Morning Matchmaker: Robbie Lawler, Renan Barao should get UFC title rematches

Robbie Lawler (left) and Renan Barao are both deserving of fighting for the title next time out.

Josh Hedges

T.J. Dillashaw became the UFC bantamweight champion and the first person in nine years to bear Renan Barao. Daniel Cormier crushed Dan Henderson, winning by submission, and Robbie Lawler was stellar in a TKO of Jake Ellenberger.

UFC 173 was a great night of fights and the results might lead to quite a few rematches. Keep reading to find out what we mean.

T.J. DILLASHAW

Who was that guy who went out and demolished Renan Barao over five rounds and finished him inside of the distance? Because it sure wasn’t the Dillashaw we saw lose to Raphael Assuncao and current flyweight John Dodson. Dillashaw could not win The Ultimate Fighter, but now he’s the UFC bantamweight champion. That’s a serious evolution.

Who’s next: Renan Barao

You don’t go unbeaten over 33 fights and nine years and then not earn an immediate rematch after dropping the title. For all we know, this was just a fluke and Barao just had one off night, which everyone is entitled to. UFC 179 is schedule for Brazil in October. Dillashaw-Barao II would be a fit there as a co-main event or even headliner. It isn’t like the Assuncaos and Takeya Mizugakis of the world are these forces of nature who must get a title shot, either.

RENAN BARAO

Renan Barao (left) has done enough winning in his career to warrant a chance to prove whether or not Saturday was an off night.

Was it just that one big punch that rocked Barao in the first round and had him seeing double the rest of the fight? Or was it something else? Dillashaw certainly looked better than Barao, which is something no one ever considered based on past history. But maybe Dillashaw has just taken a gigantic leap up and vaulted over the Brazilian. It’s possible.

Who’s next: T.J. Dillashaw

Barao’s last loss came when he was 18 years old. He’s now 27. He’s still in the prime of his career, but this is honestly a crossroads for him. Will Barao be able to use this loss and make himself an even better fighter? Or will the one-sided beatdown affect his psyche? We’ll really find out what Barao is made of, if and when he and Dillashaw meet again.

DANIEL CORMIER

Cormier’s rout of Henderson was bordering on elderly abuse. And it almost went on for three full rounds. The matchmaking was flawed from the very beginning. Cormier is now 2-0 as a UFC light heavyweight with a pair of dominant wins over fighters in over their heads for different reasons. That doesn’t mean he isn’t the biggest threat yet for Jon Jones’ title.

Who’s next: Jon Jones

UFC president Dana White doesn’t seem too keen on Cormier waiting for the winner of Jones and Alexander Gustafsson, but I have no problem with it. Cormier’s title shot could conceivably come in very early 2015. Waiting eight months is no big deal. The man just fought twice in a span of 3 ½ months. The fights might have been easy, but training camps are not. Cormier is undefeated and deserves his shot. He represents a significant challenge for Jones (or Gustafsson), especially with his world-class wrestling.

DAN HENDERSON

Dan Henderson wasn’t doing much smiling during the fight at UFC 173.

Why was a 43-year-old Henderson against a fresh, 35-year-old title contending Cormier a good idea? Because Henderson might connect with a Hail Mary right hand? That was just an awful matchup for Henderson from the beginning. I know he wants a title shot, but let’s be realistic. He’s still wildly entertaining and that’s how he should be booked. Not as a legitimate contender like Cormier is.

Who’s next: Anderson Silva

If you remember, at the height of Silva’s run as middleweight champion, Henderson was maybe his toughest test. For a long time, that first round against Henderson was the only round Silva had lost. A rematch has long been called for. Now would be the perfect time. Henderson is spinning his wheels and he’s too small for light heavyweight. Silva is coming off a broken leg and should not be given a top contender right away. Most importantly, both men are marketable. This is a pay-per-view main event fight. And it would probably sell well.

ROBBIE LAWLER

Pardon the cliché, but this truly is the best Lawler there has ever been. His boxing is so smooth and his hands are quite fast. He mixes in knees and defensive wrestling. Lawler honestly made Jake Ellenberger look like a chump at times Saturday night and Ellenberger is no slouch. He’s one of the best welterweights in the world. Lawler is better. He might be the best.

Who’s next: Johny Hendricks

If the main event of UFC 171 ended after three minutes of the fifth round, Lawler would have won. Instead, Hendricks pulled out a takedown and controlled Lawler for the rest of the frame to procure the win. That was literally the entire difference in that Fight of the Year candidate bout. There’s absolutely no reason to not give Lawler a rematch after his decimation of Ellenberger. No matter what Tyron Woodley and Rory MacDonald do at UFC 174 on June 14, Lawler will still have the better résumé.  

JAKE ELLENBERGER

Jake Ellenberger is still a top-notch welterweight. But he needs to get back on track after a pair of tough losses.

The beauty of Ellenberger is in his aggression, the way he can knock guys out with one punch the way he did Jake Shields and Martin Kampmann. But if he doesn’t pull the trigger, he can’t do that. Ellenberger is not a counterpuncher and Lawler made him that Saturday night. It’s back to the drawing board for once one of the most promising athletes at 170 pounds.

Who’s next: Mike Pierce

After two disappointing performances against top contenders, it’s time Ellenberger goes back to the pack. Rory MacDonald and Lawler both outboxed Ellenberger. For a guy whose best attribute is his striking, that’s not a good sign. More time working with Edmond Tarverdyan at Glendale Fight Club will work. But maybe it’s time Ellenberger mixes  more of that really solid wrestling back into his game. A fight with Pierce would be an opportunity against a tough guy to get back on track.

TAKEYA MIZUGAKI

Just call him Mr. Consistent. Mizugaki has been a contender at bantamweight forever. Remember that fantastic battle he had against Miguel Torres for the WEC title back in 2009? Well, he’s nearing a title shot five years later after defeating Francisco Rivera in a solid performance.

Who’s next: Raphael Assuncao

Renan Barao should get an immediate rematch against T.J. Dillashaw, which leaves Assuncao flapping in the wind. Easy solution. Have him face Mizugaki in a title eliminator. That way we get some closure between Barao and Dillashaw and a readymade No. 1 contender for the title after that fight is over. It makes almost too much sense.