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Who’s Next? Playing Matchmaker for UFC 221 Fighters

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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; it is me stating that if I was in control of the UFC matchmaking how I would match these fighters next. I will give my matchups for all the fighters of the UFC 221.

Main Card Fighters:

Yoel Romero: Robert Whittaker

I have a very hard time just giving Yoel Romero a title fight against Robert Whittaker due to the fact that he missed weight for his fight against Luke Rockhold. I give him some slack due to the fight being short notice, and that he never missed weight in his nine UFC fights before fighting Rockhold. However, he is clearly the second best fighter in that division and probably the person that has the best chance of beating Whittaker. You also have to factor in who would replace Romero in a title fight. He recently has beaten top contenders Chris Weidman, Jacare Souza, and Rockhold. I guess you could give Kelvin Gastelum a chance, but he recently lost t Weidman. It looks like the Cuban wrestler is the only pick. Make the matchup, ignore that he missed weight, and pray that he makes it for the title fight.

 

Luke Rockhold: Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at 205 lbs

I doubt that my pick of next opponent for Rockhold will be a popular pick. The former middleweight champion has lost two out of his last three fights, including being brutally knocked out in two of them. Even the fight that he won against David Branch, he was rocked badly, and Branch is not known for his punching power. Rockhold has spoken about moving up to Light Heavyweight and I think now is the time. He doesn’t want to fight his good friend Daniel Cormier, who is the champion at Light Heavyweight, but Cormier has already stated that he is retiring in early 2019.

I know the question asked is, why would a middleweight with chin issues, moved up in weight were they punch even harder? Do they? Light Heavyweight has never been as shallow as it is right now. Rockhold could move to the back of the line at middleweight and have rematches with guys like Weidman, and Jacare or he could throw himself in the shall end the new division. I say match him up against former Light Heavyweight champion, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Rockhold seems to have enough left in the tank to beat the Brazilian legend. Add one or two more wins and Rockhold could be looking at a title shot.

If Rockhold remains at middleweight, I would match him with Kelvin Gastelum.

 

Curtis Blaydes: Alistair Overeem

The UFC brass must have been ecstatic on Saturday night when Curtis Blaydes beat Mark Hunt to pick up the biggest win of his career. First, they would have been happy to see disgruntled Hunt lose. Second, the would be even happier to have some nice young blood in the heavyweight division. Blaydes is a very big heavyweight that moves quickly on his feet. He is a powerful wrestler that showed an iron chin and tremendous heart on Saturday night. With his improving striking and newfound commitment to nutrition, I believe Blaydes could challenge for the title in the near future. The UFC heavyweight division is loaded with old Dinosaurs that have populated the top of the division for while. Blaydes beat a legend in Hunt, let’s see if he can hunt down another one. I would match Blaydes up with Alistair Overeem next. If he defeats “the Demolition Man” (still a better nickname than the Reem), he could punch his ticket to a title fight.

 

Mark Hunt: Andrei Arlovski or Retire

Mark Hunt is 43 years old. He has been fighting with the UFC executives for two years now and has spoken about permanent effects to his brain from fighting for some many years. I think he should have announced his retirement Saturday night in his home region of Australia, where he is revered by the local fans. However, it doesn’t appear that the New Zealand legend wants to hang it up. He has two fights left on his UFC contract. He seems set to fight them out and then continue to fight with another organization.Somehow the long-reigning heavyweight has never faced off against former champion,  Andrei Arlovski. Arlovski is scheduled to face Stefen Struve next but win or lose, I think he should face off against Hunt (if Arlovski doesn’t retire himself). Hunt’s knockout power is unmatched, and I would expect to see a highlight reel walk off by Hunt when he touches Arlovski’s glass jaw.

 

 

Tai Tuivasa: Shamil Abdurakhimov

We talked about adding new blood to the UFC heavyweight division, and Tai Tuivasa is another addition. The UFC has had a recent problem with creating stars in the heavyweight division, the 24 year old Tuivasa could finally be the young heavyweight they have been looking for. The Australian heavyweight is athletic, has a killer instinct, and acts like the Frat boy (he drank beer from a fans sneaker while celebrating his win). Tuivasa reminds me of MMA’s version of the NFL’s Rob Gronkowski. I fear the UFC might rush the young talent, based on the division being so shallow. I hope they don’t. Matchup his up with Russian heavyweight, Shamil Abdurakhimov. The Russian wouldn’t be able to match Tuivasa’s athleticism, but the veteran has enough tricks up his sleeve to make it a difficult fight for Tuivasa. Let’s see if the “Meathead” (a title I think Tuivasa would embrace) can pick up another win.

 

Cyril Asker: Chase Sherman

Cyril Asker is tough as hell, most heavyweights would have not been able to take as much punishment from Tuivasa as he did. That said, he isn’t close to being a title contender. Match him up with Chase Sherman as the two help fill up a card.

 

Jake Mathews: Winner of Thiago Alves vs Curtis Millender

After back to back losses to Kevin Lee and Andrew Holbrook, many had written off Jake Mathews. Many thought he was a bust. Perhaps we shouldn’t have written off a 23 year old. Since Mathews have moved up to 170 lbs, he has won back to back fights. His win over Li Jingliang was his best performance of his career. Mathews, who has always been known for his wrestling, showed great improvements from his striking. He took the best shots from the heavy handed Li Jingliang and fired back his own shots. I still believe Mathews needs to find a better team, but cheers to him for looking better. I would match him up against the winner of former title challenger, Thiago Alves and top prospect Curtis Millender.

 

Li Jingliang: Erick Silva

Damn, what a disappointing performance from Li Jingliang. He wasn’t dominated by Jake Mathews, but many expected him to win. The UFC was hoping that Jingliang would become the Chinese contender that they were desperate to find. I even see respectable handicappers that max bet Jingliang. I ain’t bashing them, I agreed with them. Jingliang deserves a huge step down in competition. I would match him with Erick Silva next.

 

Tyson Pedro: Winner of Corey Anderson vs Patrick Cummins

Damn that was a beautiful Kimura by Tyson Pedro. I was surprised at how many people jumped off the Tyson Pedro bandwagon after he lost to Ilir Latifi. His ceiling is probably the bottom of the top 10 rankings, but he isn’t a card filler. That sounds a lot like Corey Anderson and Patrick Cummins. Have Pedro fight the winner of their matchup.

 

Saparbek Safarov: Dominick Reyes

Saparbek Safarov is simply a card filler. Match him up against Dominick Reyes, so the top prospect can continue to make footage for his highlight reel.

 

Prelims Fighters:

  • “Maestro” Dong Hyun Kim: Jordan Rinaldi
  • Damien Brown: Matt Frevola
  • Israel Adesanya: Ryan Janes
  • Rob Wilkinson: Trevin Giles
  • Alexander Volkanovski: Shane Burgos
  • Jeremy Kennedy: Enrique Barzola
  • Jussier “Formiga” Da Silva: Matheus Nicolau
  • Ben Nguyen: Deiveson Figueiredo
  • Ross Pearson: Marco Polo Reyes
  • Mizuto Hirota: Release From the UFC
  • Jose Quinonez: Petr Yan
  • Teruto Ishihara: Bring In Ricky Simon from LFA and Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series
  • Luke Jumeau: Lyman Good
  • Daichi Abe: Bring In James Nakashima from LFA

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