against upper-tier talent in the division and be more than just a gatekeeper to the top 10. Book Latifi vs. Manuwa as soon as Manuwa is ready to go again.
UPDATE: As has been brought to my attention, Manuwa has been at Allstars for a while now and the likelihood of he and Latifi fighting is slim to none. That being the case, the winner of Corey Anderson vs. Patrick Cummins is probably the best available fight. Oezdemir would also work in a pinch, but Oezdemir has already put himself in position for bigger things.
Radon - Jeremy Stephens would make for an interesting match against anyone above him in the UFC Rankings. I'd say the Korean Zombie, Chan Sung Yung, is the most interesting, because of Jung's ability to take punishment, something Stephens can inflict steadily and methodically. Because of said methodicallity and patience, I'd like to see him face Jose Aldo somewhere down the road, but this seems like a big leap for now.
Zane - Stephens vs. Chan Sung Jung would be sweet sweet ultra-violence. Unfortunately, KZ is another fighter that’s laid up long term with a brutal injury. A fight against Jose Aldo would be a great idea, as it’s the kind of bout that would keep bringing out the best in Stephens and give Aldo a less well rounded opponent to try and prove he’s still among the elite against. Similarly, Ricardo Lamas would be a fanatstic fight that feels like it should have already happened. Eventually though, strike while the iron is hot. Stephens vs. Aldo would be a fantastically fun fight.
Radon - Undefeated Brian Ortega is moving up the rankings, and a fight against a veteran like Gilbert Melendez would be a good stepping stone. I'm not happy describing Melendez like a pro-wrestling jobber, but he is on his fourth consecutive loss, with testosterone 'granting' him only a split loss. I won't be surprised if he takes a long hiatus right now.
Zane - Hard to know how much time off Melendez will take. If his leg isn’t broken it’s reasonable to assume he tries to make a fairly quick turnaround. I’d love to see him fight Gray Maynard, with Maynard coming off his recent win over Teruto Ishihara. Otherwise a fight with Dennis Siver would be about the only thing that makes sense. Maynard is likely the slightly better option of the two. Gilbert Melendez vs. Gray Maynard.
OTHER BOUTS: Pedro vs. Kimball, Vieira vs. Carmouche, McMann vs. L. Smith, Moras vs. Davis, Evans-Smith vs. Pudilova, Glenn vs. Kattar, Tucker vs. Bochniak, White vs. Pichel, Bhullar vs. Willis, Henrique vs. Abdurahimov, K. Johnson vs. Tuck, Martins vs. Diakiese