(Just call him Jon “Bjönes” Jones. / Photo courtesy of Josh Hedges)
By Jack Saladino
With the UFC’s Swedish debut in the books, it’s time for us to make Joe Silva‘s life easier and suggest the next matchups for a few of the notable fighters coming out of UFC on FUEL: Silva vs. Gustafsson. Read on, and let us know if you agree or disagree with these picks…
Alexander Gustafsson: Rocking Thiago Silva early, Gustafsson was able to pick apart the aggressive Brazilian with an array of uber-accurate strikes to coast his way to a UD victory, and cement his position as a top-tier light-heavyweight. Can you say title eliminator? Gustafsson vs. Dan Henderson sounds good to me. I know Dan is waiting for his guaranteed title shot, but Jon Jones and Rashad Evans both have a history of post-fight injuries, and to assume that the winner will be healthy after their title fight might be unrealistic. So unless Hendo doesn’t mind a year-long break to challenge the title-holder, a battle against the Mauler could be the next best thing.
Thiago Silva: Silva’s suspension gave him a year off to think about what he’s done and rehab a plethora of injuries that have kept him performing at less than 100%. Judging by his performance on Saturday, his comeback still has a long way to go. Though Silva could use a fight against a UFC newcomer to rebound in the 205-pound division, I’d give him a good dose of reality and slate him against Phil Davis, who’s coming off his own loss to Rashad Evans. Two big, well-known scrappers with a lot to lose — the fight promotes itself.
Brian Stann: All-American hero Brian Stann is one of the most electric middleweights in the UFC. In the first minute of his fight with Alessio Sakara he was able to showcase his highly developed Muay Thai with great leg kicks and clinch knees that would make Wanderlei Silva proud. Except for his setback against Chael Sonnen last fall, Stann has shit on all of his middleweight opponents. With most high-level 185′ers tied up in matchups, it might be a while before Stann gets a fight, but I’d love to see him face Mark Munoz in his return match.
Dennis Siver: Mr. Spinning Back Kick has found a new home in the featherweight division. The stocky striker went toe-to-toe with Diego “The Gun” Nunes and kept a fast pace that guided him to a unanimous decision win. Now that he’s made his cut to 145, I don’t think we need to wait another six months for his next fight. I’d slate him for a late July matchup against the winner of Mark Hominick and Eddie Yagin next week at UFC 145.
Brad Pickett: Picking Brad Pickett and Damacio Page for Fight of the Night was a no-brainer. Pickett used his superior boxing to get the better of the standup exchanges, stunning Page with a slip and left hook and again with a right uppercut. Once he dropped Page it was easy to secure his rear-naked choke. After this win, Pickett deserves the chance to recapture his top-five bantamweight ranking. I could see him facing the winner of Miguel Torres and Michael McDonald, who fight next week at UFC 145, with the loser of that fight meeting Damacio Page.
Siyar Bahadurzada: Former Golden Glory badass Siyar Bahadurzada is a great stand-up fighter who has been praised by the likes of Alistair Overeem, Sergei Kharitonov, and Fabricio Werdum. Unknown to casual fans before this weekend, the Afghan welterweight’s UFC debut was a resounding success, as he scored a 42-second KO of Paulo Thiago via short uppercut. Bahadurzada should celebrate, but then get right back in the Octagon and KO another poor sucker to prove it wasn’t just a fluke. Two other victorious WW’s from the “Gustafsson vs. Silva” card — either long-limbed Norwegian Simeon Thoresen or American prospect James Head — would both make sense as the next body to throw against Bahadurzada as soon as possible.
John Maguire: John Maguire certainly should have earned his black belt in Gypsy Jitsu with his second-round armbar over the always exciting and goofy DaMarques Johnson. His kimura reversal was a thing of beauty that earned him Submission of the Night honors. This UFC welterweight newcomer has a lot of options for his next matchup. Give him a follow-up against a seasoned vet with a bigger name — Brian Ebersole and Dennis Hallman immediately come to mind — which should give us a better sense of where Maguire really falls in the 170-pound pecking order.