At the end of the day, UFC Liverpool was simply a card. It had some high points and some low points, displays of skill, and bland grinds devoid of entertainment. The main event, which most of the marquee interest was riding on, largely failed to impress. But it did stir up a fair bit of controversy, with Darren Till taking a unanimous decision in a bout many thought he lost.
But, even if he had decidedly run away with his bout against Stephen Thompson, what comes next for the Liverpudlian would be no clearer. An interim title fight on the horizon, plus a now seemingly healthy champion, and at least one other rising contender means Till’s path to a title shot is still murky at best. So, what fight should he take?
To answer this question, among others, I’m using the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking style. 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, leave a comment below starting with “... ... ... ... [scouse swearing] ... ... ...” I’ll pick one response to join me for the next event.
This week’s reader is BE reader “SlowGrappler”:
Hello and thanks to Zane for picking me this week. You may have seen me lurking around and commenting from time to time. I have been into MMA since Jones-Shogun and I am a blue belt in BJJ. I have recently decided to try my hand at writing and have a website I update from time to time, but thought this would be a great opportunity to test working to a deadline and hopefully get some feedback from you all.
Slow - Another victory for Till, but unfortunately overshadowed by him missing weight and then a controversial decision detracting. Not sure he is ready for a title shot yet and I am assuming he isn’t being banished to middleweight just yet. I am going to go for the loser of the Dos Anjos/Covington fight in the hope that the loser doesn’t put in a bad performance and the assunption that the winner will be facing Woodley. A chance at redemption for Till and the loser.
Zane - Till’s current best bet is likely to wait until Woodley vs. the Covington/RDA winner gets booked for a future event. If the newly crowned interim champ gets hurt, he could easily be first in line to get the next shot. Same goes for Woodley, if the champ’s injury return hits a snag, suddenly Till could be fighting for the interim belt. If however, it looks like everything is going to go ahead as planned, then at some point, Till will likely need to fight again to be the top contender. All that waiting around could put him on track for Kamaru Usman, provided his hands heal up quickly. If they don’t? Then Till vs. the RDA/Covington loser may be his only shot. First choice is Till waits and gets Usman. Otherwise everything’s up in the air. If the UFC ends up pushing him to middleweight, a fight against Kelvin Gastelum would be great.
Slow - Tricky spot for Thompson. A controversial loss won’t lose him too much ground, but not exactly the road to the title he would hope. I am going with the theory that he needs to kill time and keep active until someone dethrones Woodley, so give him Kamara Usman. I am interested in seeing him against a wrestler again and it provides both with a chance to shine.
Zane - I don’t want to say this is good for Thompson, obviously he wants to get back to title contention, but losing to Till lines him up for some more action friendly potential fights in the future. Fights that might let him show off a bit more. He could take on Robbie Lawler, or Santiago Ponzinibbio? Maybe even Demian Maia or the winner of Edwards vs. Cerrone. I don’t like matching up injured fighters, especially not ones as badly injured as Lawler sounded like he was after the RDA bout, but Lawler vs. Thompson would be the fight to make if Thompson is willing to wait around. If he’s not, then book him against the Cerrone/Edwards winner for what should be a quality action bout.
Zane - Magny had to win this fight the way he did to keep himself in any kind of standing in a rapidly changing welterweight division. With Covington, Usman, and Till all charging up the ranks, Magny has become a notably stagnant veteran contender. He called out Usman, and that would be a fine, sensible fight – even if I think Magny likely loses it. But Usman’s likely on track for bigger things. That means Magny either waits for an injured Ponzinibbio to return, or, in the immediate future goes winner/loser against Jorge Masvidal. I’ll say book the Masvidal fight, but only because it can happen sooner.
Slow - Allen made a nice comeback after being dominated, but it makes me think he needs to be developed slowly. So, I am going to go for Chas Skelly. Skelly is coming off a loss, but seems like it would be a good fight and give an idea of where they both are.
Zane - Another late win for Arnold Allen and he’s suddenly 4-0 in the UFC. That gives him a pretty strong head of steam. Fights against Gabriel Benitez and Enrique Barzola both make sense, as does a potential fight with Shane Burgos. Benitez is probably the best fight of all these. He’s not likely to out-wrestle or out-grapple Allen, but he may be the sharper, more powerful striker, and if Allen can’t get him down, that could make the fight becomes a dangerous range battle. Arnold Allen vs. Gabriel Benitez is my fight to book.
Slow - Probably shouldn’t have been such a close decision, and Knight falls into the trap again of trying to play too much off of his back. There’s a small step up, with someone who has just had a fight, so they should be looking to get back in the cage at the same time, in Enrique Barzola.
Zane - Amirkhani called out Cub Swanson and... he’s not getting that fight. ‘Mr. Finland’ has put together a decent UFC record so far, but after at least a year off and with a couple recent grinding wins, his momentum as a potential top contender has ground to a halt. He’s coming off a loss, but I love the idea of pairing Amirkhani up with Kyle Bochniak. Bochniak’s game has made massive leaps each time out. And his tireless aggression would be a major challenge for a fighter in Amirkhani, who still looks like he gasses himself out inside three rounds. Amirkhani vs. Bochniak would be guaranteed entertainment. Book it.
Slow - Nice debut by Breese in the middleweight division, and it should help with some of his confidence issues he is reported to have. I like the idea of giving him another crafty veteran fight, and was toying with Dolloway or Boetsch, but I think Boetsch would be more fun, so lets go with that!
Zane - Middleweight is in a bit of a weird place. A division top heavy with long time veteran talent, that seems like it’s largely failed to bring along many new challengers. For a fighter like Breese, riding a hot streak, that tends to mean he either takes a big step up against a name veteran like Cezar Ferreira or Thiago Santos. Or he takes a step back against a raw prospect like Trevin Giles or Eryk Anders. But, there is one name lurking right around the middle of the division. Someone who can test Breese everywhere, and is coming off a remarkable recent victory. Jack Hermansson. The ‘Joker has rebounded from a couple poor showings in the Octagon to prove himself as an action talent to watch, and if he’s not too badly injured after his last fight, he’d line up perfectly for a bout with Breese right now. Hermansson vs. Breese is a must-book fight.
Slow - Clinch-y grind-fest for Elias and looking at the division I was a bit unsure of where to place him. Could go lower in the division to find an opponent, but I am going to go up and say a rematch with Thiago Santos for a solid main card fight.
Zane - It may not have been pretty, it may not have been smart, but Elias Theodorou took the fight right into Trevor Smith’s wheelhouse and won it there. He volunteered for a grinding clinch battle, and while it often turned against him, he out-hustled Smith out of the gate for a solid win. That moves him to an impressive 7-2 in the Octagon and means it’s time for another quality matchup. David Branch is out there, un-booked, even if he may want something bigger than the ‘Spartan.’ Otherwise Theodorou called out Machida, and that’s the smartest move he can make. However, I just don’t see Machida wanting the bout. So, Theodorou vs. Branch it is, unless Lyoto decides he wants someone lower profile than Michael Bisping.
OTHER BOUTS: White vs. Rainey, Burnell vs. Kennedy, Knight vs. S. Moraes, Silva vs. Luque, Taleb vs. Cummings, Stewart vs. Perez, Spicely vs. Bochnovic, Kelly vs. Leites, Lansberg vs. Correia/Aldana winner, Mazany vs. Moras, Pedersoli vs. Neal, Scott vs. Hyun Gyu, Robertson vs. Mueller, McCann vs. Cachoeira, Smith vs. Sobotta