Morning Matchmaker: It’s time to put Yoel Romero and Khabib Nurmagomedov in the mix
We already know who Fabricio Werdum’s next opponent is: UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez. But how about Travis Browne and Miesha Tate? Or Khabib Nurmagomedov and Yoel Romero?
Find out below:
Werdum’s striking has never looked better. He mixed that up with takedowns and fought probably as well as he could in dominating Travis Browne rather unexpectedly for five rounds. There’s little doubt from here that Werdum is the No. 1 contender for the UFC heavyweight title.
Who’s next: Cain Velasquez
No big surprise here. This fight will go down sometime in the fall, most likely November, in Mexico City. It works out perfectly for the UFC, because both Velasquez and Werdum are fluent in Spanish. It’s likely that they’ll coach against one another on the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America. Whether or not Werdum would actually be able to hang with Velasquez is another story, but he’s clearly earned his right to be in the Octagon with him.
It’s no excuse. Fabricio Werdum was simply better. But Browne was pretty jacked up early in the fight Saturday night. He broke his hand and injured his rib. "Hapa" is still relatively inexperienced in MMA — he was a basketball player growing up, not a martial artist. Browne won’t fall too far down the heavyweight ladder.
Who’s next: Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva
Browne has just two career losses. One came Saturday night and the other was against "Bigfoot" when he blew out his hamstring early in the first round. Silva is coming off a draw against Mark Hunt and is currently serving a suspension for failing a drug test. It’s a good time for the UFC to give Browne a chance to avenge that defeat.
Some people, UFC president Dana White included, thought Liz Carmouche won Saturday night. But the judges gave Tate the victory and she’ll take it — it’s stunningly her first UFC victory. "Cupcake" didn’t look super impressive, but she did enough to win for the most part and finished stronger than Carmouche did.
Who’s next: Sarah Kaufman
What do you do with Tate since she’s already lost twice to UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey? Put her in fights people care about even if they don’t necessarily have title implications. Tate has thrown out Holly Holm and Gina Carano as possible opponents, but the best choice currently in the UFC is Kaufman. The two have fought before, way back in 2009, but that was a lifetime ago in women’s MMA. They’re both two of the more well-known women in the UFC. Make this the co-main event of one of those Canadian FOX Sports 1 cards in the fall to draw from Kaufman’s fan base.
Carmouche started strong, but by the third round Miesha Tate was clearly in control. When Carmouche is a bully, she’s at her best. She’s as athletic and strong as any woman in the UFC not named Ronda Rousey. It’s unclear where her future lies in terms of significant fights though.
Who’s next: Shayna Baszler
Carmouche is in a very similar spot as Tate. People know her and they like her, but she’s not fighting for a title again any time soon. Baszler fits the profile of someone people would be interested in seeing fight Carmouche. Both are recognizable names and not currently in the contender discussion.
Pound-for-pound, is there a more exciting fighter in the UFC? It’s hard to make an argument against "Cowboy." Not only does he take the fight to his opponent every single time, he finishes and then wants to come back and do the whole thing again in a few weeks. No wonder Dana White likes him so much.
Who’s next: Myles Jury
As awesome as Cerrone is, he’s still just a gatekeeper in the lightweight division. That’s what he was against Edson Barboza. If you can’t beat Cerrone, you’re not ready for title contention. Myles Jury is starting to enter that discussion. Can he beat Cerrone and prove himself? It would be fun to find out.
Romero is the real deal. There’s no other way to say it. The former Olympic wrestling silver medalist got a late start in MMA, but at age 36 if he’s not a top-10 guy after beating Brad Tavares, he’s darn close.
Who’s next: Luke Rockhold-Tim Boetsch winner
There are a bunch of guys still ahead of Romero in the middleweight pecking order. Lyoto Machida, Vitor Belfort, Ronaldo Souza, Tim Kennedy, Mark Munoz, Gegard Mousasi and Rockhold all have better résumés at this very moment. The UFC will want to get Romero back into the Octagon quickly, so that probably leaves the winner of Saturday’s fight between Rockhold and Tim Boetsch.
Wow. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to call Nurmagomedov a future champion in the UFC at lightweight. He’s a tough matchup for every single person in the division. And he’s only 25 years old. Look out.
Who’s next: Michael Johnson
Maybe it’s a question of who will actually fight Nurmagomedov. The answer is not many. Champion Anthony Pettis and No. 1 contender Gilbert Melendez are out of the picture here, because they’re fighting in December. Benson Henderson and Rustam Khabilov fight in June. Johnson, who has won three in a row, is available and he’s already said he would take the fight. Nurmagomedov-Johnson isn’t a No. 1 contender fight, but it’s close.
RAFAEL DOS ANJOS
There’s no shame in losing to Khabib Nurmagomedov. Dos Anjos is still one of the most underrated guys in the lightweight division and, at age 29, is going to collect quite a few more victories.
Who’s next: Josh Thomson
Thomson is coming off a controversial loss to Benson Henderson. He’s still a title contender. Dos Anjos lost to Nurmagomedov, but he’s still in the mix. It only makes sense for them to face off to determine who remains relevant in the division.