UFC Fight Night 41: Matches to Make for the Entire Fight Card
On the heels of his first UFC loss, which came at the hands of former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida, Gegard Mousasi needed a win on Saturday to return to middleweight title shot conversation.
With an opening-round submission victory over Mark Munoz, Mousasi did more than return to the win column. The former Strikeforce champion, who is now 2-1 inside the Octagon, became the first fighter to force Munoz to tap.
Headed in a much different direction, Munoz has now lost three of his past four fights. At 36 years old, Munoz doesn't have a ton of time left to make a run at the 185-pound championship.
Here are the fights UFC matchmakers should make for Mousasi, Munoz and the others who appeared on the UFC Fight Night 41 fight card.
Matchup: Alexey Oleinik vs. Anthony Hamilton Loser
Entering his UFC debut with a 9-0 record, Viktor Pesta looked to be a promising addition to the heavyweight division. His first round in the Octagon validated that idea, as he overcame being rocked to win the round with a knee from the clinch and subsequent top control.
However, Pesta slowed in the later rounds and had trouble getting inside on Ruslan Magomedov.
After landing 36 total strikes in the 1st round, Viktor Pesta only landed 9 strikes in the 2nd and 3rd rounds combined #UFCFightNight— Jason Floyd (@Jason_Floyd) May 31, 2014
Magomedov was able to steal the final two rounds. In so doing, he captured a 29-28 decision win on all three scorecards.
As he looks to avoid falling to 0-2 with the world's top MMA promotion, Pesta could meet the loser of a June bout between fellow UFC newcomers Oleinik and Hamilton.
Matchup: Alexey Oleinik vs. Anthony Hamilton Loser
It wasn't as clean as he would have liked, but Magomedov's win over Pesta on Saturday served as an announcement that the Russian is a heavyweight prospect worth keeping an eye on.
Forced to a ground with a knee in the first round, Magomedov rebounded in the second and third rounds. Utilizing his striking, led by an impressive kicking arsenal, Magomedov surpassed Pesta on the scorecards and recorded a decision victory.
Heavyweights that can kick like Ruslan Magomedov are so rare. Enjoy this guy, folks.— Matt Faler (@MattFalerMMA) May 31, 2014
Magomedov doesn't have to do much to become a contender in the shallow heavyweight division. However, his next step should come against another heavyweight with one UFC win, which could mean a bout with the winner of the upcoming matchup between Oleinik and Hamilton.
Matchup: None (Released)
He's been fun to watch inside the Octagon, but Andy Ogle hasn't had enough success to remain with the world's top MMA organization.
On Saturday, Ogle was beaten by Maximo Blanco in a decision. Dropped by a kick in the opening seconds, Ogle was never able to dig himself out of the hole he started in. The Englishman has now lost three in a row, and he owns a 1-4 UFC record.
1st sec of round 1. i went to touch gloves......FML http://t.co/Ly2G9Yb3L7— Andy Ogle (@thelittleaxe) May 31, 2014
At 25 years old, Ogle still has time to develop. Ultimately, a few fights with smaller promotions could be a good thing for him.
Matchup: Steven Siler vs. Noad Lahat Winner
Entering UFC Fight Night 41 with two straight losses, Blanco needed a win over Ogle in a big way.
Bloodying his opponent and landing over 100 strikes, Blanco was named the winner on all three scorecards. He's been inconsistent, but Blanco's wild style makes him worth watching every time he steps into the Octagon.
As he looks to climb upward in the featherweight division, Blanco could now meet the winner of a July bout between Siler and Lahat, who could both be in need of a win to keep their UFC careers going.
Matchup: David Michaud
Pawel Pawlak entered the Octagon with a 10-0 record, but the Poland-native's UFC debut resulted in his first MMA loss.
Spending more time underneath Peter Sobotta than anywhere else on Saturday, Pawlak was soundly defeated on the scorecards. At 25 years old, Pawlak will be able to learn from this experience as his UFC career moves forward, though.
That said, Pawlak will likely need to win his next bout to keep his UFC career going. So, he could meet Michaud in a UFC contract eliminator, as the American was also handed a loss in his first Octagon showing.
Matchup: Li Jingliang
More than three years since he was bounced from the UFC following a loss to Amir Sadollah, Sobotta made a triumphant return to the Octagon.
Sobotta scored three takedowns on fellow Polish-born fighter Pawlak as he cruised to a decision win. It wasn't an overly memorable bout, but Sobotta did what he needed to do to pick up his first UFC victory, as he went 0-3 in his first UFC run.
Also coming off of his first UFC win, Li Jingliang would be a good opponent for Sobotta on a European or Asian fight card.
Matchup: Matt Hobar
With a win over Nam Phan, Vaughan Lee earned a step up in competition.
The Englishman was not able to capitalize on the opportunity he had against Iuri Alcantara, though. In the midst of an exchange in the first round, Lee was cracked with a left hand that sent him down to the canvas.
Now, Lee will have to go back to the drawing board. A step down in competition and matchup with Hobar, who also lost on Saturday, is a possibility.
Matchup: Erik Perez vs. Bryan Caraway Winner
Alcantara's win over Lee at UFC Fight Night 41 gave him two in a row.
The Brazilian is already ranked No. 7 in the bantamweight division, so his performance on Saturday will only strengthen his current position. Solidified as a contender at 135 pounds, Alcantara has his next matchup in mind.
Iuri Alcantara wants rematch with Urijah Faber following quick stoppage win in Berlin http://t.co/X2dDT1Ow9u— Bloody Elbow (@BloodyElbow) May 31, 2014
Since moving to the bantamweight class, Alcantara has only been beaten by The California Kid, so it makes sense that he would want a shot at Urijah Faber again. With wins over Lee and Wilson Reis since that loss, though, a bout with the winner of a June meeting between Perez and Caraway would be more logical.
Matchup: Mats Nilsson
Following a win over Bruno Santos in his UFC debut, Krzysztof Jotko had a chance to take another step forward against Magnus Cedenblad on Saturday.
Instead, Jotko suffered the first loss of his career, as he was submitted by his Swedish adversary. Who knows how a third round would have gone down, but Jotko might be regretting the fact that he tapped, as he decided to do so with one second remaining in the second stanza.
Jotko could look to rebound against another Swede, Nilsson.
Matchup: Josh Samman
Despite being inactive for nine months, Magnus Cedenblad picked up where he left off on Saturday.
A stronger grappler than Jotko, Cedenblad was able to pick up his second straight submission win. An Alexander Gustafsson training partner, Cedenblad might be ready to make some noise in the middleweight division.
He's not quite deserving of a shot at a ranked 185-pound fighter right now, though. So, let's see if he can extend his submission streak against Josh Samman.
Matchup: None (Released)
Drew Dober welcomed Nick Hein to the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 41, but the American's experience with the world's top MMA organization didn't help him enough.
While Dober was competitive with Hein, he surrendered three costly takedowns and absorbed far more damage over three rounds. For those reasons, all three judges awarded the win to Hein.
He hasn't looked out of place inside the Octagon, but Dober was unable to pick up a win in his first two UFC bouts. That's usually a good way to get released, but the 25-year-old has time to earn his way back to the big show.
Matchup: Jon Tuck vs. Jake Lindsey Winner
Fighting in his home country, Hein took an important first step in his UFC journey on Saturday. The German battled his way to a decision win over a tough Dober to earn a sixth consecutive win.
At 30 years old, Hein isn't as raw as most prospects, but he definitely has some solid potential.
You say the words 'German judoka' and I picture a guy built exactly like Nick Hein. Which is to say, kind of a nightmare.— Ben Fowlkes (@benfowlkesMMA) May 31, 2014
Hein will have to work his way up the lightweight ladder like his younger counterparts, and his next bout could come against the winner of a June matchup between Jon Tuck and fellow UFC newcomer Jake Lindsey.
Matchup: Mike Wilkinson
In his UFC debut, Tom Niinimaki had success on the ground against talented grappler Rani Yahya.
That's what made his submission loss to Niklas Backstrom on Saturday all the more surprising. Not only was Backstrom an unproven UFC newcomer but he also forced Niinimaki to tap with a hookless rear-naked choke in the first round.
No hook rear naked choke. Don't feel bad, Tom Niinimäki. We all tapped to that during recess.— Mike Chiappetta MMA (@MikeChiappetta) May 31, 2014
Niinimaki will now have to take another fight with a lowly lightweight adversary. The Finnish fighter could meet Wilkinson, who is also coming off of a opening-round submission loss.
Matchup: Thiago Tavares
Backstrom made a big statement in his first UFC outing.
Despite being taken down early by Niinimaki, Backstrom was able to turn the tables on the ground. With less than one minute left in the opening round, Backstrom locked up a choke and forced his opponent to tap.
Since Niinimaki was originally supposed to meet Tavares at UFC Fight Night 41, Backstrom could now get the opportunity to fight the former lightweight, who is now looking to break into the featherweight division.
Matchup: Dylan Andrews
Luke Barnatt was looking for a fourth straight win on Saturday, but the streak was stolen from him in a controversial decision.
Despite landing more strikes and spending more time in the top position, Barnatt was beaten by Sean Strickland on the scorecards. Meanwhile, MMA media unanimously scored the bout in Barnatt's favor.
Following the loss, Barnatt will need an intriguing matchup to get himself back in the spotlight. A rematch with Andrews, a matchup that produced Fight of the Season on The Ultimate Fighter 17, might do the trick.
Matchup: Elias Theodorou
While not many felt Strickland deserved his win over Barnatt at UFC Fight Night 41, he remains a very promising fighter in the middleweight division.
At only 23 years old, Strickland is now 2-0 inside the Octagon and undefeated in 15 MMA bouts. Fighters with that kind of resume don't come along often.
That said, Strickland shouldn't expect to see a big step up in competition due to the controversial nature of his victory. Instead, he could test recent TUF Nations winner Elias Theodorou.
Matchup: Derek Brunson
After starting his UFC career with six straight wins, Francis Carmont has hit a wall.
The Frenchman has now lost two in a row. On Saturday, he was outwrestled by CB Dollaway and fell in a decision. Giving up five takedowns in his past two fights, Carmont has allowed a weakness to be exposed.
A matchup with wrestler Derek Brunson would allow Carmont to prove he can improve his takedown defense enough to remain a contender in the middleweight division.
Matchup: Thales Leites
Only two years ago, Dollaway was battling for his UFC job against Jason Miller. Now, he's on the verge of becoming a serious contender in the 185-pound class.
With his win over Carmont on Saturday, Dollaway broke into the Top 15 rankings and should have another significant fight coming his way.
Although Leites would be a step down from Carmont in terms of ranking, the Brazilian is riding more momentum than Dollaway's UFC Fight Night 41 opponent and would provide a better test for The Doberman on the ground.
Matchup: Michael Bisping vs. Cung Le Loser
Before Saturday, Munoz's wrestling seemed to be a dangerous weapon against Mousasi.
Then, Mousasi shut down all six of Munoz's takedown attempts. After taking the top position following one defended takedown, Mousasi locked up a rear-naked choke to rebound from a recent loss to Lyoto Machida.
Munoz, on the other hand, has now lost two of his past three fights. At 36 years old, his best days might be behind him now, so expect him to take the biggest fights available rather than looking to rebuild.
A bout with the loser of an August matchup between Bisping and Le is a possibility.
Matchup: Tim Kennedy
Mousasi hit a speedbump against Machida, but he's back in the hunt for a shot at the middleweight title now.
On Saturday, Mousasi completely shut down Munoz before scoring his first UFC submission victory. In becoming the first fighter to submit Munoz, Mousasi should earn a bout with another Top 10 middleweight on a better run than Munoz was on.
Fighting Tim Kennedy, who has won four in a row, would be a logical step forward for Mousasi.
Statistics via Fight Metric.