UFC London is in the books, and while the card didn’t provide as much action as hoped, it’s bright spots were awfully entertaining. The welterweight division, in particular, got a large dose of clarity out of the evening, with Jorge Masvidal and Leon Edwards reasserting their positions as elite talents at the cost of Darren Till and Gunnar Nelson, respectively. On top of that, there was controversial judging, reffing, and even some dirty fighting, all to muddy the waters of some of the less meaningful match-ups.
So, can Jorge Masvidal really cut in line ahead of his BFF for a shot at the belt? Is Claudio Silva just too weird to fight more than once every few years? And how big a push is the UFC going to want to give Dominick Reyes off his questionable win over Volkan Oezdemir?
To answer all these questions – and a couple more – I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby method of fight booking from UFC years gone bye. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent up against one another. If you’d like to take your own shot at some fantasy matchmaking, leave a comment below starting with, “This is my 31st professional fight, I’ve never stuck to a gameplan once.” I’ll pick one winner from the responses to join me next time.
This week’s winner is BE reader “MichaelOrvieto” (aka Michael Orvieto):
My name is Michael Orvieto (@MichaelOrvieto on Twitter), and I have been a fan of mixed martial arts for as long as I can remember. I started watching the UFC with my father in the early 2000s, and instantly got hooked. I currently serve as an Avionics Instructor in the United States Air Force.
Michael - Jorge Masvidal silenced the O2 Arena on Saturday with a huge KO over Darren Till and $100K in bonuses. He wants to fight for the title, but I think he will need another high profile win to be considered a contender. Although Usman’s manager stated that he thinks Masvidal deserves the next shot, I am not so sure the UFC will book that just yet. While Ben Askren and Leon Edwards are both options, I think a matchup against former Welterweight Champion, Tyron Woodley, would put him in range of the title. Masvidal vs. Tyron Woodley
Zane - I can’t honestly see Masvidal willingly just cut in front of Covington for a title shot (unless they’re just ice cold like that), but provided Covington loses his fight with Usman, I definitely think Masvidal wouldn’t be poorly served to wait and keep himself as next in line. Unless ‘Wonderboy’ gets a spectacular win over Pettis, Masvidal is really the only fighter primed for a shot at the belt other than his ‘Chaos.’ For the sake of argument, though, and assuming he won’t wait – or even maybe that Covington wins – then I’d be 100% down to see him face Tyron Woodley. Of course, Edwards has really put an easy angle to his own fight with ‘Gamebred’ as well, and I’d be fine with that, but Tyron Woodley vs. Jorge Masvidal feels more like the fight that a longtime vet like Masvidal deserves if he’s not going to get an instant shot at the champ.
Michael - Darren Till was on the receiving end of a vicious knockout. He was looking good in Round 1 against Masvidal, but got caught in Round 2. Robbie Lawler just had a controversial loss against Ben Askren, and Rafael Dos Anjos lost to Usman. Both are decent matchups for Till, but I think Robbie Lawler and Till both need a big win. They should go head-to-head to prove who belongs at the top of the Welterweight division. Till vs. Lawler
Zane - Till is quickly hitting that Cody Garbrandt sweet spot of both being a fighter the UFC would really like to keep in big, high level fights, and a fighter who may not be ready to regularly compete at the highest level and win. Fights like Lawler and RDA would be tons of fun, but he could probably use a real, actual step back right now. Fights against Gunnar Nelson or Neil Magny would both be not bad, just for the lower chance of getting KTFO in the process. And a fight against Anthony Rocco Martin might present an interesting opportunity for a new face looking to make a real charge at the elite. But, I think it’s worth being a bit more of a wild card here and asking Till to make some real changes. So, I’ll say go up to middleweight and give Brad Tavares a try. Maybe cutting less weight will help up his output and improve his durability.
Michael - Leon Edwards has been undefeated since 2016 (unless you count the loss backstage in the scrap with Masvidal). With 7 in a row, I think he is ready to take a shot at the top 10. Powerful striker, Santiago Ponzinibbio is also on a 7-fight win streak, which would make the two a great matchup for their next fight. Edwards vs. Ponzinibbio
Zane - Edwards very well may have bought himself a fight against Jorge Masvidal if he can spin their backstage scuffle into some legit promotional heat. Masvidal likely wants bigger things, but so does everyone in that division. The matchup with Ponzinibbio also has a very natural feel to it. Two men on the cusp of the top 10, riding significant win streaks, looking to turn success into name fights. But in the interest of throwing Edwards something of a bone, and in the interest of actually having Ben Askren earn his way up the rankings a bit, why not do Leon Edwards vs. Ben Askren. Edwards has proven time and again to be a rock solid MMA wrestler, and Askren’s boxing is a mess. Give Edwards the bigger fight he wants and maybe make things a little harder on the guy trying to pick and choose his way into title contention. Let Edwards try his luck against ‘Funky’ Ben.
Michael - Gunnar Nelson is coming off a tough loss. He got outworked by Leon Edwards. While he ended up in full mount in the final minute of the fight, it seems it was a little too late as Edwards was able to ride it out into a decision. Neil Magny, who is also coming off a loss, would be a decent matchup for the Icelandic fighter. Curtis Millender is another option, as is veteran fighter Carlos Condit. If the Vicente Luque vs. Neil Magny fight doesn’t play out, I think Neil Magny is the best next opponent for Nelson. Nelson vs. Magny
Zane - A really rough loss for Gunni, and one that feels like it puts a firm barrier between him and the true elite of 170 lbs. If he couldn’t overwhelm Edwards’ wrestling, or Maia’s, how’s he gonna do against Covington, Usman, or Woodley? However, welterweight is a mile deep and – if he’s going to be sentenced to scrapping at the edges of the top 15 – there are a few fights that still hold interest. Michel Prazeres, or Sergio Moreas spring immediately to mind, or he could go winner/loser with Chiesa. For my money, that Moraes fight just seems like too much fun to pass up. Gunnar Nelson vs. Sergio Moraes for all the winging-punches-into-aggressive-graps action.
Michael - Dominick Reyes is on a big win streak. With an 11-0 record, 4-0 in the UFC, he is ready for some top contenders. I would like to see Reyes take on Johnny Walker, and have the winner of that fight go on to face the Light Heavyweight Champion. Both men have ended more than a few of their fights in the 1st round, which would make this an exciting main event for a Fight Night. Reyes vs. Walker
Zane - Not quite the performance fans were hoping for out of either man. Oezdemir charged up the division as a quick finishing action fighter, and fans were getting used to Reyes as a multi-dimensional threat, who had future title challenger written all over him. I’m not saying that analysis on Reyes is wrong, but he definitely has to do a bit more work to prove it now. A fight with Walker is a great prospect/prospect bout, but also a way to take one of a few fresh faces at 205 out of contention. Instead, Corey Anderson is in the midst of a strong run, but still has enough losses that he likely needs to really put a long streak together to get a title fight. So, let Anderson and Reyes go after it. Either Anderson pads his case to be one of light heavyweight’s best, or Reyes has another chance to prove he’s 100% the real deal and on his way to a shot at Jon Jones ASAP.
Michael - Volkan Oezdemir is on his 3rd straight loss. It was a questionable split decision on Saturday, and he needs a rebound to stay in the top 10. He looked good in his fight against Reyes, and I don’t think he is going away anytime soon. I think his best bet is to fight Jan Blachowicz next. Both men are coming off a loss and have never faced each other. This would be a good opportunity to find out who still belongs among the best. Oezdemir vs. Blachowicz
Zane - ‘No Time’ may need to take a minute. Amid his run of strong early UFC performances, was the worrying trend that he has never looked like a fighter who can comfortably win decisions. He dramatically improved his composure for this bout, but in doing so, took away a lot of the brutal aggression that had made him so successful on his way to DC. Finding the balance between the two may be difficult. In order to do so, how about a fight with Ilir Latifi? Latifi’s slow pace would give Oezdemir a chance to work on controlling his own. While also having to deal with a fighter with enough power and wrestling to keep him on his toes. If not, that Blachowicz fight makes good sense too. Latifi vs. Oezdemir sounds about right to me.
Michael - Nathaniel Wood secured a second-round submission over Jose Quinonez on Saturday. With his 3rd straight win in the UFC, he is ready for a bigger challenge. Options like Montel Jackson and Frankie Saenz are out there, but I would like to see a fight between Wood and Ricky Simon. Simon is also 3-0 in the UFC, making a good next matchup for Nathaniel Wood. Wood vs. Simon
Zane - Wood is very much on the march. And the only question in a division as packed with talent as 135 is, is do you just smash prospects together and see who comes out ahead, or do you try and find the path most likely to grow his game and push him to the elite? If the UFC is going to push the first one, a fight with Simon is a great way to do it. A fight with Manny Bermudez would also be a great option, and a test against someone Wood may not be able to afford to wrestle. But if the UFC wants to go the second route, a fight between Wood and the winner of Mitch Gagnon vs. Brian Kelleher would probably be the right way forward. Eventually I’d rather see the latter option, even if I think the former is more likely. So, I’ll say give Wood the winner of Gagnon/Kelleher and let these hot prospects find their way a bit further up toward the rankings.
Michael - Marc Diakiese just scored a much need dominant victory over Joseph Duffy. Coming back from a losing streak, Diakiese still needs to prove he deserves to be a ranked fighter in the stacked Lightweight division. Ryan Hall is coming off a submission victory over B.J. Penn and is also looking to make his way up in the division. Diakiese vs. Hall
Zane - I’d be a little surprised if Hall actually stayed at 155, but if he did, Diakiese would be a fascinating test. Fortunately, with or without the standout grappler, there are a ton of options for ‘Bonecrusher’ at lightweight; Gilbert Burns and David Teymur spring quickly to mind — as challenges to Diakiese’s grappling and kickboxing composure, respectively. Instead, however, I’ll say Diakiese should take on another dangerous fighter who has struggled to find consistent form until only just recently: the ‘Bosnian Bomber’ Damir Hadzovic. Hadzovic has looked much more comfortable working behind his jab to set up power, much like the improvements Diakiese showed against Duffy. Let’s see whose technical game holds up. Hadzovic vs. Diakiese is a rock solid fight.
OTHER BOUTS: Jose Alberto Quinonez vs. Ricardo Ramos, Claudio Silva vs. Niko Price, Danny Roberts vs. Lyman Good, Jack Marshman vs. Markus Perez, John Phillips vs. Adam Yandiev, Arnold Allen vs. Calvin Kattar, Jordan Rinaldi vs. Kyle Bochniak, Joseph Duffy vs. Scott Holtzman, Saparbeg Safarov vs. Alonzo Menifield, Nicolae Negumereanu vs. Vinicius Moreira, Dan Ige vs. Makwan Amirkhani, Danny Henry vs. Brandon Davis, Molly McCann vs. Lucie Pudilova, Priscila Cachoeira vs. Nadia Kassem, Mike Grundy vs. Shane Young, Nad Narimani vs. Jordan Griffin