Derek Brunson def. Lyoto Machida
Derek Brunson has come a long way way from his early days as a relatively boring, wrestling heavy sort of fighter. He has finished his last 6 fights by KO and has been looking better and better each time. The Machida fight started a bit slow, and Machida seemed to be landing his shots until he left himself open and felt the wrath of Brunson’s power. He is a bit of a sleeper in this division, and I think he deserves a top five match up next, and is maybe only a fight or two away from a potential title shot. At this stage I think the most logical opponent would be Jacare Souza. Souza is not booked right now, and despite coming off a loss he is still a top fighter in the division and he actually holds a KO victory over Brunson from back in their Strikeforce days.
The fight to make next: Derek Brunson vs. Jacare Souza
Lyoto Machida is one of the great ones in this sport. His style caused a change in the way some fighters fight, and he helped legitimize karate in MMA. He is a former light heavyweight champion, and a former challenger to the middleweight championship. He holds a slew of notable victories over such names as Rich Franklin, Rashad Evans, Dan Henderson, Randy Couture, BJ Penn, Stephan Bonnar, Shogun Rua, Tito Ortiz, and Ryan Bader. All of those men are either UFC hall of famers, or former UFC/Bellator World Champions.
With all of that being said he is 39 years old, and while it seems as though father time has ignored Lyoto Machida for the most part, he will eventually come to collect his dues. Machida is still a top fighter I think, but his days as a potential title challenger are over. I remember long ago when he first lost his belt, he mentioned that his father wanted him to retire after his loss. That’s always been in my mind, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him walk away here, but assuming he sticks around I think a fight with Brad Tavares makes a good bit of sense.
The fight to make next: Lyoto Machida vs. Brad Tavares
Colby Covington def. Demian Maia
President Donald Trump’s new ambassador for Brazil is Colby Covington…now that I’ve got my poor attempt at humor out of the way I’ll move on with the match making.
Colby Covington looked like a million bucks against Demian Maia, beating him badly for the last two rounds of the fight, and then ripped into all of Brazil in his post-fight speech, which of course went over about as well as you would think. Still though, regardless of your opinion of his antics, the man can fight. He doesn’t get paid to make Brazil love him, nor does he get paid to speak. He gets paid to fight, and he’s good at it. He’s left a lot of people salty, but I think ultimately that will be a good thing for him.
Assuming the UFC doesn’t give him some tough, unranked opponent as some sort of strange punishment, I think he gets another top 5 opponent next and is likely only a win or two away from a title shot at this point. I say match him up with the winner of Stephen Thompson and Jorge Masvidal, and give the winner of that fight the next shot at the belt.
The fight to make next: Colby Covington vs. Stephen Thompson/Jorge Masvidal winner
Barring some unforeseen set of events taking place, Demian Maia will retire as one of the greatest fighters to have never won a UFC championship. He holds 19 career UFC victories, and is possibly the best BJJ fighter to ever step foot into the octagon, but Demian Maia looked old Saturday night. The Demian Maia that we saw Saturday was a Demian Maia that was forced to rely on his striking when he couldn’t implement his grappling. It was a Demian Maia that has now gone two fights without a successful takedown, and it’s a Demian Maia that probably doesn’t have a ton of fights left in his MMA career. Still though, he is one of the greats, and he is actually my favorite fighter ever.
Assuming he decides to return for another fight, which is no guarantee for a 44 year old man, but assuming he does I think it’s about time he takes a step back and attempts to rebuild. Tarec Saffedine is another guy at a career crossroads. He is 2-4 in the UFC and is currently riding a three-fight losing streak. It would be a classic striker vs. grappler match up, and one that I think makes sense for both men at this stage.
The fight to make next: Damian Maia vs. Tarec Saffedine
Pedro Munhoz def. Rob Font
I was very impressed with Pedro Munhoz’s performance against a very tough Rob Font, and in my eyes, he has really put himself into the mix. He was succeeding right under my nose, and after looking at his record and seeing his performance, I can’t help but feel that Munhoz could have a bright future in this sport. He holds a 15-2 record and his only losses are to Jimmie Rivera and Raphael Assuncao, two of the division’s top competitors. He has now won four in a row and has picked up three performance bonuses along the way. Aljamain Sterling has looked good lately, and I can’t think of a better opponent for Munhoz here.
The fight to make next: Pedro Munhoz vs. Aljamain Sterling
I have considered Rob Font to be a sleeper in the bantamweight division for a long time. He has proven to be a capable fighter with finishing ability and has been fairly consistent throughout his tenure in the UFC. This was a tough loss for him though, as he is 32 years old, and in the lower weight classes early 30’s seems to translate to early 40’s. Still though he landed some nice shots before submitting to Munhoz guillotine so I expect him back in good form, and I would like to see him return against Johnny Eduardo. Eduardo has been battling opponents and the sands of time for ages now. Rob Font would be a good test to see what he has left in the tank after his most recent outing, a loss to Matthew Lopez.
The fight to make next: Rob Font vs. Johnny Eduardo
Francisco Trinaldo def. Jim Miller
Francisco Trinaldo is a bit of an interesting character in the UFC lightweight division. He is 39 years old, but still seems to be improving and is coming off what is perhaps the biggest win of his career over Jim Miller. He has quietly been tearing through the division, sporting a 12-4 UFC record with wins in 8 of his last 10 fights. Jim Miller is not the fighter that he was in his prime but he is still a tough go for anybody and a win over him is nothing to spit at.
Still though, if Trinaldo wants to make any sort of a run he will have to win against higher ranked opponents. While I think he deserves another chance to do that most of the division’s top fighters are booked, so I think he should instead be matched up with Mairbek Taisumov. The winner should be rewarded with a top five opponent. Both men have had a lot of success as of late, and an impressive performance here should really help them break out of the middle of a very dense lightweight division.
The fight to make next: Francisco Trinaldo vs. Mairbek Taisumov
I mentioned earlier that Demian Maia will retire as one of the best fighters to never win a UFC championship. Jim Miller will without a doubt retire as the best fighter ever to never even receive a shot at the belt. Miller has been one of the best lightweights over the last ten years, and for that reason he has to be considered one of the best lightweights ever. He has competed in the UFC more than any other man and has wins over some of the division’s top fighters. He isn’t the top contender that he once was, but he is still a great measuring stick and will probably have a place in the UFC as long as he wants one.
For that reason, I do not expect his three-fight losing streak to have the negative effects on him that it could have on others…basically I’m saying that I don’t think he will be cut. Still though his days as a contender are over, and he is best served now as a stiff test to up and coming fighters. Enter Kajan Johnson. Kajan Johnson went from no name fighter to name to watch after his impressive KO victory over Adriano Martins. Let’s give him a chance to prove that wasn’t a fluke.
The fight to make next: Jim Miller vs. Kajan Johnson
Thiago Santos def. Jack Hermansson
Thiago Santos is a bad man and he proved it again this past weekend in violent fashion and at the expense of Jack Hermansson. Santos is certainly a fighter to watch in the UFC middleweight division and deserves a top ten match up after picking up his third straight KO victory. Chris Weidman was given some opportunities early in his career and he made the best of them, but its time he returns the favor. He should be rebuilt slowly following his three-fight skid, and a fight with Santos makes sense for him.
The fight to make next: Chris Weidman vs. Thiago Santos
Jack Hermansson is a tough guy but he had a rough night and its back to the drawing board for him now. He is 3-2 in the UFC so he will be looking for a win here in his next fight to make sure that his UFC career continues. I think Jack Marshman makes sense.
The fight to make next: Jack Hermansson vs. Jack Marshman
John Lineker def. Marlon Vera
John Lineker’s move to bantamweight seemed like a good one. He could finally focus on the fights and less on the weight cutting. He started off strong, going 4-0 with strong wins over Michael McDonald and John Dodson, two former title challengers and top ranked fighters. Then he ran into TJ Dillashaw and he was knocked back a few pegs. He returned to action this past weekend with an impressive decision victory over Marlon Vera and has begun the path back to the top.
While Vera is a solid fighter, he is a step back from what Lineker has been used to. When Lineker returns I think it will be against a top ten opponent, and the fight I would like to see him in next is against Thomas Almeida. Almeida has been impressive in his UFC career against lesser competition, but has struggled against big name fighters. This would serve as a chance for him to break that trend, but it also gives Lineker a chance to get a big win and gain steam towards another crack at the top of the division.
The fight to make next: John Lineker vs. Thomas Almeida
Marlon Vera is the face of Ecuadorian MMA, and has had some success so far in the UFC, but he ran into a train when he faced John Lineker this past weekend. Still though he seems to be a solid fighter and should be able to climb out of this hole with an impressive performance or two. He has shown that he is adept at striking and grappling, so it would be interesting to see what he can bring to the table as he develops as a fighter. For now though I think that he should return against Jose Alberto Quinonez.
The fight to make next: Marlon Vera vs. Jose Alberto Quinonez
Vicente Luque def. Niko Price
Fights to make next: Vicente Luque vs. Peter Sobotta & Niko Price vs. Dhiego Lima
Antonio Carlos Junior def. Jack Marshman
Fights to make next: Antonio Carlos Junior vs. Tim Boetsch & Jack Marshman vs. Darren Stewart
Jared Gordon def. Hacran Dias
Fights to make next: Jared Gordon vs. Joachim Silva & Hacran Dias vs. Desmond Green
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos def. Max Griffin
Fights to make next: Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Claudio Silva & Max Griffin vs. Bobby Nash
Deiveson Figueiredo def. Jarred Brooks
Fights to make next: Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Ben Nyugen & Jarred Brooks vs. Joby Sanchez
Marcelo Golm def. Christian Colombo
Fights to make next: Marcelo Golm vs. Justin Ledet & Christian Colombo vs. Rashad Coulter
NOW CHECK OUT COLE’S PREVIOUS TAKE: Fights to make after UFC 216