Saturday, November 27, 2021

UFC 192 Matchmaking For The Notable Winners & Losers

There was a thrilling main event and there were great prelims, but also a mostly ho-hum batch of fights on the main card underneath the title fight. With that in mind, let’s do some matchmaking for the most straight up interesting fighters on the UFC 192 card instead of just the main card fighters….

Daniel Cormier and Ryan Bader: This one is pretty simple for Cormier. If Jon Jones is coming back at light heavyweight in time to be the next challenger, he gets the shot. If he isn’t, then Ryan Bader gets the next title shot. But if Bader doesn’t get the next shot, what do you do with him? Do you sit him out? Do you give him a stiff test lik Anthony Johnson? Or do you give him someone relatively beatable, like the aging Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, since they need contenders and can’t risk killing him ff?

Alexander Gustafsson and Rashad Evans: Well, for Gustafsson, Evans is a good bounceback fight. For Evans, it depends on how much longer he wants to fight. If he wants a top opponent, Gustafsson it is. If he wants to move outside of the very elite of the division, Shogun would make for a big name main event that could carry a UFC Fight Night in Brazil.

Julianna Pena: She didn’t blow Jessica Eye out, but she won pretty decisively. She’s still super raw, especially standing, but she’s now near the top of the division. Given the way they’re booking Ronda Rousey right now (challengers don’t need to go through top contenders) and Pena is clearly someone they want to be a Rousey opponent sooner or later, figuring out who’s next for her is a bit tricky. Of the fighters ranked above Eye, Alexis Davis makes the most sense, an experienced former challenger who Pena could conceivably out-athlete.

Yair Rodriguez: He had a really good showing against someone who’s a tougher opponent than he got credit for. He’s clearly coming along fast, but is it fast enough to match him up with someone in or just outside the top 15? Probably not. Brian Ortega feels like the default “exciting featherweight prospect” opponent right now so I feel slightly hesitant to suggest him as an opponent again, but he really does feel like a gopd choice. Otherwise, the winner of Sam Sicilia vs. Dooho Choi in Seoul would make for a solid incremental step up.

Albert Tumenov: He was expected to beat Alan Jouban, but maybe not quite as quickly and violently as he did. He asked for a top 15 contender next and definitely deserves a shot at one. Based on who’s ranked and who’s available, Neil Magny would be the best choice among fighters coming off a win and a really intriguing fight on paper. If they just want to build him up and are fine with an opponent coming off a loss, that seems like a job for Jake Ellenberger even though it would be an absolutely terrible fight for Ellenberger to take.

Adriano Martins: Thanks to getting a fight with Donald Cerrone before he was ready and losing via brutal knockout, he might be the most underrated fighter on the roster. If he’s not a top 15 lightweight, he’s close, and should get a ranked opponent next. The winner of Dustin Poirier vs. Joseph Duffy should fit the bill.

Rose Namajunas: After way too long of a layoff, she got the bounceback she needed with a great technical submission win over Angela Hill. Matchmaking for her is tricky because her ranking (#4 contender) is based largely on potential (and, to an extent, Ultimate Fighter success,  which is not a reliable predictor of actual UFC success). Of the ranked fighters coming off a win, only Juliana Lima really fits as an opponent for her. If they want to build her up with another unranked fighter, then maybe she could fight Alexandra Albu on a European card.

Sage Northcutt: He ran through Francisco Trevino like a buzzsaw.  Right now, the key is less his opponent and more getting him on the undercard of a Ronda Rousey fight to expose him to the female audience that comes only for Rousey fights. Last night, he expressed interest in fighting on the UFC 193 card in Australia next month,  which is is headlined by Rousey. Just throw him on the card against the most suitable possible opponent.

Sergio Pettis: He’s now a top 10(-ish) flyweight, though while he’s improved, he still needs to make a lot of adjustments. He needs to keep moving up slowly, and Ray Borg would be a nice incremental jump. If that’s too big a step (Chris Cariaso, while top 10, was a very favorable stylistic matchup), then Pettis vs. the winner of Patrick Holohan vs. Louis Smolka would be a fun fight .


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