UFC 169: Matches to Make for the Entire Fight Card
At UFC 169, Renan Barao made his first appearance as the undisputed bantamweight champion.
Following another injury to Dominick Cruz, who was originally supposed to meet him on Saturday, Barao dropped his interim tag and faced Urijah Faber in a rematch. In the first round, Barao floored the fighter he defeated at UFC 149 to earn UFC gold and finished the fight with hammerfists.
While there was some controversy because it looked as though Faber could have continued fighting, Barao successfully established himself as the better fighter, putting "The California Kid" on the ropes for much of the first round.
Jose Aldo, a Nova Uniao teammate with Barao, also defended his featherweight championship over the weekend. The Brazilian picked challenger Ricardo Lamas apart with leg kicks and cruised to a decision victory.
With another UFC event in the books, here are the matchups that should be next for Barao, Aldo and the rest of the UFC 169 competitors.
Gasan Umalatov vs. Ben Wall
Gasan Umalatov made his UFC debut 0pposite Neil Magny on Saturday.
Scoring only two takedowns on nine attempts, the Russian was unable to ground Magny. Forced to deal with a 10-inch reach disadvantage, Umalatov ate 110 strikes over three rounds and lost by a considerable margin on the scorecards.
After losing in his first UFC appearance, he will likely have to win his next bout to maintain a roster spot. A loser-leaves-town matchup with another fighter coming off a loss in his official UFC debut in Ben Wall is a possibility.
Neil Magny vs. George Sullivan
After losing two straight fights heading into UFC 169, Neil Magny was likely fighting for his UFC job over the weekend.
The 26-year-old responded with one of the best fights of his MMA career. He shut down a majority of Umalatov's takedowns and peppered his opponent with strikes over three rounds to return to the win column.
Now looking at a fight with an opponent coming off a UFC win, Magny could be matched with George Sullivan, who would be more willing to trade than Umalatov.
Tony Martin vs. Tae Hyun Bang
Tony Martin entered his UFC debut against Rashid Magomedov with an undefeated record.
In the opening round, he impressed with an kimura-armbar transition that nearly forced a tap from Magomedov. However, the Russian was able to escape and rallied in the later rounds to take a decision win.
As promising as Martin looked in that first frame, he'll need a win in his next outing to stick around. There's a chance he'll now meet Tae Hyun Bang, who is also coming off a loss in his first trip to the Octagon.
Rashid Magomedov vs. Mitch Clarke
Another up-and-coming Russian, Rashid Magomedov joined the UFC after winning eight consecutive fights.
The 29-year-old faced some adversity in the first stanza, but he fought through a nasty armbar attempt by Tony Martin. From that point on, he controlled the action and was able to come back on the scorecards to secure his first UFC victory.
While he appears to be a solid prospect in the lightweight division, Magomedov did reveal some vulnerability on the ground. A matchup with another grappler in Mitch Clarke would be a good test for him.
Andy Enz vs. Loser of Tor Troeng vs. Bubba McDaniel
Andy Enz was eliminated from The Ultimate Fighter 17 in a bout with Uriah Hall. However, the 22-year-old picked up three straight wins in 2013 to earn another shot with the world's top MMA promotion.
At UFC 169, the Alaskan still did not appear ready for the highest level of competition. He survived a bludgeoning from Clint Hester in the first round only to be taken down twice in the second frame, which allowed his opponent to coast to a decision win.
For what could be his last chance to prove himself inside the Octagon, Enz might keep the TUF 17 narrative going with a matchup against the loser of the UFC 171 bout between Tor Troeng and Bubba McDaniel. Both of those fighters, as well as Hester, also appeared on the 17th season of the UFC's reality show.
Clint Hester vs. Josh Samman
Clint Hester appears to be improving rapidly since failing to reach the quarterfinals on The Ultimate Fighter 17 with a submission loss to Jimmy Quinlan.
At UFC 169, Hester rocked Andy Enz multiple times and willingly went to the ground with a strong grappler without being threatened by submissions. While he wasn't able to stop Enz, he glided to a comfortable decision win on Saturday.
Looking for a chance to prove how much he's grown, Hester could now meet TUF 17 semifinalist Josh Samman, who eliminated Quinlan in the TUF 17 quarterfinals. The matchup would give Hester an opportunity to prove he's developing more quickly than other fighters from the reality series.
Kevin Lee vs. Garett Whiteley
Kevin Lee went undefeated with smaller promotions prior to receiving his UFC call, so he was immediately handed a tough matchup against Al Iaquinta.
In the second round, Lee showed he can hang with high-level competition by giving Iaquinta a scare with a rear-naked choke attempt. Iaquinta escaped and pulled away in a decisive third round, but Lee will be a fighter to keep an eye on moving forward.
As he looks for his first UFC win, Lee could be matched up with Garett Whiteley, who also came away with a loss in his first UFC outing.
Al Iaquinta vs. Winner of Norman Parke vs. Leonardo Santos
Coming off two straight wins, Al Iaquinta saw a perceived step down in competition on Saturday.
However, Kevin Lee was no pushover for the more experienced Iaquinta. While the Serra-Longo Fight Team member came away with a decision win, he had to fight off a deep rear-naked choke in the second round to edge Lee on the scorecards.
If he had steamrolled Lee at UFC 169, he probably would be due for a big step up in competition. Instead, he could meet the winner of a March bout between Norman Parke and Leonardo Santos.
Tom Watson vs. Chris Camozzi
After losing to Thales Leites at UFC 163, Tom Watson was paired with another grappler, Nick Catone, on Saturday.
Taken down five times over three rounds, Watson was unable to work his striking much. That led to a another decision loss for the Englishman, who has surrendered 20 takedowns in his first four UFC appearances.
He is eventually going to need to improve his wrestling to maintain a spot on the UFC roster. However, with his next fight being a must-win, he should be matched up with Chris Camozzi, who is more likely to stand with him.
Nick Catone vs. Trevor Smith
With two straight losses heading into UFC 169, Nick Catone needed a win over Tom Watson.
It wasn't pretty, but Catone got the job done with five takedowns and more than four minutes of controlling Watson in the clinch or on the ground. The victory was his first since he edged Costas Philippou on the scorecards nearly three years ago.
Now, Catone should be matched with an opponent who can be more competitive with him on the ground. Coming off a victory in a must-win of his own, Trevor Smith fits that description.
Danny Martinez vs. Alptekin Ozkilic
A WEC veteran, Danny Martinez earned his way back into a Zuffa promotion with four straight wins outside the promotion.
Things did not go his way off the bat at UFC 169, though.
Despite scoring five takedowns, Martinez could not beat Chris Cariaso on the scorecards. The Alliance MMA product couldn't make his opponent pay for the takedowns and had trouble generating offense with his striking.
As Martinez looks to pick up his first UFC win, a bout with Alptekin Ozkilic is logical.
Chris Cariaso vs. Kyoji Horiguchi
Looking to build some momentum in the flyweight division, Chris Cariaso was matched up with UFC newcomer Danny Martinez on Saturday.
Cariaso surrendered a handful of takedowns, but he was repeatedly able to escape and make up for his shaky wrestling with technical striking. "Kamikaze" landed 40 more significant strikes than Martinez over three rounds and walked away with a second straight win.
With eight of his 12 career wins coming via knockout, Kyoji Horiguchi would be more willing than Martinez to mix it up with Cariaso.
John Makdessi vs. James Krause
With three straight wins, John Makdessi carried some momentum into UFC 169.
Unfortunately, the judges halted the Canadian's ascension in the lightweight class. While almost all the MMA media sided with Makdessi, according to MMADecisions.com, Alan Patrick was given an edge over the Tristar fighter on the three scorecards that mattered.
Makdessi can look to get back on track against James Krause, a scrappy fighter who would provide "The Bull" with a more entertaining scrap.
Alan Patrick vs. Winner of KJ Noons vs. Sam Stout
After picking up a win over Garett Whiteley in his first UFC outing, Alan Patrick was given a chance to elevate himself against a quickly rising John Makdessi.
While Patrick landed 21 fewer significant strikes than Makdessi on Saturday, he scored a pair of takedowns. Those were apparently made the difference, as the Brazilian came away with a controversial decision victory.
It wasn't a win that will earn him a huge step up in competition. Instead, he may meet the winner of an April bout between KJ Noons and Sam Stout, even though the latter was recently defeated by Makdessi.
Jamie Varner vs. Pat Healy
Jamie Varner was defeated by Gleison Tibau in his last 2013 appearance, so he needed to impress at UFC 169 to get back on track toward title contention.
He started off strong, threatening Abel Trujillo with a north-south choke in the first round and rocking the Blackzilian in the second stanza. However, as Varner pressed for a finish, he was caught and knocked out by a wild right hook.
As a fellow well-rounded fighter who has been slumping lately, Pat Healy would provide Varner with another matchup that could have Fight of the Night potential.
Abel Trujillo vs. Ross Pearson
Coming off his first UFC win, Abel Trujillo was given a shot at boosting his standing in the 155-pound division against Jamie Varner.
Trujillo made multiple mistakes on Saturday, ending up underneath Varner and getting rocked by the veteran. However, "Killa" hung tough and cracked Varner with a right hook that turned things around instantly and gave him his second straight knockout win.
With another win like that, he could see himself competing with Top 15 lightweights. Stopping a striker like Ross Pearson would probably be enough to elevate him to that level.
John Lineker vs. Darrell Montague
John Lineker may not be long for the flyweight division.
The Brazilian nearly missed weight for the third time in a row ahead of UFC 169, but he returned to the scale and hit 126 pounds after the weigh-ins had ended. That kind of weight cutting can't help his performances, though, as he lost in a tactical affair with Ali Bagautinov.
It might be a smart move for him to make the transition to 135 pounds now. However, if he stays at flyweight for his next outing, Darrell Montague would be a worthy adversary.
Ali Bagautinov vs. John Dodson
With wins in his first two UFC fights, Ali Bagautinov quickly rose into title contention in the flyweight division. A bout with John Lineker gave the Russian an opportunity to make a statement and earn a title shot with Demetrious Johnson.
Bagautinov did his best to avoid Lineker's scary punching power and recorded six takedowns on Saturday. That was enough for him to remain undefeated inside the Octagon, but he wasn't able to deliver the outstanding performance that would have locked up a shot at UFC gold.
Instead, he should now find himself in a guaranteed title-shot eliminator with John Dodson.
Frank Mir vs. Brandon Vera
Riding a three-fight losing streak into UFC 169, Frank Mir was in a bad spot heading into the weekend. Most in his situation would need to win to remain with the promotion, but UFC president Dana White did not commit to those terms with Mir's bout against Alistair Overeem, according to MMA Weekly.
As expected, Mir had little to offer Overeem when standing, but he also struggled on the ground. Overeem spent eight minutes on the canvas, and Mir only briefly threatened with a guillotine choke while being battered with ground-and-pound.
It's very possible that he has made his final appearance inside the Octagon. If he's kept around, he might be interested in avenging a 2006 loss to Brandon Vera, who recently returned to the heavyweight division and should also be fighting for his UFC job in his next outing.
Alistair Overeem vs. Junior dos Santos
After setbacks against Antonio Silva and Travis Browne, Alistair Overeem needed a win on Saturday to remain a serious contender in the heavyweight division.
The former Strikeforce champion turned in a solid all-around performance against Frank Mir. He dominated the stand-up and safely rolled with one of the most dangerous heavyweight grapplers in MMA history without being threatened much.
Now that he's back in the win column, Overeem can get back to taking big fights. A rivalry with Junior dos Santos has been brewing, and a matchup between Overeem and the former champion would produce some highly entertaining striking.
Ricardo Lamas vs. Dustin Poirier
Ricardo Lamas waited more than 12 months for his shot at Jose Aldo, and it now looks like his chance came too soon.
Aldo broke Lamas down with leg kicks early and often. Unable to get his wrestling going, Lamas was a sitting duck for the much more advanced striking of the champ, whose gas tank held up until the final minutes. By then, it was too late for Lamas to make a comeback with some late ground-and-pound.
With Aldo now considering a move to 155 pounds, he will have to work his way back up the rankings in a new weight class, while two other featherweight contenders might get a shot at a potentially vacant 145-pound championship. A bout with Dustin Poirier would give Lamas a chance to get back into the running for another shot at UFC gold.
Jose Aldo vs. Anthony Pettis
Jose Aldo has taken care of business in the featherweight division and may now be readying himself for a run in the lightweight class.
At UFC 169, he had his way with Ricardo Lamas, landing countless leg kicks and shutting down all six of his opponent's takedown attempts. With six straight UFC title defenses, he is now even with Jon Jones for the most title defenses during a current UFC championship reign.
Clearly the best fighter in featherweight history, Aldo may now look for a new challenge at 155 pounds, where he'd be granted an immediate title shot against Anthony Pettis.
Urijah Faber vs. Winner of Raphael Assuncao vs. Francisco Rivera
Urijah Faber received his third shot at a UFC championship on Saturday, when he met Renan Barao in a rematch of a fight he lost at UFC 149.
Barao came out swinging and hurt Faber badly in the first round with a right overhand. While "The California Kid" was clearly in big trouble, he appeared capable of continuing when referee Herb Dean stepped in and called a stop to the bout.
Faber stepped up on short notice and got screwed. Herb is a great ref, one of the best, but that was a TERRIBLE stoppage.— Michael Chiesa (@MikeMav22) February 2, 2014
With Aldo's potential move to 155 pounds, Faber may consider a return to the featherweight class. If he does remain at 135 pounds, though, he could meet the winner of a UFC 170 matchup between Raphael Assuncao and Francisco Rivera, which could put him right back in title contention.
Renan Barao vs. Dominick Cruz
Renan Barao is quickly becoming one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in MMA.
At UFC 169, the Brazilian picked up his second win over Urijah Faber, stopping the former WEC champion this time around. Since he's been so dominant against the best of the best in the bantamweight division, it is going to become hard to sell matchups between Barao and the Raphael Assuncaos and Francisco Riveras of the 135-pound class.
One fight that can sell is a bout with former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. While Cruz would be at a serious disadvantage after such a long hiatus due to injuries, he could be next for Barao as long as he doesn't have any setbacks in his recovery from a groin injury.
Statistics via UFC.com.