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Here Comes A New Challenger: Matches to Make – UFC on FOX 16

(via Getty.)

By Sam Stilson

All hail King TJ! This past weekend’s UFC on Fox show proved without a shadow of a doubt that TJ Dillashaw is the real deal. His obliteration of former pound-for-pound staple Renan Barão was masterful and effectively silenced all the ‘lucky punch’ rabble-rousers.

In addition to the main event, we got a Fight of the Year candidate, a new(old) women’s bantamweight challenger and an odd, yet refreshing display of MMA sportsmanship, on national TV no less.

So what’s next for our main card competitors? Let’s play ‘Being Joe Silva.’

TJ Dillashaw should fight: Raphael Assunção

It’s not just the fact that Dillashaw beat Barão again that is so impressive; it’s the way he did it. Oozing confidence, hands hanging by his ankles, he feinted, switch stances and uncorked beautiful combinations  time and time again that made the once ‘unbeatable’ Barão look downright terrible. It was akin to the Silva-Franklin fights or even Jones-Rua, where a once great fighter is pummeled into a pile of goo by his more evolved opponent. Many fans are clamoring for a showdown of champions between Dillashaw and Dominick Cruz, but Cruz has said he doesn’t expect to be back until the end of 2015. Instead, a rematch with Raphael Assunção (provided his ankle has healed) would make sense for a fall matchup.

Renan Barão should fight: Takeya Mizugaki or Erik Perez

Everybody wants Barão to move up to featherweight. He has a tough time shedding the pounds to make 135 and he is unlikely to challenge for the title again. Makes sense, right? But when it comes to weight, how often do fighters take the path that makes sense? Barão will likely stay at bantamweight and if he does, a tune-up fight against the lower-ranked Mizugaki or Perez should allow Renan to regain his confidence or will prove his time at the top is over.

Miesha Tate should fight: Cat Zingano

Yes, Dana White has stated that Tate locked herself into a third title fight against Ronda Rousey with her dominant win over Jessica Eye. Sure, Tate-Rousey III will sell well, but from a more sporting perspective a rematch between Cat Zingano and Tate is much more intriguing. Their first encounter ended with some controversy as Zingano pulled off a late stoppage after losing most of the fight. Then you have the fact that Zingano didn’t really get to fight Rousey in her title shot. That can be countered with the oft-recited point that Tate has provided the only real challenge to Rousey’s reign. Let these women duke it out to prove who truly deserves a rematch.

Jessica Eye should fight: Sarah Kaufman


Aside from half of the first round, Jessica Eye did not look good in her bid for a title shot. Any hopes that she could supplant Rousey as the queen of women’s bantamweight dropped faster than she did from Meisha’s right hand. Eye is now 1-2-1 in her UFC tenure and barely holding onto her top 10 ranking. Sarah Kaufman is another fighter that the UFC doesn’t seem to know what to do with anymore.  A rematch will negate the weed-related no contest from their first bout and keep them both busy.

Edson Barboza should fight: Eddie Alvarez

That was Edson Barboza’s best performance in the Octagon and hopefully a turning point in his somewhat inconsistent UFC career. Barboza shines when allowed to engage in ‘a Muay Thai fight with 4 oz. gloves’ as Joe Rogan put it, and Joe Silva would be wise to keep booking him against strikers. Eddie Alvarez just won his first fight against a top 10 opponent and sits at #4 in the division. Barboza needs to prove he can break into the elite. Sounds like a perfect matchup.

Paul Felder should fight: Josh Thomson or Nate Diaz

This is the only non-action shot we’re going to use, because it is faaaaaaaabulous!!

Poor Paul Felder. ‘The Irish Dragon’ arguably won one of the most exciting and technically amazing striking battles in UFC history against the #7 ranked lightweight in the world, and he isn’t even rewarded with a place in the top 15 come Monday morning. After that star-making performance, Felder should get a chance against another top-shelf opponent. Josh Thomson, if he doesn’t retire, would test Felder’s grappling and would give both men a chance to right their ships. If Josh calls it quits, I hear Nate Diaz needs a fight.

Joe Lauzon should fight: Evan Dunham

It was only a couple years ago that pundits were wondering if Joe Lauzon might be done. Too many crimson masks and brutal beatings had taken their toll they said when he came out flat-flooted and slow against Michael Johnson in Boston, losing his second straight. Well here we are in 2015, he’s 3-1 since and he’s now calling his own stoppages. Joe’s probably not title shot-bound, but there are plenty of fun fights in the top 15-20 range for him. Dunham, who won last weekend, has a similar scrappy, grappling- based style and is also tough as hell. That’s a great main card opener for any PPV.

Takanori Gomi should fight: Daron Cruickshank or Ross Pearson

‘The Fireball Kid’ did not have a fun Saturday night in Chicago. He was blown out of the water in the first round for the second time in a row.  At 36, retirement looms, but likely not without at least one more kick at the can. If the UFC wants to send him off in style, they should feed him Daron Cruickshank in Japan. That’s a winnable fight and a guaranteed stand-up battle. If they’d rather use his name to reinvigorate a former contender, Ross Pearson would likely make short work of the legend

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