All the best, most interesting, and plain coolest fights to book following the UFC’s most recent event in Las Vegas, Nevada. Saturday, March 4th was a weird night for the UFC. Incredible highs, mixed with deep lows and a main event that left most fans totally cold. Still, that kind of drama always leaves room for more fight bookings. What does the UFC do with Tyron Woodley and a sudden lack of ready contenders? Is Dan Kelly ready for the top 10 at middleweight? Is Alistair Overeem on the cusp of another UFC title shot? That’s why I’m here, to try and answer the big questions after a night of UFC action.
As always, I’ll be doing my best to stick to the classic UFC fight booking method of matching winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured fighters against one another. The promotion has gone a bit rogue from that model lately, but it still has its charms. If you want to join me in fight booking for the next event, start a comment below with the phrase “He’s a smart guy, he’s a good looking kid, he’s explosive, he’s got knockout power but he’s a bit of a drama queen.” And I’ll pick one winner out of the comments. Joining me this week is BE moderator Punisher Bass. Now, let’s get to the fights!
Hey gang, my name is Derek, but you probably know me better as Punisher Bass. I was a lurker here for a long time before finally joining the community properly, I started writing fanposts about a year after that, and eventually I worked my way up to becoming one of the mods who help keep the riffraff out and Bloody Elbow running smoothly. In addition to what I normally write about on my own, I also started the BE community focused Discolored Appendage Roundtable (DART) series along with co-writing the TUF 10 recap series a few years ago. I was undefeated in all the fights I had on the playground as a child and I’m a silver belt in Hip-Hop-Kido under Zack Taylor.
And finally, it’s “bass” as in bass guitar, I am not a fish.
Derek – In theory this should be easy, Woodley gets the winner of Maia/Masvidal, but after two tepid title fights in a row it’s going to be hard to book T-Wood in any fan pleasing fight. He’s not going to be getting any of those big money fights he wanted though and I don’t really care who he fights next, I just want to see him fight here in St. Louis.
Zane – There are really only two realistic options out there for Woodley. He can wait for Masvidal/Maia and fight the winner of that, or he can fight Neil Magny. Nothing about the idea of a Magny/Woodley fight thrills me at all, so I’ll go with Maia/Masvidal, but he really just should have been booked to fight Maia asap. Also just throwing this out there, but if Khabib can’t make 155, then making Khabib vs. Woodley at 170 would be a great curve-ball from the promotion. Even a random fight with RDA might be better than nothing at all for Woodley. But those seem like reaches the UFC isn’t likely to take, so we’re just left waiting for Woodley vs. Maia/Masvidal winner.
Derek – Wonderboy only has himself to blame after coming up short against Woodley twice now, and it seems everyone else at the top is either booked/retired-semi retired/or has lost recently. The only two names that come to mind would be fights against either Robbie Lawler or Donald Cerrone, either of those fights could produce some real fireworks. That’s about the only way to get back into fans’ good graces right now.
Zane – Okay, so sure Robbie Lawler and Donald Cerrone are the easy logical choices. But ease and logic are boring, right? RIGHT? Instead I’m gonna say the UFC should book Stephen Thompson vs. Carlos Condit. The big reason behind this being that while Lawler hits harder and Cerrone fights a lot more often, Condit is just about the most fearless, durable fighter on the planet. I think the matchup between him and Thompson would be guaranteed to be a 5 round action fight, even moreso than Cerrone or Lawler would right now. Condit vs. Thompson is the fight the UFC should make.
Derek – This was Teymur’s third UFC win in a row, and while I don’t think he’s ever going to break into the top 10, I think it’s fair to give him someone ranked and with a name, and the only person who fits that in my mind would be Evan Dunham. The rankings between 11 and 15 are a little wonky because you have guys like Will Brooks who should be way higher and guys like Gilbert Melendez who shouldn’t even be ranked at all right now, and I think Dunham would be the best pick of that lot.
Zane – For fans firmly on the Lando Vannata hype train, this was a complete shock. But I don’t think it should be. At 27 and only 3 years into his MMA career, Teymur is primed to open some eyes. And given his power style and deep technical Muay Thai background, he’s got the potential to do it. Still, I don’t want the UFC to rush him too much, and I think Dunham might be rushing him. Instead, I say go with Teymur vs. Stevie Ray. Ray is coming off his own upset win over Ross Pearson and it’d make a great booking for a Euro card.
Derek – I’m totally stumped on this one, if he wants a ranked opponent then why not Tim Boetsch? Close your eyes and throw a dart because I don’t know what else to do. I really have nothing, what do you do with a guy who’s 39 years old?
Zane – The obvious answer is, you push him hard and fast and see how far he can go because of it. A bout with Krzysztof Jotko would be the obvious one as both guys are 6-1 and coming of major upset performances. You could also book Kelly against Elias Theodorou coming off his win over Cezar Ferreira. But somehow, I’m drawn to the idea of Dan Kelly vs. Derek Brunson. It’s a big leap, and probably a fight he loses, but Brunson has been under-performing and it’s all do-or-die time for Kelly.
Derek – Not to take the easy way out and say another fighter needs to retire… but Evans needs to retire. He looked to be in as good of shape as he’s ever been, but I don’t think it’s simply a matter of him getting old, it’s his coaching. He never looked as sharp since he left Greg Jackson, and with the implosion of the Blackzillians, I don’t see him turning things around suddenly after that performance. Kelly was as much of a softball as they could throw him and he still whiffed.
Zane – Whatever Evans does right now, it needs to include a good long look in the mirror. Kelly is by far the worst loss of his career and it’s a loss that really exemplified how un-impressive his style of fighting has become. Still if he wants to fight, then you gotta book him against someone. I say that someone should be Hector Lombard. Both men continue to unimpress in the UFC, and while Lombard has showed more, he still can’t seem to win fights. Book Evans/Lombard, or if that feels way too dangerous, book him against Nick Diaz, when Diaz comes back.
Derek – I really wish Heavyweight was deeper than an almost dried out mud puddle, but since that’s not going to happen until we perfect human cloning and grow a crop of large guys who just wanna bang, there isn’t a whole lot to work with for now. Since Derrick Lewis just notched another win and Reem is eager for another crack at the belt, why not have them square off this summer? It could possibly set up a trilogy fight with Werdum later this year, but I’m willing to take that risk. Either way, he needs to beat someone coming off a win before being slid into another title fight.
Zane – The choices are either Derek Lewis or Francis Ngannou and the Ngannou fight feels a lot more likely. Lewis wants time off and Overeem is already talking about wanting to fight the Frenchman. It could even be the kind of fight that ends up on UFC Stockholm. That said, Lewis would be the fight I’d prefer there, just because his power and sloppiness combined with Overeem’s chinny-ness and technique could make for a much wilder night. That’s about it, unless the UFC wants Werdum/Overeem 2. I’ll go with Ngannou vs. Overeem since I think it’s most likely to happen.
Derek – While Mark can still knock out damn near anyone on earth, it’s obvious that he’s heading to Eric Clapton town just like Hendo did. His chin was once made of kryptonite, but that was a long time ago, his last four losses all came by way of KO/TKO. We know he’s not happy with the new UFC owners, so I say he should just hang up his gloves because there is nothing left to prove at this point. But if he’s determined to fight again, how about a rematch with Struve? Maybe we’d get one final epic walk off KO.
Zane – Please don’t make Struve fight Mark Hunt again. Please. I’d rather see Hunt/Arlovski, just because they haven’t fought before. Most realistically however, this is the time to book Mark Hunt vs. Travis Browne. Both guys need a long layoff right now, and this would be the right test of Browne’s continuing lack of strategy and Hunt’s slowly degrading chin. Not a “fun” fight really, but the best the UFC could do with both men.
Derek – He’s on a four fight win streak now, so why not a fight with Brian Ortega?
Zane – I would love to see Elkins put the grind on Ortega, but I really feel like putting together one of the best comeback wins in MMA history should get him something a little more special. Hang with me here… Darren Elkins vs. Renan Barao. The former champion has looked anything but indomitable since moving to 145, but he’s still the kind of name that would make it a big fight for Elkins. And for Barao it probably would feel like a fight he thinks he can win, which is what he needs right now. Given that Barao’s grappling game is probably still where he’s best, I’d love to see how this plays out. Darren Elkins vs. Renan Barao, book it.
Derek – All I can think to do with him is give him Eddie Wineland, no matter how Eddie’s fight with Dodson shakes out.
Zane – Alcantara probably isn’t top-10 material anymore, but he’s still a top flight gatekeeper. He was getting handled every which way from sundown before slapping that kneebar on Sanders, and the win keeps him in line for relevant fights. Unfortunately Wineland has been booked against Dodson, or I’d love to see that. In it’s place, the UFC should probably book Alcantara against Pedro Munhoz. Munhoz’s low-power volume striking style would put him right in Alcantara’s cross hairs, but Munhoz’s excellent grappling game would make for a thrilling fight once it hit the mats. It’s a great chance for Munhoz to prove he’s a top 10 fighter and for Alcantara to play the role of gatekeeper to a rapidly improving division.
OTHER BOUTS: Vannata vs. Wade, Calvillo vs. Moyle, Cooper vs. Chambers, Tybura vs. Volkov, Henrique vs. Hamilton, Bektic vs. Dooho, Sanders vs. Beltran, Godbeer vs. Asker, Spitz vs. Willis, Pedro vs. Oezdemir, Craig vs. Wilson, Morales vs. Quinones, Soukhamthath vs. Kwan Ho