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UFC Argentina: Magny vs. Ponzinibbio - Fights to make

All the best, most interesting, and unquestionably coolest fights the UFC needs to book following their latest event in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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Something about the UFC’s first trip to Argentina just didn’t click. And it wasn’t for a lack of fun finishes. Instead, it felt difficult to draw meaning out of much of the card. Another fight night sandwiched in a long upcoming run of cards and without a lot of notable fan-favorite talent. What does winning get anyone involved on an event like this?

Is Santiago Ponzinibbio in line for a title shot? Is Ricardo Lamas back in the hunt at 145? Is Johnny Walker prepared to crash the light heavyweight division?

To answer these questions – and a few more – I’ll be turning to the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking model of years past. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent against one another. If you’d like to take your own shot at some fantasy matchmaking glory, leave a comment below starting with, “The plan was to be aggressively patient tonight.” I’ll pick one winner to join me for the next UFC event.

This week’s winner is returning BE reader “RedKing19” (aka Dylan):

Hey BE, I’m Dylan. I’m Canadian, been watching UFC for as long as I can remember. This is my 3rd time (I think) doing Fights to Make and I always enjoy doing it so thanks for letting me go again Zane.

SANTIAGO PONZINIBBIO

Dylan - As Zane and Connor mention in the Vivisection this week, it’s hard to have a win over Neil Magny and look good doing it. This is about as good anybody has ever looked against him. Ponzinibbio was basically flawless for the duration of the fight, apart from a cut on his eyelid caused by an inadvertent headbutt. Despite this, he used brutal leg kicks, a nasty snapping jab, and powerful punches to knock Neil Magny out cold. This was by far Ponzinibbio’s most impressive showing of his career and most will be expecting big things from him coming forward. I think at this point, the best matchup for him would be against Leon Edwards. Two guys going at it to try to gain a big step towards title contention.

Zane - Welterweight has developed something of a backlog of top contenders. In part that’s because Woodley only fought once this year, and in part it’s because there’s been a lot of recent turnover at 170 lbs with fresh, streaking talent. Despite a 7 fight win streak and 11 overall fights in the Octagon, Ponz hasn’t fought Darren Till, Demian Maia, Donald Cerrone, Stephen Thompson, Colby Covington, or Leon Edwards. All of whom are ranked and un-booked right now. Of those, Maia, Thompson, and Till are coming off a loss; Covington is likely next for the belt; and Cerrone seems like he’s chasing a McGregor fight at 155. That leaves Edwards as the most obvious fight. But, that doesn’t feel like the right challenge for Ponzinibbio just this minute. Instead, I say book him against Stephen Thompson. ‘Wonderboy’ is the kind of elusive, frustrating range striker that Ponzinibbio needs to beat on his way to the belt if he’s going to take a real swing at it.

NEIL MAGNY

Dylan - Absolute props to Neil Magny. He fought for as long as he possibly could. His leg was smashed to bits, his right eye took a beating from Ponzinibbio’s jab, and he took numerous power punches. Despite all this, he miraculously made it to the 4th round before ‘Gente Boa’ finally capped it off. There isn’t exactly a whole lot to take away from Magny’s performance. It was about as one-sided a fight can be. The biggest thing is undoubtedly Magny’s toughness, and I have no doubt he belongs in the top of the 170lb division. Despite this tough setback, Magny was previously 13 for his last 16, with his only losses coming to RDA, Lorenz Larkin, and Demian Maia. He’s put together a great run in the UFC and I expect him to bounce back next time around. I think next up, a rescheduled bout with Dong Hyun Kim is a good matchup for both guys to try to gain some more momentum.

Zane - I wish I had a better idea of what guys like DHK and Tarec Saffiedine were up to right now in terms of competitive intent. They’ve both largely faded out of the current welterweight elite due to inactivity. Still, as noted above, there are plenty of top welterweights who need fights right now. Getting a bout with the likes of Till or Thompson might prove tough, but I wouldn’t mind seeing what Magny could do against Edwards, even if it feels like another bad matchup with a powerful range striker. Eventually, because I’m guessing he’s going to need a while to heal up after a pretty severe beating, I’ll say a fight with Elizeu Zaleski once the Brazilian returns from injury. Zaleski is dangerous but a lot more wild and unstructured than Ponz. Magny may be much more able to pressure and grind him in ways he couldn’t against ‘Gente Boa.’ And if not? It’s a big feather in Zaleski’s cap. Elizeu Zaleski vs. Neil Magny is my pick.

RICARDO LAMAS

Dylan - Lamas was able to do what the likes of Alexander Volkanovski, Michael Johnson, Mirsad Bektic, and Jeremy Stephens were not. He was able to put away Darren Elkins. Was it because Elkins’ chin is finally deteriorating? Or is Lamas that powerful? I’d lean towards the former. Nonetheless this was an impressive showing by the former title challenger. His chin was able to withstand the few clean shots Elkins was able to land, his wrestling was good, and his striking was diverse and on point, especially those ruthless leg kicks he used to hinder Elkins’ movement. He’s in line for a chance to move up in the rankings, and I don’t see a better fight than a potential main event fight against Yair Rodriguez. It provides both men a chance to prove a lot in this wide open featherweight division.

Zane - I’ll admit, a fight with Yair holds a definite amount of appeal. Lamas’ opportunistic style often leaves him looking flat in rounds where he can’t find an opening, but Yair is a fighter that provides opponents with a lot of opportunities to land their own offense. However, is that an idea I like more than Yair vs. Stephens or Yair vs. Zabit? I don’t know that it is. I guess since I really like the idea of Yair vs. Stephens, I’ll say the UFC should book Lamas against Zabit Magomedsharipov. It’s a dangerous fight for the Dagestani, but if he can win it, it goes a long way to proving he’s already entering the title hunt. And if he can’t? There’s plenty of time to rebuild the hype. Ricardo Lamas vs. Zabit Magomedsharipov would be a hell of a fight.

DARREN ELKINS

Dylan - As with a lot of Elkins’ fights, this one was hard to watch at times. He started ok in the first round, but once he started taking punishment and the scar tissue opened up, it looked as though it would end up getting rough down the stretch, as it did. This is the first time Elkins has been finished since 2013 against Chad Mendes speaking to his amazing toughness in the cage. I think Elkins is a fantastic gatekeeper for the featherweight division and will put on a fight no matter the circumstances, but I think it’s clear he’ll never get to the top of the division as cool a story that would be. A good fight for him next could be a fight with Gilbert Melendez. Both are veterans in the UFC and it could end up being a war. Another decent matchup could be Alex Caceres, although he’s coming off a win.

Zane - Fights with the likes of Gilbert Melendez, Chan Sung Jung, and Cub Swanson are definitely still the kinds of bouts that make the most sense to me with Elkins. He may not be near as technical as any of them, but he’s extremely tough and has a long proven track record as a difficult and entertaining fighter. Unfortunately, Melendez is injured again, and and like to see Swanson vs. Chan Sung more than any fight with Elkins right now. Myles Jury is another fringe elite fighter coming off a really rough loss though, so how about a fight with him? His slick striking and crafty grappling should be a good challenge to Elkins brawling wrestle-grind. But Elkins swarming offense and toughness should present all kinds of problems coming back Jury’s way. Darren Elkins vs. Myles Jury is a great fight to make.

JOHNNY WALKER

Dylan - What a way to make your UFC debut. Johnny Walker knocked out Khalil Rountree with some of the most vicious strikes I’ve seen in quite a while. His kicks, punches, elbows; everything was sharp, accurate, and extremely powerful. He used his height and length to his utmost advantage and took out Rountree in less than two minutes. An extremely impressive first trip to the Octagon that will surely get him a step-up in competition. I’d put him in there against Jake Collier next, although if you wanted to put him right into the thick of the division, you could match him up with Gian Villante or a similar gatekeeper. There is a potential new threat in a weak 205lb division folks.

Zane - On the one hand, Walker made a hugely impressive splash and it’s not hard to get excited for his brand of funky wildness. He’s not the most consistent range striker, but with his frame and athletic ability, when he does let his limbs go they hit hard. I definitely think the UFC should take it slow with Walker, however. Light heavyweight isn’t a hard division to look good in, or even a hard division to become elite in, but he’s still a raw talent. A fight against fellow Rountree feller Michal Oleksiejczuk would provide a sturdy test. The Polish fighter’s durability and tendency to rally after bad starts would make an interesting challenge to Walker’s power clinch striking style and tendency to win quickly. Walker vs. Oleksiejczuk to see if Walker can keep shining at the low end of 205.

MARLON VERA

Dylan - After a very rough start against Guido Cannetti, Marlon Vera marched right back in round 2 and turned what was looking like a very lackluster performance into a very nice finish for him. He hurt Cannetti on the feet and ended up finishing him on the ground showing his versatility and what he can do as the aggressor. Vera has now won two straight in a competitive bantamweight division and I believe he’s set himself up for a bigger fight. I think that fight should be a matchup with former flyweight title challenger Tim Elliott. It would be a fun fight and could propel the winner towards the top 15 in the division.

Zane - Another bad start turned into a stunning comeback for Marlon Vera, who has made a habit of shocking opponents in his UFC career. Cannetti poured the offense on in round 1 only to find Vera serving it back to him in round 2. It’s also quietly made Vera one of the more experienced 135ers in the UFC. Fights with Elliott, Perez, Yahya, and Stamann would all make sense for him right now. Of all those, I think Alejandro Perez vs. Marlon Vera is the fight to make. Perez has likely earned bigger with his continued success and swanky 7-1-1 record, however he’s got an incredibly frustrating style that’s made him a fight many ranked above him probably won’t want to take. Vera’s mix of slow starts and dangerous skills should bring out the best in Perez while also giving Vera a chance to get a number next to his name with a win.

CYNTHIA CALVILLO

Dylan - Despite looking terrible at the weigh-ins and missing weight, Calvillo had a nice bounce-back performance after losing her last fight to Esparza. She held her own on the feet and got the fight down off of Botelho’s kicks, locked up the RNC and it was over. Many were worried about how she would respond to her seemingly rough weight cut but she squashed that looking slick and smooth. Next, I think she jumps up the division a bit and gets a matchup with Michelle Waterson. Waterson is probably the highest profile fighter coming off a win in that division and within reach for Calvillo to climb. If you wanted to go winner-loser, it’s tempting to match Calvillo up with Karolina Kowalkiewicz, but I’ll stick with Waterson.

Zane - Calvillo did call out Waterson backstage after the event, so it’s definitely a fight on her mind. And it’d be another test of her fight IQ against a savvy veteran who has shown a lot more tactical awareness lately. The question is, after running into a loss against Esparza does it really make sense to rush Calvillo in against another veteran based off a win over a raw talent like Poliana Botelho? I don’t think it does. Calvillo’s best win is still a back-and-forth affair against Jo-Jo Calderwood, so how about a fight against Cortney Casey. Casey is coming off a very narrow win over Angela Hill (which she probably didn’t deserve) but she’s a busy, powerful striker and a really difficult grappler to deal with on the mat – even if she’s not hard to put there. A win over her for Calvillo will do a lot more to establish her place in the top of the division than this one. Cynthia Calvillo vs. Cortney Casey is the right fight right now.

MICHEL PRAZERES

Dylan - If there were any doubts for Prazeres about how he’d do at welterweight, he calmed those a bit with his great performance. Gotta give credit where it’s due because Prazeres looked very slick en route to a vicious guillotine choke. Post fight, he requested to go back to lightweight which a) I don’t think he should because he has looked good at welterweight and b) I don’t think the UFC will allow due to his past struggles to make 155. On that note, I think a matchup with a ranked opponent such as Leon Edwards or Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos would be good next, moreso the Zaleski fight for an interesting clash in styles.

Zane - I wouldn’t at all mind seeing Michel Prazeres fight Leon Edwards even if I think beating Cerrone should likely get the Jamaican-born Englishman a bigger fight. No matter the circumstances, however, Prazeres’ record speaks for itself. He deserves something more than what he’s been getting whether it’s at 170 or 155. If he does get to go back to lightweight, he’ll find the elite of the division unfortunately booked around him. The winner of Jim Miller vs. Charles Oliveira would be a good choice if he can wait, as would the winner of Trinaldo vs. Hernandez. If he does stay at 170? Then yeah, go ahead and pitch him in there against Edwards to see what happens. Michel Prazeres vs. Leon Edwards would be a real test of the Brazilian’s current form.

OTHER BOUTS: Rountree vs. Ledet, Heinisch vs. Breese, Ferreira vs. Jotko, Cannetti vs. Sanders, Botelho vs. Viana, Fabinski vs. Mina, Pantoja vs. Moraga, Sasaki vs. Nicolau, Arnett vs. Sayles, Staropoli vs. Sekulic, Pinedo vs. T. Edwards, Narimani vs. Burgos, dos Santos vs. Teymur