Morning Matchmaker: Donald Cerrone-Khabib Nurmagomedov? Yes, please
Donald Cerrone inched closer to a title shot by winning his fourth straight. Edson Barboza reaffirmed himself as a contender in the lightweight division. And what can be done about John Lineker’s weight issues?
Let’s take a look at what the stars of UFC Fight Night: Cerrone vs. Miller should be doing next after taking Atlantic City by storm.
We should be used to this by now from Cerrone. His head kick knockout win over Miller gives him four straight victories, all of them by finish. "Cowboy" is one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC and is putting his name into the conversation for a title shot, though he has already lost to lightweight champion Anthony Pettis.
Who’s next: Khabib Nurmagomedov
This is the only fight that really makes sense. Nurmagomedov is ranked No. 4 and needs a signature win against a well-known top contender before he earns a title shot. Cerrone, ranked No. 6, is that name, but beating him will not be easy. That fight also has an extreme probability for violence on both sides. The winner of that will have done enough to get whoever wins between Pettis and Gilbert Melendez.
If it feels like Miller has been a top-10 lightweight for a long time, it’s because he has. The New Jersey native has a hard time cracking into the absolute elite of the division, but he’s competitive against everyone. Unitl falling to Cerrone on Wednesday, Miller had only lost to either former champions or former No. 1 contenders.
Who’s next: Rustam Khabilov
It’s getting more and more likely that Miller will never get a title shot, though you never know in the UFC. He’s still only 30 years old, after all. But for the time being, Miller should only fight guys who are trying to crack the upper echelon at 155. Khabilov, who is coming off a loss to Benson Henderson last month, qualifies as that kind of guy. The Dagestani still has upside and Miller provides another stiff test.
Standing up in a fight with Barboza is really a hazard to anyone’s health. His Muay Thai is some of the best in all of MMA and those kicks. Oh, those kicks. Evan Dunham didn’t stand a chance, getting caught in the ribs and crumpling to the canvas in the first round. Barboza didn’t even land flush — his big toe did most of the damage.
Who’s next: Michael Johnson
Barboza had won three in a row until running into Donald Cerrone before Dunham. And Barboza was winning that fight until Cerrone caught him right on the button with a left hand. In other words, the Brazilian, ranked No. 13 at lightweight, is pretty much right there in the division. He needs a contender next and why not No. 9 Johnson, who just pulled out of a fight with Josh Thomson due to injury?
Anyone who says the flyweight division is boring has never seen Lineker fight. He battered Alptekin Ozkilic about the face for two rounds Wednesday and wasn’t satisfied, so he knocked Ozkilic out in the third. There aren’t many 125-pounders better and no flyweight in the UFC has more power. Not even John Dodson.
Who’s next: Brad Pickett-Ian McCall winner
Chris Cariaso is getting the next title shot against Demetrious Johnson at UFC 177 on Aug. 30 in Sacramento. No one really knows why. Lineker’s biggest issue is making weight. He hit the mark this week, but has missed three times in seven fights. He needs at least one more win before fighting Johnson. The Pickett-McCall victor vs. Lineker would produce fireworks and a sellable No. 1 contender.