The main card featured 4 finishes, but even the 2 fights that went the distance delivered the action. I’m now going to play fantasy matchmaker and give my thoughts on who some of the main card fighters should be matched up with next.
The native Swede sent his countrymen home happy with a stick-and-move gameplan that got him the unanimous decision victory over Thiago Silva. Gustafsson controlled the pace of the fight and kept the distance, showing respect for Silva’s power and frustrating the returning Brazilian. Following the victory, his fifth straight, Gustaffson seemed to downplay thoughts of him getting a title shot. The UFC on Fuel broadcasters were among those thinking that he earned a shot at the winner of Jones-Evans. Personally, I think Gustaffson still needs another win or two, against championship-level opponents, before he gets a crack at the title. Luckily, the light-heavyweight division doesn’t have any of their top guys booked following Jones-Evans. I think Gustaffson has earned the right to test his skills against a Top 5 light-heavyweight. Why not Lyoto Machida? The Dragon hasn’t fought since his loss to Jones in December and his elusive style would be a challenge for Gustafsson.
Next Match: Gustafsson vs. Machida later this summer
Silva didn’t look bad in his first fight in over 1 year. But, he didn’t look very good either. He’s now 1-3-1 in his last 5 fights, although two of those losses include Evans and Machida. Hopefully he’ll be back in the Octagon this year because the light-heavyweight division is lacking depth. Assuming that Quinton “Rampage” Jackson gets his wish and fights the last fight of his UFC career against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, that leaves a few guys open. Why not have him fight the guy he replaced on this card, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, once Little Nog is healed up from his surgery? Nogueira would be a tough fight for Silva and should show if he belongs in the division or it may be time for the UFC to part ways with him.
Next Match: Silva vs. Little Nog in early fall
The American hero made quick and easy work of Alessio Sakara, again demonstrating his power and getting back in the win column. Aside from his loss to Chael Sonnen last fall, Stann has been great since dropping down to middleweight. The Middleweight Division is pretty booked up with Silva-Sonnen, W. Silva-Belfort, Bisping-Boetsch all booked for the next few months. In his post-fight interview, Stann mentioned family issues and it’s not clear when he wants to fight again. But, there are a few interesting matchups available for him, including Chris Weidmann, Yushin Okami, Demian Maia and Mark Munoz. I feel like Munoz may get the next title shot, or at least face Bisping if he wins his fight. I would pair Stann up with Weidmann, who’s on quite the winning streak. The American vs. the All-American wrestler sounds like a great fight and would encourage Stann to enhance his wrestling before the fight.
Next Match: Stann vs. Weidmann in late summer or early fall
There’s not much positive to say about Sakara’s performance. He hadn’t fought in over a year and was talking about potential retirement before the fight. He’s still a young guy, but his UFC wins aren’t exactly a who’s who of MMA. If he chooses to stick around, he’ll obviously be fighting for his job next time. There’s a Middleweight Fighter who’s in a similar predicament, setting up the always intriguing “Loser Leaves Town Match”.
Next Match (if he doesn’t retire): Sakara vs. Kyle Noke
Well, that was quite a way to introduce yourself to UFC fans Mr. Bahadurzada. With a 42 second knockout of Paulo Thiago, the man whose last name is almost as hard to pronounce as mine thrust himself into the UFC Welterweight scene. He had a quick fight, so hopefully he can get back into the cage soon. There are a lot of Welterweight matchups already booked for this summer. I say put Siyar with another impressive UFC on Fuel TV 2 Winner.
Next Match: Siyar vs. John Maguire this summer
The Brazilian Special Operative didn’t have much time to try to win his second fight in a row. In under a minute, he fell into a 1-3 spell. He looked impressive in his win last summer in Brazil, but he’s gotta string together some wins if he’s going to stick around in a crowded Welterweight division. Let’s continuing swapping the fighters in the two Welterweight fights from today’s card.
Next Match: Thiago vs. Damarques Johnson in early fall
Siver, making his Featherweight debut, seemed to be faster as he outstruck Diego Nunes en route to a unanimous decision victory. The Featherweight Division was in need of another possible contender. It seems like Hatsu Hioki or the winner of the Korean Zombie/Dustin Poirier fight is probably going to be next in line to fight champion Jose Aldo. The rest of the division is pretty wide open. Siver would match up well with fellow striker Bart Palaszewski, who recently lost to Hioki, to see where Siver stacks up in the division.
Next Match: Siver vs. Palaszewski in early fall
In a performance that won “Fight of the Night,” Pickett pulled out the first round submission victory over Damacio Page, to go to 1-1 since entering the UFC after the WEC merger. Pickett is a crowd favorite and has a win over former title challenger Demetrious Johnson. He should get an opportunity to continue up the Bantamweight ladder.
Next Match: Pickett vs. Brian Bowles later this summer
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