Who’s Next: Match Making the UFC on Fox 23 Main Card Fighters With Next Opponents

By Keith Shillan

So we have all done it after a certain fight. We have all made suggestions on who a certain fighter should fight next after a match. This article isn’t me looking into a crystal ball and predicting who the UFC will matchup up next, but it is me stating that if I was in control of the UFC matchmaking, I would match these fighters next. I will give my matchups for all main card fighters for UFC on Fox 23.

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Valentina Shevchenko: Amanda Nunes

Okay, so this one is obvious. Shevchenko has won 3 of her 4 UFC fights with wins over big names Sarah Kaufman, Holly Holm, and Julianna Pena. Shevchenko’s only loss in the UFC was to current UFC women’s bantamweight champion, Amanda Nunes back in March. Nunes has torn through everyone in her way the last two years, except one fighter, Shevchenko. Sure, she beat Shevchenko. However, Shevchenko took Nunes to a decision. She dropped the first two rounds, but was having her way with Nunes in the third round. Nunes drastically slowed  in the third round, and Shevchenko was getting stronger. What would happen in a 5 round championship fight. The most impressive thing is how Shevchenko has won her last two fights. She outstruck the striker in Holm, and out grappled the grappler in Pena. She has earned the title shot, and the UFC showed they agreed when they brought Pena in the octagon for the post fight interview.

Julianna Pena: Leslie Smith

Things didn’t go Pena’s way on Saturday Night, but the loss is only her first in the UFC. Finding a matchup for Pena is tough, because the women’s bantamweight division is scarce for true title contenders. With Ronda Rousey possible retiring, Holly Holm and Germaine De Randamie moving to featherweight (with others likely joining them), Sara McMann and Liz Carmouche facing each other, Alexis Davis coming off a loss, and Pena recently beating Cat Zingano; there isn’t much left over. So let’s match Pena against the always game Leslie Smith. Smith is coming off a win after losing to Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino. She has a decent size name because she was in a marquee fight against Cyborg. She is also an exciting fighter. She likes to push a pace like Pena, and I would expect nonstop action between these two. A win over Smith would push Pena into a bigger fight in the near future.

Jorge Masvidal: Nick Diaz

The long time American Top Team fighter, Masvidal picked up the biggest name (Donald Cerrone) and win of his career, and demanded another big name. Why not Nick Diaz? There was a recent rumor that Diaz is returning really soon. How can you not match these guys up? They are so similar. Both guys have strong boxing. Masvidal lands crisp precision strikes, while Diaz uses a relentless pace with looping choppy strikes that slowly takes their toll.

They also have very similar attitudes. Diaz has the don’t care, rebel from Stockton attitude, while Masvidal coming up having backyard fights in Southern Florida. Imagine these guys in a co-main event of a Pay Per View, or headline fight of an Ultimate Fight Night show. It is worth the matchup to just hear both guys during the prefight press conference call each other not real fighters.

Donald Cerrone: Dong Hyun Kim

The Donald Cerrone welterweight title hopes train came to an abrupt halt after being upset by Jorge Masvidal. Cerrone has bounced back from loses before and has constantly over the years been able to maintain himself in the rankings while holding on to a cult like fanbase. Cerrone is a great striker, with underrated wrestling and a fantastic submission game. Dong Hyun Kim is also a well rounded fighter that deserves to face a big name, considering he has won 7 out of his last 8 fights inside the UFC, with his only loss coming to current UFC welterweight champion, Tyron Woodley. A win for Kim would finally put him on the shortlist for a title fight, while a win for Cerrone would put him back in the title contention talk. Makes sense to me.

Francis Ngannou: Ben Rothwell

Everyone believes that Ngannou is the next big thing in the UFC division. With guys like Fabricio Werdum,  Josh Barnett. Ben Rothwell, Alistair Overeem. and Mark Hunt all appearing to be at the twilight of their careers, and former heavyweight champion, Cain Velasquez always injured, Ngannou in a title fight might come really fast. However, everyone must remember that he is still green, having only made his UFC debut 13 months ago. I don’t want to see him get ruined by being rushed to soon. Match him up against Rothwell. I don’t think Rothwell would be much of a problem for Ngannou, but would add some more experience for the top prospect.

Andrei Arlovski: Should Retire

The former Heavyweight Champion had a nice little run in his 2nd stint in his UFC career, but the time has come to hang it up. He is 37 years old, has lost 4 fights in a row, and has been knocked out (or TKO’d) 10 times in his career. His chin is gone, and shouldn’t suffer any more damage.

Jason Knight: Ryan Hall

What a performance from Knight. Hick Diaz as he was nicknamed by matchmaker, Sean Shelby, had a breakout performance on Saturday. The win by Knight over Alex Caceras, which he dominated on the ground, now puts him at 16-2 with a 3-1 UFC career. At only 24 years old and on a 3 fight winning streak, Knight continues to improve. I am sure not many will like my matchup with Ryan Hall. I would like to see how Knight would do with someone that is an even better grappler than him. Plus if Hall continued to drop to the ground like he did against Gray Maynard, Knight standing over him talking trash could be much watch TV.

Alex Caceras: Hacran Diaz

Caceras has been up in down his entire career. He has yet to go on much of a winning streak inside the octagon. He has a 12-10 overall record and a 7-8 with 1 NC UFC record. At this point of his career, Caceras is nothing more than a card filler. Hacran Dias has a similar UFC career. He has a 23-11 record with a 3-4 UFC record. Match these two featherweights up in an early Fight Pass fight to help fill a card.

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