When it comes to promises, the Ultimate Fighting Championship fulfilled its at UFC 202 with 9 of the 12 fights being decided in the cage, instead of by the judges. Starting off with a confrontation between Tim Means and Sabah Homasi, the main card didn't disappoint either. Of the four fights prior to the main event, all were won by KO/TKO with two in the first round. Following a 13 second destruction of hardened veteran Glover Teixeira by Anthony "Rumble" Johnson, Irish star, Conor McGregor, and Nate Diaz fought tooth and nail for five rounds to the delight of the raucous Las Vegas crowd.
Here is who we would love to see face off against each other in the near future.
Conor McGregor vs. Jose Aldo: Few people are as worthy of a rematch than current featherweight interim title holder, Jose Aldo. In an era in which the UFC's modus operandi seems to include handing out rematches to whoever complains the most or garners enough interest on social media, Aldo, the long-time featherweight champion, was forced to beat former UFC lightweight champion, Frankie Edgar, for the second time at UFC 200 to earn the interim title. In unifying the belt, the Brazilian will face the only fighter to beat him in the UFC. By beating Edgar, the former WEC featherweight title holder improved his record to 26-2. His only other loss came in 2005. Aldo defended his UFC belt seven times before losing to McGregor in the opening minute of their bout in December 2015.
Aldo and his coaches badly wanted McGregor to beat Nate Diaz at UFC 202 and set up a rematch and revenge, however, they may have to wait awhile as it appears the SGB Ireland talent injured himself in the five round victory. McGregor Faces 6 Month Layoff. With his win over Diaz, "The Notorious" is now 20-3 with his only UFC loss to Diaz in their previous match up. Some are clamoring for the 28 year old to confront Diaz once more in a rubber match, but the UFC would be wise to ignore this advice. Besides Aldo, there are many other contenders, including Max Holloway, for the featherweight belt that McGregor has yet to defend or unify. Moreover, the UFC should avoid having their biggest star face the same fighter - a fighter who has won no titles in the UFC - three times in a row and avoid looking like a regional organization, instead of the world's largest mixed martial arts promotion.
Daniel Cormier vs. Anthony "Rumble" Johnson: Between 2011, when he won the light heavyweight strap against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, and 2015 when he was stripped of his title for drug abuse issues, Jon "Bones" Jones laid waste to the division now ruled by Daniel Cormier. As such, the division that was ruled at times by Chuck Liddel, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, Forrest Griffin and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson is now a division with few interesting contenders. The UFC should share blame as the organization doesn't seem to focus much on bringing in new talent and matching up current fighters more frequently.
With that being said, the former Olympian turned heavyweight champ, should next face Anthony Johnson in a rematch of their May 2015 encounter. The 37 year old Louisiana native can't waste any more time in the twilight of his career. The American Kickboxing Academy fighter last defended the belt against Swede, Alexander Gustaffson, in October 2015. When his rematch with Jones was scratched amid new drug allegations, Cormier dismissed middleweight legend, Anderson "Spider" Silva, in a last minute bout at UFC 200. Despite White's recent declaration that he wants to see Jones match up against Johnson in a contender bout, one more division can't be held up, while it has a healthy champ.
In the top heavy light heavyweight division, Johnson is not the best choice, but the only choice. This isn't to say that Johnson, and his 13 second knockout of former contender, Glover Teixeira isn't impressive. It is also not saying that Rumble is deserving having won three straight since submitting to Cormier. Further supporting his case, all three of the aforementioned wins were by knockout, two in the first round and all three earning him Performance of the Night accolades. Instead, it is more to say that the division is at the point in which rematches are a necessity. The only - and I mean only - other possibility is Ukrainian, Nikita Krylov, who is on a five fight win streak with all wins by KO/TKO or submission and three in the first round. Even so, Krylov's competition has been mediocre with his last win coming against former middleweight, middle of the pack fighter, Ed Herman.
Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone vs. Lorenz "The Monsoon" Larkin: Current welterweight champion, Tyron Woodley, has plenty of worthy, legitimate contenders, and should defend his belt at least once before receiving the money fights against Georges Saint-Pierre and Nick Diaz that he wants. As for the rest of the division, there are a lot of interesting match ups for Cerrone, who dismantled Rick Story in their UFC 202 main card bout. Interestingly, Cerrone started his UFC career in another stacked division, lightweight, but given the Cowboy's penchant for taking fights at a blistering pace, he may soon be running of opponents in either division.
Taking fights at an average of 4 fights per year between 2013 and 2015, Cerrone, whose contract ended after the Story fight, will need just one more to meet his quota in 2016. Of course, it's easy to rack up win streaks when you fight as often as the Cowboy does. Since losing the lightweight title bout against Rafael dos Anjos in December 2015, Cerrone has won three straight, all by KO/TKO or submission. He is 10-1 since 2014. While Dana White wants the Colorado native to stay at welterweight, regardless of the weight class, if he keeps winning it will be hard to deny him another title shot in the near future.
Title shots aside, this writer would like to see Cerrone in a fun, fan friendly fight on a main event by the year's end. Perhaps the greatest fighter to never win a UFC title, Cerrone brings a huge entertainment factor to events, a fact not lost on his bosses. Fights against veteran striker, Jake Ellenberger, upset mastermind, Bryan Barbena or Tim "The Dirty Bird" Means would all be barn burners. However, we're thinking a clash between Cerrone and fellow UFC 202 competitor, Lorenz Larkin, could be beneficial to both. Cerrone would get a top ten win and get closer to another title shot, while Larkin - whose UFC contract is also up - will get a big name fight and continue climbing the welterweight rankings.
Cody Garbrandt vs. Jimmie Rivera: Garbrandt fans will be disappointed with this choice, so let me explain myself. First, it is my strong belief that the UFC will next match bantamweight champ, Dominick Cruz, against former champ, TJ Dillashaw, in yet another rematch. Perhaps bantamweight's most recognizable figure, Urijah Faber, is a Garbrandt teammate, so they are likely not going to face each other in a division that has produced many strong contenders over the last few years. This leaves four potential fights for the 25 year old from Ohio; John Lineker, former flyweight contender, John Dodson, Bryan Caraway and Jimmie Rivera.
We can go ahead and eliminate divisional stalwarts, John "Hands of Stone" Lineker and John Dodson as it was recently announced that they will face each other in the main event of UFC Fight Night 91 on October 1. That leaves Caraway and Rivera. Caraway a tough veteran who also fought in Strikeforce and WEC would be a worthy opponent, but given his time in the sport and higher profile, Caraway may be a better fit for feature fights against someone like Faber who is too big to fight prospects, but not near yet another title shot.
This leaves Rivera. The 27 year old Puerto Rican may be unknown by many, then again that is why a fight with trending Garbrandt could be best for both fighters. Fighting out of Ramsey, New Jersey - Rivera could be a good fit for the upcoming Madison Square Event. Rivera is 3-0 since entering the UFC in 2015. Prior to his time in the UFC, Rivera went 4-0 in two separate stints with Bellator. Overall, the former KOTC flyweight champ and Ring of Combat bantamweight champ is on a 17 fight win streak. 18-1 in a career that started in 2008, Rivera has a comparable record and a storied history to face Garbrandt and push whoever wins into title contention.
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