On Friday night, Alistair Overeem successfully gut-shotted his way to a title shot against reigning UFC heavyweight champ Junior Dos Santos — and his larger-than-life opponent Brock Lesnar will likely never set foot inside of an Octagon again. But the fates of the other winners and losers from UFC 141 are still up in the air. So let’s put on our Joe Silva skin-suit and see if we can make some thoughtful matchmaking suggestions for these guys, shall we?
Nate Diaz: As ferocious as he looked against Donald Cerrone, part of me thinks that Nate is going to get rudely decisioned as soon as he goes back to facing wrestlers; guys like Clay Guida, Joe Stevenson, and Gray Maynard have already proved that putting Diaz on his back is his kryptonite. But I don’t want to see that happen, at least not right away. Next month’s UFC 144 event provides two compelling options for Nate’s next opponent — either the winner of the Anthony Pettis vs. Joe Lauzon scrap, or Ben Henderson if he loses his title challenge to Frankie Edgar. Either matchup would give Diaz an ideal dance partner for another guaranteed Fight of the Night.
Donald Cerrone: Not to steal the thunder from Diaz’s masterful performance, but Cerrone looked like shit on Friday. Sorry, it needed to be said. The highly technical fight-finisher that we’ve come to know and love was M.I.A., replaced by an outgunned cowpoke who was as sloppy as he was tentative. Cerrone needs a rebound fight to find his mojo again. Setting him up against fast-rising Ultimate Fighter 13 winner Tony Ferguson would be a great test for both fighters. Either Cowboy gets back on track against a solid opponent, or Ferguson continues to prove that he’s more than just a TUF-guy.
Johny Hendricks: Beating someone as high on the welterweight totem pole as Jon Fitch should put Hendricks “in the mix” and then some. But like Nate Diaz, he should have to win one more before it’s title-shot time. Give him the loser of Nick Diaz vs. Carlos Condit at UFC 143 and make him earn it the hard way.
Jon Fitch: All of a sudden, Fitch’s delayed rematch with BJ Penn makes sense again. It’s probably the most relevant matchup you could make for both guys, and maybe the only one that could draw Penn out of his post-loss hiatus/possible retirement. We’ve already counted their first fight a decision win for Fitch based on Stockton Rules; let’s see if the ten-point-must system is kinder to him this time.
Alexander Gustafsson: “The Gold Watch,” “The White Jon Jones”…”The Next Big Thing”? Gustafsson put himself on the map in 2011, slicing through James Te-Huna, Matt Hamill, and now Vladimir Matyushenko. My first thought would be booking him against Rampage Jackson, but ‘Page already has a date with Ryan Bader at UFC 144. So how about Gustafsson vs. Lyoto Machida, to give the lanky Swede a shot at taking out a former champion?
Jimy Hettes: In one performance, Hettes went from regional phenom to early front-runner for Breakout Fighter of 2012. Now carrying the scalps of two TUF 12 cast-members (Alex Caceres and Nam Phan), it’s time to give the 24-year-old a step up against a veteran. If the UFC decides to keep around the struggling Tyson Griffin, he could be a perfect gauge of Jimy’s development — though I have a feeling that Hettes would stroll through him, too.
Dong Hyun Kim: Maybe getting steamrolled by Carlos Condit was the best thing that could have happened to him. The Stun Gun we saw on Friday — who broke the record for number of crane-kicks landed in a three-round fight — looked like a brand-new man, just as comfortable on his feet as he has been on the mat. More than ever, he’s still a force in the 170-pound division. Since Rory MacDonald is busy through the spring, I’d set Kim up against Brian Ebersole, who’s 3-0 in his current UFC campaign.
Jacob Volkmann: Volkmann should take his ideas and political passion and run for local office in Minnesota. That way, we wouldn’t have to see him fight or hear him speak ever again. “Glassectomy“? Ugh. Leave the comedy to the professionals, buddy.