Morning Matchmaker: Why Roy Nelson vs. Alistair Overeem makes sense
Roy Nelson kept his name up there among the top 10 heavyweights in the world by knocking Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira cold Friday afternoon at UFC Fight Night Abu Dhabi. Nelson wants a title fight next, but obviously that won’t happen. He’s a gatekeeper in the heavyweight division and there’s nothing wrong with that.
So who should he get next and what does the future hold for Clay Guida and Tatsuya Kawajiri? Read below to find out
Nelson is arguably the best gatekeeper the UFC has. If you can’t get by him, you don’t deserve to crack the elite of the heavyweight division. And usually those fights end in a vicious knockout. An over-the-hill Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was the victim of that Friday in Abu Dhabi.
Who’s next: Alistair Overeem
Overeem doesn’t want Junior dos Santos, fine. Take "Big Country" instead. Nelson might not have the boxing technique or athleticism of dos Santos, but he has some serious KO power. Overeem is a better technical fighter, but his chin is questionable. Could he finish the extremely durable Nelson before Nelson lands to his jaw? It would be a lot of fun to find out. Overeem-Nelson could be sold as a FOX Sports 1 main event or even a pay-per-view co-main on the right card.
ANTONIO RODRIGO NOGUEIRA
After one big right hand from Roy Nelson landed, that was pretty much it for Nogueira. He was dropped three times and the final one he didn’t get back up. It was far too much punishment for a 37-year-old, battle-worn veteran to take at this juncture.
Who’s next: Retirement
What’s left to do? Big Nog is a legend in MMA, a former PRIDE heavyweight champion and interim UFC heavyweight champion. He’s had classic fights against a who’s who of the sport’s greats. Nogueira has absolutely nothing left to prove and there’s no reason for him to take another beating. It isn’t worth the risk. It’s time for the Brazilian star to hang them up.
Guida returned to the "Carpenter" of old against Tatsuya Kawajiri, outpointing the Japanese star in a dogfight. His wrestling and grappling looked solid as usual, but it was his striking that arguably won him the fight early in the first round when he nearly knocked Kawajiri out with one overhand right. That was very un-Guida like.
Who’s next: Dennis Bermudez
Guida called out Conor McGregor and Josh Thomson after beating Kawajiri. Both of those fights seem unreasonable, at least next. McGregor is likely to face Cole Miller in July and Thomson is right in the thick of the lightweight elite. Guida is fighting at featherweight now and really he’s only a gatekeeper at this point. One of the best young guys trying to get through that gate is Bermudez. Guida is the upgrade in level he needs and if Guida wins then he maybe can be talked about as a potential contender again.
Kawajiri got outwrestled by Guida and also outboxed. It wasn’t his strongest showing and the Japanese great is clearly on the down side of his career. That being said, there are still some fun fights left for him.
Who’s next: Darren Elkins
Elkins would count as a fun fight. Just like the Guida bout, Kawajiri-Elkins would be rife with wrestling, grappling and transitions. It would be entertaining at the least. And both guys are really in need of a win.
LaFlare surely benefited from a low blow, but he did what he had to in order to beat John Howard on Friday. LaFlare can be a dominant wrestler when he wants to be and he flashed that in the first and third rounds. In the second, he stood in front of Howard, a more accomplished striker, too much. LaFlare might be 30, but he’s undefeated at 11-0 and a prospect.
Who’s next: Mike Pyle
If Roy Nelson is the best gatekeeper in MMA, Pyle might be second. He’s right there below the elite, picking off potential contenders without ever actually becoming a legitimate contender himself. If LaFlare wants to reach the upper echelon of the welterweight division, he’s going to have to go through Pyle and his mullet. And the up-and-coming guys at 170 are plentiful: Kelvin Gastelum, Gunnar Nelson and Brandon Thatch to name a few.