Depending on your expectations, UFC 220 was either just fine, or a bit of a dud. If you showed up to see chaos and new champions crowned, you likely walked away a bit disappointed, despite a largely good night of action fights (and whatever Villante vs. Barroso was). If you showed up looking to see Stipe Miocic make history, and Daniel Cormier get his dad game on, then you probably had a fine time.
Either way, the UFC is left with a distinct lack of obvious next title fights to make. Which is why I’m here; using the classic Silva/Shelby model of old, I’ll be matching winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent against one another. If you’d like to take a shot at doing some matchmaking of your own, leave a comment below starting with, “Mumble mumble mumble mumble mumble mumble mumble. I’M GONNA BE A DAD! mumble mumble.” I’ll pick one winner from the responses to join me next time.
This week’s winner is BE reader POTUS_Muffley (aka Nate Harper):
Hello to all my fellow Bloody Elbow-ners (‘cuase I’m classy like that). This is POTUS_Muffley, aka Nate Harper. I’m a native Northern Coloradoan (bikes, beards, plaid shirts, craft beer) and a fan of heavy riff rock, Photoshop, the Coen Bros, and going on adventures with my special lady. My moment of MMA revelation was watching Mr. “Right Leg, Hospital; Left leg, Cemetery”, aka Mirko Filipović, aka CroCop send Wanderlei Silva to the land of wind and ghosts back in Aught-Six, and I’ve been a fan since. Y’all should get in on the Mythical Creatures of MMA Tournament happening now in Fanposts, and while you’re there read my Fanposts and tell me they’re funny. I didn’t enjoy talking to a lot of other MMA fans (and especially internet ones) until I found BE, so thank you to all y’all wonderful people for being just that.
Nate - Win - ANNNNNNNNNDDDDDDD STIIIILLLLLLLLL!!! Stipe has a helluva chin on ‘em. And Francis does too – there were elements of Hunt / Bigfoot 1 in this 5 round war, with both men landing flush but neither going away. Unfortunately, everyone interesting at HW who is on the cusp of a 2 win streak – aka a ticket to being a punch from the belt – is booked for an upcoming fight. Though we’ve seen it before, a matchup with Werdumerang could be worth a replay to see if Vai CaTrollo can keep his wits about him and his chin within a few lateral feet of his hips while striking. If they don’t want to book that, Drago Volkov is on a 5 fight streak at the moment, albeit against middling competition. Otherwise I’d like to see how Blaydes / Hunt turns out, and if Razor wins he should be up next.
Zane - There are three choices and none of them are really fantastic. The first, most obvious choice is Fabricio Werdum. He’s the de-facto top contender, he has a history with Stipe, and he’s coming off a solid win. But that’s not a fight that gets anyone very excited. The next option is Cain Velasquez. Despite not having fought since 2016, and only twice in the past 3 years, Cain is still floating around the top of the UFC rankings, and he’s one of the only top heavyweights that Miocic hasn’t fought yet. He’s also likely been gone just long enough that there would be solid intrigue for his return. The other other option, as mentioned on the UFC broadcast, is Daniel Cormier. That’s the sexiest option of all, but Cormier was just talking about his disinterest in a return to heavyweight. At this point, I think the UFC has to bank on a Velasquez return. If Cain gets hurt again, then Werdum gets the shot, but Cain Velasquez vs. Stipe Miocic is the most interesting, likely title fight right now.
Nate - Ngannou was on fire, but then he met (insert obvious firefighter joke here [Audience groans]). Though he didn’t take out Stipe, Francis is still easily one of the most feared men on the planet. If Cain ever comes back, the current “conservation of hype booking” (aka No Octagon for Old Men) would lend him to being a possibility. Otherwise, if JDS avoids drug court I’d watch him and Francis throw dem bungalows. Otherwise otherwise, howsabout Mark Hunt?
Zane - Part of me says that the UFC should throw Ngannou back down the line at 265 and give him either a fight with Oleksiy Oliynyk or Junior Albini. Both would present reasonable style matches for him to work against, Albini being a solid chinned boxer and Oliynyk a crafty wrestle grappler, but it’s hard to see either fight really being more than a tune up. That would be okay, but it’s not really the UFC’s style. It’s really too bad JDS is embroiled with USADA trouble right now, because that would be a great next test. Instead, I’m going to say Derrick Lewis, win or lose to Marcin Tybura. Both men have somewhat unstructured power punching games with limited skills everywhere else. And it’s a bout with curbside appeal to fill out a PPV main card. Ngannou vs. Lewis is the right fight right now, no matter how the Tybura fight goes.
Nate - Levels, indeed. The man who twice survived the onslaught of Anthony Johnson took down yet another feared one-hitter-quitter and again shows he’s the toughest, cleanest man at LHW. DC spent the first round figuring out the distance, and once he did the end was never in question. For his troubles, I think a rematch with Gus should suffice. Or if anyone’s feeling truly sadistic, Shogun is on a win streak right now…
Zane - I’d love to see him cut the line at heavyweight and make a fun superfight for two divisions short on challengers, but that just doesn’t seem realistic. Instead, Cormier has earned his ‘Daddest Man’ reputation by doing the responsible, dadly thing at all times. And the responsible thing is to give Alexander Gustafsson another shot at the belt. Cormier vs. Gustafsson 2 is the only real fight to make at light heavyweight right now.
Nate - Oh, those wax wings. Who did Icarus fight after he fell into the sea? A dolphin? I’d watch that. But assuming Volkan won’t go about punching lesser cetaceans now that he’s been proven to be merely a hard-hitting mortal, why not see if Cannonier’s improved striking is up to the task? If not that then Gokhan Saki?
Zane - There’s no good reason to go loser vs. loser for Oezdemir right now. Who’s he going to fight? Corey Anderson? Jared Cannonier? I’ve been hoping that the UFC would make Teixeira vs. Shogun for a while, but with Shogun injured, Volkan Oezdemir vs. Glover Teixeira is must book stuff. Who’s the boxing-est, baldest man at 205 lbs? Only Oezdemir vs. Teixeira can tell us.
Nate - Despite the (very odd) nickname, Kattar “The Boston Finisher” hadn’t finished someone in about 8 years, but he caught Burgos clean and then it was over. A young veteran with 19 fights at 29 years old, I’d like to see how he does against an old one. As Kattar’s only got 2 fights in the UFC, Gray Maynard could be a good scalp for him to hang on his wall. Or, if matchmakers are feeling pitiless, Gil Melendez is ranked above him (but on a 4 fight losing streak).
Zane - For a man whose MMA career toiled away in anonymity for years and years, Kattar has immediately put his stamp on the featherweight division. His KO of Shane Burgos was gorgeous and his volume striking style seems to be coming alive in the UFC. He’s got to keep moving up the ranks; a dude with 10 years of pro fighting behind him doesn’t need to wait around for anyone. To that end, Myles Jury is the obvious next step. Bouts with Yair Rodriguez or Renato Moicano would also be acceptable, but Jury just put an exhibition on against Rick Glenn and a fight between he and Kattar would be gorgeous to watch. Myles Jury vs. Calvin Kattar. Book it now.
Nate - Almeida showed durability, but everyone has a breaking point and round 2 was his. At 5’ 8”, Font is big for the division, and he showed he has finishing power against the most skilled opponent he’s fought to date. As for who’s next… ummm… not gonna lie, I only kinda know Top 10 BWs. So, using rankings as my guide, I think Eddie Wineland would be a tough matchup for Rob, or maybe Mr. Calf Slicer himself, Brett Johns.
Zane - This win really solidifies Font’s position as a relatively elite talent at 135. Not only did he start strong behind his power punching, but he battled back from adversity, reasserted himself in the second round, and picked up the KO off a gorgeous high kick. The only question now is, does he get rushed all the way to a top 5 bout, or does he wait for some other bouts to clear up? Part of me says he should fight Marlon Moraes, who seems eager to get as many bouts in as he can as fast as he can, since getting signed. The other option is to wait for the winner of Bryan Caraway and Cody Stamann, but at the rate Caraway takes fights, that may not give any guarantee. Frankly, it may be pushing Font back in over his head, but if Moraes wants to stay active at the rate he has been then that bout just makes sense. Rob Font vs. Marlon Moraes.
Nate - Ortiz wins by veteran. Do y’all subscribe to theory that you tend to like fighters you most closely identify with? I’m 6’4 / 245lbs, and while I consider myself a student of the game, I know even less about Flyweights outside the top 5 than I do Bantamweights outside the top 10. (But I could wax philosophic about the ebbs and flows of the one, true Pitbull - Andrei Arlovski - all day.) So for a victorious Ortiz, howsabout John Moraga?
Zane - It could be time to replay Dustin Ortiz vs. John Moraga. Their 2014 bout was a closely contested split decision. And now, four years later, they’re both 7-5 in the UFC and occupying the 9 and 10 spots in the rankings. But, flyweight already feels like a semi-incestuous rats nest of a division, with everyone getting a shot at everyone else and ending up with just over .500 records for their trouble. Instead of a replay I’d prefer to see a rare new bout against more experienced veterans. It may be winner vs. Loser, but Dustin Ortiz vs. Sergio Pettis seems like a good fight to book right now. There’s not really any other obvious fight for Pettis to take, and it would be another chance for Ortiz to prove he’s more than the guy who beats relative newcomers. Ortiz is a longtime former training partner of Pettis, which may nix the whole thing. But it’s been a few camps since he’s been at Roufusport, so hopefully they’re both willing. If neither of those fights work, he can always get another somewhat new guy in the streaking Matheus Nicolau, or Magomed Bibulatov. But Ortiz vs. Pettis is my option A.
Nate - Tibau looked older than his years, which makes sense as that motor’s gotta lotta miles on it. Makhachev cracked him real good, and though Cormier wasn’t there to count the number of times his head bounced off the mat, there was no question that Tibau was Tib-out. Current UFC matchmaking is pitiless and all about feeding fighters with a name on a skid to up and coming talent (e.g. Ngannou vs Arlovski, Borrachinha vs Hendricks, Rodriguez vs Penn, et al.) so I could see Jim Miller getting the call against Makhachev to give the Dagestani a closely ranked name. Failing that, we could keep it in the Caucus and go with a bout against Rashid Magomedov.
Zane - As always the lightweight division is a mile deep, and unfortunately for fighters like Makhachev, the path to becoming a ranked contender is cloudier than ever. If Mairbek Taisumov and James Vick are struggling to get purchase, Makhachev still has a long way to go. The next stop on that train could be Daniel Hooker, in Perth (if there’s still room on the card), or James Krause coming off his recent win over Alex White. The Perth card is just too close for me to feel like that’s actually a realistic idea, so I’m going to say Islam Makhachev vs. James Krause. It’s the next solid vet on the ladder toward a spot in the top 15.
OTHER BOUTS: Burgos vs. Amirkhani, Villante vs. Cannonier, Barroso vs. Herman, Almeida vs. Wineland, Bochniak vs. Dy, Davis vs. Bravo, Alhassan vs. Mina, Homasi vs. Nash, Pantoja vs. Sandoval, Arce vs. Guan, Ige vs. Young, Barzola vs. Hall, Bessette vs. Knight, Tibau vs. Miller 2