UFC Fight Night 51: Matches to Make for the Entire Fight Card
Andrei Arlovski has made quite a turnaround over the past few years.
In February 2011, Arlovski was sitting on four straight losses, with three of those coming via knockout in the first round. Many were calling for the former UFC champion to retire, but Arlovski clearly made the correct decision to continue fighting.
On Saturday, in his second bout since returning to the UFC roster, Arlovski knocked out Antonio Silva in the opening stanza. Since Silva was ranked No. 4 in the heavyweight class heading into the matchup, it's a win that makes Arlovski a legitimate contender again more than eight years after losing the belt to Tim Sylvia.
With another UFC event in the books, it's time to take a look at the matchups that should be made for Arlovski, Silva and the rest of the UFC Fight Night 51 competitors.
|Godofredo Pepey||Niklas Backstrom vs. Mike Wilkinson Winner|
|George Sullivan||John Howard vs. Brian Ebersole Winner|
|Francisco Trinaldo||Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Jake Lindsey Winner|
|Sean Spencer||Nico Musoke vs. Alexander Yakovlev Winner|
|Rani Yahya||Aljamain Sterling|
|Dashon Johnson||None (Release)|
|Igor Araujo||Gasan Umalatov vs. Cathal Pended Loser|
|Leandro Silva||Efrain Escudero|
|Paulo Thiago||None (Release)|
|Johnny Bedford||None (Release)|
Matchup: Lauren Murphy
At 20 years old, Larissa Pacheco entered her UFC debut as one of the hotter prospects in the women's bantamweight division. However, Pacheco's record took its first hit in her 11th MMA bout.
Jessica Andrade was able to take Pacheco down early, and the former dominated on the ground. After spending more than four minutes on top, Andrade locked up a guillotine choke to give Pacheco a loss in her first trip to the Octagon.
Larissa Pacheco: "I didn't think I would feel the pressure of debuting in the UFC, but I did. This is a totally different world.”— Marc Raimondi (@marc_raimondi) September 14, 2014
Despite the loss, Pacheco still has a very bright future ahead. I expect she'll now meet a fellow UFC newcomer coming off of a loss, which could mean a matchup with Lauren Murphy.
Matchup: Julianna Pena
After losing to Liz Carmouche in her UFC debut, Andrade has quietly developed into a contender in the women's bantamweight class.
On Saturday, Andrade submitted Pacheco to earn a third consecutive victory. Already ranked No. 10 at 135 pounds, Andrade may move even further up the ladder now.
Andrade had been scheduled to fight TUF 18 winner Julianna Pena in March. However, Pena suffered a knee injury that forced her out of that contest. Now back to training, Pena would still make sense as an opponent for Andrade in the coming months.
Matchup: Joe Soto
With wins in his first two UFC outings, Russell Doane earned a bout with Top 10 bantamweight Iuri Alcantara on Saturday. Although the Hawaiian came up short against Alcantara, Doane did show that he has the potential to become a contender in the 135-pound division.
Doane spent more than six minutes on top, more than the two that Alcantara spent controlling him on the ground. However, Doane did land fewer significant strikes, which could have factored into the judges' decisions. Either way, it was a close matchup that either man could have won.
Although, as a fellow Hawaiian, Max Holloway may be biased, MMA media was split on the decision, according MMADecisions.com. Because he came so close to beating Alcantara, Doane deserves another ranked adversary, and Joe Soto would be a logical option.
Matchup: Johnny Eduardo
Alcantara didn't handle Doane like many thought he would, but the Brazilian was able to come away with another win, his third in a row.
Despite the controversial victory, Alcantara remains a Top 10 bantamweight contender. With a solid winning streak going, Marajo is ready to step back into competition with ranked 135-pounders.
Having recently emerged as a contender in the bantamweight division, Johnny Eduardo could stand to be tested by an elite grappler before being placed in a title-shot eliminator. Alcantara would be able to reveal any holes in his fellow Brazilian's grappling.
Matchup: Mike Rhodes
Wendell Oliveira entered his UFC debut with seven straight wins, but he was lined up with a tough opponent in Santiago Ponzinibbio.
Less than two minutes in, Ponzinibbio, who would have been a finalist on TUF: Brazil 2 had it not been for an injury, stopped Oliveira with punches. It was a quick finish that probably saved Ponzinibbio from being released while putting Oliviera's UFC career in jeopardy.
Oliveira should get a second chance to prove he belongs on the UFC roster, but it will likely be his last opportunity. There's a good chance he'll meet fellow winless UFC welterweight Mike Rhodes in a loser-leaves-town matchup.
Matchup: Adam Khaliev
After losing to Ryan LaFlare in his UFC debut, Ponzinibbio likely needed a win over Oliveira to keep his UFC career going.
The Argentinian came through in a big way, stopping Oliveira with strikes in the opening round. In doing so, Ponzinibbio showed he's still a prospect to keep an eye on at 27 years old.
While this was an important win for Ponzinibbio, it probably isn't one that will earn him a huge step up in competition. Instead, he might welcome undefeated Russian Adam Khaliev to the Octagon. Khaliev was scheduled to make his UFC debut in January, but his bout with Pascal Krauss was cancelled.
Matchup: Leandro Silva
More than two years since he was released by the world's top MMA organization, Efrain Escudero returned to the Octagon on Saturday.
The former TUF winner was unsuccessful in his return, though. Spending more than six minutes underneath Leonardo Santos, Escudero fell short on the judges' scorecards.
In his next outing, Escudero could be fighting for his UFC job once again. So, a bout with Leandro Silva, who also returned to the Octagon with a loss over the weekend, would be a possible adversary.
Matchup: Gleison Tibau
Santos has quietly gone undefeated in his first three UFC appearances.
Following a draw with Norman Parke, the TUF: Brazil winner looked to get back into the win column against Escudero on Saturday. Proving to be one of the better grapplers in the lightweight division, Santos needed only two takedowns to come away with a victory on the scorecards.
Beating a veteran like Escudero should earn Santos a step up in competition. Gleison Tibau isn't quite ranked at 155 pounds, but he's one of the winningest UFC fighters in history and would be a good test for Santos.
Matchup: Ramsey Nijem
Piotr Hallmann's UFC career is becoming quite the roller coaster.
At UFC Fight Night 51, the Polish lightweight looked for his second straight win, but he came up short in a split decision against Tibau. Surrendering five takedowns over three rounds, Hallmann got dragged into the grinding kind of bout that Tibau thrives in.
Having alternated wins and losses over his first four UFC outings, Hallmann does have potential and should see another noteworthy opponent in his next showing. Expect Pletwal to be matched up with Ramsey Nijem.
Matchup: Leonardo Santos
He may never claim a UFC championship, but Tibau definitely knows how to win fights he's supposed to win
Gleison Tibau's 15 UFC victories are tied with Michael Bisping for the most of any fighter in UFC history without competing in a title bout.— Mike Bohn (@MikeBohnMMA) September 14, 2014
The Brazilian took care of business again on Saturday when he bested Hallman over three rounds to secure a decision victory. It has now been over six years since Tibau has suffered losses in consecutive appearances.
While Tibau's overall resume is impressive, a narrow win over Hallmann won't get him back to fighting lightweight contenders. Instead, he'll probably have to test another up-and-comer like fellow Brazilian Santos.
Matchup: Travis Browne vs. Brendan Schaub loser
In February 2013, Silva knocked out Alistair Overeem to earn a shot at the heavyweight championship. Now, he's on the verge of being eliminated from the Top 10 heavyweight contenders.
On Saturday, Silva was knocked out by Arlovski, a former champion whose career looked to be on its last leg. The loss leaves Bigfoot without a victory in his past three appearances, dating back to the win over Overeem 19 months ago.
Should he lose to Travis Browne in December, Brendan Schaub would make sense as a slight step down in competition for Silva, as the TUF veteran is also coming off of a loss to Arlovski. A matchup between Silva and Browne wouldn't be bad, either, as Browne would probably like to have a chance to avenge his October 2012 loss to the Brazilian.
Matchup: Travis Browne vs. Brendan Schaub winner
Believe it or not, Arlovski is back as a serious heavyweight contender. That may say more about the shallowness of the heavyweight division than Arlovski's improvement, but it's still where he stands right now.
Having previously lost to Silva under the Strikeforce banner, Arlovski was a big underdog heading into Saturday's matchup. Nonetheless, he was able to put Silva away brutally in under three minutes.
Oh my god. Andrei Arlovski knocks Antonio Silva out cold. Huge upset! That's MMA.— Mike Bohn (@MikeBohnMMA) September 14, 2014
This depends totally on the outcome of that December bout, but Arlovski could now meet the winner of an upcoming matchup between Travis Browne and Brendan Schaub. The UFC isn't going to book a rematch between Arlovski and Schaub, but a striking match between Browne and Arlovski is certainly intriguing.