UFC Fight Night 39: Matches to Make for the Entire Fight Card
Entering UFC Fight Night 39 with back-to-back losses, Roy Nelson needed to turn in a strong showing against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira on Friday.
It would be an understatement to say that "Big Country" simply saved his job with a knockout win over the Brazilian. With a completely dominant performance against the former interim heavyweight champion, Nelson showed he more than deserves a spot in the UFC heavyweight division.
He should be viewed as a legitimate title contender again and could be one more huge victory away from earning a shot at the championship.
With that in mind, UFC matchmakers now have plenty of options for Nelson. Here are the fights that should be next for The Ultimate Fighter 10 winner and the rest of the UFC Fight Night 39 competitors.
Matchup: Johnny Bedford
Somehow, Rani Yahya managed to come out of UFC Fight Night 39 looking better than his opponent despite being knocked unconscious in 39 seconds.
Because he was hurt by a headbutt and unable to continue, Yahya ended up with a no-contest rather than a loss. While Yahya politely said he'd be down for a rematch on the UFC Fight Pass stream of the fight card, Johnny Bedford paraded around the Octagon, arguing against the decision despite clearly ending the fight with an illegal blow, albeit accidental.
Despite Bedford's complaints to the contrary, his fight with Yahya on Friday didn't clearly determine who the better fighter was. As long as Yahya doesn't have to sit out too long with an apparent concussion, it looks like these two will go at it again.
Matchup: Rani Yahya
For a moment, Johnny Bedford appeared to score his most impressive win inside the Octagon to date. Then, replay revealed it was an accidental headbutt that dropped Rani Yahya.
A win would have improved Bedford's record to 3-1 inside the Octagon. However, the correct call was made, as Bedford went home from UFC Fight Night 39 with a no-contest.
He shouldn't see a step up in competition despite his feeling that his hand should have been raised. Instead, he should meet Yahya again, which would give him a chance to prove he really is a better fighter than the Brazilian.
Matchup: Chas Skelly vs. Mirsad Bektic Loser
Alan Omer came up short in his UFC debut, but he took part in one of the more exciting fights on the UFC Fight Night 39 fight card.
Ending up on the wrong side of a split decision in his first UFC outing, he will probably need a win in his next appearance to remain with the promotion. Should he earn that victory and continue to put on entertaining contests like the one he had on Friday, though, Omer will have a long UFC career ahead of him.
Despite his efforts in defeat against Jim Alers, Omer will now be on the hot seat heading into his next matchup. A bout with the loser of a UFC on Fox 11 matchup between fellow UFC newcomers Chas Skelly and Mirsad Bektic is a possibility.
Matchup: Felipe Arantes
At 27 years old, Jim Alers established himself as a fighter to keep an eye on at UFC Fight Night 39.
After an exciting scrap with Alan Omer, Alers walked away with a split-decision win. En route to the victory, he showcased a well-rounded arsenal, knocking Omer down and scoring multiple takedowns.
Alers should now have the opportunity to test himself against a UFC veteran. With a few UFC wins under his belt, Felipe Arantes would be a logical step up in competition.
Matchup: Derek Brunson
Many felt Trevor Smith was overmatched heading into his bout with Thales Leites on Friday. As it turned out at UFC Fight Night 39, he was.
Although Leites usually takes care of business with his grappling, he was able to quickly stop his opponent with his striking. The loss leaves Smith with a 1-2 record inside the Octagon.
He may now look to turn things around against Derek Brunson. A fellow Strikeforce veteran, Brunson recently followed a win over Brian Houston with a knockout loss, which is exactly where Smith stands right now.
Matchup: Francis Carmont vs. CB Dollaway Winner
Almost five years after his disappointing title fight with Anderson Silva, Thales Leites is once again emerging as a serious contender in the middleweight division.
On Friday, he surprised everybody with some vastly improved striking. In the first round, the Brazilian stopped Trevor Smith with punches to score his third career knockout win. The previous two came via doctor stoppage and corner stoppage.
While watching Leites utilize his striking was fun, he is definitely most skilled on the ground. So, a grappling match with the winner of a UFC Fight Night 41 matchup between Francis Carmont and CB Dollaway could be entertaining and would give the former title challenger a chance to take another step forward.
Matchup: Soa Palelei vs. Ruan Potts Loser
Daniel Omielanczuk started his UFC career strong with a win over Nandor Guelmino, but the Polish native didn't have an answer for Jared Rosholt's wrestling on Friday.
Taken down three times, Omielanczuk spent most of the fight on the bottom. That ultimately led to a clear decision loss, leaving him with a 1-1 UFC record.
A few options are now available for Omielanczuk, who could meet the loser of a UFC Fight Night 40 matchup between Soa Palelei and Ruan Potts.
Matchup: Soa Palelei vs. Ruan Potts Winner
A three-time NCAA All-American wrestler, Jared Rosholt has the tools to become a contender in the heavyweight division, but he's failed to impress early in his UFC career.
The 27-year-old is 2-0 inside the Octagon, but his fights have not left an impression. He coasted to a victory over Daniel Omielanczuk on Friday. However, his conditioning problems created questions about how high his ceiling really is.
He needs a signature win before he sees a significant step up in competition. Should Soa Palelei beat Ruan Potts in May, "The Hulk" would be a logical choice for Rosholt's next adversary.
Matchup: Adriano Martins
After submitting Charlie Brenneman during the first round of his UFC debut, Beneil Dariush looked to be a developing star in the lightweight division.
On Friday, Ramsey Nijem handed Dariush a reality check in the form of an opening-round knockout loss. It was Dariush's first career defeat and caused expectations for the Iranian to come crashing down.
Still, at 24 years old, he has plenty of time to turn things around. A bout with Adriano Martins would give him a chance to do so.
Matchup: Sam Stout vs. KJ Noons Winner
Before his fight with Beneil Dariush, Ramsey Nijem likely saved his UFC career with a decision win over Justin Edwards.
Now, Nijem suddenly looks like a fighter who could make a run at title contention. Stopping Dariush may have been the biggest win of his career and should earn him an even more noteworthy fight in his next outing.
A majority of his UFC opponents have been The Ultimate Fighter veterans. It's time he was tested by a veteran, so he should meet the winner of a bout between Sam Stout and KJ Noons that will take place this Wednesday.
Matchup: John Hathaway
John Howard was in a highly competitive fight with Ryan LaFlare on Friday. Then, he took a brutal knee to the groin.
"Doomsday" wasn't the same after absorbing that shot, but he still had some moments and took LaFlare to the scorecards. The fight will go down as a loss on Howard's record, but anybody who watched the bout would agree that his stock shouldn't drop.
Howard deserves another fight with an opponent who is a big win or two away from breaking into the Top 15 welterweight rankings. A matchup with John Hathaway would give Howard a chance to rebound in a big way.
Matchup: Patrick Cote vs. Kyle Noke Winner
Ryan LaFlare remained undefeated at UFC Fight Night 39, but his win over John Howard was tainted by an illegal blow.
Howard was barely able to fight on, so it was easier to be impressed with "Doomsday" as he fought through the pain than with LaFlare's ability to cruise to an inevitable decision win. Still, LaFlare may have been the better fighter and is a rising welterweight to pay attention to moving forward.
While he has beaten some good fighters, he hasn't met any big names. The Ultimate Fighter: Nations coaches Patrick Cote and Kyle Noke stand out from the crowd, so a bout with the winner of their fight on Wednesday could give LaFlare the push he needs to earn a shot at a ranked welterweight.
Matchup: Darren Elkins
A matchup with Clay Guida put Tatsuya Kawajiri on the fast track toward a shot at the featherweight championship, but he wasn't able to follow through.
Knocked down in the first round, Kawajiri couldn't rebound, giving up four takedowns over the final two rounds. Guida, consequently, walked away with a decisive victory on the scorecards.
Now 35 years old, Kawajiri might not get a chance to fight for UFC gold, but he's still a valuable asset to the promotion. Look for him to meet the likes of Darren Elkins on a UFC card in Asia.
Matchup: Dennis Bermudez
Clay Guida returned to the win column on Friday and brought back his exciting fighting style to earn a Fight of the Night bonus.
Not only did he outwrestle Tatsuya Kawajiri, but he scored a rare knockdown in the first round. Now 2-1 since moving to the featherweight division, Guida is slowly establishing himself as one of the top 145-pounders in the world.
With the next featherweight title fight not even booked, he has some time to pick up a couple of wins before starting a campaign for a shot at the championship. A bout with Dennis Bermudez, who has been on a roll, would make sense for Guida now.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Matchup: Josh Barnett
If Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira's UFC title hopes weren't gone already, they should be now.
The Brazilian had nothing to offer Roy Nelson on Friday and was rocked multiple times before being laid out with a huge right hand. It was the kind of knockout loss that caused many to question whether Nogueira should still be doing this MMA thing.
Should he decide to continue his career, he'll be looking for matchups that mean something with fellow veterans. Nogueira is still 1-1 in two Pride FC fights with Josh Barnett, so settling the score with "The Warmaster" might be a good way for "Minotauro" to say farewell.
Matchup: Mark Hunt
Roy Nelson isn't ready to give up his spot in the Top 10 heavyweight rankings.
At UFC Fight Night 39, with his UFC job potentially on the line, Nelson destroyed Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. In doing so, he ensured another big fight will come his way.
While Brendan Schaub is doing his best to secure a fight with Mark Hunt, Nelson is the right opponent for "The Super Samoan" right now. It's a matchup that has been talked about since Hunt became a legitimate heavyweight contender and needs to happen soon.