UFC Matchmaking: Who Should Rousimar Palhares Meet in His Welterweight Debut?

Sean SmithAnalyst IAugust 7, 2013

May 5, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA;  Rousimar Palhares before a middleweight bout with Alan Belcher during UFC on Fox 3 at the Izod Center. Alan Belcher won by technical knock out in the first round. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

After five years in the UFC middleweight division, Rousimar Palhares is making a move to 170 pounds.

Ariel Helwani reported the Brazilian's decision on Tuesday's edition of UFC Tonight on Fuel TV.

With back-to-back first-round knockout losses, Palhares' choice to transition to the welterweight class may be motivated by desperation now that his UFC roster spot could be in jeopardy. A third consecutive defeat in either division could spell the end of the 33-year-old's long run with the promotion.

The switch also comes in the midst of a nine-month suspension for Palhares. Following a UFC on FX 6 bout with Hector Lombard, Palhares was caught with elevated levels of testosterone and barred from competition until September.

Palhares isn't going to find himself competing against welterweight contenders right away, but he should have plenty of options for his first appearance at 170 pounds. Although it's unrealistic to expect Palhares would meet a top-10 welterweight, he has become a popular fighter among MMA fans and will likely be matched up with a well-known adversary.

Some notable welterweights who are coming off of a lossas Palhares isinclude Tyron Woodley, Jordan Mein, Siyar Bahadurzada and Yoshihiro Akiyama. An additional option would be for Palhares to meet the loser of a UFC Fight Night 26 bout between Matt Brown and Mike Pyle.

To narrow down that long list of potential foes, Bahadurzada recently pulled out of a fight due to injury, so there's no guarantee he or the loser of the upcoming fight between Brown and Pyle would be ready to go again by the end of 2013.

That leaves Woodley, Mein and Akiyama as the most intriguing available opponents for Palhares. Since Akiyamalike Palharesis the only one of those fighters with more than one loss in a row, it may make sense for the UFC to put him in a loser-leaves-town fight with the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace.

Little news has been circulated on Akiyama since he pulled out of a July 2012 bout against Thiago Alves, but he'd be a good option to welcome Palhares to the welterweight division, as long as he's ready to go in the coming months.


Sean Smith is a Featured MMA Columnist for Bleacher Report who has also had work promoted on UFC.com and TheMMACorner.com. Follow on Twitter @SeanSmithMMA.