UFC Austin got back to a little classic Fight Night magic for the UFC. A card packed with action bouts, top to bottom, that delivered a ton of first round finishes and pretty much nothing in the way of truly boring MMA. New faces in Curtis Millender and Geoff Neal got strong wins, while Derrick Lewis and Donald Cerrone came up big as mild underdog veterans.
And with that much action in the offering, it’s on the UFC to ride the momentum and book some more cool action fights. To help them do that, I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby model of old. 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 MMA matchmaking, leave a comment below starting, “I’m going to knock it out of the box.” I’ll pick one response to join me for next week’s card.
This week’s winner is BE reader @P4PMMA:
Hey, I’m Ryan Tardiff, a queer ID’ed person (him or they are both fine) currently making Greensboro, NC my home and attending Guilford College as a Peace and Conflict Studies major making my MMA fandom a little puzzling for many. That said, I’ve been a fan for years now and excited to get it on the action here. I wish I could say I have a thrilling MMA fandom origin story but just a long time casual turned more hardcore in the last 4-5 years little by little. My Twitter handle, as well as my tag here on Bloody Elbow is @P4PMMA.
Ryan - Cerrone, of course, is known for ‘anytime, anywhere’. Having gotten back on the horse with his first win in 4 tries, Cerrone is back into the mix at Welterweight – if not too close to that always a-little-too-high height of true title contention. The possibilities I’m seeing are the streaking Santiago Ponzinibbio – who just, quite frankly, seems too big and too heavy a hitter for a guy who is perpetually a little undersized for the division in Cerrone – Neil Magny, which is the sort of lunch pail scrap that both could work in a pinch but feels a little hollow to pick and my choice, and the man who’s been known for a while now as the guy people in the top 10 hang up the phone when offered: Kamaru Usman. Any time, any place? Seems like a natural.
Zane - Cerrone is in that weird spot where I both feel like he’s not about to go on another run at welterweight, but I also don’t see any reason to match him up easy. I wouldn’t be opposed to the Usman idea, especially since Kamaru has trouble getting opponents (apparently), but I feel like there’s got to be more fun action-driven fights for a scrapper who will just take on whoever. I’d love to see Cerrone take on Dong Hyun Kim. Kim’s wildly unstructured striking and massive size should make for a fun test for Cerrone’s precision and problems with pressure.
Ryan - On one hand, I’m upset that my ‘conquered consecutive Cowboys’ alliteration will go to waste. On the other? Yancy was pretty game for someone who got KO’d in the first round and has looked good in his stint at welterweight. But a loss is a loss and this is undoubtedly a bit of a setback to Mederois’ momentum. The way forward could go a few different ways – facing Mike Perry, win or lose next week, seems like a way forward for another big time scrapper. On the other hand, trying his hand at another long-time vet of the WW top 10 top ten, Tarec Saffedine, could be a nice way to look to get back into the win column or re-assert Saffedine as a gamer. Both look good on paper, but Li Jingliang, who lost last week to Jake Matthews is nicely in the middle – a reasonable challenge, a young guy with potential, someone in the right locale, on the right card could take up a nice main card slot and would prove something on either side for the winner.
Zane - Yancy ran hard up against the fact that, when push comes to shove, he’s just not an elite technical striker. He’s still a tough dude with solid timing and a lot of heart, but once Cerrone figured out his timing, he turned the tide in a hurry. A good test to see what Medeiros could take away from that would definitely be Li Jingliang, with his slowly adaptive boxing game. But it could also be Tim Means, who has reasons to feel he deserves another solid action fight after ending up on the wrong side of a decision to Sergio Moraes. Means is technical, but tends to be predictable on defense. Another chance for Medeiros to put together a run, or fall further back into the deep waters at 170.
Ryan - It wasn’t that pretty and as the fight went on, he looked more and more tired… but you can’t say he isn’t always dangerous, even when he’s clearly over-matched against better-rounded opponents. He was supposed to fight Werdum once before, so it’d make a lot of sense to give him the winner of Werdum/Volkov. I’d rather, however, that we revisit a fight that people were calling for a year or so ago, when both ‘The Black Beast’ and ‘The Predator’ Francis Ngannou were on the rise. Now that both have had a few setbacks, it could be seen as a little less sexy but when it comes to heavyweight action between two heavy hitters, I bet it’d still draw plenty of eyeballs.
Zane - I like the Ngannou fight even more after this performance from Lewis, to be honest. Lewis’ willingness to mix in some wrestling, his ability to put together a big flurry late, they all suggest a fighter who could compete for more than just one round with Ngannou’s physicality. And beyond that, both men have the kind of technical gaps that could put fans on the edge of their seat, anticipating the KO. Make the fight while the making is good. Francis Ngannou vs. Derrick Lewis.
Ryan - Tybura proved himself well rounded and game but just doesn’t seem to have the dynamism to keep up with anyone with an elite level ability, like Lewis’ power or Werdum’s submissions in the fight before. He could try and prove me wrong, as he faces fellow name in the top 10 heavyweight fringe Aleksei Oleinik.
Zane - Unfortunately for Tybura, the division is pretty firmly booked around him. He could wait for Oliynyk & Albini to fight and take on the loser of that, but beyond needing to recover from a KO, he’s probably just better off taking whatever fight he can get as soon as he can get it. If Stefan Struve beats Arlovski, Tybura/Struve would be a good win/loss match, but I’ll say go ahead and book Tybura against Walt Harris. It’s a big step back, rankings wise, but Tybura’s ranking spot is built entirely off wins over Pesta, Henrique, and Arlovski. A fight against Harris, coming off his recent DQ over Mark Godbeer is a fun fight on paper and would be a good way to bounce back from two straight losses, or give Harris another chance to prove he could actually make some kind of run.
Ryan - I was interested in the idea of Vick getting back in there quick to be the replacement opponent for Beneil Dariush and attempt to avenge his only career loss, something that generally would be a tough booking to get but given the need for a replacement could have worked out well but the dislocated pinky is probably enough reason he can’t get a turnaround so quick. As such, if he’s going to continue to climb the ranks, it makes sense to put him in there with the winner of Iaquinta/Felder in a few weeks, to provide a slightly stiffer test.
Zane - Depending on how badly Vick’s hand is hurt, I’d love to see him jump in against Dariush at UFC 222. Assuming that doesn’t happen, however, Vick has to get a solid elite level booking. I don’t know if Kevin Lee would take the fight, but if he would, now is the time. Vick looked like his most technical self out there, but still got taken down and put into some rough grappling spots. If Lee can do that, he has a great chance of getting more done than Trinaldo. If not, Vick’s command of range could be a huge problem for Lee’s still less-than-fluid boxing. If all that fails, the winner of Pettis/Chiesa would be solid, especially since Chiesa would be a shot at some TUF revenge.
Ryan - Curtis Milender looked good tagging Alves right and left. But as with many impressive strikers before him the next step is to face a good grappler. I am thinking Randy Brown could be a fun pairing of up and comers with upward potential.
Zane - He dialed himself up one hell of a legit welterweight win in his debut, now it’s a question of whether or not the UFC keeps him in action striking matches or tests the rest of his game. A fight with Luke Jumeau would be a solid power striking affair, and Shinsho Anzai could test his wrestling, but I like a bout with Niko Price more. Price’s mix of single power shots, porous defense, and strong sub-hunting ability should make for an interesting battle. Randy Brown would also be a matchup of ridiculously stretched out welterweights that feels like it’ll need to happen sooner or later.
Ryan - Brandon Davis had a fun, go-forward war. You know who else at Featherweight could give him a higher level version of that? Former WSOF champ Rick Glenn. It might be too much too soon but I think it’d be useful to see if Davis is right when he calls his initial UFC loss a fluke and Glenn has mostly had a hard road thus far in the UFC and could use a little bit of a bounce back, if it wasn’t.
Zane - As an action fighter, Davis is fun, but he’s just a little too stationary for me to feel like he should get rushed into tougher veteran fights. Bochniak picked him off with a pretty simple approach, and Peterson didn’t show anything like it to suggest Davis had solved the problem. To that end, I’d love to see Brandon Davis vs. Cory Sandhagen. Sandhagen isn’t the best athlete, but his stick and move combination style and use of angles and body work should be big problems for Davis. A fight against Mads Burnell after his controlling win over Mike Santiago would also be an interesting change of pace.
Ryan - Sage Northcutt is still young but it feels like he’s been around for longer. The hype cycle has cooled a little and his performance didn’t do a lot to re-raise his stock. Part of me wants to match him up with someone on the rise to give shine to someone on the come up like Gregor Gillespie or even David Teymur, part of me wants to give him a solid vet like Scott ‘Hot Sauce’ Holtzman but ultimately, if just as a matter of making an interesting twist, I’m going to go winner/loser and give him Jim Miller. It’s one of those fights that will catch people’s eye and either prove Sage has something or provide a nice Cinderella story win for Miller. Either way, it gives the UFC something to hold on to.
Zane - This Northcutt vs. Miller idea is honestly decent. Miller hasn’t looked consistent at all lately. Technically he should absolutely beat a still way-too-hittable Northcutt, but realistically, he may just not. Still, I think Northcutt’s problems defensively are too big to throw at veteran opposition. It wasn’t that long ago that Mickey Gall found his chin and Thibault Gouti didn’t have any less trouble. Marc Diakiese called Northcutt out, and I don’t mind that fight, just because DIakiese is an amazingly unstructured striker, even if he should still win. The fight would be all wild athletic potential for as long as it lasts. Most realistically Sage should still be fighting guys like Matt Frevola and Claudio Puelles, who are less likely to make him pay at every turn for hanging his chin out. But, what the hell, give Diakiese the chance, make the fun fight. It’s either that or him in another softball fight nobody cares about outside Sage fans.
CARLOS DIEGO FERREIRA
Ryan - Cesar Diego Ferreira called out Abel Trujillo. There’s an argument that he could fight a fellow mid-tier lightweight coming off a win like Nick Hein or even a kid on the rise like Oliver Aubin-Mercier but the Abel fight made sense a few years ago and still makes plenty of sense now. I always like for the matchmakers to show that call outs lead to fights, if just to get a few less ‘whoever they want to put against me’ responses. So… Ferriera vs Trujillo is my fight to make.
Zane - No idea why Ferreira called Trujillo out. Maybe he just hasn’t paid attention to the UFC since 2015, and thought he’d go for a guy who looked like a tough fight back then. But Trujillo’s dropped two straight, listless fights, and Ferreira just dusted a pretty reasonable prospect. I’d be down to see him fight someone like Gregor Gillespie or David Teymur, really make Ferreira earn his way back into the division. Between them, Gillespie would be the more interesting style matchup. Another relentless fighter, but this one with a heavy wrestling game.
OTHER BOUTS: Trinaldo vs. C. Oliveira, T. Alves vs. Saffiedine, Peterson vs. Arnett, Gordon vs. Klose, Neal vs. Kenan, R. Sanchez vs. Schnell, J. Sanchez vs. Lausa, Pudilova vs. Mazany, Moras vs. Bernardo, Morono vs. R. Brown, Piechota vs. Di Chirico, Williams vs. Braga Neto