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Armchair Matchmaker: UFC 145 Edition

(Thigh sleeve > Muttonchops? I don’t understand this world anymore.) 

By Jack Saladino

After a six week hiatus that threatened to drive UFC fans worldwide into their nearest mental asylum, UFC 145 came back with a fury, providing us with all the sweet KO’s, slick submissions, and classic scraps that we have come to know and love. And now that the storm has passed, we must look to the future for those involved in what was a fantastic night of fights. As always, we’ll take a look at the must-make match-ups for Saturday’s biggest winners, and maybe even a couple of the losers, because they’re people too, we guess.

Let’s get right to it…

Travis Browne- If not for Chad Griggs’ incredible chin, “Hapa” could have just as easily walked away with a Knockout of the Night bonus for that beautiful double flying knee. That being said, Browne was awarded Submission of the Night for only his second career submission victory, and looked like a Jiu-Jitsu whiz while doing so. Browne has steamrolled through most of his opponents, and if the heavyweight division wasn’t so tongue tied at the moment, I would have a long list of potential opponents for the Hawaiian. But Browne has age on his side and would fight tomorrow if you asked him to, so I’m thinking he should step up and fill the vacancy “Bigfoot” Silva left against Roy Nelson. Browne has a month to keep fit and a win over a name like “Big Country” on relatively short notice would ensure his top tier status.

Mark Bocek- The pasty Canadian BJJ specialist has had a bumpy road to hoe thus far in his Zuffa career. His only losses have come to title holders, potential contenders, and TUF winners, but his only wins have come over fighters no longer employed by the promotion. And John Alessio, who as of this moment has yet to be booted from the UFC again. For Bocek’s next fight, I’d like to see him get a nice submission in a striker/grappler mismatch against UFC 145 undercard winner Anthony Njokuani. Njokuani made a name for himself in the WEC but has struggled to thrive in the UFC’s tough lightweight division. If he could neutralize the ground game of Bocek and score a KO, it could propel him into notoriety. Potentially, this could be a huge fight for both men.

Eddie Yagin- I couldn’t imagine a better pick for Fight of the Night than Yagin’s huge upset over former number one contender Mark Hominick. With more strikes landed in three rounds than the five round title fight and a no holds barred attitude from both fighters, I was thoroughly pleased with each man’s performance. Unfortunately for Hominick, getting dropped twice, combined with his one-dimensional striking attack, cost him a close split decision for his third loss in a row. This was a big win Yagin, who utilized some powerful kicks to pepper Hominick’s legs and managed to rock “The Machine” on two separate occasions, despite telegraphing damn near every technique he threw. I’d recommend he heals his face up, improves his cardio, and gets ready to fight Armenian judoka Manvel Gamburyan, who’s also coming off three consecutive losses. Both men are relatively small even for featherweight, and would make for a hell of an addition to one of the free “Fight Night” type cards the UFC throws our way every now and again.

Michael McDonald- Be afraid, Mr. Cruz. Be very afraid. After your done trading insults (and tiny fists) with Urijah Faber, you’re going to have to deal with the ridiculous punching power of this youngster. The 21 year old McDonald is thriving off his second consecutive first round KO, and against a former WEC champ nonetheless. If he hasn’t already cemented his spot amongst the bantamweight elite, perhaps a fight against someone like Brad Pickett would. Renan Barao and Ivan Menjivar could be fighting for the #1 contender spot at UFC 148, but I think Pickett or McDonald could also present a serious challenge to the champ.

Ben Rothwell- I’m not sure how Ben Rothwell and Brendan Schaub, who were both coming off rather embarrassing losses (the former more so than the latter), got promoted to the main card over Travis Browne and Chad Griggs, who are both coming off wins. That being said, “Big Ben” survived an early onslaught and got the better of “The Hybrid” in a flurry that earned him Knockout of the Night honors, and finally gave him a UFC highlight to boot. The heavyweight division is upside down right now thanks to Alistair Overeem’s prescription-biased illiteracy, and almost every other big name is tied up at UFC 146. But one heavyweight I’d like to see back in the cage soon is Matt “Meathead” Mitrione, who would match-up perfectly with Rothwell. After suffering his first career loss to Cheick Kongo in October, Mitrione has been devoting most of his time to his family whilst opening up his own gym. He’ll be eager to erase the memory of what was one of the most boring fights this side of Ben Askren vs. anybody against a fellow slugger like Rothwell, so I say we match them up ASAP.

Rory MacDonald- When Rory MacDonald steps into the cage, the only thing he fails to do is give you a bathroom break. It is non-stop action with the GSP protégé, and his domination of Che Mills has earned him a step up in competition. His wrestling prowess is simply too much for a pure striker, so I’d like to see how he fares against a fellow wrestler. After Jon Fitch disposes of Aaron Simpson at UFC 149, I say test “Ares” against the AKA product, who’s smothering “offense” has frustrated even the most aggressive of competitors at 170.

Jon Jones- The argument has been settled, reach is everything in fighting. Jones’ proved to be too much for Rashad Evans on Saturday night, as he was able to land over 75 strikes to the head alone, according to FightMetric. In the post-fight press conference, Dana White confirmed that Dan Henderson was next in line for the title shot, which would likely go down sometime in the late summer. Honestly, I think Jones deserves some well earned R&R, but then again, I’m not the boss, so I’m ready for sparks to fly.

Rashad Evans- The hype surrounding this fight may or may not have made the evening tougher for Rashad, but the fact of the matter is that he just couldn’t get inside frequently enough to put combos together against Jones. He had success in the first round landing a big head kick and a few flurries, but for the most part, he seemed content to eat jabs and elbows from the outside until the final bell rang. In my opinion, “Suga” should say farewell to the light heavyweight division and drop to 185. His cardio would improve enough for him to challenge most of the top tier middleweights right off the bat, and his fight with Jones would prepare him for what he could expect in a title fight against Anderson Silva. If Rashad chooses to drop, it would take him several months to do so, and by that time the middleweight division could be even more shaken up than it is now. The winner of Vitor Belfort and Wanderlei Silva immediately comes to mind, being that they have both fought in higher weight classes before and have good power to boot. But the winner of Tim Boetsch and Michael Bisping could make for a great fight as well, especially if it meant a rematch with Bisping, who dropped to 185 following his loss to Evans at UFC 78.

Questions, Comments, Concerns?

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Taintimus- April 24, 2012 at 5:34 am
Dana announced Gabriel Gonzaga vs Roy Nelson last night, so I don't who you put Browne up against. Maybe Chieck Kongo or Matt Mitrione?
Fob_Baget- April 24, 2012 at 2:04 am
"reach is everything in fighting."

Not when you're kendall grove
Lesnarischamp- April 23, 2012 at 8:38 pm
Rashad at MW is intriguing. Thiago Silva looks like he could probably make the cut to MW too. The MW division is more rife with opportunity for both.
RwilsonR- April 23, 2012 at 7:03 pm
I don't have a problem with this type of speculation about how he should drop to MW. I think it has less to do with how successful Rashad will continue to be at LHW, and more to do with what is best for his career. Generally, if someone has the ability to be an elite fighter, taking the best route to becoming a champion is advised for their career. So while Rashad can certainly still compete with the best at 205, after this loss, he isn't going to be given another title shot against Jones anytime soon. Given his height/size gives him the likely ability to make 185, and his skills would match up well there, why wouldn't it be smart for him to seriously consider the drop? That isn't an insult to him. That is an honest assessment of what may be the best choice for his career right now.
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Kid Clam Curtains- April 23, 2012 at 2:36 pm
I've been saying Travis Browne is a fucking animal forever. For being as big as he is he's super coordinated, has great footwork and big power. Not saying he could be champ but I wouldn't be surprised if he's in a title fight by next year.
FightZen- April 23, 2012 at 2:36 pm
PLEASE stop with this "lose a title fight, leave the weight class" babble. Suga has lost 2! fights. Ever! He is a top notch 205er and can still give plenty of guys trouble/good fights. He belongs at 205. Besides, he has just as much a chance against Silva.
RwilsonR- April 23, 2012 at 7:08 pm
I don't understand the outrage over this type of speculation. He'd have a better chance of getting a title shot at 185, so why isn't it worth talking about him making the drop?
FightZen- April 23, 2012 at 9:08 pm
So he gets a title fight at 85, gets handled by Anderson (no shame in that) and then what? 185 is the polar opposite of 205. There isn't much marquee, name talent at 85, while 205 still has PLENTY of big money fights for 'Shad. He lost to a BIG 205er, but he also beat a big 205er for the title. I just don't get why he would even consider MW. It's a lose/lose.
Fried Taco- April 23, 2012 at 1:52 pm
Not sure if Rashad can cut enough Suga out of his diet to reach 185, but it would be nice to see him face Bisping again.
RwilsonR- April 23, 2012 at 7:13 pm
Agreed. The judges fucked that one up and gave Rashad the win. Rashad benefitted from karma coming back to fuck Bisping out of winning a decision he should have won to make up for the gift he received against Matt Hamill in the fight just previous to that one.