UFC Fight Night 52: Matches to Make for the Entire Fight Card
Mark Hunt continues to impress inside the Octagon.
Following a knockout loss to Junior dos Santos in May 2013, many may have figured Hunt wouldn't be able to get that close to a heavyweight title shot again. However, 16 months later, Hunt is right back in the thick of things as a heavyweight contender.
At UFC Fight Night 52 on Saturday, Hunt became the first fighter to stop Roy Nelson in a UFC bout. The knockout against a fighter known for his chin spoke volumes about Hunt's punching power and ability to put any heavyweight in the world away.
With another UFC event in the books, here are the matchups that should be made for Hunt, Nelson and the rest of the UFC Fight Night 52 competitors.
|Masanori Kanehara||Urijah Faber|
|Katsunori Kikuno||Zubaira Tukhugov vs. Ernest Chavez Winner|
|Hyun Gyu Lim||Adlan Amagov|
|Kyung Ho Kang||Chris Holdsworth|
|Johnny Case||Mairbek Taisumov vs. Marcin Bandel Winner|
|Maximo Blanco||Mirsad Bektic|
|Alex Caceres||Brian Bowles|
|Sam Sicilia||Niklas Backstrom vs. Mike Wilkinson Loser|
|Takenori Sato||None (Release)|
|Michinori Tanaka||Dustin Kimura|
|Kazuki Tokudome||None (Release)|
|Dan Hooker||Alex White|
Jon Delos Reyes
Matchup: Josh Sampo
Despite losing to Dustin Kimura in his recent UFC debut, Jon Delos Reyes was matched up with Top 15 flyweight Kyoji Horiguchi on Saturday.
The result was as most predicted. Horiguchi was simply on another level. Less than four minutes into the opening round, Reyes was overwhelmed by his opponent's ground-and-pound, resulting in his second straight loss in the first stanza.
An 0-2 start usually results in a fighter being released from the UFC roster, but Reyes was a replacement opponent against a 125-pound contender. For that reason, I believe he'll get one more shot, which could come against Josh Sampo, who has also lost two in a row.
Matchup: Jussier Formiga
With a blazing 3-0 start to his UFC career, Horiguchi has already emerged as a contender in the 125-pound division.
Originally scheduled to meet Chris Cariaso on Saturday, Horiguchi instead met Reyes due to Cariaso being booked for a title shot against Demetrious Johnson. Facing lesser competition, Horiguchi didn't waste any time and wrapped things up in less than four minutes.
Kyoji Horiguchi def. Jon Delos Reyes by TKO via punches at 3:48 of R1. Horiguchi living up to all the hype he has been getting.— Bleacher Report MMA (@BR_MMA) September 20, 2014
Arguably ready for a Top 10 opponent prior to UFC Fight Night 52, Horiguchi should definitely see an elite flyweight now. As one of the more talented grapplers in the 125-pound class, Jussier Formiga might be able to counter Horiguchi's ground-and-pound with submission attempts.
Matchup: Nordine Taleb vs. Li Jingliang Loser
Richard Walsh had an outstanding start on Saturday, knocking Kiichi Kunimoto down twice in the opening round. However, the Australian wasn't able to carry that momentum into the later rounds.
Landing fewer strikes over the final 10 minutes than he did during the initial five minutes, Walsh allowed Kunimoto to claw his way back into the fight on the scorecards. While MMA media unanimously scored the bout in Walsh's favor, two judges awarded Kunimoto the victory.
Media scores have been posted for Walsh/Kunimoto: http://t.co/Dp9wOplSaA— MMADecisions.com (@MMADecisions) September 20, 2014
It was a tough loss to swallow, but Walsh should still have a couple of more chances to pick up another UFC win. His next opportunity could come against the loser of an October 4 bout between Nordine Taleb and Li Jingliang.
Matchup: Nordine Taleb vs. Li Jingliang Winner
Kunimoto has quietly put together a 3-0 record in the UFC welterweight division. There's a reason that record hasn't generated much hype for him, though.
In his UFC debut, Kunimoto was given a win due to Luiz Dutra punching him in the back of the head. Then, on Saturday, Kunimoto was awarded a controversial decision victory over Walsh, who nearly finished the Japanese welterweight in the opening stanza.
Kiichi Kunimoto wins but I'm not sure how? At worst I thought that was a 28-28 draw. Walsh deserved a 10-8 R1 #UFC— Damon Martin (@DamonMartin) September 20, 2014
Following a narrow win over an opponent with one UFC victory, Kunimoto isn't likely to earn a big step up in competition. Instead, he might meet the winner of an October 4 matchup between Nordine Taleb and Li Jingliang.
Matchup: Cat Zingano vs. Amanda Nunes Loser
Undefeated in 16 professional fights, Rin Nakai was not eased into UFC competition. Instead, she met former Strikeforce champion Miesha Tate in her first trip to the Octagon.
As it turned out, Nakai wasn't quite ready to beat an elite bantamweight contender. While she held her own, Nakai spent too much time underneath Tate and fell on the scorecards.
Nakai will likely take a step down in competition next time around. Should Amanda Nunes lose to Cat Zingano as many predict she will on September 27, she'd be a good opponent for Nakai.
Matchup: Alexis Davis
After losing consecutive fights against Ronda Rousey and Cat Zingano, Tate is back on track.
In April, Tate bested Liz Carmouche, a fellow UFC title challenger, via decision. On Saturday, Tate again went to the scorecards to get her hand raised against Nakai.
Having lost to Rousey and Zingano, Tate still has some work to do to reach the top of the women's bantamweight class. However, she has proved she's among the best 135-pound women in the world. A bout with Alexis Davis, who is coming off a loss to Rousey, could help Tate take another small step forward.
Matchup: Claude Patrick
After two years away from competition, Amir Sadollah returned to the Octagon against Yoshihiro Akiyama, who had been on the sidelines even longer.
Ultimately, Akiyama was able to shake off the rust more quickly, as he cruised to a decision win over Sadollah. Spending nearly eight minutes on his back, Sadollah was behind on the scorecards from beginning to end.
Inactive since December 2011, Claude Patrick is in a similar situation to the one Sadollah was in heading into Saturday. A bout between Patrick and Sadollah could be next up.
Matchup: Ben Saunders
Despite losing four in a row, Akiyama was fortunate enough to be given another opportunity to get back into the UFC win column. Had he lost on Saturday, Akiyama surely would have had to decide between fighting on smaller shows and calling it quits.
However, Akiyama was able to pick up an important victory over Sadollah to keep his UFC career going. Utilizing his high-level judo, Akiyama spent a good amount of time on top en route to a clear decision win.
Now that the losing streak is behind him, Akiyama can focus on improving his position in the 170-pound class rather than simply maintaining his spot on the UFC roster. A bout with Ben Saunders would give Akiyama a chance to take a big step toward becoming an unlikely title contender.
Matchup: Jorge Masvidal vs. James Krause Loser
At UFC Fight Night 52, Takanori Gomi had another chance to break into lightweight title contention against a ranked adversary. However, he failed to come up with a big win and may never become a serious threat to capture the 155-pound championship.
Being a former Pride FC champion and one of the best lightweights in MMA history, Gomi may not have any interest in gatekeeping. Fulfilling that role certainly wouldn't improve his already stellar legacy.
Takanori Gomi: "I’m going to relax and take some time to think about my future" - sounds like retirement might be on his mind #UFC— Damon Martin (@DamonMartin) September 20, 2014
If Gomi does decide to continue fighting, he could be matched up with the loser of a September 27 bout between Jorge Masvidal and James Krause.
Matchup: Edson Barboza
With a 6-0 record in the UFC lightweight division, Myles Jury should have been fighting a ranked 155-pounder rather than Takanori Gomi on Saturday.
By knocking out the former Pride FC champion in the opening round, Jury proved he is ready for bigger and better things. A lot of fighters are waiting for a shot at the lightweight championship, but Jury is starting to work his way toward the top.
If Jury can stand with Edson Barboza and win, it would make a huge statement to UFC matchmakers and the entire 155-pound class.
Matchup: Josh Barnett
An April knockout win over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira put Nelson back on the path toward a title shot, but Big Country took a wrong turn on Saturday.
Unable to turn the fight into a grappling match, Nelson was forced to stand with one of the more dangerous heavyweight strikers in MMA. That resulted in a knockout loss—Nelson's first since an October 2008 bout with Andrei Arlovski.
Despite the loss, Nelson is still among the best in the heavyweight division and should have more big fights coming his way. A bout with fellow veteran Josh Barnett would be intriguing.
Matchup: Andrei Arlovski
With a knockout win over Nelson, Hunt is back in the running for a shot at the heavyweight championship.
Beyond Fabricio Werdum, who will challenge Cain Velasquez in November, no heavyweights have emerged as clearly next in line for a spot in a championship bout. Right now, Hunt, Arlovski and Ben Rothwell are the contenders coming off the most impressive victories.
How do you not make Mark Hunt vs. Andrei Arlovski now?— Marc Raimondi (@marc_raimondi) September 20, 2014
Given that Hunt has already beaten Rothwell, it would appear The Super Samoan and Arlovski are the leaders in the race for a title shot. As crazy as it would have sounded as recently as a couple of months ago, Hunt and Arlovski should meet to determine who fights the winner of the upcoming bout between Velasquez and Werdum.