UFC FIGHT NIGHT 55 & 56 MATCHMAKER

By: Tim Mutohfan

We start with the winner of the Sydney, Australia event, Luke Rockhold. The question I saw posed the most in the hours post this event was “Who’s next for Luke Rockhold?” (or some variant of that). The common reply seems to be a rematch of the fight that saw Rockhold go home with the Strikeforce 185lb. title, vs. Jacare Souza. Now, as a fan of Jacare I’d love to watch him fight anyone, and me not being a fan of guys icing title shots and shelving their in cage activity to hold on to said shot, I found myself wondering does that fight make sense for either guy? For Rockhold damn straight it does. A chance to rematch with a guy he already beat once with a potential title shot in the balance, of course he wants that fight. Does it make sense for Souza? Again I am a fan, I love to watch him fight, and I’m not a fan of guys resting on their laurels as far as title shots go. I could go the route that the UFC wouldn’t want to burn the bridge to a title shot for either guy, but there are serious names out there at 185, so it’s not as though there is no chance for a bounce back for the loser if such a fight were to happen. I’ve seen people throw in Luke should face Lyoto Machida if he wins over C.B. Dalloway. Even still I’ve seen those say they would like to see Rockhold fight Anderson Silva if he can defeat Nick Diaz. It’s a great time for the UFC middleweight division that such a seemingly simple question can be met with such intriguing replies.

I know I haven’t picked an opponent yet, so here it is, the next opponent for Luke Rockhold should be Yoel Romero. Some may say “BAHH he’s protecting his man-crush Jacare”, it may seem that way but why should he risk his shot? People don’t take umbrage when other fighters get shots after beating also rans, but want Jacare to risk his shot against a top 5 guy? But, that fight makes no sense from Jacare’s point of view. So Yoel Romero it is. From the business side of things Romero has heat from the finish of the Tim Kennedy fight.

Now for the losing end of the Sydney event, Michael Bisping, this one isn’t as easy. He was just barely in the top 10 of the UFC middleweight division and his most notable win of late was over Cung Le. Will the UFC keep giving him high profile matchups or will they use him as an ambassador of sorts to the UK market? The ambassador deal might suit him well as he winds down his career, but not so sure he gets fights with the top of the 185lb. food chain. Do you serve him up against guys who have slipped, like Gegard Mousasi or the loser of the Machida v. Dalloway affair? Would Bisping want that, he has been labelled a “gatekeeper” for his entire career as it seems, does he want to be known as cannon fodder for guys looking for a turnaround fight? Or even worse a guy to test the medal of some young up and comer. There is an entire generation of MMA fighters riding off into the sunset. Bisping’s name is in those numbers. So, to business who does he fight next? Gonna dark horse this one, and go with Thales Leites. This is a fight far enough down the middleweight ladder to not totally upset the upper echelon, but is yet still an intriguing fight. Few fighters get a second chance on the big stage, and Leites has, and he has done everything he can to make it count. He is 4-0 since his return and that includes two impressive stoppages. The more I think about it the more I like this fight.

Now to the winner of the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 55, Al Iaquinta. Picking next for lightweights is a double edged sword. Yeah it’s a stacked division, plenty of fighters there to choose from, but you can also fantasy book a fighter far out of their pay grade. The latter is where I find my peril. Iaquinta looked good in the win, but he did look very hittable. That does lend to reason as Pearson is a sharp striker. Iaquinta also made off with his biggest win to date. Do we throw him in the deep end and see if he can swim? I say yes. The talent pool at 155 is no joke; to make moves there you have to take chances. Scared money won’t win out in that division. So next for Al Iaquinta is, Jim Miller. Yes this is a big bite for Al to chew but that is the point. Make moves, make notice. There is more for Jim Miller to lose than Iaquinta.

For Ross Pearson, it’s going to be short and sweet, Joe Lauzon. Yeah Joe had to pull out of his Mexico City fight with Diego Sanchez due to injury, but how great would these two together? It has potential Fight of the Night stuff written all over it. Neither Pearson or Lauzon are at the stage of their careers where the glimmer of the title is blinding them, so why not a li’l fan friendly fight?

I would like to see Robert Whittaker face Urijah Hall next.

For Soa Palelei there aren’t a lot of heavyweights to choose from, but he has looked brutal lately so let’s step up his game with a fight against Matt Mitrione.

Walt Harris, the losing end of the heavyweight matchup against Soa Palelei, walking papers.

Now to the UFC Fight Night 56: Rua vs. St. Preux event from Brazil and we are only covering the one fight that mattered, the main event featuring Mauricio Rua vs. Ovince St. Preux.

Start with the winner, Ovince St. Preux. Yes there wasn’t much of a story told on OSP coming out of this fight. There was more told on the man he beat, but OSP has to go somewhere from here. The UFC light heavyweight division is an interesting bird. The tippy top where guys like Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier, Alexander Gustaffson and Anthony Johnson live is an intriguing weight class. Then there is a click down in the rankings. Where guys like OSP, Ryan Bader, Phil Davis and Glover Teixeira (I know he fought for the title, but he looked average at best in that fight and hasn’t looked much better since) live and can’t seem to break through. Is it that the talent is so bunched together it’s hard for guys to go on a tear? Perhaps, but the issue at hand is what’s next for Ovince St. Preux? A good matchup for him would be Phil Davis; I had picked Ryan Bader for Mr. Wonderful on an earlier matchmaking entry, but Davis vs. St. Preux can also work. Both guys need a win to make a stronger claim for career advancement. Who better to stake that claim than with a win over the other? Bader vs. Davis or Davis vs. St. Preux either fight makes sense. Bader vs. St. Preux not so much, we saw them once before and no need to see it again.

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua might want to think about retirement. To say he lost a step is an understatement. But, if he insists on fighting again, give him the previous intended main event for this card, Jimi Manuwa.

I know I said I was only going to cover the main event, but there was one fight that didn’t come off that had serious title implications, that would be Ian McCall vs. John Lineker. I am a huge fan of both guys, I know Lineker has been angling for a title shot seeing that his fight with Uncle Creepy didn’t happen, but come on, this fight is too much fun not to happen. Please make it happen?

Image by Josh Hedges, Zuffa

Courtesy of Firststopfantasy.com

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