A UFC card with very little hype came and went Saturday, which is odd because the majority of the first 9 “UFC on Fox” events were very solid cards with memorable matches. This card may not have been great, but it does leave us with some fights that should be made for the fighters who appeared on the card.
Josh Thompson vs Benson Henderson II
This one is obvious. Not only did Thompson break his right hand very early on in this fight, but it was yet another controversial split decision victory for Benson Henderson. I realize Bendo can’t help the fact that the judges always seem to favor him when his typical close fights happen, but it is really become annoying to see him winning all of this split decisions with his style of fighting.
This decision wasn’t ‘terrible’ per say, it was just a very close fight. I think the Melendez decision was a much bigger travesty. Speaking of Melendez, if Thompson is unable to fight for a few months due to the hand, maybe Benson should give Gilbert a rematch in the meantime?
Stipe Miocic vs Mark Hunt
In Miocic’s last 3 fights he has a TKO loss to Stefan Struve and 2 wins over solid heavyweights that I would describe as ‘gatekeepers’ in Gabriel Gonzaga and Roy “Big Country” Nelson. Hunt is coming off one of the greatest fights we’ve seen in years, a draw with Bigfoot Silva that has sadly been overshadowed since by Silva’s post fight drug test revealing elevated levels of testosterone and his subsequent suspension.
Miocic is talented and still fairly young at 31, so I think a match with a veteran like Hunt would serve as a nice ‘proving ground’ match for him. He got past the Gonzaga’s and Nelson’s of the world, if he could defeat Hunt he would be in discussion for some big fights with names like Barnett or Overeem.
Donald Cerrone vs Khabib Nurmagomedev
Cerrone has been up and down since his late 2011 destruction at the hands of Nate Diaz, but he stays as active as anyone in the UFC so we can expect he will be on another card soon. The match on the UFC on Fox 10 card with Adriano Martins was an easily identifiable mismatch, and Cerrone did what was expected of him, dispatching Martins with a head kick KO in the first round.
Cerrone loves to fight, and there is a rumor going about (started by Dana himself) that “nobody wants to fight Nurmagomedev”. The 25 year old Russian born prodigy is 21-0 in his career and has had potential fights against Gilbert Melendez and Nate Diaz nixed recently. This would be a great fight on paper (with Khabib obviously favored) and the winner would be well on their way to moving up the 155 pound ladder.
Jeremy Stephens vs Clay Guida
Stephens’ career seemed to be in a downward spiral as he lost 3 consecutive fights in 2011-12, but a 10 pound weight drop from lightweight to featherweight has rejuvenated his career, as he now has 3 consecutive victories since making the weight class switch. Stephens is an exciting, experienced and well-rounded fighter who needs more of a test in his next 145 pound fight.
Enter: Clay Guida. Guida, another former lightweight who came to 145 pounds looking for a renaissance, is stylistically a fun match up with Stephens, as Guida is a two time fight of the year award winner and is known to push the pace and get in his opponents face as often as he can. Guida recently suffered the first knockout loss of his career at the hands of Chad “Money” Mendes, but that is nothing to be ashamed of, Mendes is a top contender.
Not only would it be an exciting match stylistically, but it would be a meeting of two guys on different paths. Stephen’s has the aforementioned 3 fight winning streak to his credit, while Guida has actually lost 3 of his last 4 fights. It would be interesting to see if Stephen’s could continue his ascent up the 145 pound ladder or if Guida could stop the bleeding and get a much needed victory.
Gabriel Gonzaga vs Brandon Vera
Earlier in the article I mentioned Gonzaga as a ‘gate keeper’ which may be taken as an insult by some, but I don’t mean it as such. Gonzaga is a very solid fighter who brings a ton of UFC experience to the cage with him. Gonzaga is probably underrated in many aspects, with his only UFC losses all coming to great fighters from Randy Couture to Travis Browne to Junior Dos Santos.
Seeing as Gonzaga lost to an up and comer in Miocic on this card, it might be time for him to get another couple of wins under his belt to keep his credibility up as a gate keeper. I think Vera would be a perfect opponent because he brings some name value and was a very popular fighter when he first came onto the scene.
Alex Caceres vs Nam Phan
“Bruce Leroy” as his fans affectionately call him is a 25 year old with an ever-growing fanbase. Now, he is coming off of a performance that saw him win Submission of the Night as well as Fight of the Night, so it may be time for a step in competition for the popular youngster. Nam Phan can be that step up in competition, providing Caceres with an opponent who has name value and that he can put on an entertaining fight with.
A win over Phan wouldn’t skyrocket Caceres up the rankings by any means, but it would be a solid chance for the UFC to showcase one of the more exciting and beloved young fighters that they have.