Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Playing Matchmaker For UFC Minneapolis Winners

UFC on ESPN 3 turned out to be a great card for the fight fans in Minneapolis and those watching on ESPN+ as it featured a number of vicious finishes and exciting fights. The main card featured six bouts, and below are my picks on who the winners of those fights should face next.

Francis Ngannou vs. winner of Daniel Cormier/Stipe Miocic

The main event of the evening featured another standout performance by Francis Ngannou, who needed only 71 seconds to viciously stop Junior dos Santos with punches in the first round. Ngannou has now won three straight fights by first-round TKO over JDS, Cain Velasquez and Curtis Blaydes, making his two-fight losing skid to Stipe Miocic and Derrick Lewis a thing of the past. After the card was over, Ngannou told UFC president Dana White he wants a title shot next. White was non-committal about giving him the shot, but if it was up to me Ngannou absolutely deserves the chance to fight the winner of UFC 241’s Daniel Cormier vs. Miocic rematch for the belt. There’s a good chance Ngannou is the best heavyweight in the world right now and he deserves the opportunity to prove that. We’ll see what happens in the DC vs. Miocic rematch, but Ngannou has done everything he’s needed to in order to get another crack at the belt. Now it’s up to White to give it to him.

Joseph Benavidez vs. Henry Cejudo

In the co-main event, Joseph Benavidez defeated Jussier Formiga for a second time by knockout. This was another fantastic performance by Benavidez, who is now 9-1 in his last 10 fights and who is now riding a three-fight win streak. Benavidez called out UFC flyweight champion Henry Cejudo for a title shot and he deserves it. Remember, these two fought back in 2016, with Benavidez winning by split decision. As the last man to defeat Cejudo before he’s gone on his legendary run, Benavidez deserves the chance to fight him again. It remains to be seen if Cejudo is going to move back down to flyweight, and it’s worth mentioning he is currently injured, but a Benavidez vs. Cejudo rematch makes a lot of sense.

Demian Maia vs. Vicente Luque

In the welterweight division, Demian Maia earned his second straight win with a majority decision over Anthony Rocco Martin. This wasn’t Maia’s best performance as he wasn’t able to get the submission, but he still did enough to win the fight. At 41-years-old, Maia continues to defy the odds and remain a top-15 fighter at 170lbs. However, he’s not a contender anymore and has basically settled into the role of gatekeeper. For his next fight, let’s see Maia take on Vicente Luque, who is 9-1 in his last 10 fights. Luque deserves the chance to fight a ranked opponent and Maia seems to have no problem giving up-and-coming fighters a chance, so this is the perfect matchup.

Vinc Pichel vs. Drew Dober

In two lightweight bouts on the main card, Vinc Pichel earned a unanimous decision win over Roosevelt Roberts and Drew Dober knocked out Marco Polo Reyes in the first round. Both men lost their last bouts so they needed to bounce back with wins and both did. Now, it makes sense for them to fight each other next. They are both veterans of TUF 15 and both guys are about the same spot in the crowded UFC lightweight division, not to mention the timing would work for a future matchup as they both just fought on the same card. Sometimes matchmaking doesn’t need to be too complicated, and this is a situation where the UFC shouldn’t overthink things.

Alonzo Menifield vs. Shogun Rua

Opening up the main card was another destructive knockout courtesy of Alonzo Menifield as he finished Paul Craig in the first round with punches. Menifield improved to 9-0 as a pro with all nine of his wins coming by stoppage and he looks ready to get a step up in competition. Most of the UFC’s ranked light heavyweights are already booked, but there is one name that needs a fight, and that’s Shogun Rua. The long-time veteran is coming off of a TKO win over Tyson Pedro and has won four of his last five fights overall. Menifield deserves the opportunity to fight a vet like Shogun, who is basically a gatekeeper at this point. This would be a fun fight for the fans and the UFC should book it next.

Do you agree with my fantasy matchmaking or would you go a different route?

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