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Here Comes a New Challenger: Matches to Make — UFC 186


(We’re really, really, *really* missing that Xbox sponsorship right now. via Getty.)

By Sam Stilson

Aside from escaping a fire, it’s never a good thing when the audience starts leaving halfway through the main event of a card. It’s an even worse thing when you’ve already had to close off half the arena just to fill the building. No, UFC  186 was not a successful PPV for the world’s premier MMA organization, but despite its many, many failings, it wasn’t a half-bad display of mixed martial arts…for Bellator, or WSOF, of even a Fight Pass show.

Still the fights went on, winners were crowned and with this trainwreck behind us, we must now wonder where do they go from here?

Demetrious Johnson – Should fight: Dodson/Makovsky winner

DJ…blah blah…greatest fighter alive…blah…shut-out performance…flyweights don’t sell…history won’t boo him…blah blah.

Johnson is unfortunately so good that until age catches up to him, this is how every one of his fights is going to go. He has maybe two matches left in the division before the inevitable move back to bantamweight. Dodson is the only flyweight to really give him a challenge and Makovsky is fresh meat, the winner of that  bout in May should be DJ’s next opponent.

Kyoji Horiguchi - Should fight: Chris Cariaso

Horiguchi should take solace in that fact that he’s young and has plenty of time to build his way back up into contention. The first place he should start is with former title challenger and fellow also-ran Chris Cariaso. It’s a good rebound fight for Horiguchi that adds a solid name to his resume, and if Cariaso could pull off the upset it’d solidify his spot in the top 10.

Quinton Jackson – Should fight: Rua/Nogueira winner

A lot of people seem to be unfairly criticizing Rampage’s performance at UFC 186. No, he didn’t get the knockout, but who does against Maldonaldo? Jackson looked fit and focused and unleashed a varied Muay Thai attack we haven’t seen from him in years. He stated post-fight that he’s on a revenge/legends tour and what better place to start than with the winner of Shogun and Lil Nog? Pride never die.

Fabio Maldonaldo - Should fight: Jan Blachowicz

This is a winnable fight for both men, likely a stand-up affair and would fill up a prelims spot nicely.

Michael Bisping - Should fight: Thales Leites

Love him or hate him you have to admire Bisping’s tenacity. At 36 and barely clinging to a top 10 ranking he still believes he can be champ. Why dash his dreams again so quickly Joe Silva? Pair him up with a ranked grappler like Thales Leites and see if he can build up another win streak.

C.B. Dollaway - Should fight: Tavares/Whittaker loser

I don’t think anyone truly believed C.B. was a top 10 fighter but at least he got his chance to fight the cream of the crop. A step back to the TUF alumni circle would do him well and the loser of Tavares/Whittaker would fit the bill nicely.

John Makdessi - Should fight: At featherweight

‘The Bull’ has always been an undersized lightweight, but he looked tiny against Shane Campbell . Sure he won, but against the behemoths that populate the upper ranks of lightweight, the size disparity will eventually become insurmountable.  Featherweight is wide open and a win against someone like Diego Brandao or Darren Elkins would instantly make him a ranked fighter, something unlikely to ever happen at 155.

Shane Campbell – Should fight: Tony Martin

A vaunted kickboxer, Campbell looked good for the first few minutes of his bout against Makdessi, but eventually succumbed to his power. A good rebound fight would be against Tony Martin who also recently lost a main card bout. It’d be a fun grappler vs. striker battle and would give both men a chance to redeem their high-profile failures.

Thomas Almeida – Should fight: Frankie Saenz

The hype is strong in this one. At just 23, Almeida is now 19-0 and a top 15 UFC bantamweight. While he looked incredible knocking out a solid veteran in Yves Jabouin, he shouldn’t be rushed too far up the ladder. Frankie Saenz who just upset Iuri Alcantara would make a great next dance partner. He’s ranked 13th, and his smothering, wrestling-based attack would either expose Almeida or allow him show another facet to his game.

 Yves Jabouin - Should fight: Marcus Brimage

Now 35 and with a 2-3 record in his past five fights, Jabouin’s chances at the top 15 appear to have come and gone.  Rather than feed him to another young buck, he should face another fighter on a downward trend. Marcus Brimage has a bit of name value left, and this bout would make for an entertaining striking battle.

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