10 Fights to Make After UFC Fight Night 26
10 Fights to Make After UFC Fight Night 26
The UFC's debut on the brand new Fox Sports 1 network could not have been a bigger success if they wanted it to be. The debut of the UFC's new flagship cable fight series enjoyed a card buoyed by big names, big fights and big surprises. John Howard, the biggest underdog on the card, grabbed a return win in the UFC against TUF veteran Uriah Hall by a narrow split decision. Homegrown Joe Lauzon dropped a stunning loss to Michael Johnson and Travis Browne did what no one (besides me) thought he was going to do by knocking Alistair Overeem clean out, but only after suffering a ferocious early onslaught. But it wasn't only a night for upsets as plenty of the favorites notched up their wins as well, Urijah Faber continued his latest roll by notching a win against Yuri Alcantara and Matt Brown continued his violent winning streak with a bone-shattering knockout of Mike Pyle. Then of course, there was the much hyped main event match where we all saw a stunning, submission victory for Chael Sonnen as he tapped Mauricio Rua via guillotine choke.
The night surely had its fair share of fireworks and whether or not the UFC actually returns to Boston, in light of struggles to actually even put on the card there, it surely was a night Beantown fight fans won't soon forget. However, the most fun part of Fight Night is always after the fights conclude. Now we get to dissect who should fight who next. Where do the winners go and what happens to the losers? Here are the 10 fights I think the UFC needs to make next.
10. Chael Sonnen vs Vitor Belfort
Chael Sonnen's mouth has gotten him into fights he should never have gotten in the first place. After wins over Dan Miller, Yushin Okami and Nate Marquardt gave him his title shot against Anderson Silva, Sonnen burst into the public consciousness with his hilarious interviews and raucous persona. Then inside the Octagon, he did something no one had ever seen before. He nearly beat Anderson Silva, and if it weren't for some bad posturing in Round 5 he damn well could have. However, a phenomenally executed triangle choke late into the last round forced Chael to tap out and thus crisis averted for "The Spider."
Now fast forward a few years and after a failed rematch against Silva and a loss to Light-Heavyweight champion Jon Jones and you have Sonnen lining up against Shogun Rua. Sonnen beat Rua in impressive fashion forcing the former UFC Light Heavyweight champion to tap out via guillotine. Up to his old antics as ever, Chael called out Wanderlei Silva in a theatrically nonsensical post-fight interview. But, just weeks earlier Sonnen had been demanding a fight with Vitor Belfort after his bout with Rua.
Confused? Try to keep up.
Sonnen called out the Brazilian, Belfort, but it never seemed to gain much traction. That was until Belfort tweeted the following at Sonnen immediately after Sonnen's submission of Rua,
@sonnench don't run from me. Why are u asking for wand? Let's fight.— Vitor Belfort (@vitorbelfort) August 18, 2013
Now clearly, if Vitor is willing to talk up the fight and says he wants to fight Chael, there is no doubt Chael will be on board. He wants his hands on Vitor and if Vitor is ready, the fight has the potential to create quite a buzz. Now the outlook for either fighter is a little confusing, their futures don't quite line up in this fight. Also, it isn't quite clear if the fight will happen at 185 pounds or 205 pounds. But one thing is for certain; the fight will cause fireworks.
But don't fret if the fight doesn't quite come to fruition. For one reason or another, if there was an issue or Dana White decides that each fighter needs to go in a different direction, Chael Sonnen seems to be the prettiest girl at the prom and everyone wants to dance with him. Vitor wasn't alone in calling him out, Phil Davis chimed in as well
Enough is enough... I want to fight @sonnench for the whole country of Brazil! Name a time, name a date and bring your face!— Phil Davis (@PhilMrWonderful) August 18, 2013
Belfort vs. Sonnen makes the most sense, but each fighters has plenty of options if it doesn't happen.
9. Shogun Rua vs Ilir Latifi
Okay, I understand that on its face, this makes little sense, but I promise I have a reasoning. If you are unaware of who Ilir Latifi is, that is completely understandable. It means you have a life. Well, sadly, I do not. Ilir Latifi is a Swedish fighter and training partner of Alexander Gustafsson. When Gustafsson got injured and had to pull out of the UFC on Fuel TV in Sweden's card, Latifi stepped in to face Gerard Moussasi in the main event. Heck of a debut in the UFC to go from unknown to main eventer.
Latifi was outclassed and unprepared for the fight that he entered and despite that he still fought valiantly and forced a decision. His effort impressed Dana White who promised Latifi another fight in the organization. Here steps in Shogun Rua. Latifi is a seemingly capable fighter who Dana White now respects. Latifi hung with an elite Light Heavyweight for three rounds despite taking the fight on just five days' notice.
Shogun is an aging star with no real feasible option of moving up or down in weight class. He's still under contract and can still garner some ratings and impressive performances but he just won't be able to beat the top guys in the division anymore. With recent losses to Dan Henderson, Alexander Gustafsson and now Chael Sonnen, it is time for Shogun to take a definite step down in competition. Even in his last win against Brandon Vera, Rua did not look sharp.
A fight against Latifi would give Rua a nice win, hopefully, and Latifi another trot out in the sun. Latifi's name is already mildly familiar with fight fans for his past main event matchup, it couldn't hurt to throw him against Rua for a midcard fight on a smaller Fight Night card...and who knows, if he wins then maybe Latifi will be a rising star. We know one thing for sure — Latifi won't turn down a fight.
8. Travis Browne vs Fabricio Werdum
Now here's a good fight. Travis Browne is a behemoth. He's huge and he has cinder blocks for fists. Fabricio Werdum is the opposite. Werdum is a through and through BJJ fighter, and although he has a little pop in his fists he certainly wouldn't threaten Travis Browne on his feet. A classic striker versus grappler matchup between two top-five UFC heavyweights.
It'd be cool to one day see the rubber match between Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum. But with Overeem's loss to Browne, that plan is dead in the water. Instead, Browne could really go a long way to showing the world that he's ready for a title shot by beating Werdum. The only real submission threat that Browne has fought in his career was Gabriel Gonzaga, who Browne knocked out in just over a minute. He followed that win up with a stunning comeback win against Alistair Overeem.
Werdum is looking to take his shot as well for UFC gold. Werdum seems poised to take his spot as the No. 1 contender for the winner of Cain Velasquez vs. Junior Dos Santos III. But there will inevitably be a long time to sit before that fight materializes and Werdum isn't necessarily the guaranteed next in line.
What does this mean? It's obvious! Browne vs. Werdum for the No. 1 Contender spot to face Velasquez or Dos Santos for the belt. The heavyweight division is thin and as we've seen with Overeem, you have to strike while the iron is hot. Browne has some momentum and popularity following him after beating Alistair and the same can be said for Werdum after he beat Minotauro Nogueira.
Werdum has only been knocked out once in his career and that was by Junior Dos Santos, the man with probably the hardest punches in MMA. Browne has never been submitted, and his only loss of his career was due to an injury that occures mid-fight. Werdum has a chin of granite for Browne's strikes and Browne hasn't been tapped. The matchup seems too perfect and if anything of the fights in this article actually come to fruition, it should be this one.
7. Alistair Overeem vs Stipe Miocic
Alistair Overeem has been a whopping disappointment in the UFC. The UFC's heavyweight division is easily its thinnest, except for maybe the flyweight division though it's arguable. Even with the scarcity of talent at 265 pounds, Alistair Overeem has squandered his chances to contend for UFC gold. The UFC tried to build him into a contender but all Overeem could repay them with was cockiness and a glass jaw in consecutive fights, finding himself brutally knocked out by both Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva and Travis Browne.
So what do you do about a castaway potential superstar who seems to be the only person standing in his own way? Well you get him wins. I know the UFC isn't about building people up just for the sake of marketing them, if that were the case they never would have fired Kimbo Slice. But in this situation, you just have to get Overeem back on the horse. Dana White said he's unsure of 'Reem's future following UFC Fight Night 26 but I don't think cutting him is an option. So get him a fight that he might be able to cash in on.
Overeem's last win came against a disease-ridden Brock Lesnar, whose jaw was made of papier mâché. He seemed dominant against Antonio Silva in his next fight but got too cocky, and gassed in the third round and dropped his hands. That's when Silva made him pay. A similar story happened against Browne. After a massive barrage failed to put down Browne, Browne attacked the arrogant and fatigued Dutchman with an array of head kicks and front kicks, eventually channeling his inner karate kid and crane kicked Alistair's hopes and dreams out of the Octagon.
Overeem's next bout should be against Stipe Miocic. The Croatian-American heavyweight, Miocic, is a solid fighter with some decent power and ability. After an impressive win over Roy Nelson, Miocic has seen his star rise in the slender heavyweight division. Miocic is 4-1 in the UFC and is considered by most a Top-10 heavyweight fighter, so placing him against Overeem gives Overeem a credible opponent. However, in terms of talent it shouldn't even be close. Alistair should run through Miocic and it should be impressive. Hopefully a win over a Top-10 guy rebuilds his confidence and 'Reem takes one last shot at climbing the mountain. But if Overeem's heart isn't in the fight game anymore, he better get out of it before his head isn't on his shoulders anymore.
6. Urijah Faber vs Michael McDonald
This fight just makes sense. Urijah Faber has been overexposed. Even though he's on a great run as of late, there just hasn't been enough time passed to warrant another Faber title shot. Urijah's in a bad place. He's squandered too many chances at the belt and now he's not exactly in a position to fight for the title but he's far too marketable and talented not to put in a title match. For now, he'll have to stew things over and the UFC will have to creatively book him in a manner that he doesn't get stale to audiences. If Dominick Cruz can come back to the UFC soon, it breathes new life into the division and Faber could again top the mountain.
For now, there's no Dominick Cruz and Faber isn't going to step into the cage against Renan Barao for a second time in 2013, despite his impressive three fight win streak. Michael McDonald was electrifying in his demolishing of Brad Pickett and he certainly has become way more popular for that win. He needs to now take his game to the next level and the UFC top brass should give him that chance, give him Faber. Let Urijah and McDonald duke it out and see what happens. Maybe by the point this fight is over, Cruz will come back to finally unify the belts in a match against Renan Barao and the division rights itself.
Perhaps more bantamweight fighters will have to erupt onto the scene in a big way. In any case, both fighters fought tremendously in their UFC Fight Night 26 bouts and both of them deserve a high quality fight, so the way I see it the only matchup that works out that way is against each other.
5. Matt Brown vs Condit/Kampmann Winner
Where did Matt Brown come from? Buried into UFC obscurity only known for his heart and punching power he arose into stardom this past year by reeling off a six-fight win streak, five coming by way of knockout. Brown has some serious firepower in his hands and has shown that an old dog can learn new tricks.
I can really only assume that Brown did some soul searching at 12-11 to figure out what his future would be. And I suppose he decided that he wants to be a fire, so he whipped himself into shape and has put up a serious of knockouts that would make Anderson Silva smile. The only knock there is, is that Brown hasn't exactly fought the game's top opposition in that time period, but his manner of victories makes one feel as though he is definitely capable of hanging with the big guys.
Wanna put on a show and bridge that gap between jobbers and studs? Put Matt Brown in the cage against the winner of Carlos Condit vs. Martin Kampmann. Both guys can strike, both guys are fun to watch and have great stand-up games. Matt Brown and Carlos Condit swinging for the fences wildly is something we can all only hope for. It seems kind of a no-brainer. Brown hasn't established himself against a top-five guy in his division yet, and it'd be silly to consider him a title contender until he does so. Give him his chance; if he wins he's in title contention. If he loses, then he is a mid-level guy for his career. Which isn't a bad thing, every division needs its gatekeepers.
4. John Howard vs Cung Le
As a fight, this one isn't as likely as it is something I'd want to see. John Howard is a likeable guy in my opinion. I like him. I like his fighting style, his personality, his heart. Who else has those characteristics? Cung Le. I like everything about Cung Le as well. Both guys have granite chins and bricks for fists. Cung Le is a world-class kickboxer and John Howard is no slouch when it comes to his muay thai game either.
Howard pulled himself from UFC rejection back into the organization and was handed a chance to fight in his hometown of Boston. Howard didn't disappoint. Walking into UFC Fight Night 26 as a 4-to-1 underdog, not many people were placing bets on Howard besting the young Uriah Hall. Those people were not me, and those people were wrong. I had faith in Howard's hands and although he didn't, "stand and bang" as promised he still managed to grind out a split decision victory at home. But Howard is 6-1 in his last seven fights, so he's definitely a talent on the rise. But with Uriah Hall being his only UFC competition in years it might not be spectacular enough to market him with.
Cung Le is exciting. He isn't the fastest fighter but he's one of the most agile. His slick usage of strikes and angles allow him to slip the fiercest blows and sling back the heaviest. With a career record of 9-2 the 41-year-old Le isn't getting any younger, but hasn't put his UFC career to bed yet. It's been sometime since his last fight, a sensational KO victory over Rich Franklin in China, and he may end up waiting a whole year between fights which is a long time for a guy of Le's age. Le has also been very active in the movie business, featuring in several "kung-fu" movies, which has also cut into his training and potential match time.
Cung Le would probably be lying to you if he told you he saw himself competing in MMA much longer and there's probably a very short ticker set on his career already. Let him stand in the center of the cage and trade big blows with a fellow middleweight who also has massive hands. They could swing for the fences, put on a show and see who gets knocked out first. It may give Le a shot to walk out with an unforgettable victory to close his career.
3. Michael Johnson vs Mac Danzig
Michael Johnson stunned the world with the way he handled Joe Lauzon. Even though John Howard walked in the biggest underdog of the night, I think most people found the Hall vs. Howard fight to be much more even on paper than the Johnson vs. Lauzon bout. Instead, the Boston born and bred Joe Lauzon came out like a spitfire determined to snatch a victory in his hometown against Michael Johnson and instead got absolutely shellacked. The match was never close with Johnson womping on Lauzon the entire way. One judge even scored the fight 30-25, giving Johnson two 10-8 rounds.
Johnson's showing was impressive and it certainly stings Joe Lauzon a whole lot to eat that loss, but Johnson isn't exactly on his road to UFC super stardom. The win was in dominating fashion and we got to see aspects of "The Menace's" striking game we've never seen before. The truth is Johnson is still around the same level of quality he was until he can mount at least one more similar performance. Johnson needs to show that he's consistent and that his dissection of Joe Lauzon wasn't just a flash in the pan.
Mac Danzig should be a quality opponent for Johnson. Danzig has knockout power, but he also has submission skills. A jack-of-all-trades master of none best describes Danzig and Johnson seems to fit a similar mold. The two have similar skill levels and the fight should even out well. After some quality fights Danzig took a step up in competition only to be kicked back down after losses to Takanori Gomi and Melvin Guillard. Though the Takanori Gomi fight was only a split-decision loss the Guillard one was a devastating knockout. Should Danzig get tagged with another loss, I can't guarantee he'd be out of the organization but it'd definitely be a concern.
Johnson could use another win, Danzig could absolutely use another win. It's a solid fight for each fighter and it should entertain the fans.
2. Brad Pickett vs Demetrious Johnson or Someone Else at 125 pounds
His nickname is One Punch and it's because Brad Pickett could knock the tracks of a tank. At 135 pounds, he's potentially one of the hardest hitting bantamweights in the world, and Pickett is one of the biggest stars in British MMA. Coming off a loss hurts, but it's not in the end of the world when you lose to a fellow top-five bantamweight. Pickett's options are slim though. Holding losses to Renan Barao, Scott Jorgensen (who I also think should move down) and Eddie Wineland leave only a few options for fights. Coming off a loss against Michael McDonald means Pickett has even less opportunities in his own division.
For me, Brad Pickett needs to slash a little more weight and make it down to flyweight. I think most people would agree that Pickett's future won't be at 135 and that his title chances at the division are slim to none especially if a healthy Domick Cruz can return and if any Featherweights dejected by Aldo drop down. Pickett already holds a win by unanimous decision in his career over current flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. If Pickett can move down to 125 then he's an instant contender, although coming off a loss in his last fight he may need a fight or two to gain a title fight.
Ideally, Brad Pickett would be moving down in weight class regardless of his outcome against Michael McDonald. However, had he beaten McDonald he might be moving down into an immediate title shot. As things stand now, I think Johnson defends his title against John Lineker while Pickett picks up a win against Jussier Formiga. Then let Pickett have a chance at winning a second match against Johnson and finally spice up the flyweight division.
1. Conor McGregor vs Diego Brandao
I don't have much to write for this one. I think it's just plain obvious. It has to be. Both were riding a pretty big hype train for preliminary card fighters and both delivered in wowing fashion. Conor McGregor ran through Max Holloway and despite not being able to get the finish he thoroughly impressed the crowd. The mass hysteria behind the feisty Irishman seems to be warranted as he exhibits some of the most creative striking you're ever likely to see inside the eight-sided cage.
Diego Brandao is a man with bad intentions. He has a mean power and a urge to cause other people bodily harm. The problem Brandao has is pacing himself. McGregor has the ability to calculate his maneuvers and kind of throw powerful shots in bursts to both keep his opponent off balance and himself fresh with energy. Brandao however, operates more like a freight train. He plows forward hurling his arms and legs at his opponent trying his damnedest to get a knockout. It's supremely entertaining but by the second round he begins to tire. It doesn't seem that Brandao's conditioning is particularly bad, it just seems that he has a poor way of picking when to expel his energy. Instead of readying himself for a 15 minute bout, Brandao goes out like he plans to finish in 15 seconds.
I'm not sure exactly how exciting this fight would be in actuality, but in theory this would be a two-minute war that would win Fight of the Year despite ending in Round 1. You ever wanna see a double knockout, I feel like these two would be the ones to do it. Each fighter has a lot to prove but has a lot of hype behind them. They're both young and hungry, stick in the cage against each other a loss won't damn either one, a win will certainly help and the prospect of exciting the fans is great indeed.
James Wright is a MMA Writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter for news and updates.