Max Holloway, Yushin Okami, Jake Shields, Donald Cerrone and Benson Henderson were the big winners last night in Denver as each picked up significant victories 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: Max Holloway
Who He Should Fight Next: Dennis Bermudez
Why They Should Fight: Max Holloway and Dennis Bermudez both picked up impressive stoppage wins at UFC 150, came out injury-free and should face off next. Matching Holloway and Bermudez against one another for their next fight has the potential for fireworks.
Bermudez is a relentless fighter when it comes to the ground game and it would be interesting to see how Holloway deals with a strong wrestler, a style he has yet to face inside the octagon. Bermudez has had some difficulties against strikers in his career, getting dropped and hurt with blows in a number of his fights. Holloway is one of the best stand-up fighters in the featherweight division as seen in his victory over Justin Lawrence at UFC 150.
Both men have a lot of momentum behind them after two-straight wins in the UFC, but only one can continue building that momentum. The loser goes back to the drawing board.
Winner: Yushin Okami
Who He Should Fight Next: Rousimar Palhares
Why They Should Fight: Prior to Rousimar Palhares suffering a knee injury, the Brazilian submission artist and Yushin Okami were scheduled to fight at UFC 150. After Okami picked up a one-sided win over Palhares’ replacement Buddy Roberts, it would make sense to put together the fight that was originally supposed to go down in Denver once again.
Even though Palhares is coming off a loss and Okami is coming off a win, there was a lot of interest in the fight and there is no question a lot of fans would still like to see the two fighters face off.
Palhares is a dangerous ground fighter with his submission while Okami is dangerous on the ground, but in a different aspect as he prefers to dominate position in the grappling and throw ground strikes. Would one man be able to impose their strength on the ground or would their grappling skills cancel out and create a striking battle? Both men are in the top-15 of the middleweight division and a win for either would put them one step closer to title contention.
Winner: Jake Shields
Who He Should Fight Next: Chris Leben
Why They Should Fight: Chris Leben has been on the sidelines since his loss to Mark Munoz at UFC 138 but his suspension is up in November and depending on how soon he is ready to compete once he is eligible to fight again, a match up with Jake Shields in his return to the octagon would be stellar.
Shields’ fight against Ed Herman at UFC 150 was far from exciting and he needs an opponent that can create a fun fight. Leben can turn even the most unappealing of opponents into an exciting bout and it would be hard to see a match up with Shields going any different. There is also the storyline of Shields just defeating Leben’s good friend and teammate in Herman.
The biggest weakness in Shields’ game at this point in his career is his striking and facing off against power punchers. Leben is the very definition of that. Shields had a shaky start to his latest stint at 185-pounds but if the former Strikeforce middleweight champion could pick up a win over a name opponent like Leben it would go a long way in pushing him in the right direction towards the upper echelon of the UFC middleweight division.
Winner: Donald Cerrone
Who He Should Fight Next: Anthony Pettis
Why They Should Fight: Prior to UFC 150, Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis exchanged words about how they would like to fight each other later this year. After Cerrone’s brilliant 76-second knockout of Melvin Guillard, UFC president Dana White said the fight is set to happen once Pettis completely recovers from his recent shoulder surgery.
A Cerrone vs. Pettis bout would pit two of the division’s best strikers against each other and it is a near certainty that the fight would end in highlight-reel fashion. Moreover, with both men on hot-streaks and coming off violent knockout wins, the fight could easily be pegged as a number one contenders bout in the UFC lightweight division.
It is unknown Cerrone vs. Pettis will take place, but if Cerrone did not suffer any injuries in his fight with Guillard there is a good chance it could go down Nov. 17 at UFC 154 in Montreal.
Winner: Benson Henderson
Who He Should Fight Next: Nate Diaz
Why They Should Fight: There is a strong contingent of people who believe Frankie Edgar defeated Benson Henderson in the main event of UFC 150 and while a third fight between the two would be nice and could really settle the score between the two, UFC president Dana White is adamant about the division going forward and fresh contenders fighting for the lightweight title.
The top contender at the moment is “The Ultimate Fighter” season 5 winner Nate Diaz. Diaz earned his shot at the belt with a submission of Jim Miller last May at UFC on FOX 3 and patiently waited for his shot at the belt. Diaz presents a fascinating style match up to Henderson, especially in the striking department as the Stockton native presses forward and throws high volume combinations no matter the opponent. The pressure Diaz puts on his opponents leaves little room for error. It will also be interesting to see if Diaz could submit the champion who has looked impossible to tap out so far in his career. On the flip side, Diaz has struggled against men who can take him down and dominate top position, but he took a small step towards proving he is getting better in that area in his win against Miller.
Regardless, there is an exciting lightweight title fight on the horizon and for the first time in over two years Frankie Edgar won’t be involved in it.