The last couple of weeks have showcased some exciting MMA fights. Plenty of knockouts, submissions and tightly contested decisions have caught the attention of the MMA world. While those who won celebrate and those who lost go back to the drawing board, fans want to know: what’s next? This week, Armchair Matchmaker takes a look at some potential match-ups that should be made following UFC 221 and UFC Fight Night 125.
Main Event: Robert Whittaker vs. Yoel Romero II (UFC Middleweight championship)
With Whittaker out for the foreseeable future, the UFC opted to make an interim middleweight title fight at UFC 221. Except it wasn’t, because Yoel Romero missed weight, and was ineligible to win the belt. Luke Rockhold was eligible to win the title, but was knocked out by Romero in the third round. Now, we’re looking at a scenario where the fight may have well been an interim title match.
Romero is one of the only options that makes sense for Whittaker upon his return. He may have lost in his last title bid against Whittaker, but Jacare Souza recently lost to him as well. Chris Weidman could be an option, but is 1-3 in his last four and could use another win. Kelvin Gastelum is only on a one-fight winning streak as well, and could use one more big win. Romero earned the title shot due to his emphatic knockout.
Co-Main Event: Demetrious Johnson vs. Jussier Formiga (UFC Flyweight Championship)
This could very well be Johnson’s next title defense if he doesn’t fight TJ Dillashaw. Formiga has won two in a row, and has seemingly been a top-5 flyweight forever. Sergio Pettis is coming off a loss, and Formiga is the only other top-5 member that Johnson hasn’t finished or beat. If we’re talking fresh match-ups, it’s the only one that makes sense if Dillashaw doesn’t come down to 125. Other potential candidates in the Mouse sweepstakes include Joseph Benavidez and Henry Cejudo.
Nicco Montano vs. Valentina Shevchenko (UFC Flyweight championship)
Former UFC bantamweight title challenger Shevchenko soared up the flyweight ranks in just one fight. She dominated Priscilla Cachoeira en route to becoming the No. 1-ranked flyweight. The question in the UFC’s newest division is: who is next for the inaugural champion Montano? Many believe Shevchenko is the best the flyweight division has to offer. I say the UFC should give her the chance to prove that.
Lyoto Machida vs. Michael Bisping
Machida turned back the clock (sort of) with his split decision win over Eryk Anders in the main event of UFC Fight Night 125. Machida called for a fight with former middleweight champion Michael Bisping after his win in Belem, Brazil. It makes sense. Bisping is looking for a retirement fight and has expressed interest in fighting Machida. It would be a fight between two legends and former champions in the twilight of their careers. If Bisping-Belfort II isn’t happening, then this is the farewell fight to make for “The Count.”
Luke Rockhold vs. Misha Cirkunov
Rockhold came up short in his bid for the middleweight title when he suffered a KO loss to Romero in the main event of UFC 221. The former UFC middleweight champ has expressed interest in going up to light heavyweight. Now would be the perfect time to do it. Rockhold, with the loss, is now a couple of wins away from another title shot at 185. His friend and longtime training partner Daniel Cormier is moving up to heavyweight and may not return to light heavyweight. With two knockout losses in his last three bouts, a move to 205 would be a chance for Rockhold to start fresh.
Cirkunov, who is also searching for a win, would be a good welcome fight. He’s the No. 7-ranked fighter in the division, and the fight would be a lot of fun stylistically. A win would propel Rockhold immediately into the top-10. Meanwhile, a win for Cirkunov would give him the biggest win of his career.
Curtis Blaydes vs. Lewis/Tybura Winner
Blaydes overcame an early scare to secure a unanimous decision win against Mark Hunt on the ground in the co-main event of UFC 221. “Razor” Blaydes solidified himself as a top prospect at heavyweight. He could still use at least one more fight before he fights the truly elite of the division. The UFC should give Blaydes the winner of Derrick Lewis vs. Marcin Tybura, who fight on Sunday.
Mark Hunt vs. Struve/Arlovski Loser
Hunt nearly got the knockout over Blaydes, but couldn’t put him away. He then was out-wrestled for the majority of each round. Hunt should be given a fight that will be guaranteed fireworks. The loser of the Stefan Struve vs. Andrei Arlovski fight would provide just that. The two are set to meet at UFC 222 in March. If Hunt faces Struve, it would be a rematch of a fight that Hunt won via TKO in 2013. But Arlovski would somehow be a fresh match-up for Hunt. How has that not happened yet?
Tai Tuivasa vs. Godbeer/Sosnovskiy Winner
Aussie heavyweight prospect Tuivasa made good on his sophomore appearance in the Octagon. He dispatched Cyril Asker in the first round with devastating striking against the wall. The next fight that makes sense for him in his natural progression would be the winner of Mark Godbeer vs. Dmitry Sosnovskiy. The two are set to clash at UFC Fight Night 127 at London in March.
Jake Matthews vs. Sergio Moraes
Matthews overcame the adversity of a nasty eye gouge by Li Jingliang and won a decision at UFC 221. Moraes is coming off a controversial decision win over Tim Means. This fight makes sense.
Tyson Pedro vs. Gian Villante
Pedro got back in the win column in impressive fashion with a kimura over Saparbeg Safarov, who is now 0-2 in the UFC. His other loss? To Gian Villante. Long Island’s Villante took a decision win over Francimar Barroso in January. Pedro vs. Villante for a shot at a top-10 light heavyweight is the way to go.
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Gabriel Benitez
Volkanovski dominated fellow featherweight prospect Jeremy Kennedy and secured a second-round TKO on the UFC 221 prelims. “Moggly” Benitez last was seen halting Jason Knight’s progress. The UFC could give him another shot to stop a hot prospect in Volkanovski. If “Alexander the Great” wins this one, it’ll be time for a top-15 showdown.
Michel Prazeres vs. Warlley Alves
Prazeres has shown that he’s struggled to reach the lightweight limit on multiple occasions. It may be time for a move up to welterweight. A fight with Alves would be a lot of fun, as it should be interesting to see how the two styles clash.
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