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UFC Jacksonville: Smith vs. Teixeira & Overeem vs. Harris - Fights to make

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All the best, most interesting, and unquestionably coolest fights the UFC needs to book following their two Florida Fight Night events in Jacksonville.

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What a strange week of Fight Night cards in Jacksonville, FL. On the aggregate, both Wednesday’s event and Saturday’s went reasonably well. Glover Teixeira and Alistair Overeem scored big wins for all the old men out there. Drew Dober announced his entry into the lightweight elite—as did Dan Ige at featherweight. Song Yadong vs. Marlon Vera was every bit the war it was supposed to be, and Claudia Gadelha proved she’s still a tough out at 115 lbs.

But, both main events were made more unfortunate than thrilling by extenuating circumstances. Glover may have hit a home run for all the softball dads watching at home, but he did it by handing Anthony Smith two more rounds of severe ass whipping than was strictly necessary—breaking ‘Lionheart’’s face in multiple places in the process. And for Overeem? His comeback win was remarkable, only it came against a guy, in Walt Harris, that nobody wanted to see walk out with a loss that day.

Still, with every new night of fights comes a new set of answers and a new set of questions. Can Overeem and Teixeira really fight their way back into their respective title hunts? Can Drew Dober get the striking battle he’s hoping for? And what does the UFC do with Dan Ige off the biggest win of his career?

To answer all those questions – and several more – I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking methodology of years past. That means petting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent up against one another. Hopefully by following the old UFC model, there’s a small chance a few of these fantasy match-ups will actually make it off the screen and into the cage. Now, let’s get to the fights!

UFC Jacksonville: Teixeira vs. Smith

GLOVER TEIXEIRA

The old man picked up a serious win on Wednesday night. Even at 40-years-old, he’s found himself on a rock solid 4-fight win streak. And this most recent victory puts him, if not actually in the title picture, then right on the cusp of it. So that next bout has to be against someone else gunning for their own chance UFC gold. If there’s any reality to all of Jon Jones’ latest heavyweight talk, then a fight against Jan Blachowicz is the fight to make for Teixeira. But, if Jones is sticking around at 205, then the former KSW champ very likely has dibs as his next dance partner. At that point, a bout with either Dominick Reyes or Volkan Oezdemir are the other obvious choices. I don’t necessarily have much faith in Jones taking big chances up a division. So, assuming Jones vs. Blachowicz is incoming soon, then let’s book Teixeira vs. Oezdemir. A great chance for Glover to build on his remarkable success.

ANTHONY SMITH

Honestly, I have no idea how quick Smith will be back in business. If he stays true to the fighter mentality, it will probably be well before his body is done healing up from this beating. If he does decide to take a long hiatus, though, I wouldn’t at all blame him. He’s been through hell and lived to tell the tale. Assuming he doesn’t wait, though, there are fights with Aleksandar Rakic and Johnny Walker out there that make a whole lot of good sense right now, if Smith is ready to take them. Between those, the Rakic bout seems like the most functional—in terms of being a well rounded test that would put Rakic back on track to being a contender, or place Smith firmly in ‘gatekeeper to the elite’ position. That Walker fight would be wild and violent too, though. Smith vs. Rakic is the right bounce-back after this loss.

BEN ROTHWELL

Rothwell stayed tough, stayed busy and did a lot of cage leaning on Ovince St. Preux to grind out this win. That puts him on a two-bout win streak, badly needed after a rough re-entry to the UFC off his USADA suspension. After the fight, he called out Oleksiy Oliynyk, and I can absolutely see the UFC making that fight if Oliynyk is into it. But, if the UFC isn’t all that excited? Then a fight against Sergei Pavlovich would be a great test for the relative newcomer, and a good way for Rothwell to claim a rankings spot with a victory. Pavlovich vs. Rothwell likely isn’t the kind of high profile bout ‘Big’ Ben wants, but it’s got just enough upside for him to make some sense. And it’s a serious opportunity to help build a new future contender.

DREW DOBER

An absolutely huge win for Dober, and one that catapults him from mid-card action fighter into the thick of the top 15 in the lightweight division. His hands have looked sharp and powerful lately; hard not to see him as a realistic threat to most of the division outside the top 5. He called out Paul Felder after the fight, and that’s a pretty quality move. Bouts against Al Iaquinta or Gregor Gillespie would also work. But it seems like the most likely fight we’ll see is a re-booking of Dober’s match-up against Carlos Diego Ferreira. Ferreira recently called for the fight to be made again, himself, and he’s got his own track record of great high profile victories to lean on. It just makes too much sense for the UFC to not try and put that bout back together as soon as possible. Dober vs. Ferreira seems like a fight the UFC should go back to.

RICKY SIMON

Honestly, this was a pretty dangerous fight for Ricky Simon to take. Ray Borg is a well seasoned, talented former title contender. But, his presence in the bantamweight division is essentially nil. Borg wins, and he jumps into the pool at the top of the division. He loses and we’re left to wonder if he’s the mini Rich Franklin. But for Simon, off a pair of hard losses, a third would push him way back in the pack of a talent-rich division. And a win over a former flyweight who struggled the last time he was at 135? It’s good, but it won’t bump his profile all that much. Either way, Simon did what he had to do. He took the fight to Borg and, surprisingly, out-wrestled him for three rounds on his way to victory. For his trouble, he should get a fight with John Dodson—fresh off his win over Nathaniel Wood. Simon vs. Dodson should be a high-energy scrap.


UFC Jacksonville: Overeem vs. Harris

ALISTAIR OVEREEM

Not the win many fans wanted to see, but an incredibly important fight for the ‘Reem’ heading into his 40th birthday. He’s still talking title contention, and even if he’s not quite in reach of the belt at the moment, getting this win was an absolute must if he wants to keep that dream alive. That said, there are two clear fights in front of him right now, Alexander Volkov and Derrick Lewis. That Lewis fight is one I’ve wanted to see Overeem in for years—practically since the point that the ‘Black Beast’ first entered the promotion. It just seems like the perfect clash of overwhelming power against diverse technical mastery. And given that neither man is known for being the most durable heavyweight on the planet, it should guarantee a major addition to someone’s highlight reel. Book it now, while the fight still makes sense and has some divisional meaning—it won’t be there forever. Derrick Lewis vs. Alistair Overeem is a must watch battle.

WALT HARRIS

A really tough loss for Walt Harris, who must have felt an intense amount of pressure to go out and prove that he was once again in the right place to be an elite heavyweight in the UFC. And I’d argue, even without the win, he still did that—and almost had Overeem out in the first round. But he let the ‘Demolition Man’ get him down and drag him into a grappling battle that quickly took the wind from his sails. Hopefully he can put this loss behind him and gather himself for his next fight soon—maybe the next one will feel a little less emotionally raw. When he does come back, fights with both Alexander Volkov and Jairzinho Rozenstruik would both be fun to see. Provided Roznestruik has recaptured his senses after that Ngannou blitz, that especially feels like must-make war. Walt Harris vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik would be some top flight heavyweight action.

CLAUDIA GADELHA

Gadelha more or less did the UFC’s work for them after her bout against Angela Hill. It may not have been the clearest win in the world, but she took on the toughest version of Hill to date, got out to an early lead, and landed enough solid shots the rest of the way to convince a couple judges she deserved the win. Then she went out and called for a fight against a women she already beat: Carla Esparza. Obviously it’s a bout Esparza seems eager to take. A chance to get back her own questionable loss to the Brazilian. They’re both on win streaks, they’re both similarly ranked. Hard to see the UFC passing up an easy chance to make a bout at a time when they’re working hard to fill up future cards. If that can’t happen, then I’d love to see Gadelha face off against Tatiana Suarez in Suarez’s return from injury. But, Gadelha called her shot, and should be re-matching Esparza next.

DAN IGE

On a night of controversial scoring, no decision may have been as fraught as Dan Ige’s win over Edson Barboza. It looked like Barboza had Ige hurt badly in both the first and second rounds. Rounds where Ige did damage of his own, but didn’t clearly dominate any part of the fight. Still, judges saw the scores his way and he walks out with a top-flight name on his resume. Ige has steadily improved his power/pressure boxing game, and it’s put him on a nice run of success following a debut loss to Julio Arce. Whatever fans may think of it, picking up this kind of victory should get him a high quality name opponent next time. Maybe someone like Clavin Kattar, or Josh Emmett if he’ll be ready to fight anytime soon. In fact, rumor was that Emmett was supposed to be the original opponent for Barboza, before Ige stepped in. So, why not give Ige that fight next time around. Josh Emmett vs. Dan Ige would be a guaranteed slugfest.

SONG YADONG

Not a win without controversy for Yadong, but still a very big win for him. He fell into a close battle again by the third round, but not nearly as badly as he has in other UFC bouts he’s taken the distance. Vera represented a real level test for TAM/Enbo fighter, a crafty veteran with a well rounded, skilled, aggressive game—one who knows how to take hard fights to his opponents all the way through. Yadong at the very least showed that he’s capable of staying strong and and not allowing to let a confident opponent pull away from him. Now he needs that next big jump. Will that be Rob Font? Jimmie Rivera? Maybe John Dodson? Of all those, Font’s the one on a two fight win streak. Rob Font vs. Song Yadong would be a great scrap, and the right next move for a prospect on a run to title contention.

KEVIN HOLLAND

An incredibly strong return to form for Holland after a shocking upset loss to Brendan Allen. He absolutely took the fight to Hernandez right out of the gate, and picked up a quick victory for it. Afterward he made a call-out that feels wild as hell. But if he’s into it, then who am I to disagree. Kevin Holland wants a fight with Mickey Gall at 170 lbs. He weighed in at just 182 for his bout against Hernandez and says he’s willing to keep cutting until the next event to get down there. It’s completely reckless and dangerous and a terrible idea. But the UFC should also totally roll with it. After all, it’s not like Holland took any damage in this fight. Kevin Holland vs. Mickey Gall seems like a really weird idea, so do it!

OTHER BOUTS: Ovince St. Preux vs. Todd Duffee, Alexander Hernandez vs. Drakkar Klose, Ray Borg vs. Alejandro Perez, Andrei Arlovski vs. Cyril Gane, Philipe Lins vs. Serghei Spivac, Thiago Moises vs. Jalin Turner, Michael Johnson vs. Jim Miller, Sijara Eubanks vs. Macy Chiasson, Sarah Moras vs. Jessy-Rose Clark, Omar Morales vs. Luis Pena, Gabriel Benitez vs. Joe Duffy, Brian Kelleher vs. Sean O’Malley, Hunter Azure vs. Cole Smith, Chase Sherman vs. Rodrigo Nascimento, Isaac Villanueva vs. Ben Sosoli

Angela Hill vs. Tecia Torres 2, Edson Barboza vs. Cub Swanson, Krzysztof Jotko vs. Omari Akhmedov, Eryk Anders vs. Zak Cummings, Marlon Vera vs. Cody Stamann, Miguel Baeza vs. Sean Brady, Matt Brown vs. Court McGee, Anthony Hernandez vs. Bevon Lewis, Giga Chikadze vs. Grant Dawson, Irwin Rivera vs. Ode Osbourne, Nate Landwehr vs. Charles Jourdain, Darren Elkins vs. Jamall Emmers, Cortney Casey vs. Poliana Botelho, Mara Romero Borella vs. JJ Aldrich, Don’Tale Mayes vs. Jeff Hughes