UFC 207 was a slow build to a historic night of fights that in the end was a highly satisfying event. Now as the dust has settled I will once again take out my handy-dandy notebook and make the fights that should be next for the winners and losers of UFC 207.
Amanda Nunes vs. Julianna Peña/Valentina Shevchenko
It was a big win for Amanda Nunes, who ended former dominant champion Ronda Rousey in just 48 seconds. While there wasn’t much promotional backing for the UFC women’s bantamweight champion, she gained a great deal of fans prior to and after UFC 207. The next fight for the champ should be the winner of the title eliminator fight between Valentina Shevchenko and Julianna Peña.
Both fighters would bring very different challenges to the Brazilian champion. Julianna Peña is a well studied grappler grappled with great strength and a decent striking game. Valentina Shevchenko is a class Muay Thai stylist with great trips from the clinch and an underrated ground game. Pena is coming off the biggest win of her career over Cat Zingano. It would be compelling to see how Nunes deals with the grappling of Pena and I am equally as compelled to see how Pena deals with the power of Nunes.
Valentina Shevchenko is also coming off the biggest win of her career defeating Holly Holm by unanimous decision. Amanda Nunes scored a unanimous decision win over Shevchenko at UFC 196. However, Shevchenko was pouring it on a tried Nunes in the third and you get the feeling two more rounds would have resulted in victory for the Soviet Union born fighter. Both fights would be an interesting contest that could easily headline an event.
Cody Garbrandt vs. T.J. Dillashaw
Newly crowned bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt was not completely counted out at UFC 207. However, nobody in the world expected he’d be able to toy with Dominick Cruz. He did to Cruz much of what Cruz has done to others in the past. Take a great fighter and make him look like a beginner. The typically brilliant Cruz was made to fight far more wild and against a taunting Cody Garbrandt, creating one of the biggest upsets of 2016. The next fight for Garbrandt should be against former Alpha Male teammate TJ Dillashaw.
TJ Dillashaw has proven himself one of the best bantamweight fighters on the planet, and after complete domination of John Lineker it is difficult to deny him a shot at the title. Dillashaw provides just as heavy a challenge as Cruz. A very well rounded fighter capable of finishing fights anywhere and with great cardio Dillashaw is a daunting task for anybody. That said, Cody Garbrandt has shown he is an elite striker in MMA and his power is still a factor in any fight. This would be a intriguing battle between two amazing bantamweights who are capable of beating anybody in the world.
Dong Hyun Kim vs. Gunner Nelson
It wasn’t a very good performance for Dong Huyn Kim, and not many people thought thought he won. In the end the judges awarded Kim with the decision putting the top welterweight on a three-fight win streak. His next fight should be against Gunner Nelson, who he was expected to face at UFC Belfast. It is an interesting contest that caught the eye of MMA fans as Renzo Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belt Gunner Nelson was set to take on 4th dan Judo black belt Dong Huyn Kim. With Kim on a three-fight win streak and Nelson picking up a big win over Albert Tumenov in his last bout it would be a very solid welterweight contest to re-book.
Ray Borg vs. Brandon Moreno
Despite missing weight for UFC 207 23-year-old grappling specialist Ray Borg proved himself a top flyweight contender dominating Louis Smolka end route to a unanimous decision victory. His next fight should be against TUF 24’s Brandon Moreno. Also just 23 years old Moreno was the sixteenth seed in the TUF 24 reality show, and he loss his first fight in the house. So it was to everyone’s surprise when the Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico native stepped up on short notice and submitted top ten opponent Louis Smolka in the first round. He followed that up with a split decision win over top flyweight Ryan Benoit.
This would be a very good fight between two well rounded young contenders looking to make their way to a title fight in a wide open division. Both have finished the majority of their fights by submission and both have shown well rounded ability in the past. A win here can definitely boost one of these two into a contender spot.
Neil Magny vs. Albert Tumenov
It was a lackluster performance for Neil Magny, who despite being out wrestled was awarded a unanimous decision win. These last two fights haven’t been the best for the Brooklyn, New York fighter, but the top ranked welterweight has shown the ability to compete at a high level. Now he should take on Albert Tumenov. Russian knockout artist Albert Tumenov started his UFC career 5-1 with his last win being over Lorenz Larkin. Unfortunately, Tumenov dropped his last two fights by submission showing a hole in the 25-year-old’s game. This would be a fun fight that fans can get behind. Magny is a long striker with good strength and finishing ability and Tumenov is a vicious knockout machine with a lot to prove.
Ronda Rousey vs. Raquel Pennington
The likelihood of a Ronda Rousey return after a 48 second trashing to the hands of Amanda Nunes is slim. In the event I’m wrong the once dominant champion should take on Raquel Pennington next. A pioneer in women’s Mixed Martial Arts Ronda Rousey has some everything there is to do and has made plenty of money doing so. In all honesty she doesn’t have much incentive to keep fighting. If a love of the sport brings her back a fight with Raquel Pennington makes since.
Newly developed contender Raquel Pennington is on the best run of her career capping of an impressive four-fight win streak with a huge win over former champion Miesha Tate. A UFC title fight within her grasp, Pennington deserves some spotlight. There is no better way to draw eyes than Ronda Rousey and a win here would be gigantic for the Colorado native. While a loss here would be devastating for Ronda Rousey it provides her with an opportunity to go out on top, and on her own terms. On a two-fight losing streak Ronda Rousey would be going into a fight with nothing to lose for the first time in her career. This is an interesting fight and would be great to see how Rousey and Pennington handle the big moment.
Dominick Cruz vs. Bryan Caraway
The long-time dominance of Dominick Cruz shouldn’t be taken lightly. He is a defensive wizard who nobody has been able to figure out. It was a very shocking moment to everyone watching as Cody Garbrandt appeared to be toying with the greatest bantamweight in Mixed Martial Arts history. It is a pivotal moment in bantamweight history and now it’s time for Cruz, who appeared to analyze his mistakes already, to get back to work. His next fight should be against Bryan Caraway.
A dominant wrestler Bryan Caraway has made an unexpected rise within the bantamweight division. Now on a two-fight win streak the Xtreme Couture product should get the biggest fight of his career against Dominick Cruz. It would be intriguing to see how Caraway deals with the footwork and difficult style that has made Cruz the dominant champion he was. Caraway has shown great strength and grappling ability and has openly campaigned for a title shot, there is no better way to receive one than a win over Cruz.
John Lineker vs. Rafael Assuncao
John Lineker took a beating at UFC 207. It was a tough night in the pit for the top contender. Now the fan favorite bantamweight should take on top jiu-jitsu practitioner Rafael Assuncao. This would be a great match between two contenders coming off of a loss to TJ Dillashaw. Brazilian knockout artist John Lineker is always one strike away from victory. His power has lead him to 13 knockout wins and made him a top competitor at bantamweight. Brazilian submission specialist Rafael Assuncao holds wins over some of the best bantamweight fighters in the world and has secured 10 submissions wins in his illustrious career.
Tarec Saffiedine vs. Bryan Barberena
While it wasn’t a fan favorite performance, many people had Tarec Saffiedine winning his fight at UFC 207. Unfortunately for the Belgian welterweight the judges awarded Kim with the decision. On a two-fight losing skid for the first time in his career Saffiedine should take on Bryan Barberena. After surprising upset wins over prospects Sage Northcutt and Warlley Alves Barberena was looking like a solid prospect himself. Unfortunately a loss to Colby Covington in his last out has halted his rise and a fight with Tarec Saffiedine will provide an interesting challenge for both fighters looking to get back into the win column.
Louis Smolka vs. Zach Makovsky
A remarkable four-fight win streak made Louis Smolka a top flyweight contender as he looked to be making his way towards a fight with Demetrious Johnson. Unfortunately for Smolka a short notice fight with Brandon Moreno saw him suffer a first round submission loss. Now at UFC 207 Smolka dropped a decision to Ray Borg giving him two losses in a row for the first time in his career. Smolka should battle Zach Makovsky next. NCAA Division 1 Wrestler and Jiu-Jitsu purple belt under Marcelo Garcia, Zach Makovsky has proven a tough task in the flyweight division. However, Makovsky has dropped his last three fights and will be looking to get back to his winning ways. This is a must win fight for both men as another loss would be devastating for their career.
Johny Hendricks vs. Tim Boetsch
Despite not being awarded the decision, Johny Hendricks fought relatively well going back to his roots of wrestling against Neil Magny. However, Hendricks did miss weight again and will be going up to the middleweight division. His next fight should be against UFC middleweight mainstay Tim Boetsch who picked up a big win over Rafael Natal at UFC 205. On a career worst three-fight losing skid Johny Hendricks is in need of a win. It won’t be easy as he competes in the middleweight division for the first time and it’ll be interesting to see how he handles the power difference. This would likely be a good test for Hendricks a win puts him back in the win column and gives him a renewed focus in a new weight class. For Boetsch a win puts a big name in his record and puts him on a three-fight win streak.
That concludes this edition of Future Fight Foresight and now we move forward to UFC Phoenix, where the greatest fighter that ever graced us with his presence*, BJ Penn takes on Yair Rodriguez in the main event. The co-main event features a lightweight battle between submission specialist Joe Lauzon and Marcin Held.
*(This opinion belongs to the writer of this article, and does not reflect the opinions or perspectives of all CD staff. Thank you.)