UFC’s International Fight Week has come to a close. And while it started out on a serious down note, with a stinker of a TUF 27 Finale card, it ended on one hell of a high. Daniel Cormier took every shot Stipe Miocic could land on him and answered back with a stunning KO. Cormier becomes just the second UFC fighter ever to hold two titles at the same time, and he’s opened up some serious matchmaking possibilities.
So, what’s next? And what does the UFC do with Miocic for that matter? Or Israel Adesanya, off the biggest win of his career.
To answer all those questions - and a whole bunch more - I’ll be turning to the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking method 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 crack at fantasy matchmaking, leave a comment below starting with, “I guess I do suck. Everyone says I suck and they were right, but I got to try anyway.” I’ll pick one winner from the responses to join me next time.
This week’s winner is BE reader ‘Alex JT,’ now let’s get to the fights:
Alex - Lets keep it simple. Daniel Cormier stated before the fight he wanted to fight Brock Lesnar, and it seems to be already set-up. I think Cormier would wrestle with Lesnar just to show how much better he is, and that’s actually really intriguing to me. After all Brock Lesnar is, at the end of the day, a great real wrestler. I think that gets lost because of the WWE career. USADA, please leave Brock alone. On another note, while I’m happy for Cormier, it does make me sad about Jon Jones. I don’t condone any of his behavior, but this is what we all imagined for him, this moment. I hope tonight he realized that he let Cormier seize his moment, and it’s no one’s fault except his own. Daniel Cormier cemented his place as one of the greatest ever to do it and congratulations are in order. Now get your payday DC! Daniel Cormier vs. Brock Lesnar
Zane - Cormier came up with his own shortlist of potential opponents at the post-fight presser, and I don’t have any real problem with it. He’s preparing to ride off into the sunset after a long and very successful career and he wants to do it on his terms. Chances are that means he just sits and waits until Brock Lesnar is ready to go. Other than a miracle turn for Jon Jones in arbitration, it’s the only true ‘money’ bout on the table. If there’s a chance of him making 205 again, then a Gustafsson rematch would be fun – if Gus gets by Oezdemir – but that all feels too untrustworthy to bank on. Daniel Cormier vs. Brock Lesnar is clearly the bout both fighters and the UFC want.
Alex - Stipe should fight Curtis Blaydes, and I’m going against the Shelby/Silva model of booking fights because of Colby Covington and Rafael Dos Anjos. Let me explain. There was absolutely NO REASON that the Covington/Dos Anjos fight should have been for the interim title. There was nothing wrong with Tyron Woodley, but the UFC needs pay-per-view buys. I mean it obviously didn’t help for UFC 225. However, with that stupid logic, Stipe Miocic versus Curtis Blaydes will be for the interim heavyweight title because why not? This is the new UFC. If anyone finds a prop bet for this, I will put money down on it because that’s how sure I am of this as Stipe’s next fight. Stipe Miocic versus Curtis Blaydes for the UFC Interim Heavyweight Title
Zane - There are some fun fights out there for Stipe Miocic, even off a loss. They could throw him into a rematch with Francis Ngannou, or even give him Derrick Lewis off this terrible win. I wouldn’t even be opposed to him fighting Alexander Volkov. If I didn’t think Cain Velasquez was a complete pipe dream, I’d say that’s the real fight to make here and now. It would make for one hell of a UFC return for the former champ. But, since I can’t depend on Cain making a comeback, I’ll say Lewis is the most logical bout. It’s a new one for Stipe, and while Lewis’ win was terrible, it keeps both men busy while we wait for this Lesnar thing to blow over. It’s either that or an Overeem rematch, I suppose. Derrick Lewis vs. Stipe Miocic, go after it.
Alex - You want to talk about a disappointment, for the all the sh-t Derrick Lewis talked, that fight sucked. Lewis should fight Alexander Volkov. Not because he deserves it, but because Curtis Blaydes doesn’t need to fight him to stake a claim for a title shot. If Volkov wins, then there’s some fresh challengers after Cormier and Lesnar are done. Derrick Lewis vs. Alexander Volkov
Zane - Okay, I’ve already said Lewis vs. Stipe. But, assuming that doesn’t happen for some reason, then Lewis needs a backup plan. I’d be 100% up for seeing him face Alexander Volkov, and I’ve always always wanted to see Lewis face Alistair Overeem in the battle of limited power puncher vs. chinny, crafty vet. But the real answer, after that terrible performance, is for Lewis to face the winner of JDS vs. Ivanov. Either name would be a solid feather in Lewis’ cap (although obviously JDS much more so), and it’d be a chance for either JDS or Ivanov to assert themselves into a newly shaken up title picture. Lewis vs. Stipe is option A, but Lewis vs. JDS/Ivanov winner is a strong B side.
Alex - I have no idea what to do here. He’s knocked out everyone. I guess based the on the Shelby/Silva model of booking fights the most logical person is Marcin Tybura, but that seems a little bit of a mismatch on paper. After tonight though, I don’t know what to expect from Ngannou moving forward. Francis Ngannou vs. Marcin Tybura
Zane - What to do with Ngannou after that terrible fight? I almost just want to see him fight Lewis again. Force him to take this bout over and over until it’s as fun in reality as it looked like on paper. Realistically, I wouldn’t be against seeing him fight Tai Tuivasa, who has been totally fearless and unreserved thus far in his MMA career. It could easily be too much too soon for the Aussie, but if he wins the implications are huge for him. Otherwise, I’m up for seeing Ngannou against the winner of Oliynyk vs. Hunt. But, the more I think about it, the more I’m up for Tuivasa vs. Ngannou as my first choice.
Alex - While it was a great fight, all this does is snap Mike Perry’s losing streak. I don’t think this fight answered any questions in regards to where he currently sits in the Welterweight division. After losing to Santiago Ponzinibbio and Max Griffin, Perry is right back to where he was before this fight. At the end of the day he beat a lightweight who fought on ten days notice. He still needs to answer the question, if he’s a ranked fighter or a gatekeeper to the top 15. The rib injury Yancy Medeiros suffered seems pretty significant, and that probably gives Perry enough time to recover from this fight. The UFC should re-book Perry’s original fight at UFC 226 for the MSG show in November. Mike Perry vs. Yancy Medeiros
Zane - Perry looked improved with a close win over Paul Felder, but it also showed that he’s still got a ways to go. He hits with a ton of power, but slowing his output means he’s got to hurt opponents clear and clean or risk giving up the points edge to volume. It could be time for a well rounded, athletic test like Vicente Luque or Warlley Alves. Or maybe another banger like Elizeu Zaleski? I think I’d actually like to see Perry show that he can pick off a work-rate striker, who can stay outside and keep hands in his face, however. That’s why I’m gonna go with Belal Muhammad. Muhammad doesn’t have the power to likely break Perry, but he does have the skill to stave him off, if Perry hasn’t evolved. It’s a chance to see if he’s moved past obvious former glaring flaws. Perry vs. Muhammad should be next.
Alex - Good for Anthony Pettis! It’s hard to know what to expect performance wise from him these days, but he got the win. However, rankings wise, I think this bumps him up to eighth at the highest and ninth at the lowest. This is the perfect fight for Gregor Gillespie. If you want to build up Gillespie’s star power, a win over a former champion is a great place to start that ascension towards a title shot and name recognition. Anthony Pettis vs. Gregor Gillespie
Zane - I never really thought I’d see this version of Anthony Pettis again. Or at least not against reasonable opposition. Maybe he’d style on late stage Tibau or something, but Chiesa seemed like a tough out who could expose the same problems everyone else has for years now. Somehow Pettis found a bit of that WEC magic, though, and reminded everyone why he was once considered one of the most exciting talents in the game. So, would Al Iaquinta fight him? He just recently turned down a bout with James Vick, but Pettis may have the name value to draw ‘Ragin’ Al into the Octagon again. I’ll admit, I’d also be totally up for seeing Pettis take on Dan Hooker, who really deserves the step up, and has carved his own niche out as an ultra dangerous striker with a flashy sub game. Still, Pettis vs. Iaquinta is choice one.
Alex - So before I talk about his next fight, what are the odds he passes a post fight drug test? Jokes aside, I don’t think he should fight Israel Adesanya next. Why put two fresh fighters contenders against each other? David Branch is still looking to fight someone, and I think this is another good test for Costa. Branch doesn’t excel at anything, but he’s also not terrible in any one area. Lets keep building up Paulo Costa and Israel Adesanya without forcing them to face each other this early. Paulo Costa vs. David Branch
Zane - I’ve made my point below that Isreal Adesanya should be the next man in line for Paulo Costa. It would be an insanely fun style clash, and Adesanya gunning for Hall makes this fight feel like the logical next step. Assuming, however that that doesn’t happen, Costa has a couple good options. He could take a slight step back and go for a fight against Elias Theodorou – who recently picked up a good win over Trevor Smith – or he can take a big jump forward and take on David Branch. I could absolutely see Branch running roughshod over him, but I don’t see any big reason that Costa can’t get a chance to meet with some real adversity. Paulo Costa vs. David Branch.
Alex - Raphael Assuncao should be getting the next title shot after T.J. Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt fight, based on beating Marlon Moraes, but he won’t. Counting on Dominick Cruz to take a non-title fight seems pretty pointless given his injury history and age. Especially if Dillashaw wins – since he’s never beaten Cruz – it’s a fight to book over Dillashaw versus Moraes, and something Dillashaw would probably be more interested in. Looking at the rankings, John Lineker doesn’t have a fight scheduled after winning in May. I guess that’s the way to go. But, Assuncao deserve better, regardless of the entertainment value in his win over Rob Font. Raphael Assuncao versus John Lineker
Zane - Let Marlon Moraes fight Dominick Cruz and give Assuncao his shot at the Dillashaw/Garbrandt winner. That’s the dream of anyone who roots for the guy that goes out and just fights hard year in and year out; racks up the wins, and quietly dominates most of his division. Most likely it’ll be the opposite, though. Assuncao just doesn’t seem like a fighter the UFC is interested in pushing in any way. A fight with Cruz might be just enough to keep him happy while Moraes slips by him. But that assumes Cruz is even healthy enough to fight again anytime soon. If not, and if the UFC is still going to skip Assuncao over, then book Assuncao vs. Lineker. But, that’s just assuming the UFC is going to keep giving him the shortest end of the stick they can.
Alex - Four decisive finishes in a row deserves a top 15 opponent. I know Zane was calling for Dan Hooker and Gregor Gillespie to fight, but I don’t think the momentum both fighters have established forces them to fight each other right now. With Michael Chiesa leaving the Lightweight division, Hooker could find himself ranked 15th next week. This sets up perfectly for a match with Francisco Trinaldo. The UFC needs to start building younger contenders, and after this weekend, it’s clear that Dan Hooker is one of them. Dan Hooker vs. Francisco Trinaldo
Zane - Was I?... I very well may have said it at some time in the past... *checks notes*... Yes, yes I did. Well, I wouldn’t be against it, but I’ll admit that it does feel like Hooker has earned something bigger with a quick, dominant victory here. As I mentioned above, I actually really like the idea of Hooker vs. Pettis. But, I also have the feeling that that’s not a fight Pettis would be interested in – especially with Hooker languishing on the Fight Pass prelims. Trinaldo is a strong option, and I really do wish Mairbek Taisumov could get his visa together enough to actually fight; Hooker vs. Taisumov would be hot fire. In the absence of trust, though, I think Hooker’s best off getting the winner of Olivier Aubin-Mercier & Alex Hernandez. It’s no kind of step up in competition, but it’s the most sensible fight to plant him firmly in the rankings.
OTHER BOUTS: Felder vs. Green, Chiesa vs. Moraes, Rountree vs. Edilov, Saki vs. Prachnio, Hall vs. Ferreira, Font vs. Perez/Wineland winner, Klose vs. Diego Ferreira, Vannata vs. F. Silva, Millender vs. Alhassan, Griffin vs. Mina, Burns vs. Ray, Whitmire vs. Xiaonan, Moyle vs. Chan-Mi
THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER: UNDEFEATED FINALE
Alex - No disrespect to Daniel Cormier, but Israel Adesanya is the biggest winner of this weekend. He put on an outstanding and dominant performance that I don’t think anyone expected. However, I still don’t think he’s answered the question about how he would do against a strong wrestler, and someone with a strong jiu-jitsu game. As stated above, I think it would be a huge mistake to put him against Paulo Costa. Instead, lets see if Adesanya can put together a performance like this against Jacare Souza. If he can pass that test with flying colors, then the future is indeed bright for the Last Style Bender. Israel Adesanya vs. Jacare Souza
Zane - Do you make the Paulo Costa fight now, or do you save it? Part of me thinks you put Adesanya against David Branch or the winner of Derek Brunson vs. Antonio Carlos Jr. and keep the ‘Last Style Bender’ and Costa on separate paths to top contention. But, Adesanya vs. Costa is a great fight and it seems like the obvious angle to take. Sometimes you just gotta take the good fight when it’s right in front of you. All the action all of the time. Isreal Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa is too good to refuse.
Alex - Man, I feel bad for Brad Tavares, but this one makes me question if he was overrated, and Adesanya was underrated. Tavares went for 12 takedowns, and only completed one, but he’s not known as a wrestler. After that strategy failed, he fell right into Adesanya’s game and it turned into a kickboxing match. This was his 17th fight in the UFC, so I think we may have seen how far he can go in the Middleweight division. He’s a top ten middleweight, but not a top five middleweight. I think Uriah Hall is also in that group as well. Lets see who can still fight at that level. Brad Tavares vs. Uriah Hall
Zane - Huge setback for Tavares, who had put a serious run together in the middleweight division. Now he’s kinda back to being another one of those guys who just can’t seem to climb from the edges of the top 10 into title talk. Lucky for him, there are a bunch of those guys at 185, and fighting them is the best way to make a case for getting another really big fight. Thiago Santos is coming off a rough loss, and a fight between him and Tavares would be a banger. If Tavares needs longer to recover and if Santos wants to fight again sooner, then give Tavares the loser of Carlos Jr. Vs. Derek Brunson. But, Marreta vs. Tavares should be higher on the list.
Alex - This fight was garbage. Michael Trizano and Joe Giannetti should be sending Francis Ngannou and Derrick Lewis some edible arrangements for putting on a worse fight. Looking at Trizano’s options, I wouldn’t mind putting him in there against another New York native who’s coming off a win, and that’s Desmond Green. If the UFC wants to take their time with him, then the winner of Jon Tuck and Drew Dober could work, but I think Desmond Green is the better fight. Michael Trizano vs. Desmond Green
Zane - Not an inspiring TUF Finale performance from Trizano, and it appears he’s going to need a lot of slow-playing if the UFC wants to develop him as any sort of long-term future lightweight. ‘Violent Bob Ross’ is calling for his own fight to claim unofficial TUF champ status, but honestly I think that might be too much. Claudio Puelles is a former TUF talent himself, and he just got a damned impressive comeback win. That should be just about Trizano’s speed right now. However, considering his pre-UFC career was largely at 145, there’s probably a good chance he’ll be dropping back down in weight. If he does, then match Trizano up with Dan Ige.
Alex - On the other hand, Brad Katona put on a solid well rounded performance in his win over Jay Cucciniello. I feel like it’s easy to put Katona against “Violent Bob Ross” Luis Pena, but that doesn’t feel like it’s needed right now. Enrique Barzola and Arnold Allen are on long win streaks right now, so they’re out. That leaves a fight against Wang Guan, Julio Arce, Dan Ige, or Alex Caceres. Out of those four, I think the 20-1 Wang is the way to go. It’ll be a good test for Katona. Brad Katona vs. Wang Guan
Zane - Like Trizano, Katona is most likely destined to drop a division quickly. He’d been down at 135 regionally before his TUF call, and at 5’ 6” he probably belongs there. If Katona wants to stay at 145, then I’d be up for seeing him take on Shane Young or Steven Peterson. Down at 135, however, a bout against Guido Cannetti is about as reasonable a winner/winner fight as he can get. It’s either that or jump in with Nathaniel Wood & Petr Yan and see if he can swim with top prospects ASAP. Cannetti vs. Katona is the safer play here.
Alex - Roxanne Modafferi will find herself moving up the rankings after beating Barb Honchak. Depending on the results of Liz Carmouche vs. Jennifer Maia and Alexis Davis v. Katlyn Chookagian, Modafferi could find herself ranked in the top six by the time August rolls around just by winning this fight. The winner of Davis/Chookagian match-up is going to fight Valentina Shevchenko for the title when she wrecks Nicco Montano. If Carmouche wins she’ll likely fight Sijara Eubanks in a number one contender fight. That leaves Jessica Eye as Modafferi’s next opponent. Roxanne Modafferi vs. Jessica Eye
Zane - I think the most sensible fight Modafferi could get right now would be against Jessica Eye. If she wants to wait, the winner of Alexis Davis vs. Katlyn Chookagian would also be not bad, but Eye feels like just the right bout at the moment. Now 2-0 in the UFC at 125, Eye presents just the right mix of better athlete with worse fight IQ that would give Modafferi a chance to shine. And if Eye wins, it’s another solid name in what should be a deservedly slow track to title contention – given Eye’s previous run of poor form at 135. Eye vs. Modafferi is the fight to make at women’s flyweight.
OTHER BOUTS: Giannetti vs. Frevola, Cucciniello vs. Gunther, Caceres vs. Lobov, Bravo vs. Davis, Honchak vs. Clark, Di Chirico vs. Meerschaert, Marquez vs. Phillips, De La Rosa vs. Robertson, Ostovich vs. McCann, Pena vs. T. Edwards, Mitchell vs. Henry, Peterson vs. Young, Bessette vs. Santiago, Piechota vs. Roberson