UFC 149: Faber vs. Barao is in the books and once again the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) delivered a solid night of mixed martial arts action. Renan Barao, Tim Boetsch and Matt Riddle were the big winners last night in Calgary as each picked up victories over their respective opponents on the main card.
After every fight card, fans wonder who the winners will be matched up with next. With another night of UFC action in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to look forward and put ourselves in Joe Silva’s shoes to play UFC matchmaker.
Winner: Matt Riddle
Who He Should Fight Next: Winner of Amir Sadollah vs. Dan Hardy at UFC on FUEL TV 5
Why They Should Fight: Following his third-round submission of Chris Clements at UFC 149, Matt Riddle called out Dan Hardy and made a strong (and entertaining) argument as to why he wants to face the British fighter next. Unfortunately for Riddle, “The Outlaw” is currently scheduled to face Amir Sadollah on the UFC’s September card in Nottingham.
With that said, Riddle taking on the winner of Sadollah vs. Hardy at UFC on FUEL TV 5 later this year would make sense after his dramatic submission victory.
Sadollah, Hardy and Matt Riddle are all veteran welterweights that deliver solid fights to the fans every time they perform. All three are in the mid-tier of the UFC welterweight division, so Riddle against either Hardy or Sadollah would be more than suitable for a fight card on FUEL TV or FX. And of course, there is always the possibility Sadollah gets injured in the lead up to UFC on FUEL TV 5, so Riddle should stay ready in case he gets the chance to jump in.
Winner: James Head
Who He Should Fight Next: Matt Brown
Why They Should Fight: James Head earned the biggest win of his career at UFC 149 when he upset Brian Ebersole by split decision. The win puts Head on the map in the UFC welterweight division, but one can only wonder how much Ebersole’s one-month turnaround after his last fight effected his performance.
There is no doubt Head deserves a fight against a name opponent after his UFC 149, but no one near the top-10 in the welterweight division. Matt Brown always produces fun fights and would test Head’s skills in every area. Brown is 3-0 so far in 2012 and would have the chance to win a fourth consecutive fight for the first time in his seven-year career. Both fighters are solid strikers and grapplers and unlike Head’s fight against Ebersole, the chances are slim the fight would be unentertaining.
Winner: Cheick Kongo
Who He Should Fight Next: Gabriel Gonzaga
Why They Should Fight: Cheick Kongo picked up his 11th UFC victory at UFC 149 when he defeated Shawn Jordan by unanimous decision. While Kongo’s effort in the fight was lackluster, he stated afterwards that he entered the bout with pre-existing shoulder injuries and will need a few months to recover. That works out well in terms of a match up with Gabriel Gonzaga, who was forced off a recent fight card due to injury and apparently is not ready to step back in the octagon just yet.
After Kongo’s last fight against Jordan, he needs to face an opponent that will push the pace and try to inflict damage, whether it is on the ground or standing. Gonzaga fits the description. The Brazilian is a dangerous fight on the ground and feet and has shared the cage with the best of them. Both men are on the tail end of their careers and this match up would gauge exactly where they both sit in the division.
Winner: Tim Boetsch
Who He Should Fight Next: Winner of Michael Bisping vs. Brian Stann at UFC 152
Why They Should Fight: The logical way for the UFC middleweight division to play out after Boetsch vs. Lombard fight at UFC 149 is to give Chris Weidman a title shot later this year, or early next year against Anderson Silva, depending on when the reigning champion is ready to fight.
Boetsch reportedly broke his foot in the second round against Lombard and will likely sit on the bench for at least 4-6 months to rehabilitate the injury. While he waits, an important 185-pound bout between Michael Bisping and Brian Stann will go down at UFC 152 in Sept. While Bisping claims he would get a title shot with a win over Stann, a one-fight win streak is not deserving of being named number one contender in any division. Stann would be on a two-fight streak with a win over Bisping but again; that’s not worthy of title contention.
If Weidman fights Silva in December/January and Boetsch fights the Bisping/Stann winner around the same time, perhaps even on the same card, it would be another great championship match up and a future title challenger for the Silva/Weidman winner would be established.
Winner: Renan Barao
Who He Should Fight Next: Dominick Cruz
Why They Should Fight: Coming in to UFC 149, there were mixed opinions on what the winner of Renan Barao vs. Urijah Faber should do after their interim bantamweight championship clash. Prior to the bout, Barao said he wanted to wait for Dominick Cruz to recover from his knee injury to unify the bantamweight championship belts. As fight week rolled on and at the UFC 149 post-fight press conference, Barao said he is willing to do whatever the UFC asks of him, be it defending the belt before Cruz returns or waiting.
After his performance at UFC 149, Barao proved without a shadow of a doubt that he is the second best bantamweight on the planet and people want to see him fight number one. That man is Cruz. There is also the issue of there being no true contender to face Barao at this point in time. An argument can be made for Michael McDonald, who just knocked out Miguel Torres in April, but that is a tough fight to sell on pay-per-view.
Ultimately, it would be in the best interest of all parties involved (Barao, Cruz, the UFC) to wait for “The Dominator” to return, but only if it’s within a reasonable amount of time. If not, the UFC will have to improvise. Perhaps by putting a Barao vs. McDonald fight on FOX.