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 winners of The Ultimate Fighter 24 finale winners with their next opponents.
Demetrious Johnson: Wilson Reis.
We all want to see Johnson move up and face the winner of Dominick Cruz and Cody Garbrandt, but this article is supposed to be somewhat realistic. Johnson has no interest in moving up in weight. He has stated that he wants to beat Anderson Silva’s title defense record. So I am matching him up with flyweights.
Joseph Benavidez is a better fighter than Wilson Reis. He has made a strong argument for a title fight, and is a bigger threat to Johnson, than Reis is. However, there are two issues. First, he has already had two chances at Johnson and couldn’t beat him. I expect him to eventually face Johnson a third time, but not yet. Second, Reis was scheduled to face Johnson in July, but Johnson got hurt. You can argue if Reis deserved a shot or not, but regardless, he did nothing wrong to lose his title shot. Reis gives you an opponent that hasn’t had a chance to solve the Johnson riddle, plus you keep your word to a fighter. Sometimes you got to do the moral thing.
Obviously, this is if Reis beats Ulka Sasaki next month
Joseph Benavidez: Kyoji Horiguchi
Benavidez claims that he is only interested in fighting Johnson, well he will be disappointed reading this. Horiguchi is 18-2 in his career. He has won 12 of his last 13 fights, and is 7-1 in the UFC with his only lost coming to Demetrious Johnson. Horiguchi just dispatched of Ali Bagautinov, another former title contender. Horiguchi beat Bagautinov in a one side affair, in Horiguchi’s best win of his career.
Horiguchi has a lot of similar strengths as Benavidez. He is a pressure striker, who mixes in nice takedowns. and is a strong grappler from the top position.
A win for either fighter would surely push the fighter to a title shot.
Jorge Masvidal: Carlos Condit
Masvidal is one of the most underrated fighters in the game. Masvidal is a very good technical striker, that works behind a jab, and has a very good counter left hook. Masvidal mixes in leg kicks, and is good at slipping punches. If he could gain a little bit of a killer instinct, we could be looking at a title contender. However, the long time veteran is craft enough, to be a threat to anybody in the division.
Masvidal called out Donald Cerrone. If Cerrone loses this weekend to Matt Brown, then that fights makes sense. However, if he wins (which I expect), he would be 4-0 in the UFC welterweight division, and probable looking for a bigger named fighter than Masvidal. Carlos Condit on the other hand, is a top 10 fighter, that has lost back to back fights. A fight with Masvidal, is the perfect challenge for Condit to attempt to get back on the wagon. Condit’s footwork, long strikes and powerful left hook and kicks, would be a very interesting stylistic matchup against the counter striking game of Masvidal.
Jared Cannonier: Ilir Latifi
Cannonier looked fantastic in his debut at light heavyweight. He had good footwork, a nice ability to avoid strikes (except when he was letting himself get hit), while landing powerful shots himself. He worked in kicks, and displayed some scrambling skills of getting off the bottom. One of the most impressive things was his cardio game for such a big boy.
The talent at light heavyweight is currently depleted, and in need of some serious new talent. Cannonier along with guys like Devin Clark and Tyson Pedro are some of the guys that could bring in some fresh blood to a stale weight class.
I expect these guys to get fast tracked into some big fights. Ilir Latifi is coming off a knock out loss to Ryan Bader, after starting to build some of his own hype. Latifi is a good wrestler, that works good in the clinch, and also throws heavy leather. I would like to see how Cannonier would matchup with a UFC fighter that has some big fight experience, like Latifi has .
Sara McMann: Holly Holm
McMann picked up the biggest win of her career by submitting the very tough Alexis Davis. McMann displayed an improved striking game, and a surprising submission game to go with her elite wrestling skills. McMann’s ability to take the fight to the mat, whenever she feels, will always make her a tough matchup. She called for a title fight after her win, which is really unlikely with fighters like Valentina Shevchenko and Julianna Pena ahead of her in the rankings.
Holly Holm is a huge name after beating Ronda Rousey, so I expect McMann would be happy to face her. Holm is coming off back to back loses, so she needs a win badly. A win over a Olympic Silver medalist would get people talking again. However, McMann would be a tough challenge because of her wrestling skills. Holm would also be a tough challenge for McMann, because of her fast feet, long range, and elite boxing and kicking ability.
A win for either fighter, would put them back in contender status.
Brandon Moreno: Ali Bagautinov
Moreno is so young, but so skilled. He proved that his short notice win against Louis Smolka, wasn’t a fluke, by beating Ryan Benoit on Saturday. Moreno has very fast hands, with nice power in both fist. His ability to outwrestle a good wrestler like Benoit was very impressive. Moreno pushes a good pace, and seems to be oozing with confidence. He called for a top 10 fighter, why not match him up with a bottom end top 10 fighter like Ali Bagautinov. Bagautinov has a lot of experience, is very strong and is well rounded. He a is pretty technical Muay Thai fighter, who can mix in takedowns.
Let’s see how Moreno does against a fighter with title contending experience like Bagautinov. It is a big hurdle, but one that Moreno has asked for.