Following a successful article playing matchmaker following UFC on ESPN+ 14, I will be starting a ‘monthly match-maker’ series. At the end of each month, fights will be suggested for a number of UFC fighters. These will be fighters who have competed recently, including big names as well as prospects. In what is the first installment, we will look at Max Holloway, Miranda Granger, Paulo Costa, Cory Sandhagen and Stipe Miocic.
August 2019: UFC Monthly Matchmaker
‘Blessed’, Max Holloway proved once again at UFC 240 why he is the best 145-pound fighter on the planet. Defending his belt against Frankie Edgar, he defeated the future Hall of Famer by unanimous decision. Who is the next logical opponent for Holloway? There is really only one fight to make, 20-1 Australian, Alexander Volkanovski. Volkanovski is riding a 17 fight winning streak and is undefeated since 2013. At 7-0 in the UFC, Volkanovski holds notable wins over Chad Mendes and Jose Aldo. Ranked #1 at featherweight, Volkanovski weighed in at UFC 240 as the back-up fighter for the main event.
It was very briefly hinted that Holloway may defend his belt at UFC 243 against Volkanovski. However, it looks as though this isn’t going to happen as it doesn’t give Holloway much time to prepare. The Aussie fighter will certainly provide a different test to anything Holloway has faced. With his pressure, strong wrestling and heavy hands, does Volkanovski hold the key to defeating Holloway?
Former CFFC strawweight champion Granger made her much anticipated UFC debut at UFC on ESPN 5. On this occasion, she out-pointed Hannah Goldy to a unanimous decision victory. Sitting at an impressive 7-0, including six finishes, Granger could be a real force in the UFC. There are a number of options for Granger depending on whether she chooses to stay at 125 or drop back down to strawweight.
If she chooses to stay at 125, she should be matched with someone who will help her progress in the ranks. JJ Aldrich is a well-respected flyweight, with an impressive record of 7-3, including a stint on TUF. Most recently she tested Maycee Barber, before coming up short. Prior to this, however, Aldrich was riding a three-fight winning streak. She could also step up to face Paige VanZant when she returns from injury. This will certainly get her known to the ‘casual’ fan as VanZant is a big name with a well-rounded skill set. With a win over PVZ, Granger would certainly throw her name into the rankings conversation.
If Granger drops down to strawweight again, a good match-up for her would be to face Ashley Yoder. Yoder also had a stint on TUF and despite starting her UFC career 0-3, she is now riding a two-fight winning streak. Again, Yoder is a well known, respected strawweight who could push Granger up the rankings if the former CFFC champion can get the win. Another potential match-up could be against Hannah Cifers, who has impressed since a loss in her UFC debut.
Paulo Costa competed in what could be many people’s picks for fight of the year at UFC 241. Coming into the bout, Costa was 12-0 with 12 finishes. His opponent, Yoel Romero is one of the most well-respected fighters on the roster. In a back and forth fight, where both fighters were dropped, finished with Costa getting the nod, 29-28 on all scorecards.
The next logical for the undefeated Brazilian is to compete for the title, which is being contested at UFC 243 between current champion Robert Whittaker and interim champion Israel Adesanya. Newly ranked #2, Costa has interacted with Adesanya a number of times, most recently after his bout at UFC 241.
If the UFC doesn’t feel that Costa has earned a title shot (although it is strongly suggested that he has), he could be matched in a #1 contender fight. The winner of Jack Hermansson and Jared Cannonier, who clash in a headliner in Denmark at the end of September could be the perfect opponent. Hermansson, who is currently on an impressive four-fight winning streak has proven that he has what it takes to hang with the best at 185. Likewise, Cannonier is undefeated since dropping down to middleweight at 2-0. Cannonier has four of his five UFC wins and could provide a good test for Costa.
Cory Sandhagen is one of the brightest prospects the UFC bantamweight division has seen in years. At 5-0 in the UFC, Sandhagen’s knowledge of distance is almost unprecedented at 135. Managing to just slide out of the way of counters, he has a style that keeps fans on the edge of their seats. In his bout with John Lineker, many thought he would come up short (only one MMASucka staff member picked him to win, myself!) but managed distance like a matador and stayed away from the heavy hands of Lineker.
Sandhagen needs a title elimination bout next as he just defeated #5 ranked Raphael Assuncao. The bantamweight division is stacked however and it looks like either Aljamain Sterling or Petr Yan will get the next shot at the belt. Sandhagen could welcome Frankie Edgar to 135, as suggested by Sucka’s own Michael Henken. Sandhagen could also face Marlon Moraes following his unsuccessful title attempt. Moraes has been out since UFC 238 and will himself be looking to get back into the title picture.
Miocic recaptured the heavyweight title with an emphatic fourth-round TKO over Daniel Cormier. With the win, Miocic goes 1-1 with Cormier, after losing the belt to him last July. Naturally there is a call for a trilogy fight to determine who is definitively the better fighter, however, with Cormier’s future uncertain, this may not happen.
So, who’s next for the heavyweight champion? We could and possibly should see him rematch Francis Ngannou. Miocic and Ngannou first faced each other at UFC 220, where Miocic dominated Ngannou 50-44 on all cards. Since then, despite a lackluster fight with Derrick Lewis, Ngannou has been on a tear. With three TKO victories in as many main event slots, ‘The Predator’ has certainly earned his rematch. If that wasn’t convincing, those wins have been over Curtis Blaydes, Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos. That’s two former champions and a top contender on a six-fight winning streak.
If not Ngannou, could we see Stipe Miocic welcome light heavyweight champion Jon Jones to the heavyweight division? Jones has dominated the 205-pound division since he entered the UFC in 2008. With a record of 25-1-1 and having only lost by a controversial DQ, Jones is arguably the most dominant fighter to grace the UFC. One slight criticism of Jones is that he’s never stepped up in weight to test himself. Could this be the perfect time to step up and test himself against Miocic?
Keep an eye out on MMASucka next month for the second installment of the ‘Monthly Matchmaker’. With UFC 242 and three-fight night cards, there will be plenty to discuss!
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