This is the second instalment of ‘UFC Monthly Matchmaker’. August’s monthly matchmaker included champions Max Holloway and Stipe Miocic. September’s feature will include lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, Joanne Calderwood, Justin Gaethje, and Jared Cannonier.
UFC Lightweight King, Khabib Nurmagomedov
The undefeated, undisputed UFC lightweight king, Khabib Nurmagomedov got the victory at UFC 242 over Dustin Poirer. Who should he defend his belt against next? No ifs, no buts, no maybe’s, we need to see the Tony Ferguson fight. Previously booked four times, Nurmagomedov vs Ferguson looks to be cursed. Each man has previously pulled out of their arranged bout, but with both men fit and ready, this fight is the one to make. Some of the MMASucka staff also think that Ferguson could be the one to end the undefeated Nurmagomedov’s reign.
These men are a combined 53-3, with an amazing 38 finishes and both men always come to fight. With combined wins over some of the best names in the sport, including former champions, Conor Mcgregor, Rafael dos Anjos and Anthony Pettis to name a few, the fight has fans salivating. Nurmagomedov’s record is 28-0 and Ferguson is on a 12 fight win streak and both have high confidence in their skills. Many believe that Ferguson has the ground game to deal with Nurmagomedov’s grappling. Dangerous off his back, the former interim 155lbs champion, Ferguson has eight submissions to his name. With Nurmagomedov’s heavy wrestling game, this could certainly be a factor in a potential fight.
Although Conor McGregor and Georges St Pierre have been discussed as potential opponents for the Dagestani wrecking machine, we need the Ferguson fight to determine who really is the best lightweight on the planet.
Scotland’s own, Joanne Calderwood
Joanne Calderwood arguably notched the biggest win of her career at UFC 242. She defeated Angela Lee, who was previously undefeated in the UFC. Calderwood is an impressive 3-1 since moving up to flyweight.
Who should we see the Scot face next? Logically, Calderwood needs to have another fight before competing for the title. It is trending towards Katlyn Chookagian getting a title shot, should she win her fight at UFC 244. Chookagian also holds a win over Calderwood, so deserves a title shot before first. Calderwood should face former title contender Liz Carmouche. Carmouche came up short against the champion, Valentina Shevchenko over five rounds. This match-up would provide a good measure as to how Calderwood would do against Shevchenko.
With a win over Carmouche, it would be hard to deny Calderwood a title fight. She stated following her win at UFC 242 that she is ready for the title fight. With her kickboxing background, she could give Shevchenko some problems on the feet, were they to fight.
Never has a nickname been more appropriate than that of Justin Gaethje. ‘The Highlight’ is a perfect way to describe Gaethje’s career, especially his UFC career. At 4-2 in the UFC, the fan favourite has amassed a ridiculous seven post-fight bonuses. His most recent win extended not only his winning streak but his first-round knockout streak to three. This came in the main event of UFC on ESPN+ 16 where Gaethje knocked out Donald Cerrone in a little over four minutes.
Who should we see Gaethje fight next? Luckily in the stacked UFC lightweight division, there are a number of options. He called for a title shot following his fight with Cerrone, but as active as Gaethje is, we could see him back sooner. A match-up against Conor McGregor was reportedly agreed to but never came to fruition. This is certainly an option, with both men in the top five of the division. A win for either man would lead to a title shot for sure.
Another option is for Gaethje to welcome Paul Felder to the top 5 at 155lbs. Felder himself is coming off an impressive victory over Edson Barboza at UFC 242. This would likely be a stand-up war, with both men favouring to fight on their feet. Felder is 5-0 with three finishes in his last five lightweight bouts and has defeated top names such as James Vick and Charles Oliveria on the way. With a fan favourite style, this is very much a fight which could headline a Fight Night show.
The Killa Gorilla – Jared Cannonier
The only fighter in UFC history to get a finish in three different weight divisions, Jared Cannonier seems to have found his perfect division. Having gone 1-1 as a heavyweight and 2-3 as a light heavyweight in the UFC, Cannonier has impressed at 185lbs. At 3-0 as a middleweight with three finishes and two performance of the night bonuses, it is hard not to put Cannonier in the title picture.
Who should he face next? Cannonier recently defeated Jack Hermansson at UFC on ESPN+ 18 by TKO in the second round. This should put him in good stead for an elimination fight for a shot at the belt. With Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya fighting at UFC 243 for the belt and Paolo Costa seemingly the #1 contender, where does this leave Cannonier? Possible match-ups are either against Yoel Romero or the winner of Darren Till/Kelvin Gastelum, who fight at UFC 244.
Perennial contender Romero has gone 10 rounds with the current champion, Whittaker. Although he came up short on both occasions, he remains one of the most feared men at middleweight. Romero recently lost a close fight to Costa, however, is still in title picture himself. With Cannonier’s power, he could cause Romero problems and a win over the Cuban would cement his position as a title contender.
If he were to face the winner of Till and Gastelum, it would provide a different type of match up to Romero. Both Till and Gastelum are predominantly stand-up fighters, which is also Cannonier’s style. With Cannonier previously being a heavyweight and both Till and Gastelum having been welterweights, he would certainly hold a size advantage over both men. Either the match-up with Romero or with Till or Gastelum would provide Cannonier with a good test. If he can get through any of these men, it will prove that he has what it takes to compete for the belt.
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