All the best, most interesting, and unquestionably coolest fights the UFC should make following their latest event in Norfolk, VA.
The UFC’s latest ‘Fight Night’ event in Norfolk, VA ended up being something of a strange affair. An evening of great individual performances vexed by odd scores, freak injuries, weird reffing, and some tragically bad showings as well; a mixed bag for the promotion if ever there was one. But, Dustin Poirier came away with a good head of steam, as did Clay Guida and Raphael Assuncao.
To figure out what the UFC should do next with the aftermath, I’m stepping up to employ the classic Silva/Shelby model of old. That means booking winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent against one another. If you’d like to take your own shot at matchmaking glory, leave a comment below starting with, “If you’re having a hard time at work, maybe you’re having a hard time with your family, whatever it might be. You can overcome that, you just have to keep your hope up.” And I’ll pick one winner from the responses.
This week’s winner is BE reader Cwade593.
Chris - I want to see Poirier face Kevin Lee as the elite of the division are booked already. A win for either fighter could put them in line for a title shot.
Zane - Who am I to argue with Dustin Poirier. He says he’s getting the winner of Alvarez vs. Gaethje, and he already has a strong claim that he should have been fighting Eddie Alvarez here, given their recent no-contest. Add in that Tony Ferguson vs. Conor McGregor seems like it could easily take its time getting put together, and the winner of that TUF coaches fight isn’t really guaranteed anything better than Poirier off this big win. It also feels like the whoever came out of this trifecta with the wins to their name would be a legit title contender for whoever has the belt a few months from now. So Dustin Poirier vs. the Alvarez/Gaethje winner. If that falls apart, then Poirier vs. Kevin Lee would be rock solid.
Chris - Regrettably, I don't see Pettis hitting the top 5 again. He mentioned that he was in MMA to be a champion, not a contender. If he continues to fight, I would give him Michael Chiesa. Both fighters desperately need a win if they want to stay relevant.
Zane - Pettis will obviously need some time to heal up after what appeared to be an unfortunate rib injury. He also took a heck of a beating from Poirier before the end there, so some time to recoup would be a solid idea all around. When he does come back, however, the UFC might consider booking him against Lando Vannata (assuming Vannata isn’t re-matching Bobby Green). If the UFC is doing the Green rematch, then a fight with Joe Duffy might be a good action bout to rebound either fighter from their recent bad losses. In fact, I may just like the idea of Pettis vs. Duffy more in general. Anthony Pettis vs. Joe Duffy would be a great fight.
Chris - His future as a fighter is unclear but I believe he'll most likely fight one more time. Should he stay active in the Octagon, Tarec Saffiedine is coming off 3 losses, he needs a step down in competition and Matt Brown makes sense right now. Goes against the Silva-Shelby Method but I believe this is a good fight.
Zane - Assuming everything goes to plan, Matt Brown will just retire and never fight again. Living in the real world, though – where retirements never stick – why not book Matt Brown vs. Ben Saunders for a fun as hell action fight featuring all the clinch offense? Brown vs. Li Jingliang (if the ‘Leech’ beats Zak Ottow) would also be a fantastic fight if the ‘Immortal’ really does decide he’d rather stick around for a while.
Chris - A fighter in a similar situation who cant seem to win against the elite of the heavyweight division is Stefan Struve. They've never fought before, and I can see it being entertaining.
Zane - Curtis Blaydes said he’d like to fight Alexander Volkov recently, but realistically, Blaydes vs. Arlovski is probably the more even match. Arlovski isn’t that easy to out-wrestle and his power striking would likely give Blaydes a lot of trouble as Blaydes is still really raw with his hands. It would be another good veteran name for Blaydes to try and add to his resume as he looks to establish himself as a legit top 10 heavyweight. Arlovski could also try his luck with Volkov, but that seems like a much less forgiving proposition standing. And he’s somehow never fought Stefan Struve if the UFC wants to go that route. But I’d say Blaydes vs. Arlovski first and foremost.
Chris - He called out Paulo Costa post-fight, but I don't think that will happen as there are more interesting matchups for "Borrachinha". Give Ferreira the chance to build some momentum and book him to fight Daniel Kelly.
Zane - That Paulo Costa callout seems like a foolish fight, given Ferreira’s chin and Costa’s power, but I’ll allow it. Mostly because, how many other fighters are actually going to line up to fight this no-name, power-punching kid? Ferreira has beef, he wants to teach the kid a lesson, and it’s a reasonable step forward to taking on an actually successful UFC middleweight, from Johny Hendricks. So go ahead and book Ferreira vs. Costa, preferably for a Brazilian card to really get the atmosphere charged for it. Otherwise fights with Tim Boetsch, Brad Tavares, or Anthony Smith all make sense.
Chris - The only fight I see making sense right now for Assuncao is Cody Garbrandt. If Cody wants to prove that he has a well rounded enough style to become Champion again, a win over Assuncao can prove that.
Zane - I’m sure Assuncao would love to get a piece of Cody Garbrandt, T.J. Dillashaw, or Jimmie Rivera as soon as he can, but I think there are other more interesting plans in play for each of them at the moment. Instead, there’s one great fight just sitting right there for Assuncao to take: John Lineker. It wasn’t exactly a vintage performance, but Lineker is coming off a solid win over Marlon Vera and still has his top 5 ranking to hang on to. If Assuncao can take a win off him, then go ahead and put him in a no. 1 contenders bout. Raphael Assuncao vs. John Lineker, please and thanks.
Chris - While Dillashaw remains champion, John Lineker - who lost to TJ - will need some big wins in order to make case for a title shot. Both men stand to gain from this matchup.
Zane - He called out Jimmie Rivera, who now needs an opponent for 219, and even if you didn’t think Moraes deserved the win here, it’s hard for me not to get excited for that fight. Moraes is a fun, high-level aggressive power striker. If Rivera mops the floor with him, then that will be a great showcase of Rivera’s skill. If not, it’ll likely be an amazingly fun war. If the UFC books Rivera/Garbrandt or Rivera/Dillashaw (because they don’t want to pay DJ), then the UFC should go ahead and use Moraes’ enthusiasm to solve their Aljamain Sterling problem in Fresno. The best plan is to give him that Rivera fight though, and pony up for Johnson vs. Dillashaw.
Chris - Another close decision loss for Dodson. He's still very entertaining to watch and IMO didn't lose too much stock from this fight. Pedro Munhoz is looking to crack the top 10 and deserves a fight with a high caliber opponent like Dodson.
Zane - I said this last week, that Garbrandt should face the loser of Moraes/Dodson. And I’m willing to stick to that. Obviously Garbrandt could get bounced into one of these fill-in roles, assuming he can make a quick turnaround after that KO loss. If not, however, Dodson would be a fantastic challenge to re-affirm ‘No Love’’s championship mettle. The hand (and foot) speeds alone would be off the charts. Cody Garbrandt vs. John Dodson is a fight I’d love to see as soon as both men are ready to go again.
OTHER BOUTS: Albini vs. Harris, Lopez vs. Williams, Guida vs. Trinaldo, Suarez vs. Albu, Pereira vs. Esquibel, Northcutt vs. Gouti, Quinones vs. McBride, Ansaroff vs. Grasso, Hill vs. Aguilar, Strickland vs. Edwards, McGee vs. Moraes, Collier vs. Rakic, Fortuna vs. Clark, Roberson vs. Neto/Giles winner, Stewart vs. Wilson