Who’s Next? Matching Up UFC Fight Night 99 and 100 Main Card Winners with Their Next Opponents
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 guys next. I will give my matchups for all main card winners of UFC Fight Night 99 and 100 with their next opponents.
Gegard Mousasi: Luke Rockhold. Since losing to Urijah Hall in September of 2015, Mousasi has been on a destruction tour, winning three fights in a row, and having three straight stoppages. Mousasi has been a part of the sport for a long time, and has probable never been closer to a UFC title shot then he is right now. A matchup with former middleweight champ Luke Rockhold in March would make a ton of sense.Both guys have been ranked in the top 10 for a long time, and surprisingly never faced each other, even though both was in Strike Force before the UFC. A win over the other, would give them rights to a title shot.
Stevie Ray: Abel Trujillo. Ray is the top prospect coming out of Scotland. He is now 4-1 inside the octagon, and just picked up the biggest win of his career by beating Ross Pearson. I think Trujillo would be the proper step up, who could test Ray in ways that Pearson couldn’t. First, Trujillo is much bigger than Pearson, holds one punch power, and has a much better offensive and defensive wrestling than Pearson has. Beating Trujillo would be a huge achievement for Ray
Alexander Volkov: Stefan Struve. Four years ago, Volkov was thought of as the next big thing in the heavyweight division and a great find for Bellator, but a few upset wins stopped all the buzz. Volkov has been up in down since, but made a successful UFC debut against a tough Timothy Johnson. At 6’7″ Volkov’s height and range is a tough matchup for anybody. But wouldn’t a matchup between 6’7″ Volkov, vs 7 foot tall Stefan Struve be fun. The UFC could market it as two giants slugging it out. Both guys are probable ranked around each other (15-25 range). Let’s do it.
Artem Lobov: Alex Caceras. Lobov looked like a completely different fighter than he did in his first three UFC fights. His standup was always his strength, but it looks much better. Lobov pulled a big upset win over Teruto Ishihara, beating the Japanese fighter in a mostly standup fight. Lobov established his range, and was able to patter Ishihara with punches and kicks from range. However, in his last three fights, they have matched Lobov against fighters that mostly uses a similar boxing strategy. Alex Caceras would really challenge the improvements we have recently seen in Lobov. Caceras is a lengthy fighter, that has good hands and kicks, fights good in the clinch and can also take his opponents down. Caceras would be my pick here.
Ryan Bader: Daniel Cormier or Phil Davis. I placed two fighters here because Bader is a free agent and he is just as likely to sign with Bellator as he is to sign with the UFC. If Bader signs with the Bellator, Bader would instantly become the biggest challenge for light heavyweight champion, Phil Davis. Bader has beaten Davis in the past, and would be best fight for Davis.
I know nobody wants to see Ryan Bader get a title fight, but he should fight Daniel Cormier if Cormier regarless of of he defends his title against Anthony Johnson next month or not. First, if Cormier wins, who else deserves a shot? Cormier would have two wins over Johnson. Alexander Gustafsson has been so inactive. Glover Texeira is coming off a lost. Jimi Manuwa has one significant win in his career. Sure, Jon Jones is an option, but does the UFC want to hold up the division for another 7 months until Jones is eligible to return from his suspension. Plus can they really trust Jones to not do something dumb from now until then? Bader and Cormier have been talking trash ever since Bader interrupted Cormier’s post press conference in May of 2015.
If Cormier loses, can we really justify Bader facing Johnson, even after Johnson recently ran through Bader? We could if Bader beats Cormier first. We could also say Cormier would earn a trilogy fight with Johnson with a win over Bader.
Thomas Almeida: Michael McDonald. Even though Almeida recently got knocked out by Cody Garbrandt, I still think Almeida is a great prospect that has all the tools to be a future champion. At only 25 years old, he still has room for improvements. But before Almeida was such a hyped up prospect at bantamweight, Michael McDonald was the hyped up prospect at the weight class first. McDonald was quickly rushed to a title fight at only 22 years old. It might surprise many, but McDonald is still only 25 years old. Why not put the two young guys against each other. A win for either one would surely bump the winner back into the top 10 rankings and a threat for the title.
Claudia Gadelha: Carla Esparza. I don’t really have a good reason for this matchup. The UFC is in a tough position when it comes to what to do with Gadelha. She won’t fight for the title any time soon, as long as Joanna Jedrzejczyk is champion because she lost to her twice. Esparza is ranked in the top 10 and also failed against Jedrzejczyk. Let them fight against each other, with the winner being the number 1 contender in case somebody surprisingly beats Jedrzejczyk. Plus Gadelha has called for a fight against Esparza.
Krzysztof Jotko: Vitor Belfort It was really hard to tell if Jotko looked really good and is a fighter on the rise, or Thales Leites looked really bad and is declining quickly. Unfortunately for Jotko, most of the top fighters in the division are already tide up in matchups, I thought about matching Jotko vs former middleweight champion, Chris Weidman, but I don’t want to rush the Polish fighter to fast. Why not see if Jotko could add another big name like Vitor Belfort to his win column, before getting a top 10 ranked opponent.
Kamaru Usman: Gunner Nelson. The former Ultimate Fighter winner has looked sensational since getting the call up to the big league. However calling out Demain Maia was a dumb idea. Before he gets Maia, why not try and beat the poor man’s version of Demain Maia in Gunner Nelson first.
Sergio Moraes: Thiago Alves. Who would have thought that Moraes would be 5-1-1 in the UFC, well he is. I am not that very impressed with him. Perhaps he can prove me wrong. I think he should welcome back his fellow countryman, Thiago Alves back to the welterweight division (If he ever really left).