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 winners UFC 206 and the UFC Fight Night 102 winners with their next opponents.
Michelle Waterson: Rose Namajunas
The Karate Hottie has been in the fight game for a long time. She had her first pro fight almost 10 years ago. She has a ton of experience, is a great athlete, and has a well rounded ground game. Waterson has a traditional karate style to her striking. She had fast hands, and even faster kicks. She is strong in the clinch, where she explodes with knees. The best part of her game was displayed Saturday Night. She has an underrated takedown game, and a very slick BJJ game.
Between Waterson’s fighting and good looks (she has been a model since 2004), she is very marketable for the division and will be showcased in marque fights. I think Rose Namajunas, who is also very marketable fighter. Both are ranked in the top 10, both are well rounded, and both put on great fights. Let’s match them up.
Paige VanZant: Jessice Penne
VanZant is one of the true crossover stars of MMA. Her stunning good looks, and perky personality is always going to draw people in. However, she still has many holes in her game. Most of her wins come from outworking her opponent and being a better athlete. VanZant is still very green, and fights wild. She will lose position in an attempt to land her own offense. Former title challenger, Jessica Penne would be the right matchup for VanZant. Penne has the experience advantage on VanZant, but Penne is somebody that VanZant could beat with her pure athleticism, while still working on her technical skills. At only 22 years old, there is still time for VanZant to improve her skills.
Mickey Gall: Dan Hardy
Gall has only 4 fights in his career, and he has torn through all his foes. Gall might lack experience, but he is a master at marketing. He has managed to get in the UFC after only 1 fight. He was able to get a mega fight against Phil “CM Punk” Brooks in his 3rd fight, and then in his 4th fight he was able to be in a co-main event against another high marketable fight against Sage Northcutt. Now, he wants Dan Hardy. So far, who Gall wants he gets. I like the gimmick. Win a fight and pick your next opponent. Hardy hasn’t fought in over 4 years due to several injuries. He has talked about returning to fighting for a long time. This fight makes so much sense. If Gall wins, you put another big name on his resume. Hardy was a former title contender before injury. If Hardy wins, you slowly build him back to the fighter he was. If he can’t beat a young, green Gall, then he isn’t close to the fighter he once was. If Hardy is really returning, Gall should be his opponent.
Sage Northcutt: Phil “CM Punk” Brooks
Northcutt is a crazy athlete. He does things that so many people can’t do because of his extensive traditional martial arts background. He has very fast hands, and uses his kicks well. However, he has a huge whole on the ground. His takedown defense isn’t good. He has been taken down in all his UFC fights but his debut. In both of his loses, he has been submitted. At only 20 years old, he still has time to develop. Don’t completely jump off the bandwagon yet. However, many people are suggesting that they send him down to a smaller organization to develop his skills against lesser competition. The big issue is that Northcutt has one of the biggest contracts in the UFC. They are stuck with his developmental years.
So who is the only fighter in the UFC that isn’t UFC caliber and can be used as a stepping stone to develop skills? Who is the only fighter that is a stepping stone but still a big enough name to keep Northcutt in the spotlight? Yes, CM Punk is. I get it, I don’t think CM Punk should be fighting in the UFC either, but in his recent interview with Ariel Helwani, he mentioned that he still has another fight on his UFC contract. He says he expects his next fight to be in the UFC. Fix two problems at once. Give Punk his last fight, while helping Northcutt develop his skills. It’s the best I could do.
Brad Pickett: Joe Soto
Brad Pickett was in a really tough spot on Saturday. He faced Faber, in his last fight, in Faber’s home town. I don’t think many guys volunteered for that. I think the UFC owes him one. Pickett has been in the sport for a very long time. He has talked about retirement himself. The UFC returns to Pickett’s home city of London in March. Put him on that card as part of his retirement fight. Joe Soto would make sense. He once fought for the title, and has moments of looking like a top talent. Either Soto moves towards the top 10 rankings or Pickett gets a great ending to his career.
Alan Jouban: Kamaru Usman
I couldn’t believe that Jouban was the underdog on Saturday to Mike Perry. Jouban is a nice talent. He is a accurate striker, that has deceiving power, nice kicks to legs and body, has good takedown defense, and good submissions. He also used a perfect game plan to beat Perry. Jouban is now 6-2 in the UFC, and has won 3 in a row. He is nearing the top 10 rankings. A matchup against Kamaru Usman makes a lot of sense to me. Usman is also close to being ranked in the top 10. He won the Ultimate Fighter season 21 and is a perfect 4-0 in the UFC. I would like to see Jouban’s accurate striking game vs Usman’s power wrestling game. The winner of that matchup would really start making some buzz.
Mike Perry: Thiago Alves
People loves Perry. It might be his bad guy attitude, or his willingness to slug it out. Perry throws a lot of power and needs to find an opponent willing to stand in front of him. Former title contender Thiago Alves might be the guy. It just seems like a fun fight to me.