Two nights of UFC fights? For all the talk of the oversaturation of MMA when you get two solid nights where fighters bring the V then I can’t really complain all that much to be frank. After another TUF Finale, headlined by Roy Nelson mercking Matt Mitrione, it’s time to play matchmaker and see who fights next.
Roy Nelson vs. Daniel Cormier – Roy Nelson manages to remain a relevant, near top tier fighter almost in spite of himself. For a guy who generally tends to be a bit of a lunatic who maintains a poor physique and looks like some sort of weird combination of an imam and Grizzly Adams he’s a hell of a fighter. Matt Mitrione has a good chin and Nelson just dropped him like it isn’t all that difficult to do. Nelson is a great gatekeeper to the elite; if you can beat him you’re probably a top five fighter in the world at heavyweight. With Overeem fighting Bigfoot Silva I can see Cormier getting someone in the UFC before getting a title shot as well.
Pat Barry vs. winner of Mike Russow vs. Shawn Jordan – Pat Barry is really difficult to find an opponent for because he’s a good, exciting fighter but he’ll never contend for a title. Plus he’s been around long enough that he’s fought an awful lot of guys who are still in the company as well. The winner of Mike Russow vs. Shawn Jordan won’t be in the hunt for a title shot anytime soon as well; either matchup could be an interesting one for Barry. The winner of Todd Duffee vs. Phil de Fries could be another matchup as well.
Dustin Poirier vs. Chad Mendes – Mendes just fought this weekend and came out injury free. He’s two big wins after a title shot and Poirier was close to one himself earlier in 2012. You could probably make this for late February as well, depending on if either fighter came out with an injury.
Johnny Bedford vs. the winner of Vaughn Lee vs. Motonobu Tezuka – Bedford has been an absolute beast in the UFC so far … but has also battled injuries, etc, that have kept him to only two fights. But he’s an absolute killer prospect so far and getting someone else in the low ranging prospect totem pole makes sense.
Tim Elliot vs. Louis Gaudinot – Elliot looked like a beast on Saturday. Gaudinot had an absolute war with John Lineker. In the flyweight division, with the shallowness of it, another win by either guy gets them the winner of Mighty Mouse/John Dodson. Make this a title eliminator and you’re set. Yasuhiro Urushitani could be another matchup to make or John Lineker as well.
Jonathan Brookins vs. Sam Sicilia – Poor Jon Brookins. Out of any TUF season winner he’s been given a steady diet of killers and managed to look really respectable so far despite not having a stellar UFC record. He managed to out strike Dustin Poirier for a good chunk of that fight as well; he looks like a fringe Top 10 fighter in the featherweight division but hasn’t gotten the chance to notch some victories against lower level competition yet. He’s been thrown head first into the deep end of the division and I think Joe Silva gives him someone lower on the totem pole.
Matt Mitrione vs. Brendan Schaub – The only TUF Season 10 matchup of fighters from that cast still in the UFC to make and it also makes sense. Schaub has been brutalized twice, Mitrione a two fight streak loser as well. The loser of Gonzaga/Rothwell could be in this slot as well.
Shane del Rosario vs. Dave Herman – del Rosario and Herman were at the same point in their careers not too long ago: supremely valued prospects who were thought to be on their way to elite status. So far del Rosario hasn’t really recovered after a bad car accident and Herman just doesn’t care enough to be a great fighter. Eventually one of them is going to cut from the UFC … just not yet. A matchup this spring allows you to shed some roster space in the division, at least.
Mike Ricci vs. Colin Fletcher – The one thing I kept noticing in interviews and during his TUF Finale fight is Mike Ricci’s attitude. It just doesn’t seem like he cares enough for whatever reason. I don’t know; he’s a talented fighter but part of me questions his emotional capacity. It just doesn’t seem like mentally he has it in him to be an elite fighter; Colton Smith broke him early on in their fight and he just fought not to lose for most of that fight. He had a couple moments where he almost caught him but Ricci disappointed in his UFC debut. He’s got an insane amount of talent and comes from the best camp not named Jackson’s MMA BUT I have to question whether or not he has it in him to be an elite fighter, much less one good enough to be in the UFC. He looked an awful lot like Mac Danzig in his season of TUF during this past season of the show. He looked like the elite fighter in a group of guys bound to kick around the regional scene. Does he get another fight? I think so. I could see the UFC giving him the other runner up from the Smashes as Ricci has said he’ll be down to 155 sooner than later.
James Head vs. Seth Baczynski – Head’s an interesting prospect who ran into a veteran. So was Baczynski. This could be an interesting matchup for both guys.