Watching the card at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning was a bit of a fun time as a fight fan. There’s something to be said about being able to watch MMA on a Saturday morning, and have the rest of the day to do whatever I’d normally do on a Saturday before the fights. And after a card of really good fights, and decisions across the board, the main and co-main delivered some great finishes to a dark horse candidate for card of the year. Now it’s time to play Joe Silva and see where the five most intriguing winners and losers go after this.
Cung Le vs. the winner of Chris Leben/Karlos Vemola – Le’s in a unique spot. He’s 40 and a full time working actor in Hollywood on top of trying to balance out a fighting career. He doesn’t have much left in his career after 11 fights, oddly, because he’s got decades of kick boxing and San Shou under his belt. But knocking out Rich Franklin in ridiculous fashion is something not many guys have done. Is Le going to be in the hunt for a title shot? Probably not. A win over Wanderlei would’ve put him on a three fight win streak with his one as opposed to merely two; he’ll need two-three more wins in a row to be in that consideration. Right now you need to keep him away from a contender, as well; until he hits that four wins in a row mark Le won’t get anyone sniffing a title shot. The winner of Vemola/Leben will be in the right place to take on someone like Le. Le essentially is almost going to be in a gatekeeping role for a year or so as long as he keeps winning; he’s going to be kept away from a top five guy like Bisping, et al, until he has a streak of wins to make it worthwhile. They won’t risk losing a contender unless Le is on a win streak of his own as well.
Thiago Silva vs. Ryan Bader – Bader is coming off a bad loss to Lyoto Machida. Silva is coming off a great finish to a fight he was losing in fairly pedestrian fashion. He didn’t really win the fight; Nedkov just gassed badly and Silva “Homer Simpson’d” him into an arm triangle. Silva still got a win, though, and I think the UFC keeps him in a Top 10 matchup against someone relevant. Glover Teixiera, with a win over Rampage in Chicago in January, is another likely matchup as well for the Brazilian. He’s still relevant as a contender but perhaps may not string together enough wins to get a shot at the title. He’s not quite reaching gatekeeper status yet, though, and thus he won’t get a prospect in his next fight. He’s right at the fringe level of being a Top 10 guy in the division, still, and thus his ceiling is still going to be found (though one could argue it’s in sight already).
Dong-Hyun Kim vs. Jake Ellenberger – Both guys were on the cusp of a title shot in the division and then lost a couple times to top tier talent. Both won once more against first rate competition, as well. The winner of Kyle Noke/Seth Baczynski could be another candidate as well if they don’t throw him into the deep end one more time. Kim’s in a unique spot where his only losses are to two elite fighters (Condit, Maia) and the second loss was a fluke injury. When your only real loss is to the guy fighting GSP for the title in a week you can’t be that far from being considered elite. It all depends if he gets thrown into the deep sooner or later.
Takanori Gomi vs. Jacob Volkmann – Volkmann had an epic win streak and then had it derailed. But he’s still potentially a contender down the road, especially considering at lightweight he’s been reliable as a winner. Gomi is a tough out, of course, and it’s time to find out how much he has left sooner than later. The answer is not much, of course, but if he can pull off another win against a tough wrestler Gomi might have a crazy win streak in him left.
John Lineker vs. Darren Uyenoma – Flyweight isn’t exactly teaming with fighters so far, obviously, and Lineker has high expectations. No clue who will be the next title challenger will be after Dodson/Johnson but a win here and maybe a title shot makes sense for the winner. The division has 15 guys so it’s not like there’s a built in system set up to determine who’s next like every other division.
Rich Franklin vs. Mark Munoz – Franklin’s in an odd spot. Is he a top 10 fighter anymore? Probably not, based on Saturday at least; retirement is probably closer than we all think. He had both his chances against Anderson and has a 5-5 record since the second time the champion snatched a little bit of his soul in victory. Getting mercked by Cung Le doesn’t help your case, either. He’s also too big a name to become a gatekeeper and at this point in his career is going to be high up on a card because of who he is. So you can’t throw him against someone like Jason MacDonald or the TUF Brazil middleweight winner, either.
He’s also fought most of the division, as well, so there aren’t a whole lot of rematches available. You’re not going to feed him to let’s say the loser of Boetsch/Weidman or Bisping/Belfort. Munoz’s window of opportunity isn’t as long as we think, mainly because he’s a lot older than people think, and Munoz/Franklin is a big enough fight to matter. There’s also the loser of Rousimar Palhares and Hector Lombard as well. Franklin is going to get a high level guy because of who he is but will get someone needing a rebound fight. I hope he retires, if only to avoid looking like this again, but if he stays in the game he’s going to draw a big name on the rebound.
Franklin is at the point in his career where he can’t be a guy like Stephan Bonner and take on prospects, et al, because he makes too much money and is too good a fighter (and too high on the card) to be a gatekeeper. So he’ll get someone with a name and a ranking of note, as well, probably replacing someone who got hurt like the company man he is.
Stanislav Nedkov vs. Wagner Prado – Both guys are coming off losses to Top 10 fighters and need a major step back in competition. And since dinged prospect vs. dinged prospect is a UFC staple then one imagines that this makes an awful lot of sense. Nedkov is in an interesting spot being a prospect that hasn’t looked all that great but on paper looked outstanding. His win over Cane was essentially a fluke after being dominated and he won two “eh” type of rounds before gassing against Thiago Silva. Prado got tooled on the ground by a fighter who’s progressed as rapidly at the submission game as Jon Jones in Davis, as well.
Yasuhiro Urushitani vs. Ian McCall – “Uncle Creepy” doesn’t have a fight lined up and this would be essentially a matchup of the loser’s bracket of the flyweight title tournament. Urushitani has had a rough go of it in the UFC so far and there aren’t any gimme fights in the division. I could see maybe Jussier Formiga being in this spot or maybe Phil Harris as well.
Riki Fukada vs. Ed Herman – Herman was on a nice streak until he lost to Jake Shields. It may be listed as a no-contest but for all intents and purposes it’s still a loss. Fukuda is coming off a loss as well. Time to rebuild for both and this has “undercard on a Fox show” written all over it.
Mac Danzig vs. Diego Sanchez – Sanchez is coming down to 155 and hasn’t had a fight in a while. Danzig tends to have unique fights with TUF winners. Neither fighter is going to be challenging for the title in the near future thus it makes for an interesting fight between two of the better TUF champions of the lower weight classes.