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Here Comes A New Challenger: Matches to Make – UFC 189

(via Getty)

By Sam Stilson

UFC 189 was a glorious night of MMA. Attendance records, gate receipts and noses were shattered. Old favourites reclaimed their relevance while new prospects proved their hype. Flying knee knockouts seemed commonplace. Dana White’s never ending use of hyperbole actually rang true. To paraphrase Frank Mir, it was the greatest UFC card since UFC 100.

Now that the glow has faded and we’ve all had some time to decompress, let’s look forward to what might be next for the main card competitors.

Conor McGregor should fight: Jose Aldo (UH-DOI!)

It almost feels likes the UFC panicked and made McGregor the next coach of The Ultimate Fighter the moment Frankie Edgar ran to the cage and challenged Conor for the belt. This way McGregor is kept busy, the Aldo mega-fight can be rebooked in the fall, and Frankie can’t exploit the fact that Conor has the takedown defense of a domino. Jose vs. Conor is the fight we all want to see, now more than ever, and there’s no way the UFC books anything else for their golden boy.

Chad Mendes should fight: Dennis Siver

‘Money’ Mendes got a raw deal this weekend (well, other than the $500,000+ payday). He obviously has the skills to defeat McGregor, but with only two weeks to prepare, he tired quickly and made a couple mistakes that cost him dearly. If he ever hopes to fight for gold again he’s going to need to take the Jon Fitch route and build a lengthy win streak. Dennis Siver is still a ranked featherweight and a fight with the German seems like a good way for Chad to regroup.

Robbie Lawler should fight: Johny Hendricks/Carlos Condit/Tyron Woodley

Hi kids, do you like violence? Robbie Lawler is perhaps the only true embodiment of the overused phrase ‘warrior spirit’.  His demonstration of sublime technical skill and raw, guttural aggression at UFC 189 was absolutely breathtaking. The pecking order at 170 is now starting to come into place and Robbie’s standing at the top is looking more and more sturdy. Lawler deserves some time off to heal after his Fight of the Year performance, therefore any combination of Condit-Hendricks-Woodley in a number one contender match makes sense to find his next challenger.

Rory MacDonald should fight: Thiago Alves

It’s astonishing to think that if Rory could have held on for another four minutes, he would have won the belt, considering this gif and this photo. While Macdonald didn’t assume his place as the heir apparent to GSP, he certainly proved his toughness and heart. He’ll be on the shelf for some time but so will fellow rhinoplasty patient Thiago Alves. This matchup would result in an exciting striking affair and the winner could add another ranked opponent to their resume.

Jeremy Stephens should fight: Dennis Bermudez

If Dennis Bermudez is to be believed, he was offered an immediate rematch with Stephens by Dana White. Considering Jeremy missed weight badly and Bermudez was likely winning the fight before the late knockout, a rematch makes a lot of sense. If not, Hacran Dias or Tatsuya Kawajiri would both make for fun top 15 matchups.

Dennis Bermudez should fight: Jeremy Stephens

Dennis looked absolutely fantastic in his bout with Stephens and  seemed to  have turned a corner in his progression as a top ten featherweight. Then the next thing you know, ‘tiger!’ and he’s asleep on the canvas. I hope the UFC gives him the mulligan they offered and Bermudez can try and snatch back the win he was so close to nabbing this weekend.

Gunnar Nelson should fight: Stephen Thompson

‘Gunni’ looked incredible in his fight against Brandon Thatch and appears to have learned a lot from his first career loss. Pairing him with another heralded striker will allow us to see whether he truly has improved his hands to elite level or if the Thatch knockdown was just a lucky punch.  Stephen Thompson fits the description and with his recent destruction of Jake Ellenberger this bout could easily headline a Fight Pass show.

Brandon Thatch should fight: Loser of Patrick Cote vs. Josh Burkman

In a battle of prospects usually somebody comes out looking like a dud. The hype train was at full speed when Thatch took on Benson Henderson in February and even in defeat many were still impressed by his showing against the former champ. Now we all need to take a step back, Thatch included, and temper our expectations.  The loser of the upcoming Patrick Cote vs. Josh Burkman fight would make a great next opponent as they both have name value, solid veteran skills and savvy, but both represent a return to the mid-tier were Brandon has likely been relegated.

Thomas Almeida should fight: Johnny Eduardo

Despite an extremely rocky first round, Almeida managed to hold on to the title of ‘next big thing at bantamweight’ with an insane flying knee knockout of Brad Pickett. After such a dicey showing against veteran competition it might be better to pump the brakes with Almeida rather than feed him to the top 5.  Johnny Eduardo will be returning from injury shortly and would make for a great battle of top-ranked heavy-handed Brazilians.

Brad Pickett should fight: Alex Caceres

The move back to bantamweight was looking like a wise decision for Pickett until he took that knee to the face. Now 1-4 in his last five, the long-time British standout is looking to be in a downward spiral. Bruce Leroy has not found much success in the Octagon lately either. A loser leaves town (or at least relevancy) tilt between these two could round out any card in need of a fun action fight.

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