The UFC is deep into their run of Fight Night events, and while the churn of ‘guys/gals fighting’ has developed a certain monotonous air to it, they’ve been regularly rescued by some fantastic main events. Anthony Pettis became the latest fighter to pull an event from entirely forgettable to memorable, on the back of his highlight reel KO of Stephen Thompson. Otherwise, outside a few other highlights, UFC Nashville didn’t leave many fighters in position to make a serious leap up their divisions.
So, is Anthony Pettis really a welterweight top contender? Can Curtis Blaydes turn wrestling dominance into another headlining opportunity? And just how little did Jussier Formiga gain by beating Deiveson Figueiredo?
To answer all these questions - and very little else - I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking method of years past. 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 matchmaking glory, leave a comment below starting with, “Call up Momma and tell her I’m fine.” I’ll pick one winner from the responses to join me next time.
This week’s winner is BE reader “TheBirdsDen”:
Hi everyone, Im Bird. I have been involved in combat sports pretty much my entire life. I have been a BE member for a long time and I dont miss Snowden at all! I always liked Zane though.
Bird - That was a shocking and impressive victory for Showtime and I really didn’t see it coming. Pettis just starched one of the top welterweights in the world. While the RDA rematch is the obvious choice, RDA is coming off a loss and unlikely. I think Showtime vs Jorge Masvidal is the right fight to make at the current time. Both are coming off big wins and near the top 5 of the division, and the fight would be entertaining.
Zane - First things first, Pettis isn’t going to get that RDA fight ASAP. And, if RDA loses to Kevin Lee, then fighting Pettis really wouldn’t make a ton of sense. Much like Masvidal, Pettis’ recent history may not be filled with consistent performances, but he now has one of the best possible, most emphatic wins at welterweight. A lot of me would really like to see which former lightweight is able to keep their shocking momentum rolling. I’d also like to see what Pettis can do against Robbie Lawler, but it’s sounding more and more set that fans are getting Lawler vs. Askren 2. Fights against Demian Maia or Ponzinibbio would be the other principal options. But, since I really don’t find myself engaged by the idea of a Masvidal/Edwards fight (and I don’t think Masvidal wants it either), then book Pettis vs. Masvidal. Given Masvidal’s cult-favorite status and Pettis’ history as a former champ – and both men’s huge wins – it seems like a guaranteed action headliner. Pettis vs. Masvidal is a great fight.
Bird - Wonderboy has a bunch of potential rematches that no one wants to see. Woodley 3? No thanks. I’m also good on running a Till rematch back. Why not match Wonderboy with another violent striker in the division? Obviously brain trauma is a good reason... but I think Wonderboy vs Robbie Lawler would be a barnburner. It would keep the winner relevant at the top of the division while the loser would start a slide toward being a top 10 gatekeeper.
Zane - An absolutely crushing loss for ‘Wonderboy’ and one that really puts his hopes of another title shot on the rocks. Pettis was there for Thompson to put together a dominating win and instead he got sparked out. Unfortunately for him, there aren’t too many welterweights coming off a loss and unbooked right now. I wouldn’t be averse to him getting in there against an up and comer like Luque or Martin or Zaleski, but off two straight losses it seems more likely that he’ll wait for a bit until another high profile welterweight is riding defeat. If the UFC really is set on running Lawler/Askren back, let Thompson fight the loser. The loser of Lee vs. RDA wouldn’t be a bad look either. If he just wants to get back in there as fast as possible, then there are plenty of hungry fighters looking to make their name off him. But assuming he takes his time, then Stephen Thompson vs. the Askren/Lawler 2 loser would be just right. And obviously, if that Askren/Lawler fight doesn’t happen, then Thompson/Lawler is just too good to pass up.
Bird - I dont think Blaydes vs JDS is the fight to make, but it could happen. No way we do Blaydes vs Ngannou 3. I am more interested in seeing if Blaydes can beat Alexey Oleinik. I’m basically trying to figure out if Blaydes is Mark Hunt’s avenging angel since Willis and Oleinik have recent wins over Mark Hunt. So, obviously Curtis Blaydes vs Alexey Oleinik 2 is the fight to make.
Zane - Curtis Blaydes gave a strong list of next fights he wants: Stipe Miocic, Junior Dos Santos, or Derrick Lewis... unfortunately he didn’t give a performance that’d make fans all that interested in seeing those fights. So much of what happens at heavyweight right now depends on what happens with DC and whether he gets Lesnar or Ngannou or Stipe gets his rematch. If Ngannou doesn’t get the title shot, then Ngannou vs. JDS is a fight I’d way rather see, and I doubt Stipe is at all interested in fighting Blaydes (even if it’s exactly what the UFC might want). And unfortunately, Derrick Lewis just took a hard loss and just had knee surgery. That leaves... Alexander Volkov, if he beats Overeem? Or maybe the Tuivasa vs. Ivanov winner? Hopefully the UFC can coax Stipe to take on Blaydes, but if not Blaydes vs. Volkov off a win is more likely what he’ll end up with.
Bird - I have been wanting to see Formiga fight for UFC gold for a long time; I think he will finally get his chance. Henry Cejudo is the only fight that makes sense for him now. Its crazy to think what a big deal Uncle Creepy’s victory over Formiga was in the Tachi Palace days. Now Uncle Creepy’s best days are long behind him, and Formiga is still at the top of the division. Its very impressive, lets hope he finally gets his title shot.
Zane - Uhh... pass.
No, no... we can figure this out. The UFC is effectively shuttering flyweight by all appearances, and they’re actively pursuing Henry Cejudo vs. Marlon Moraes for the bantamweight title. So Formiga’s status as top contender really does get him absolutely nothing. If he’s willing to go to 135 (which he’ll probably have to, to stay in the UFC much longer) then this’d be a rock solid time to call out Aljamain Sterling, who’s seeing his own title hopes gets shoved aside. But, if he doesn’t want to try bantamweight just yet – in hopes that White changes his mind – then the only thing that makes any other sense is Benavidez vs. Formiga 2. I’d say make it for an interim title, but that’d just be all the more harsh when White stripped the winner two months later. Joe-B vs. Formiga 2 is the ONLY flyweight fight to make.
Bird - The hyped prospect had a lot of trouble facing the southpaw stance in her first fight at 125. Lets have her face another hyped southpaw striker prospect in Antonina Shevchenko. They have a combined 16-0 record, and a nice buzz surrounding both of them. If Barber wins it sets her up for a ‘Bullet’ Shevchenko fight in the future.
Zane - Barber had a rough first round against a huge step up in competition, but adjusted, bit down, and turned the tide to get the win. For a prospect? That’s a great sign. Technique can be improved, fight IQ and determination are a lot harder to coach in. If the UFC doesn’t rush her straight to the top, there are several strong options: Gillian Robertson, Mara Romero Borella, and even a fights with Montana De La Rosa or Andrea Lee if they want to test her against other fast rising prospects. Of all those, the Robertson fight may be the safest matchup. But, just because I’d like to see Barber get the chance to push the hype she’s built for herself, I’ll say book Maycee Barber vs. Montana De La Rosa. MDLR has looked more polished and aggressive lately, and has four straight submission wins. But she’s also lost to top prospects and seems to be feasting on sub-par competition. Time to see how much she’s improved, or if Barber can keep it all rolling. Barber vs. De La Rosa is a strong next step.
Bird - Vera has 3 stoppage victories in a row and destroyed Frankie Saenz. Peter Yan is a bit higher in the rankings, but hes 4-0 in the UFC and I think these two would produce a very entertaining fight. Whoever wins will be on a very impressive win streak.
Zane - Tendency for fouls aside, Marlon Vera is building a serious resume in the bantamweight division. He has seven wins to go with his four losses and has looked sharper and more dangerous each time out. Against Saenz, he even broke his curse of slow starts, rocking him with a jab for the early win. My personal preference would be to see him take on another really tough, well seasoned fighter that can force him to prove his composure again. Someone like Cody Stamann would be just right, or maybe Rob Font. But, Vera called out Nathaniel Wood, and that’s gotta be the fight to push for. It’s rare that an experienced, long time UFC talent coming off a strong win calls out a fresh prospect. For Wood, it’s a great opportunity to get the kind of win that could put a number next to his name. For Vera, it’s a high-risk, low-reward action fight. If Vera’s willing to take the chance, who am I to stop him. Marlon Vera vs. Nathaniel Wood is a great fight if Vera says he wants it.
Bird - I doubt she wants another crack at Liz Carmouche right now, so why not match her up against Andrea Lee. Lee has a name and is 2-0 in the UFC. The division is shallow and this fight would make sense at the moment.
Zane - As much as the loss to Liz Carmouche was a terrible way to make her UFC debut, this win over Davis will likely put Maia right in line to get some more notable fights (most likely with other less popular flyweights the UFC wants to put on prelims). Fights against the loser of Calderwood/Chookagian or Jessica Eye – after her meeting with Shevchenko at UFC 238 – would both be strong options there. There’s also a potential bout with the winner of Roxanne Modafferi vs. Antonina Shevchenko. A chance for revenge for Roxy, or another name veteran for Antonina to build her resume against. Eventually, however, I’m going to say that the UFC should book her against Andrea Lee. There’s no sense in waiting for other results, when there’s a perfectly decent matchup right there waiting. Andrea Lee vs. Jennifer Maia should be entertaining.
Bird - She looked very impressive beating Angela Hill with a quick armbar. The 11 fight UFC vet would be a good match for Cynthia Calvillo, who is 5-1 in the UFC and would be a nice current step up for Markos.
Zane - At this point, it almost feels like Markos has fought everyone in her division. I’ve long wanted her to take a TUF rematch with Felice Herrig (same goes for Tecia Torres), but both those women are fighting off a loss right now, as is Claudia Gadelha. Fortunately, Cynthia Calvillo is coming off a very reasonable win that didn’t get anyone too thrilled about charging her up into a top contenders bout. And that should make her the perfect next fight for Markos here. A win for Calvillo and her resume will be that much deeper when the chance for a big fight presents itself. And a win for Markos would likely come based off the kind of improved aggression that she showed in this fight. Randa Markos vs. Cynthia Calvillo would push either woman toward bigger bouts down the road.
OTHER BOUTS: Justin Willis vs. Tai Tuivasa (win or lose to Ivanov), John Makdessi vs. Marc Diakiese, Jesus Pinedo vs. Marcos Mariano, Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Sergio Pettis, Luis Pena vs. Mike Grundy, Steven Peterson vs. Anderson dos Santos, JJ Aldrich vs. Justine Kish, Bryce Mitchell vs. Chris Fishgold, Bobby Moffett vs. Nad Narimani, Frankie Saenz vs. Johnny Eduardo, Alexis Davis vs. Ashlee Evans-Smith, Angela Hill vs. Felice Herrig, Chris Gutierrez vs. Matt Schnell, Ryan MacDonald vs. Su Mudaerji, Jordan Espinosa vs. Rogerio Bontorin, Eric Shelton vs. Magomed Bibulatov