Johnston on MMA: Playing UFC matchmaker

October 16, 2012, 9:02 PM

The days and weeks following UFC events is often the most exciting time for mixed martial arts fans because it affords them the opportunity to debate and speculate about what UFC matchmaker Joe Silva should do next.

Over the last three weeks there have been three successful events — UFC 153, UFC on FUEL TV: Struve vs. Miocic and UFC on FX: Browne vs. Bigfoot.

Following UFC 153, a lot of the talk was about whom headliner Anderson Silva should fight next. Silva wants Georges St-Pierre, some fans want Silva to fight either GSP or Jon Jones, while others would like to see him defend his middleweight title and UFC president Dana White doesn’t seem to have a preference either way.

In the last Playing UFC Matchmaker blog I argued that Michael Bisping deserves a shot at Silva’s middleweight title and I still believe that’s the fight the UFC should make. The reasons being: there are too many variables to consider when discussing super-fights; Silva has stated he wants to remain at middleweight; it’s the most marketable middleweight matchup for Silva; and Bisping has done enough to deserve the opportunity.

With that in mind, here are potential matchups featuring some fighters that were recently victorious that would make sense for the UFC to put together.

Glover Teixeira vs. Quinton Jackson

After his dominant win over the nearly indestructible Fabio Maldonado, Teixeira called out Rampage, whom he was originally scheduled to fight at UFC 153. The one criticism of Teixeira is he hasn’t faced elite-level competition, but a fight against a former champion like Jackson — even though Rampage has struggled of late — would silence those critics. This is a fight between two aggressive knockout artists that fans were looking forward to. The UFC isn’t going to fast-track Teixeira to a title shot but an impressive win over Rampage would likely put him one win away from a crack at the belt.

Jon Fitch vs. Demian Maia

Both of these veterans were simply fantastic at UFC 153. Fitch is riding high after taking out rising star Erick Silva, while Maia put on perhaps the best performance of his career as he smothered and submitted Rick Story in less than three minutes. Fitch is one of the most proven 170-pounders in the sport with a 14-2-1 record in the UFC, while Maia is just 2-0 in the UFC’s welterweight division. But, if you couple Maia’s success against the top middleweights with his two impressive welterweight performances, the Brazilian would be very close to a title shot if he could beat someone like Fitch.

Stefan Struve vs. Antonio Silva

Struve and Silva were victorious in their recent main event bouts with Stipe Miocic and Travis Browne, respectively. These two giants have well-rounded skill sets and are never in boring fights, win or lose. Struve thinks he’s a top-five heavyweight after stopping Miocic, but realistically he’s just on the cusp of entering the top 10. However, a win over Bigfoot would definitely cement his spot in the upper echelon of the division.

Phil Davis vs. Lyoto Machida

Right now, this is the matchup that makes the most sense for Davis, who is coming off an impressive submission win over Wagner Prado at UFC 153. Davis is one of the top light-heavyweights in MMA and needs a top-10 opponent, however nearly all of them are either tied up with an upcoming fight or have already fought Davis. Mauricio Rua has a fight lined up, Davis has already fought Rashad Evans, Alexander Gustafsson and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, and Ryan Bader is coming off a loss. Therefore, the best options are Machida or Henderson, but Machida, whom he was rumoured to fight at UFC 140, makes the most sense.

Mike Pierce vs. Jake Ellenberger

Pierce isn’t ranked as high as Ellenberger, but he has been more impressive in his last several outings. Both were victorious at UFC on FX: Browne vs. Bigfoot and match up well with their strong wrestling and knockout power.

Matt Wiman vs. Michael Johnson

These two lightweights are coming off huge wins over tough opponents. Wiman became the first to defeat submission specialist Paul Sass — ironically he submitted him. Johnson meanwhile knocked out Danny Castillo in brutal fashion. Both are TUF veterans with some name value and more importantly are on a roll.

Gunnar Nelson vs. Justin Edwards

Nelson looked great in his UFC debut, submitting DaMarques Johnson. Justin Edwards choked Josh Neer unconscious a week later. Put these two against one another and it’ll have grappling fans salivating.

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