All the best, most interesting, and unquestionably coolest fights to make for the UFC following the promotion’s latest event in Glasgow, Scotland.
UFC Scotland brought all kinds of violence. With six knockouts and a submission the event had a lot of definitive results. And definitive results mean that fighters have definitive steps forward (and backward) to be taken. Santiago Ponzinibbio made his claim to a spot in the welterweight top 10, Paul Felder showed he may be ready for another ‘big’ fight, and Leslie Smith made it clear that she doesn’t need to be fighting newcomers.
To plot their next moves, I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby model of matching up winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent against one another. If you want to take your own stab at some fantasy fight booking, leave a comment below starting, “Let’s just say I do ‘secret training’.” I’ll pick one winner from the responses to join me for the next Fights to Make column. Joining me this week is BE reader Idonaldo.
Hi! I’m Idonaldo, a Brazilian guy who recently discovered Bloody Elbow and now follows every post from this site. I started to watch MMA seeing Anderson Silva, Jose Aldo, Renan Barao, when they were champions, but became a “hardcore fan” in late 2015. I like Diego Sanchez (with a chin), John Lineker, Cub Swanson, Justin Gaethje, and everyone who has two hard hands, one chin, and a awesome heart. I hope you enjoy the matches!
Idonaldo – Initially I thought the creepy ground game of Gunnar could cause some problems, but Santiago has heavy hands and scored an upset. I’m very much a fan of Ponzinibbio, who is the best fighter from TUF Brasil in the UFC with this victory. A bout versus Neil Magny seems fine to me, and probably puts Ponzinibbio in top 5 if he wins.
Zane – The first thing that springs to my mind would be Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Jorge Masvidal. It’s just the kind of matchup that would let Ponzi really put his striking to the test at an elite level. But, I have the suspicion that Masvidal is earmarked for Wonderboy when Wonderboy comes back to action. That leaves a few good options. There’s Magny, as stated above, Colby Covington, coming off his own big win, and Rafael dos Anjos. RDA vs. Ponzinibbio sounds like a ton of fun, so why not book that.
Idonaldo – Please Gunnar, go down to 155. He is very competitive, and can recover in the Welterweight division, but at Lightweight some bouts could be interesting too. If he wants to stay, a bout with Chad LaPrise who has 2 consecutive wins and is a former Lightweight could be a good fight. At Lightweight, Leonardo Santos it’s as good as Gunnar in Jiu Jitsu, and the Brazilian needs a top 15 fight.
Zane – That’s a rough step back for Nelson. But, while I think he could make 155, I don’t think he really needs to. His striking defense is a bigger problem than his ability to physically compete at welterweight. More to the point, this loss sets him up perfectly for a bout with Dong Hyun Kim, coming off his own loss to rising contender Colby Covington. Dong Hyun Kim vs. Gunnar Nelson, book it.
Idonaldo – New blood in any division is always good. Calvillo enters into the ten best strawweight fighters in world with a good performance, even winning the stand-up fight. After the fight, I’m thinking Calvillo vs Herrig, but the UFC may put them on different roads, Calvillo vs Esparza is the fight.
Zane – Carla Esparza would be a very interesting test for Calvillo. A more practiced wrestler, with a highly competitive grappling game, and the same sort of active but not accurate striking. It also seems like rushing Calvillo just a little. While Calvillo is actually a year older than Esparza, she’s also only been a pro for 1 year. This win showed her game is missing a lot of nuance outside her preternatural grappling talent. A fight against the big, tough, and similarly under-refined Cortney Casey seems a little more reasonable, even if Casey does pack more power standing. Cynthia Calvillo vs. Cortney Casey feels like the right next step.
Idonaldo – Of course JoJo can’t stay in the Strawweight division. Like Letorneau, she’s a flyweight fighter. The weight cut considerably harms her performance. And it does not seem Calderwood is competitive against top ten women. She should wait until December, and fight some TUF 26 vet, once the roster is revealed.
Zane – Calderwood’s best next fight option is very likely at flyweight. And while she could wait for TUF to be over to find an opponent, it seems like the UFC could just go ahead and book her against Bec Rawlings at 125. Rawlings has had similar trouble lately making 115, and seems like she’d be a good natural fight for the new division. Bec Rawlings vs. Joanne Calderwood at flyweight.
Idonaldo – One more KO to the Irish Dragon’s record. A beautiful knee, and savage ground-and-pound absolutely destroyed Stevie Ray. Every time Paul Felder wins two in a row in the UFC, he loses the next fight. He needs to become more consistent, but his style makes me give him a fight with Dariush/Dunham loser, especially if Dunham loses.
Zane – There are a ton of options at the top of 155 right now. Chiesa’s loss was questionable, Iaquinta is off a win, so is Kevin Lee and Edson Barboza (and Anthony Pettis, but he trains with Felder these days). But there are a couple of other fights that leap to mind. Paul Felder vs. Dustin Poirier would be a strong option, as would Felder vs. James Vick. Eventually, however, I’m going to go with Paul Felder vs. Joe Duffy. Now that Duffy’s got a new contract, it’s time to get him some action fights, and Felder fits that bill perfectly.
Idonaldo – Marshman was more convincing against Cedenblad, but he won this fight 29-28 and is now at 2-1 in UFC. He stays at the middle of the middleweight (not a joke haha) division. I usually like striker vs striker fights, but I don’t want to put him against Borrachinha, because I have other plans to the Brazilian. If Tom Breese is already recovered, that could be a nice fight on a UK card.
Zane – A reasonable win, but not one that suggests Marshman should be taking big steps up in competition. I don’t think he’d fair well in a bout with Borrachinha, even with Borrachinha’s open defense. A fight against Marvin Vettori would be solid. Unfortunately Breese has a torn ACL so likely won’t be back soon, or that would be a good fight. Next best thing would be someone like Trevor Smith, but Marshman vs Vettori seems the most right.
Idonaldo – I have too much love for the LHW and HW divisions. Any big performance like this is very good for them, and I want Khalil to grow. Rountree is big, explosive and hits very hard. His takedown defense it’s the opponents fear of getting caught by a punch or knee. He knocked Paul Craig out with brutal ground and pound, but I think his muscular frame can make him tired. Devin Clark it’s not one of my favorites, but two wins in a row… the winner get a top 15 fighter
Zane – Devin Clark, Jordan Johnson, Ion Cutelaba? All good options. You could even go with Cannonier if he wants to stay at light heavyweight for a while longer. Of those, Ion Cutelaba promises to be the most fun. But Clark is probably the most reasonable test. Clark is a big, powerful, wrestle-heavy fighter, who is also really hittable. Another chance for Rountree to show off his improving patience and takedown defense, or another reminder of what he needs to work on. Clark vs. Rountree.
Idonaldo – If this were the first fight that I saw of Alexandre Pantoja’s, I would probably think that he is a brawler who wants to send heads into space. But, he is a cunning BJJ black belt and needs to make some improvements in defense. His clinch game and ground game are excellent. John Moraga recently won in Australia, and he is in the top 10. He could make a good fight standing and on the ground.
Zane – Assuming DJ is fighting Ray Borg, Ben Nguyen and John Moraga are the two top 10 flyweights in need of a bout right now. Question is, would Nguyen vs. Moraga make a better fight than either man vs. Pantoja? Maybe. Pantoja vs. Moraga would be a strong second option if the UFC doesn’t book that fight with Nguyen. Otherwise, I’m going to go ahead and say, book Pantoja against Magomed Bibulatov. It’s a chance for Bibulatov to show he can make a splash quickly, and otherwise the best fight the UFC can make apart from Nguyen and Moraga.
Idonaldo – Even though it’s not the most exciting fighting style, Brett Johns is like a tick. He won’t release his opponent for nothing, and has some good wins fighting like this. Climbing to 14-0, he is one of the prospects in the bantamweight division, which lately has been one of the best divisions in the UFC. A bout against Matthew Lopez could make him a prospect with three consecutive wins. Lopez is a wrestler, so they’d probably fight standing up, in a amateur (but good) kickboxing fight.
Zane – Matthew Lopez would be a great fight for Johns right now, as Lopez is another prospect who has stormed his way up the division, but Johns generally has a lot of options. There are other prospects like Ricardo Ramos and Aiemann Zahabi, as well as unranked veterans like Joe Soto and Russell Doane. Given all those options, I’m a bit loath to build one prospect at the expense of another. Give me Brett Johns vs. Joe Soto and a chance to see if Johns can use his round winning style on a solid veteran talent.
OTHER BOUTS: Ray vs. Case, Janes vs. Bamgbose, Craig vs. Stansbury, Willis vs. Felipe, Mulheron vs. Coulter, Nash vs. Ayari, Bofando vs. Alhassan, Ward vs. Enkamp, Henry vs. Gordon, Teymur vs. Dy, Morales vs. Williams, Smith vs. Davis, Lemos vs. Macedo