In the wake of the biggest UFC card of the year, we as fans are left to speculate what’s next. Rising stars can be created within every card, while bright futures can also burnt out in the same night. UFC matchmakers are tasked with trying to create the next big fight card and get the casual fans buzzing. In this article, I will present you with some possible match ups for the some of the winners and losers from Saturday’s blockbuster card.
Brian Ortega vs Kevin Lee
Probably the biggest winner not named Jon Jones on Saturday was Brian “T-City” Ortega. Earning fight of the night honors in front of a passionate hometown crowd is sure to build exposure and momentum for the undefeated lightweight. The biggest question to ask is who will he fight next? Looking at the top heavy lightweight division gives matchmakers plenty of options, but there is one fight in particular that makes sense.
Kevin Lee should be Ortega’s next fight. Lee is also coming off of a stellar submission victory over Michael Chiesa, and has attempted to step up his trash talking game recently. With both men having exceptional ground games, stylistically, this is the best test of both fighters skills. It also sets up a future number one contender fight after Khabib and Ferguson get their bout settled.
Vulcan Oezdemir vs Glover Teixeira
I can honestly say that Oezdemir provided the biggest surprise of the night with a stunning-42 second knockout win over Jimi Manuwa. After only three previous UFC victories, several pundits have considered Oezdemir to be the next contender for the light heavyweight title. I feel that this is a bit premature and would do more harm than good to a potentially powerful prospect and future champion at 205. Vulcan beating the #3 ranked contender should effectively put him in that spot. It seems that there is one real choice for this rising star.
Glover Teixeira is clearly the next opponent that Vulcan should face. It appears likely that Alexander Gustafsson will receive the next title shot against the returning champ, Jon Jones, and it would not benefit Oezdemir to fight a lower ranked fighter either. That makes the only real option the aging veteran Teixeira.
Donald Cerrone vs Stephen Thompson
After delivering a possible fight of the year performance in his loss against Robbie Lawler, Cerrone is still trying to establish himself in the top tier of the welterweight division. As a whole, the welterweight division is in limbo with no real #1 contender, and no fighters are currently on dominant win streaks. This leaves the door open for Cerrone to continue to try and earn a shot at the title.
Stephen Thompson is the only man to have come close to ending the reign of Tyron Woodley at 170. Cerrone sets an aggressive pace in most fights, and has a well-rounded game that would make for another possible fight of the year fight. I believe that this fight could headline a Fox or FS1 card, and could quite possibly be a #1 contender fight, given the divisions circumstances.
Robbie Lawler vs Tyron Woodley
Considering that Lawler came out on top in his bout with Cerrone, that would make him the next title contender. Dana White himself brought up the possibility of this match, and it’s probably because Woodley was Lawler’s last loss. Who doesn’t love a shot at redemption?
Woodley is clearly not on good terms with Dana and the UFC, so it will be interesting to see if he plays nice long enough to fight again before the end of the year. One thing is certain, if Lawler were to fight Woodley, we would see more punches thrown than the 60 total punches in Woodley’s last fight. This will be a solid match up that might get fans interested in the welterweight division once again, after a string of lackluster fights.
Daniel Cormier vs Jimi Manuwa
Now that the DC vs Jones feud has smoldered, we can look to new battles for both men. It’s difficult to predict if DC will in fact return to light heavyweight, or if he will make the move to heavyweight. I believe that as long as Cain Velasquez is still fighting, DC will remain at 205. After DC beat Rumble Johnson several months ago, we saw him begin to trash talk his possible next opponent, Jimi Manuwa, and try and set the tone for another fight.
Both Manuwa and DC lost on Saturday, and this allows for a match between both of them to positively affect their standing within the division. Manuwa should probably push for this fight with the UFC if he wants to remain relevant, and it could also show that he can still contend for the title in the future. This is far from the most exciting fight listed here, but it does make sense.
Jon Jones vs Alexander Gustafsson
Now before I get too far into this, let me just say that Jones vs Lesnar is not going to happen anytime soon. Early media reports that Lesnar was back in the USADA testing pool are false. Lesnar retired during his suspension, which in turn froze his suspension. If Lesnar decides to come out of retirement, he will have to serve out the remainder of his suspension, and then he will re-enter the testing pool.
Due to Lesnar being out for some time, Jones will probably fight Gus for a second time. During interviews last week, Jones made it clear that Gustafsson was his hardest opponent, and not Cormier. For those of you who remember their first battle, you may also remember that Jones left the building on a stretcher after barely edging out a victory. Now that Jones has shaken off the rust, he can get back to his true fighting form. He will need to be at his best if he plans to fight Gustafsson again. The dominant Gustafsson appears to be twice as deadly as he was the first time he fought Jones, so expect this fight to be a fight of the year contender.
What do you think of these fight predictions? Did we miss anyone? What other big fights would you like to see made before the end of the year? Let us know in the comments!
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