Sign Here Please: 10 Fights to Make in the Near Future
Matchmaking in major MMA promotions is much more difficult than meets the eye.
There are a laundry list of factors to consider by prominent matchmakers like Joe Silva (UFC), Sean Shelby (WEC) and Rich Chou (Strikeforce).
- Will both fighters sign on the dotted line?
- Does the timing work out?
- What has each fighter done recently?
- Is it too much, too soon for the developing prospect?
- What type of fight is likely produced given the style of each fighter?
- How does this potentially affect the title picture?
These are merely a handful of the questions that must be asked when brainstorming potential matchups.
Over the next few months a lot of fights have already been announced, but a good number are still in development behind the scenes.
Allow me to speculate on 10 potential fights to target in the foreseeable future that make sense from both the organizational and the individual fighter’s perspectives.
Derek Bolender is a freelance MMA writer who has contributed to CBSSports.com, FIGHT! Magazine, and MMAmania.com (in addition to BleacherReport.com). Follow him on Twitter at @DerekBolender.
10) Matt Mitrione vs. Mike Russow (UFC)
This matchup is an appropriate next step in the continued development of Mitrione, who is coming off a unanimous victory over Joey Beltran at UFC 119 to run his professional record to 3-0.
Despite showing improvements each time he fights, Mitrione still lacks experience and remains a work in progress.
A guy like Russow, who is on a two-fight win streak of his own, will allow Mitrione to continue to log cage time and put the skills he continues to cultivate in the gym into practice.
We must tread lightly with our prospects.
9) Donald Cerrone vs. Chris Horodecki (WEC)
A trilogy with Jamie Varner is always a future option for Cerrone, but it’s a card that simply does not need to be played by the WEC at this stage.
Save it for a rainy day.
Frankly, fans are stuck in a constant Cerrone-Varner-Ben Henderson loop, and they need breathing room in between what appears to be a never-ending round robin tournament between the three.
It’s a product of the lack of depth in the WEC lightweight division.
It also leaves very few options for Cerrone in the near future, but Horodecki would be more than appropriate.
Both men would walk in with win streaks and moving in the same direction.
It would also be an opportunity for Cerrone to continue to improve on his wrestling game. He showed major improvements with both his offensive and defensive grappling in his unanimous decision victory over Varner at WEC 51, but he still has a ways to go in his evolution.
8) Tyron Woodley vs. Evangelista Santos (Strikeforce)
“T-Wood” is an up-and-coming star on the precipice of his first career title shot.
There’s no doubt he has the skills necessary to give current welterweight champion Nick Diaz major problems, but he’s likely one more quality win away from getting his shot at the golden sombrero.
Woodley ran over jiu-jitsu ace Andre Galvao en route to a first round TKO victory last week, while sustaining no damage of his own.
As a result, Woodley has made it known publicly he wishes to fight on an already stacked December 4 Strikeforce card that is set to take place in his home state of Missouri.
It’s unlikely there will be room for him on the card, as Strikeforce must keep future events in early 2011 in mind.
“Cyborg,” on the other hand, has been waiting patiently since knocking out DREAM Welterweight Champion Marius Zaromskis in his debut at the 170-pound limit back in June of this year.
The winner will most certainly be in the title hunt, along with newly acquired Paul Daley if he is successful in his promotional debut against Scott Smith.
7) Josh Thomson vs. Lyle Beerbohm (Strikeforce)
Thomson is coming off a mildly controversial unanimous decision victory over Gesias Cavalcante last week in San Jose.
It wasn’t a pretty effort from Thomson, but it’s pretty on paper.
Despite Thomson’s best efforts in his post-fight interview to hype up a potential third bout with current lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez, it’s a matchup that there really is not a lot of demand for.
He deserves another quality opponent who is also ascending.
“Fancy Pants” is that man.
Furthermore, it’s a fight that was already in the works this year prior to Beerbohm going on the shelf with an elbow injury.
Pull the trigger again.
6) Kenny Florian vs. Rafael Dos Anjos (UFC)
Florian recently announced on ESPN’s MMA Live he would likely face UFC 119 tough luck loser Evan Dunham at the upcoming UFC 126 event.
His agent Malki Kawa then amended the statement shortly thereafter, essentially saying nothing was set in stone.
Frankly, a bounce-back fight against Dunham is a dangerous proposition and a tall task.
Dunham is a tough draw. He’s long, but still powerful. He’s well-rounded and constantly improving with gainful experience inside the octagon.
Florian doesn’t have the offensive wrestling to give Dunham fits like Sean Sherk did in Indianapolis either.
It’s understandable that “Ken Flo” is trying to jump back into the fray as quick as possible after dropping a disappointing No. 1 contender fight to Gray Maynard at UFC 118.
Then again, a second consecutive loss in a high profile fight would be devastating if he hopes to ever work his way back to a title shot again.
That’s why Dos Anjos, who is coming off a UFC 118 loss of his own, is a more prudent choice for the Boston native.
5) Sean Sherk vs. Cole Miller (UFC)
A controversial split decision victory over Evan Dunham at UFC 119 earned the veteran Sherk his first win since October 2008.
With the majority of other top flight lightweights already tied up, there is one clear potential opponent also on the rise, and also looking for a fight—Cole Miller.
It’s a fitting matchup between two quality 155-pound fighters who are both still 2-3 more wins away from a potential title shot.
It’s also a nice stylistic clash. You have the power double leg wrestling specialist Sherk meshing with the dangerous guard play of the American Top Team product.
4) Jon Fitch vs. Chris Lytle (UFC)
That’s right. I’m simply not buying the fact that Fitch will be fighting for the 170-pound crown again anytime soon.
Right now, the UFC appears to be on a “wait and see what transpires at UFC 121” approach.
UFC 121 features a matchup between former Strikeforce champion Jake Shields and Martin Kampmann.
It’s fair to say if either impresses in victory, they will likely get the next title shot.
Conversely, if the winner squeaks out a boring decision, he may have to fight Fitch next in an eliminator match.
With that being said, Fitch has a habit of not waiting around for title scenarios to develop.
My guess is he takes a fight in the interim while the politics are worked out behind the curtain.
Lytle would be an ideal challenge in what would be a battle of Hoosier natives.
3) Frank Mir vs. Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera II (UFC)
This is a no brainer.
The rematch was supposed to headline UFC 119 in Indianapolis before Nogueira was forced to pull out due to injury.
Mir went on to defeat Mirko Cro Cop via third round TKO in the lackluster headliner.
The rest of the top heavyweight contenders are all tied up. Brock Lesnar is fighting Cain Velasquez. Junior Dos Santos is waiting on the winner.
Cheick Kongo and Gabriel Gonzaga have fights scheduled.
Shane Carwin is fighting Roy Nelson at UFC 125.
“Big Nog” is the last man standing after a round of musical chairs.
2) Jason Miller vs. Ronaldo Souza III (Strikeforce)
Many are clamoring for a Nick Diaz vs. Jason Miller matchup due to their continued war of words and outright hatred for one another.
I am not one of them.
In theory, it’s appealing. Logistically, however, it creates a nightmare at the top of the Strikeforce middleweight division currently ruled by Ronaldo Souza.
“Jacare” is awaiting his first title challenger with no clear contender on the horizon.
Cung Le is off making another movie.
The Robber Lawler vs. Matt Lindland winner in December would not have earned the right to fight for a title at that point.
Luke Rockhold and Trevor Prangley are not high enough on the pecking order.
Dan Henderson is now fighting at 205 pounds.
Jake Shields is UFC bound.
That leaves “Mayhem,” who is currently riding a two-fight win streak after submitting Kazushi Sakuraba at DREAM 16.
The pair has a long history.
Souza defeated Miller in June 2008 via unanimous decision in Japan.
In May 2009, they fought for the vacant DREAM middleweight title, but the fight ended in a no contest. Miller landed an illegal soccer kick to the head of Souza, which opened a big cut that prompted a doctor stoppage.
They have unfinished business and it would not take much effort to promote this bout, as Miller is a mainstream commodity with a penchant for amusing fight-related rhetoric.
1) Gilbert Melendez vs. Eddie Alvarez (Strikeforce/Bellator co-promotion)
Strikeforce is in a bit of a pickle with regards to their current lightweight champion Melendez.
There isn’t huge demand for a third fight with Josh Thomson.
Fast-rising lightweights on the Strikeforce roster are hard to come by, unless you count the idle Lyle Beerbohm, who fans simply have no clue about.
The winner of the upcoming Vitor Ribeiro vs. Justin Wilcox matchup would not deserve a title shot.
A rematch with Shinya Aoki on his own turf in Japan under the DREAM banner is an appropriate fight, but the timetable does not match.
Aoki is likely to fight on the New Year’s Eve Dynamite!! card, which is creeping up at just two and a half months away.
It may be worth it for the Strikeforce and Bellator brass to get together and sift through the mound of red tape in order to co-promote the matchup between Melendez and Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez.
Otherwise, “El Nino” may be on the shelf for a very long time.