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UFC Singapore: Cerrone vs. Edwards - Fights to make

All the best, most interesting, and unquestionably coolest fights the UFC needs to book following their latest Fight Night card in Kallang, Singapore.

For a card that wasn’t terribly meaningful, UFC Singapore was just right. It may have broadcast at an ungodly hour, but that made it perfect watching first thing in the morning. There was a lot of solid action, several top prospects showed up huge. Leon Edwards tossed his name into the hat as a member of the welterweight elite, and Ovince Saint Preux sent a message that he’s not to be passed over just yet.

So, what’s next? What does the UFC do with thrilling prospects like Song Yadong, and Petr Yan? What should Edwards’ next test be? Where does Donald Cerrone go from here?

To answer these questions (and more), I’ll be using 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 swing at some fantasy matchmaking, leave a comment below starting out, “How could you not love that, oh my god. It’s like a sickness I have.” I’ll pick one winner from the responses to join me next time.

This week’s winner is BE reader ‘Yourroleandyou’:

Hello, “Fights to Make” readers! I’m a big fan of this series and am glad to make my return to the main article (my first was UFC 207, some eighteen months ago). Nothing really to say, beyond that I always look forward to reading this article and thinking about what fights to make next. Hopefully, you all enjoy reading mine.

LEON EDWARDS

YR&Y - Certainly the biggest win of his career, and even though it wasn’t a scintillating performance, he deserves a top ten opponent next time. Demian Maia is a top ten opponent (and a pretty big name). He’s on a three-fight losing streak, but he deserves a chance to bounce back as much as Leon deserves a step up, and a loss from either guy wouldn’t hurt their drawing power (as they have none in the first place).

Zane - Too much too soon? Maybe, but I still feel like the right for for Leon Edwards right now is Stephen Thompson. I know ‘Wonderboy’ tore his MCL in his fight with Darren Till, but he said he’d be back to training in 8 weeks, and that should put him on schedule for another fight soon enough to make that bout work. With a win for Edwards, he enters the suddenly very crowded title picture, and a loss probably doesn’t send him too far back. Otherwise, fights with Neil Magny, Santiago Ponzinibbio (once he returns from injury), or Alex Oliveira would work. But I’d be interested to see Edwards try and make a real run right now. Edwards vs. Thompson is my fight to make.

DONALD CERRONE

YR&Y - This loss marks a clear decline for Cowboy, and probably an end to him as anything beyond a lovable action fighter at 170. Maybe I’m overstating things, given he was reportedly seriously ill the day of the fight and it was still a competitive affair, but he’s not getting any younger. Dong Hyun Kim is in a similar boat, and while it’s been much longer since his last fight (since the last show in Singapore, in fact), he’s on a much different schedule than Cerrone. If you want to go winner/loser again, there are any number of surging action fighters at 170 he can face, but who can resist some Cowboy Dong?

Zane - Dong Hyun Kim would be a very good fight for Cerrone right now, although I admit I’d also be perfectly fine seeing him face Demian Maia or Thiago Alves. Part of me would like to see him face a few more young, hopeful contenders as long as he’s still the ‘fight anyone, anywhere, anytime’ guy he’s always been, but I don’t see much that makes sense in that arena. Warlley Alves? Vicente Luque? Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos? None of those feel like the right fight really. To that point, I’m going to say book Donald Cerrone vs. Demian Maia. It’s a fight both men would probably like to have, and it would feel like a meaningful bout.

OVINCE SAINT PREUX

YR&Y - Another wild win for one of the most impressive physical specimens at 205. There are a number of good options for him, including Alexander Gustafsson, Luke Rockhold, Yoel Romero, and the winner of next month’s Volkan/Shogun match. There’s advantages and disadvantages to each, but I’ll take the most straightforward one and say OSP vs. Gus. He’s in need of an opponent with Rockhold hurt, and it would be a chance to recreate some of that Jones/Gus magic (or maybe Jones/OSP, but let’s be hopeful).

Zane - I really feel like this win did absolutely no favors to the UFC from a matchmaking position. Rockhold and Romero would both make fun fights, but are they even going to light heavyweight, or is that all speculation leading to nothing. Otherwise you have OSP vs. Gus or rematches... Since I don’t actually know how often Alexander Gustafsson is really going to fight these days (and since I’d much rather see Romero vs. Gus if I could get it), I’m going to say the fight to book is OSP vs. Jan Blachowicz. Blachowicz seems to have fixed some of his cardio issues, and has quietly polished himself into the best jabber in the division. He’s also snuck ahead of OSP in the rankings. Give him a chance to improve his case for title contention and another chance for a funky OSP win in a fight he seemed on the borderline of losing. Ovince Saint Preux vs. Jan Blachowicz is the most sensible fight available.

TYSON PEDRO

YR&Y - The Light Heavyweight prospect curse continues. He’s still got plenty left in the tank and could have won against St-Preux on a different day, so don’t lose hope just yet. For right now, let’s see him against Patrick Cummins, who is ranked above him but would be a highly winnable fight. Then we can give him another low-end top ten opponent to find a way to lose to, and the wheel of Mother Gaia spins goodly, As does all things...

Zane - Not gonna lie, Patrick Cummins seems like exactly the right fight at this moment for Pedro. A big, tough, aggressive light heavyweight, who is going to push him, potentially into bad mistakes, while also being amazingly hurt-able and hittable. At this point, Pedro’s wins just don’t mean that much and this loss was pretty damning in the way he just dragged OSP down on top of him and got himself submitted. He needs more time in the cage, more rounds, more experience against opponents who won’t just let him win. Pedro vs. Cummins is that fight.

JESSICA EYE

YR&Y - Eye, on the other hand, has gotten a new lease on life at 125. 2-0 at flyweight and 3-5 in the UFC (really 4-5 without the nonsense marijuana failure), she’s probably two fights away from the title. In a similar spot will be the winner of the Roxanne Modafferi vs. Barb Honchak fight at the TUF Finale in two weeks. That fight makes as much sense as anything right now, so Eye vs. the Modafferi/Honchak winner it is.

Zane - The women’s flyweight division is in kind of a weird place. There are a handful of ultra-seasoned veterans – many of whom are currently booked – and then a lot of too-green talents, who barely have a handle on all facets of MMA. Under the circumstances, waiting for the winner of Carmouch/Maia or Honchak/Modafferi wouldn’t be bad. But fights against Andrea Lee and Ashlee Evans-Smith are right there and would provide their own clarity. Plus I’m not against Eye taking the long road to any kind of contender status, given how much she’s struggled to win in the past. All that said, book Jessica Eye against Ashlee Evans-Smith. See which former bantamweight can stay on-track in a new division.

LI JINGLIANG

YR&Y - The Leech rebounds after a disappointing (on multiple levels) loss to Jake Matthews (more on him later). There is no shortage of reliable action fighters at 170, so he’ll have plenty of fights. Faced with this embarrassment of riches, I’ll take Alan Jouban. He’s another big welterweight, his fights are exciting, and he has a similar record in the octagon to the Leech.

Zane - The UFC clearly shouldn’t be booking Jingliang against relative newcomers anymore. He flat-out embarrassed Daichi Abe in this bout and showed that he’s firmly established as a action talent in the division. To that end, he needs some more firm, mid-tier action fights. Alan Jouban is currently booked against Danny Roberts, but either man off that win would be good or the ‘Leech’ right now. Alex Oliveira would also be an intensely good fight, and give Jingliang a chance to enter the rankings - although I could see why rewarding him too much might feel wrong. Fights against Sergio Moraes, Tony Martin, or Claudio Silva would all also make a lot of sense right now. Given all these choices, I’m going to say match him up with Tony Martin. Martin’s boxing looked worlds better than previously in his last outing, and a fight between them should make for a really technical, fun, mid-card action fight. Li Jingliang vs. Tony Martin should be a sneaky good fight.

PETR YAN

YR&Y - Bantamweight is absolutely stacked right now, and among many bright prospects (including Tom Duquesnoy and Sean O’Malley), Petr Yan might just be the best. He ran right through Ishihara and could probably get one of the many gatekeepers at bantamweight (Saenz, Kelleher, Soto, Alcantara), but I think I’d give him one more fight before that. Jose Quinonez has a fair few wins, including one over Ishihara, and a win there would leave Petr Yan right where he needs to be.

Zane - Part of me really wants to see some prospect vs. prospect fights. Put Petr Yan in against Nathaniel Wood or Yadong Song. But, rather than just banging all my toys together to see which one I like best, I’ll try to be a bit more clinical about all this. Manny Bermudez has a super fun, funky submission game, and a striking style that could best be described as precarious. Petr Yan would likely be a harsh wake-up call for him, or a chance to get another marvelous submission that shows he’s dangerous enough to finish consistently at this level. Petr Yan vs. Manny Bermudez.

JAKE MATTHEWS

YR&Y - I promised more on him, and by golly, you’re gonna get it. He’s looked like a whole new man at 170, literally and figuratively. As I said about Li Jingliang, there’s no shortage of exciting, un-ranked fighters at his weight class, so I’m forced once again to pull a man out of the crowd, or in this case actually two men. Niko Price and Randy Brown have a fight coming up at UFC Boise in three weeks, and the winner of that fight would be a great opponent for Matthews. Both are promising, relatively young action fighters, and who ever comes out on top will not be far from a ranked opponent. Jake Matthews vs. the winner of Price/Brown.

Zane - I think Matthews is starting to prove that he needs a real test. More than other fun fighters looking to make a run. Part of me wants to put him in against Warlley Alves or Vicente Luque. Both powerful Brazilians on the verge of becoming elite talents. But, with 10 UFC bouts already under his belt, why not let Matthews take a crack at Alex Oliveira. The Brazilian ‘Cowboy’ has a knack for being dangerous everywhere, and has some surprisingly technical wrestling and grappling, while otherwise being a bit of a physical force. That basically makes him a mirror match for Matthews, who is only just starting to really impose his size, speed, and power on opponents. Give Matthews a crack at a ranked opponent, he’s earned. Jake Matthews vs. ‘Cowboy’ Oliveira.

OTHER BOUTS: Clark vs. Borella, Daichi vs. Enkamp, Ishihara vs. Doane, Yadong vs. Cannetti, Arantes vs. Soto, Young vs. Ige, Dy vs. Santiago, Kenan vs. Pedersoli, Aldana vs. Rencountre, Anzai vs. Aliev, Xiaonan vs. Botelho, Pereira vs. Cooper, Schnell vs. Perez, Inoue vs. Morales, Sasaki vs. Nguyen, Lausa vs. J. Sanchez, Ji Yeon vs. Robertson, Fabian vs. Macedo