UFC Fight Night 49: Matches to Make for the Entire Fight Card

Sean SmithAnalyst IAugust 25, 2014

UFC Fight Night 49: Matches to Make for the Entire Fight Card

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    USA TODAY Sports

    At UFC Fight Night 49, Rafael dos Anjos shook up the lightweight division with a surprise win over former 155-pound champion Benson Henderson.

    The Brazilian recorded only one knockout win in his first 14 UFC bouts. However, with a stoppage victory over Henderson on Saturday, Dos Anjos has scored knockouts in back-to-back outings. With his recent power surge, Dos Anjos has vaulted into lightweight title conversation.

    Meanwhile, Henderson hopes of returning to the top of the 155-pound class are beginning to slip away. With two losses to current champion Anthony Pettis and now a loss to a Top Five contender, Henderson is going to have a hard time proving he deserves a title shot over others.

    Although Dos Anjos and Henderson are headed in different directions, both still likely have big fights ahead of them. Here are the matchups that make sense for the UFC Fight Night 49 headliners and the rest of the event's competitors.

Prelim Fighters

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Prelim Winners

    Neil Magny Brandon Thatch 
    Beneil DariushAdriano Martins
    Matt Hobar Frankie Saenz
    Ben SaundersYoshihiro Akiyama vs. Amir Sadollah Winner
    Wilson ReisRay Borg


    Prelim Losers

    Alex Garcia Kyle Noke 
    Tony Martin None (Release)
    Aaron PhillipsNone (Release)
    Chris HeatherlyDhiego Lima
    Joby SanchezLouis Smolka

Tom Niinimaki

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    Credit: UFC.com

    Matchup: Clay Collard

    Tom Niinimaki began his UFC career with an impressive win over Rani Yahya, but that victory is beginning to look more and more like a fluke by the day. Either that or maybe Yahya isn't quite as good as he's made out to be on the ground.

    On Saturday, Niinimaki suffered his second straight submission loss in a bout with Chas Skelly. Sadly, Niinimaki failed to land a single strike in the matchup.

    Having lost back-to-back bouts, Niinimaki will now likely need to win in his next appearance to keep his UFC career going. A bout with Clay Collard, who was defeated in his UFC debut on Saturday, would make sense as a loser-leaves-town matchup.

Chas Skelly

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    Credit: UFC.com

    Matchup: Sam Sicilia

    Following a rough decision loss to Mirsad Bektic in his initial trip to the Octagon, Skelly badly needed a victory at UFC Fight Night 49.

    After taking Niinimaki down early on, Skelly was able to take the Finnish featherweight's back within a couple minutes. From there, it was only a matter of time until the wrestler locked up a rear-naked choke and went home with his first UFC win.

    “It feels good to have my first UFC win. I thought I knew what winning felt like but clearly I didn’t” @ChasSkelly pic.twitter.com/AEm6TVhJYk

    — UFC (@ufc) August 24, 2014

    It'll take another win or two before Skelly can make a serious climb up the 145-pound ladder. For now, he'll have to settle for a matchup with a veteran opponent like Sam Sicilia.

Valmir Lazaro

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    Credit: UFC.com

    Matchup: Justin Salas

    Valmir Lazaro made his UFC debut on Saturday, but he appeared to be the latest victim of Octagon jitters.

    With 11 straight wins heading into the weekend, Lazaro appeared to be a solid addition to the lightweight division. However, conditioning proved to be an issue for the Brazilian. Following a close opening round, Lazaro's striking output began to decline with each round that passed.

    That ended up hurting him in a close decision that went James Vick's way.

    Media scores have been posted for Vick/Lazaro: http://t.co/cK3sntKfQb

    — MMADecisions.com (@MMADecisions) August 24, 2014

    Now, a veteran like Justin Salas would be a good opponent to test whether or not Lazaro deserves a spot on the UFC 145-pound roster.

James Vick

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    Credit: UFC.com

    Matchup: Tae Hyun Bang

    Despite being out of action for 12 months, Vick picked up where he left off in his return on Saturday.

    It wasn't the prettiest performance ever, but The Texecutioner gritted through a brawl with Lazaro. Both men ate some big shots over three rounds, but Vick proved to have more in the tank as the bout moved along and took home a win in a fight that surprisingly went to the scorecards.

    Vick is clearly fun to watch in matchups with opponents who will stand and trade with him. Early in his UFC career, Tae Hyun Bang has been that kind of fighter, so a matchup between the Korean and Vick could be entertaining.

Clay Collard

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    Credit: UFC.com

    Matchup: Tom Niinimaki

    Collard can be a lot better than he showed in his Octagon debut on Saturday. Fighting Max Holloway on short notice was a very rough UFC introduction. 

    While Collard was picked apart by the smoother striking possessed by Holloway, he showed outstanding toughness and did have some bright spots. Despite eating more than 137 total strikes—many being hard shots—Collard wasn't finished until late in the third round. In lasting as long as he did, Collard gained many fans and drew comparisons to Chris Leben.

    That was just awesome. Put Clay Collard on every card ever at various special catchweights. #FightNight

    — Tommy Toe Hold (@TommyToeHold) August 24, 2014

    A potential fan favorite and only 21 years old, Collard is a fighter who UFC brass will want to keep around. So, look for them to match him up with a struggling opponent like Tom Niinimaki to get the Utah native into the win column.

Max Holloway

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    Credit: UFC.com

    Matchup: Dennis Siver vs. Rob Whiteford Winner

    With three straight wins, Holloway may finally be ready to make a run into featherweight title contention. At 22 years old, it was only a matter of time until the Hawaiian found his groove, and it looks like he might now be prepared to hit that next level.

    Facing an replacement opponent, Collard, on Saturday, Holloway was expected to win. He made it a little more interesting than he probably intended by getting into a brawl, but Holloway ultimately took care of business and stopped the UFC newcomer in the third round.

    Max Holloway vs. Clay Collard video highlights http://t.co/sUabWTFozD

    — MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) August 24, 2014

    After his win at UFC Fight Night 49, Holloway called out Dennis Siver on the Fox Sports 1 broadcast. In an age where fighters are always down with whatever the UFC hands them, I think fighters should be rewarded for calling their own shots when sensical.

    Should Siver defeat Rob Whiteford in October, Holloway deserves a shot at the German.

Francis Carmont

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    Credit: UFC.com

    Matchup: None (Release)

    Francis Carmont's issues with grapplers continued on Saturday, but Thales Leites didn't need his excellent jiu-jitsu to defeat the Frenchman.

    After an uneventful opening round, Leites came out swinging in the second stanza. Only 20 seconds in, the Brazilian had Carmont sprawled out on the canvas and unconscious. The loss was Carmont's third in a row after he ascended into middleweight title contention mainly by outwrestling opponents.

    When it's getting close to midnight and you got up at 6 AM to watch fights, the last guy in the world you want to see is Francis Carmont.

    — Jonathan Snowden (@mmaencyclopedia) August 24, 2014

    Ranked No. 12 in the 185-pound class heading into the weekend, Carmont is clearly good enough to compete with top-notch competition. However, his fighting style has soured fans on him, and it would not be surprising at all should the UFC decide to part ways with him now that he has reached three consecutive losses.

Thales Leites

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    Credit: UFC.com

    Matchup: CB Dollaway

    More than five years since his disappointing title fight with Anderson Silva, Leites is looking to earn a second shot at the middleweight championship.

    On Saturday, Leites impressively stopped Carmont with strikes in the second round. In his first 26 MMA bouts, Leites only recorded two knockouts, and those came via doctor and corner stoppages. Now, Leites has earned back-to-back knockout victories and is starting to look like one of the most well-rounded fighters in the 185-pound class.

    “This fight went exactly how we planned. This is a new me." @thalesleites Who's next for Leities in the MW division? pic.twitter.com/jQ9r0MgO3D

    — UFC (@ufc) August 24, 2014

    With four straight wins, Leites should now have everybody's attention. This is an even better version of the 2009 Leites, who fought for the middleweight strap. The next step forward should be a bout with CB Dollaway, who also recently defeated Carmont.

Mike Pyle

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    Credit: UFC.com

    Matchup: Mike Pierce

    At 38 years old, Mike Pyle's MMA career could be drawing near an end. The result of his bout on Saturday may or may not have expedited that tough decision.

    Opposite youngster Jordan Mein, Pyle was knocked out in the first round. The veteran didn't have much more than a minute to get his offense going before he was cracked with a left hook from the Canadian, who will now likely move into the Top 15 welterweight rankings.

    While in may be in Pyle's best interests to hang up his gloves soon, as he's now been knocked out in two of his past three outings, Quicksand isn't going to want to go out like this. Instead, he might find more success in a matchup with Mike Pierce.

Jordan Mein

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    Credit: UFC.com

    Matchup: Gunnar Nelson vs. Rick Story Winner

    At 24 years old, Mein has likely broken through and become a Top-15 contender in the 170-pound class.

    Over the weekend, the Canadian ran through Pyle, who has only been beaten by Matt Brown, Rory MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger since May 2009. Pyle may be getting up there in years, but beating the veteran is still a sign that Mein has arrived as a title threat in the welterweight division.

    Not sure Jordan Mein's post-win message could possibly be more Canadian: pic.twitter.com/2XYBFjzMC7

    — Dann Stupp (@DannStupp) August 24, 2014

    More impressive than the left hook Mein landed on Saturday was the mental hurdle he overcame to get his hand raised. On Friday, Mein's father was arrested on sexual battery charges, according to MMAFighting.com.

    Before he sees a top-10 welterweight, Mein could probably use one more win over a top-15 adversary. A meeting with the winner of an October bout between Gunnar Nelson and Rick Story could produce an intriguing fight between youthful up-and-comers.

Benson Henderson

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    Credit: UFC.com

    Matchup: Michael Johnson

    While Henderson's title hopes are becoming more dim, he's still one of the best lightweights in the world.

    Losing to Dos Anjos like he did could knock Henderson out of the Top Five lightweight rankings. However, the former champion could still serve as a good test for up-and-coming contenders while he attempts to work his way back into title shot consideration.

    Respect to DosAnjos, thanks for the wake-up call...hey @ufc I'm not too banged up, just sayin'...love to all my fans!!! Prov. 3:5-6

    — Benson Henderson (@BensonHenderson) August 24, 2014

    As Henderson looks to get back on track, he could serve as a gatekeeper against Michael Johnson, who has earned a shot at a big name following three consecutive victories.

Rafael dos Anjos

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    Credit: UFC.com

    Matchup: Bobby Green

    When he lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov in April, Dos Anjos appeared a long way from challenging for the 155-pound championship. Now, not so much.

    In becoming the first fighter to stop Henderson with strikes, Dos Anjos proved he's a force to be reckoned with. While he may still be behind a couple fighters in the line for a shot at the lightweight strap, Dos Anjos is seriously in the running now.

    Rafael dos Anjos vs. Benson Henderson fight video highlights http://t.co/3ieyCk7I5g

    — Rafael dos Anjos (@RdosAnjosMMA) August 25, 2014

    Coming off of a win over Josh Thomson, Bobby Green has also taken a big step forward recently. With his bout against Donald Cerrone scrapped due to Cowboy now being matched up against Eddie Alvarez, Green should get an opponent who is ready to go soon, and Dos Anjos took little to no damage on Saturday.