This past weekend 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? Armchair Matchmaker takes a look at some potential match-ups that should be made in various promotions. This week, we look at some of the top fights coming out of UFC Fight Night 126, Bellator 194 and Titan FC 48.
Main Event: Donald Cerrone vs. Al Iaquinta/Paul Felder Winner (UFC)
Cerrone broke his three-fight losing streak in emphatic fashion in the main event of UFC’s Austin event. “Cowboy” took a first round TKO in the dying seconds of the frame over Yancy Medeiros. In his post-fight interview with Fox Sports 1, Cerrone said that he would like to go back to lightweight. He’s a former title challenger there and amassed an impressive eight-fight winning streak at one point. Who knows if he can ever re-channel that iteration of himself, but a move back to lightweight may rejuvenate him even further.
Once there, he should fight the winner of Al Iaquinta vs. Paul Felder. The two strikers are set to clash at UFC 223. The winner would receive an award in the form of fighting Cerrone, a former top-5 lightweight. Cerrone, on the other hand, would get a chance to re-insert himself into the top-10 of the division he once terrorized. Most importantly, no matter who Cerrone would face between these two, the fight would be amazing.
Co-Main Event: Matt Mitrione vs. Ryan Bader/Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal Winner (Bellator HW Grand Prix)
Mitrione did enough in the striking department to stave off Nelson’s control time in the first two rounds. That effort got him a majority decision on the judges’ scorecards. Mitrione will next square off with the winner of Bader and “King Mo.” This isn’t me being a matchmaker, as Mitrione’s next fight is per the Heavyweight Grand Prix bracket.
Patricky Freire vs. Brent Primus/Michael Chandler II Winner (Bellator lightweight championship)
Freire has likely done enough to earn a title shot. He has wins over Josh Thomson, Benson Henderson and Derek Campos since being knocked out by Chandler for the title. Problem is, he has to wait for Primus vs. Chandler II to play out. That lightweight title fight goes down at Bellator 197 in April. Whoever wins will likely next defend against “Pitbull.”
Derrick Lewis vs. Francis NGannou (UFC)
Lewis completed a nice comeback over Marcin Tybura with a vicious third-round TKO in true “Black Beast” fashion. Now, let’s give fans a fight that many have dreamed about: Lewis vs. NGannou. The two are arguably heavyweight’s hardest hitters, which is no small feat, and would put on an exciting fight as long as it lasts.
Roy Nelson vs. Bobby Lashley (Bellator)
Nelson came up short in his bid to advance in the Grand Prix, dropping the majority decision to Mitrione. If Lashley doesn’t go back to the WWE, this is the fight to make. It’s about time Bellator gives Lashley a step-up in opponents. If Lashley decides to remain in MMA, Nelson could be a huge win for him. If Lashley leaves Bellator, make Nelson vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Though ‘Page probably would be adverse to yet another guy looking to take him down.
Yancy Medeiros vs. Dong Hyun Kim (UFC)
Medeiros fell short in an exciting bout with “Cowboy” Cerrone. “Stun Gun” Kim is coming off a loss as well to the surging Colby Covington. This fight makes sense for both and would give one an opportunity to notch a ‘W.’
Jose Torres vs. Ryan Benoit (UFC)
Honestly, it’s time Torres gets signed by the UFC. At this point, the promotion has nothing to wait for. “Shorty,” the two-division Titan FC champion, would be an excellent addition to the UFC’s flyweight roster. Benoit would be a good fighter to welcome him. Benoit is coming off an excellent knockout win over Ashkan Mokhtarian. Despite his middling record, Benoit is a dependable action fighter, as most of his fights end in a stoppage. Give Torres an exciting fight to work with in his UFC debut, ideally at Chicago in June.
Vadim Nemkov vs. Linton Vassell (Bellator)
Nemkov put on his most impressive performance to date with his leg kick TKO over McGeary. Vassell is coming off a title loss to current Bellator light heavyweight champion Ryan Bader, but “The Swarm” is the man who previously beat McGeary. This seems like a natural step up in Nemkov’s progression, and offers a different test from McGeary. Vassell is legit, and a win over the surging Nemkov would be big for him as well.
James Vick vs. Edson Barboza (UFC)
Vick got the job done at Austin against Francisco Trinaldo, and called for a top-5 fighter at lightweight. With most of the top-10 busy, why not grant him that? Barboza lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov in his last bout. A fight between these two has all the FOTN potential in the world.
Liam McGeary vs. Leo Leite (Bellator)
The former Bellator 205 champ has now lost three of his last four. On the other side, Leite’s Bellator debut didn’t go as planned. He dropped a unanimous decision to Phil Davis. Set him up to fight McGeary so one of them can get back in the win column, as well as give fans a fun clash of styles.
Derek Campos vs. Josh Thomson (Bellator)
Campos got stopped by Freire in the first round of their bout. “Pitbull” also has a knockout win over Thomson. Campos and Thomson haven’t met yet, but it seems time to change that in the form of an exciting fight.
Raush Manfio vs. Beibit Nazarov (Titan FC lightweight championship)
Manfio successfully defended his title against Lee Henry Lilly in the co-main event of Titan FC 48. Manfio has called for another chance with the UFC with a win. In case he doesn’t get it (yet), Beibit Nazarov is a good candidate for his next challenger. The Kazakhstan native is 2-0 with Titan so far.
Rami Hamed vs. Jose Caceres II (Titan FC welterweight championship)
The vacant welterweight championship bout ended anticlimactically. Caceres kicked Hamed in the groin, who was unable to continue. The bout was declared a no contest. The promotion may as well run it back.
Heather Hardy vs. Keri Melendez (Bellator)
Hardy did enough to take the win over Ana Julaton on the main card of Bellator 194. Her next fight will most likely be a rematch with Julaton–but in boxing. She should face Melendez in her return to MMA. As long as it remains standing, it would be an exciting fight. Melendez’s injury timetable may match up with Hardy’s next fight being in boxing.
Tywan Claxton vs. Gaston Bolanos (Bellator)
Claxton impressed once again in his second professional win. Bellator should take it slow but steady with the 2-0 prospect. Claxton vs. Bolanos is the next fight to make.
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