Before I get into my fantasy matchmaking (that sounds oddly kinky, doesn’t it?) I want to talk about a few things I’m thankful for coming off last week’s “UFC on Fuel”, since my original post-event article got destroyed by some intervention of the spiteful internet gods. In brief, and in no particular order:
1) I’m thankful no one seems to be getting too bent out of shape about the Sanchez/Ellenberger decision, and adopting a “both guys came off as winners” type of mentality. This is a refreshing change of pace, and hopefully an indicator of things to come. Basically, I’m thankful Diego Sanchez doesn’t have Nick Diaz’s fans. OH NO HE DIDN’T. Seriously though good job everyone.
2) I’m thankful for Greg Jackson, who coached yet another fighter to a boring, points oriented gameplan that resulted in a dreadful fight that you’d NEVER want to see go all 5. Oh wait, what I actually mean is the exact opposite of that.
3) And speaking of going all 5, I’m thankful we finally got a firm commitment from the UFC that ALL main events will be five-rounders from here on out. This is great news for all future events on Fuel TV and elsewhere, and comes just late enough to avoid Jake Ellenberger’s cardio getting exposed by Diego Sanchez. OH NO HE DOES IT AGAIN! Yes I realize it’s lame to shout out your own trash talk, but I wasn’t working with much to begin with.
So with that out of the way, it’s time to look forward, to the future, the undiscovered country, the last, great, frontier of…oops, you caught me Shatnering. Ok, enough with the preamble – let’s talk about what fights I would make if I were Joe Silva, matchmaker extraordinaire.
Johnathan Brookins vs. Ross Pearson
Yes, I’m going to be as audacious to suggest a battle of “Ultimate Fighter” winners. Why? Because the fight sells itself for exactly that reason. It’s the sort of thing you slot in underneath, say, Velasquez vs. Dos Santos and a strong co-main event and still call a “big fight” even though it’s a meeting of two middle of the pack featherweights.
Now some might argue that Pearson’s “ever improving” boxing skills would give Brookins problems on the feet – but so what? Since when do we base fights based on what would be a problem for one of the fighters? I don’t recall anyone saying GSP vs. Hardy shouldn’t happen because St. Pierre’s wrestling would “give Hardy problems”. Actually, I heard TONS of people say that, so…bad example.
My point is this fight makes sense for both men’s career trajectory. For Brookins, it’s a chance to test his stand-up skills and newfound power against a legit boxing threat. For Pearson, it’s a chance to get in the ring with a guy who went 14 and a half minutes with Jose Aldo – and show where he stacks up in the division.
Ivan Menjivar vs. Scott Jorgensen
I love fantasy matchmaking in the bantamweight division. You look down the list of contenders and think “damn, there isn’t a bad fight to be made here!”. We are in for some absolute wars in the bantamweight division over the next couple of years, and I can’t wait.
Still, for my money (or I guess Lorenzo’s money, in this case) one of the most fun fights you could make right now is Ivan Menjivar vs. Scott Jorgensen.
Menjivar is coming off a highly impressive win last week, where he showed great heart, recovery, and submission skills. It was his third straight win in the UFC, and the Tristar prospect is starting to build a name for himself – not to mention a nice highlight reel. He’s ready to take the “next step up” in competition, and start taking fights that will get his name “in the mix” for a title shot.
For Jorgensen, Menjivar represents the chance to rebuild a title contender’s aura after recent setbacks. In his last fight, Jorgensen was a stepping stone for Renan Barao – an experience he’ll not want to repeat against Menjivar. A win gets him back in the title hunt. A loss could move him off the ladder for a good while.
Stipe Miocic vs. Stefan Struve
Well gee, let’s see here. We’ve got two heavyweights who just fought and notched outstanding TKO wins. Both guys came out without serious injury and should be ready around the same time. Hey I know…let’s have them fight!
For Miocic, this fight makes perfect sense as a “moving up from entry-level to middle-of-the-pack” fight. Sure, he’s only notched two UFC wins, but he’s undefeated as a professional and has an exciting, fan-friendly style. In today’s Heavyweight division, that’s enough to start moving a prospect up the ladder. Hell, Sean McCorkle got a co-main event fight with Struve once after just one fight in the UFC, against Mark Hunt of all people. Stranger things have happened.
And for Struve, this is a chance to build some consistency and answer questions about his less-than-bulletproof chin. A win over Miocic is an “establishing” win for Struve, proving that he belongs in the division’s upper echelons. And finally, need it be said, but this fight will likely be exciting and end with one of these dudes looking up at the lights, wondering what happened.
Sounds like a good idea to me.
Diego Sanchez vs. Nick Diaz
Ok, I realize all of Diaz’s recent pot-problems make the timing of this fight uncertain at best. If Nick is really going to be out for a year, it’s likely Diego will find another dance partner in that time.
But still, the second the final bell rung in the Sanchez vs. Ellenberger fight last week, the first thing I thought was “damn do I want to see Nick Diaz rematch Diego Sanchez!”.
Anyone who saw their first fight way back in…biblical times, I think (it was awhile ago) needs no other reason to see this rematch. Nick Diaz and Diego Sanchez had an all-out war that’s still one of the best fights of the “Spike TV era”. It had the pace and momentum shifts of the best Diego fights, and the intensity and “gameness” of Nick’s best performances. It was an all-time classic, and ended in a controversial decision with for “The Nightmare/The Dream/The Yes Man (my personal pick)”.
I would love to see this fight again. Diego recently claimed he would have his way with Nick again, but this is a very different fight today than it was half a decade ago. Nick’s striking could give Diego real problems, and his BJJ has improved from “really good” to “downright phenomenal”. Still, Diego’s pace, wrestling, and gritiness could be the combination to beat Diaz as it was so many years ago.
Again, the two best reasons to make this fight are: it makes sense for both guys, and it’s GUARANTEED action. Seems easy enough to me. And even if Nick is out for the year, well – there’s always 2013 to consider. Assuming the world doesn’t end, of course.
Jake Ellenberger vs. Carlos Condit
I’ve already written reams and reams of carefully worded prose semi-coherent ramblings on this subject, so ill keep it short and sweet for you.
If Condit is going to fight before GSP’s return – and I think it’s foolish to sideline a fighter in his prime for a year – then there’s no better choice of opponent than Jake Ellenberger. These two men have history – Condit edged Ellenberger by razor close decision in Jake’s debut fight in the UFC. Plus, Jake established himself as the de facto #1 contender to Condit’s de facto title with his win over Diego Sanchez.
Anchored by another title fight, Condit/Ellenberger could spotlight the UFC’s historically stacked July card and provide the perfect fight timing-wise for Carlos – and for Jake – before GSP’s return